4 Posts from May 2009

The Discipline of Durability

Tucked away in the folds of Hebrews 11 is a two-word biography worth a second glance: “. . . he endured” (11:27). The New International Version reads, “he persevered,” the Amplified Version, “he held staunchly to his purpose.” Moffatt renders it, “he never flinched.”

“He” was Moses, the one who hung tough, who was committed to God’s desires for his life, and who decided not to surrender to rising odds. He had staying power. He was faithful. He possessed the discipline of durability. There aren’t many qualities we pastors need more than this one.

Moses endured despite the contempt of Pharaoh, the mightiest monarch of that era. No amount of resistance from Egypt’s throne dimmed his faithfulness. Moses stayed at the task that God gave him despite the stubbornness of the Hebrews who grumbled, blamed, complained, and rebelled. Nothing they said or did made Moses retreat. Misunderstood, maligned, murmured against, and misrepresented, Moses never flinched.

So what’s the lesson we pastors can learn from his example? Stand firm when conspirators and critics seem to prosper. Stay faithful when the wicked appear to be winning. Endure in times of crisis—in the church . . . in your finances . . . in your family. Stand firm even when no one would ever know if you compromise. Stand firm, stay faithful, and endure!

I have no idea where this finds you. For all I know, you are stronger than ever, determined not to shrink back, pressing on with a full tank of resolve. That’s great. Or maybe your moral purity and ethical integrity are wearing thin. It’s possible you’ve begun to listen too closely to your critics or need others’ approval too much. Maybe you led with decisiveness in the past . . . but today you’re feeling yourself weakening. Maybe you’ve started shrugging off your better judgment. Don’t go there; it’s just not worth it!

Moses endured, but how? The same verse tells us—by focusing his attention on “Him who is invisible.” Moses continually reminded himself that his sole purpose in life was to please God, to obey Him, to glorify Him, to gain His approval at all cost. Such lasting durability is rare but not impossible (see Matthew 19:26).

Whatever it is you’re facing right now, remember Moses’ example: stand strong—stay faithful.


Giving and Living the Gospel

One of the most effective evangelists I have ever known was a fellow who ran a service station in Arlington, Massachusetts, a suburb of Boston. He never spent a day in seminary or took one course in a Bible institute, but his Bible was well-worn and open near his cash register. He regularly dealt with souls who came into his place of business. He’s now changed locations, but you can be sure, he is still a faithful witness.

This man doesn’t nitpick when he shares the gospel. He focuses on the life of Christ, the hope of eternal life by faith in the Lord, and then he lets the Lord do the work in bringing results. In marvelous wisdom and love he presents the most attractive and encouraging message of eternal life. Through the years, hundreds of people came to know Christ at that little gas station, thanks to this consistent man who leaves the results with God.

What a relief it was the day God convinced me that He doesn’t hold me responsible for how people respond to the gospel. He holds you and me responsible for giving and living the gospel; what someone does with it is His business.

Think about the thief on the cross who hung there next to Jesus. If ever there was a deathbed conversion that was it! The thief lived his entire life as a sinner. As he hung on that cross with blood coming out of his hands and feet, he said, “Lord, remember me.” You know Jesus’s response by heart: “Today you shall be with Me in Paradise” (Luke 23:43).

From this scene we witness the exchange of death for life. The dialogue teaches us three important truths about conversion.

1. No one is ever too far gone to become a Christian. Can you think of someone you’ve written off? “Oh, they will never come to know Christ. I’ve tried everything I know to win him, and he’s never going to respond.” When you’re tempted to think anyone is beyond the reach of grace, remember the criminal on the cross.

2. Your godly life is the most effective tool of evangelism. Socrates once called words “stupid things.” I’ve never seen that more pronounced than when people force a witness with words. The real message is in your life. When your life draws the attention of lost people, you will have sufficient proof to back up the words you use. Let God do the work in their lives and in yours. When He does, you’ll be amazed at how He brings you the appropriate words . . . at just the right time.

3. All that God requires and accepts is simple faith. What qualified the thief for heaven? He didn’t perform any good works to earn heaven. In no way did he prove himself worthy of eternal life. So, what had he done to receive eternal life? What did Jesus accept? Faith—simple, unadulterated, and unproven faith in the living Christ. That’s all God requires, and that’s all we can offer when we share Christ.

Like my friend in the little service station, be ready to share the wonderful truth of what God has done for you at every opportunity He provides—not just in the pulpit. God will give you the words of life to share with others right then and there.


A Call for Courageous Living: Win the Invisible Battle

It’s simplistic to say that the only kind of battle going on today is the war against terrorism, though that is what the Enemy of our souls would love for us to believe. He would love to preoccupy us with the physical struggles and have us miss the spiritual conflict that rages every day of our lives.

As a pastor, you know more than most that we fight on the frontlines of an invisible war. But our flock may not realize that. They may have been taken hostage and not know it. They could be wounded, but nobody notices because they don’t bleed. The most spiritually bloodthirsty, wicked creature on earth, our adversary the Devil, wages a bloodless, invisible war against you, your family, your flock, and every other person who has been redeemed by the blood of the Lamb.

The apostle Paul knew this conflict well and wrote of it often: 

For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh, for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses. (2 Corinthians 10:3–4)

We are engaged in a battle, not for our bodies, but for our minds. Now, don’t think of the mind as just a brain inside the cranium. Think of the mind as the inner person, with emotions and will and intellect all connected. It involves the way we think and how we react in life.

It is in these vulnerable areas that Satan works. He battles through people or without people; he battles in events, in depression, in success, or in failure. He battles in money or in poverty. He is constantly at work, bent on our destruction.

Why does he despise God’s people and fight so insidiously against us? The answer is that he has a consuming hatred for the mission of Christ. Knowing that he can’t overthrow it—because the gates of Hades will never do that—Satan plays a wicked game of spiritual chess. He knows he’s doomed, but he’ll get your last man if he can. He knows Christ has already won, but he won’t give up without a fight.

So what are we to do? How do we engage such an enemy? I can think of two ways.

1. Identify the Enemy’s tactics. Look at 2 Corinthians 2:11: “. . . so that no advantage would be taken of us by Satan, for we are not ignorant of his schemes.” One of the Enemy’s most cunning tricks is to make you think you’re listening to your own voice inside your head, when it’s really him at work. Next time you feel discouraged or tempted, test each thought against God’s Word (1 John 4:1). Deception is best noticed when held up against the truth.

2. Defend yourself in Christ. We can defend ourselves against the Enemy’s schemes by “taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5). Isn’t that a great verse! Since Satan makes our mind his battlefield, our best defense is to surrender our thoughts to Jesus Christ and ask Him to guard and protect us. When we release ourselves to Him, He takes charge—and Satan runs. I make this practical in my own life by regularly telling God, “Lord, I need You right now; take charge of this. I need Your thoughts, I need Your strength, I need Your grace, I need Your wisdom, and I need Your very words. Protect me from fear. Hold me near. Get me through this stormy time.” He will; He’ll get you through—victoriously.

We, as well as our families and flocks, will face many skirmishes this year, both publicly and privately. But we have no reason to fear—Jesus Christ already won our spiritual war. I challenge you today to step out in courage and claim the victory that is yours in Christ Jesus. Don’t listen to the Enemy’s mind games anymore.

Let’s dare to live courageously!


National Day of Prayer 2009

Two years ago I had the privilege of serving as the honorary chairman for the National Day of Prayer. When I was asked, naturally, I felt very honored. But I have to admit my next thought was, with all of my responsibilities, when am I going to find the time to prepare? I mean, you don’t just waltz up there and wing it! The people in Washington have better things to do than listen to some preacher ramble. If you’re going to accept a responsibility like that, you better have your stuff together. So, at first I considered saying no.

300 dpi NDP logo But I decided to participate for two reasons. First, it was a huge honor. You don’t casually say no to something as important as this, especially when you consider the personal sacrifices many of our leaders are making to serve our nation.

I remember having dinner with a Cabinet member many years ago. “So, what’s it like to be in a position like that?” I asked. I’ll never forget his response.

He looked up from his plate, set his fork down, and quietly asked, “Chuck, have you ever been hung in effigy?”

“Um . . . well, no . . . never.” He then described how that had happened to him earlier that very day. I sat and stared at him. No words came to me.

I realized I was asked to be a part of our nation praying for these straight-thinking, courageous servant-leaders. Such a small sacrifice of my time compared to what they give us.

I had another reason for participating. It occurred to me that taking part in the National Day of Prayer was my opportunity to underscore the importance of prayer. How easy to overlook its priority! It’s not unlike the decision we face every day concerning prayer. I mean, who ever has time to pray? Who says, Ah . . . I’ve got some extra time I don’t know what to do with . . . so, I think I’ll pray!?

Let’s face it; taking time to pray means you have to set aside something else that’s important. It’s an investment. Investments require that we sacrifice something today for the sake of something greater tomorrow.

My point, my fellow-pastor? We never have the time to pray. We have to make it.

It didn’t take me long to recognize this for what it is: a very worthy investment, something well worth my time. Suddenly, saying yes seemed the only answer I could justify.


P.S. To learn more about the National Day of Prayer, or to find out what you can pray for, visit the official Web site at www.ndptf.org.