December 8, 2009

Support your pastor

Pastors can struggle in ways that their congregations may not realize. In our travels, we’ve found ourselves in several churches. For some reason, perhaps because the pastoral staff knew we would not be there long, we found ourselves taken into their confidence and sought out for encouragement and advice.

Today’s devotional reflects that leaders are targets. The pastor who wrote it finds it painful that Paul endured opposition. He even said, “At my first defense (speaking of his first trial in Rome) no one stood with me, but all forsook me” (2 Timothy 4:16). This happened to Paul, a godly man who was being obedient to God!

On another occasion, Paul wrote to the Philippians and said of Timothy, “I have no one like-minded . . .”  (Philippians 2:20). He felt there was just one person at that time that he could depend on. This is scary for the average person, even worse for someone in leadership.

Despite this sense of being alone, Paul was a positive thinker. He could see the hand of God in even the worst situations. Just before writing that only Timothy shared his mind on things, he wrote about his imprisonment:

But I want you to know, brethren, that the things which happened to me have actually turned out for the furtherance of the gospel, so that it has become evident to the whole palace guard, and to all the rest, that my chains are in Christ; and most of the brethren in the Lord, having become confident by my chains, are much more bold to speak the word without fear. Some indeed preach Christ even from envy and strife, and some also from goodwill: The former preach Christ from selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing to add affliction to my chains; but the latter out of love, knowing that I am appointed for the defense of the gospel. What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is preached; and in this I rejoice, yes, and will rejoice. (Philippians 1:12-18)
It was not Paul’ personality or anything about him that made him a target; it was his goal. All the unseen spiritual forces of evil are against the preaching of the gospel. The wickedness in this world opposes the message that will deliver people from sin and from the clutches of the evil one. No Christian leader is exempt from this opposition. No Christian layperson is either.

I’ve experienced some of this negativity during the past couple of days. God gave me the opportunity to share Christ with a person that I’ve known since my teens. She is of the opinion that she is a Christian, yet she does not know forgiveness, or have the assurance of eternal life. She is totally in the dark about redemption and grace. To her, Christianity is a “nice” kind of life in which she protects herself from unpleasantness, including the avoidance of any discussion about sin and repentance.

This time she asked me if I had any memorized prayers I could share with her. I told her that my prayer life was not like that, but more of an intimate conversation with a dear Friend. I shared how Jesus came into my life and changed me. I used a couple verses from the Bible, but my desire was not to “preach” but to share with her how the Lord saved me.

This was the second or third time I’ve shared with her. Both times it went right over her head. I’m reminded that Jesus said for some, when the seed of the Word is sown, the devil comes and snatches it away. The spiritual enemy has her happily living in her weeds and thinking they are sweet flowers, and he wants to keep things that way.

But he also doesn’t want me to talk about Jesus. I felt like he was hitting me again and again with sad, deflated, and hopeless kinds of thoughts, stuff I would not otherwise be thinking. This comes with a sense of spiritual oppression is like a black cloud and heavy.

All this supports the valid point of my devotional reading. If I get that sort of stuff thrown at me for sharing Christ, what happens to Christian pastors and leaders who are expected to do it all the time? Far too many Christians have “roast pastor” for Sunday dinner and have no idea how spiritual forces make their lives a battlefield. All of us ought to be on our knees praying for our pastors and others in leadership ministries.

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