As we wrap up the study of Romans 1-4, your pastor is asking himself some hard questions. After successfully navigating through the challenging truths about my own sin, grace, justification and the gospel, I have a feeling of: “Wow! I’ve done it. I made it through the tough verses on sin, legalism, and trying to please God by my works, and what I do.”
“I proclaim the gospel, and then fail to apply it to myself. I teach grace but fall into legalism. I stand in the pulpit and tell people: Your identity is in Christ—then I base my sense of worth on how many people showed up Sunday or how much positive feedback I received.”
“How do I apply grace to all of my life—even my public ministry–where I have the added responsibility of caring for those who have entrusted me with their spiritual leadership?”
“It’s easy to preach grace, but then when it comes to proving my own worth, I fall back on external validation. How big is my church? How much impact am I having?”
You see, we’re in an environment where success is defined pretty narrowly in Christian circles. Every conference, every magazine, every book features guys and gals who are pretty similar. They’ve been successful in terms of numbers and getting the applause of their peers.
When that is laid in front of a pastor over and over and over again, then you add in the numerous options of podcasts and video sermons, it sends a message. But I have had to come back to what the Lord has asked of me, indeed of all of us. That is obedience to His call.
This is Paul’s big argument in 1 Corinthians 3:6-12. Somebody planted, somebody watered, and only God makes it grow. So we’re faithful where God planted us and with what we’re called to do—preach the Word of God faithfully, shepherd and lead the flock of God well, find trustworthy men and entrust this to them also. God decides the rest.
As you know if you follow this blog or my messages at all, the biggest challenge I face as a pastor is the need to learn to preach the gospel to myself first, to learn the life lessons God has for me before I instruct you, not feel guilty about numbers, responses, or affirmation because that’s not what God’s asks me to worry about. It really isn’t.
There’s a tendency for most of us to want big things to happen. But the absurdity is, according to the Bible, God loves the small things. So I just want to encourage you, my brothers and sisters, to be faithful where you are, to pray, to study God’s Word, to do your part in helping me shepherd the people of God well, then let God worry about the rest.
When we serve others, opportunity abounds to truly Pursue Jesus, Practice Love and may I add offer grace to others as God offers grace to us at VCF.