AN OLDER PASTORÂ’S ADVICE
July 5th, 1967
My dear Friend,
I want to write you a letter, if so be, as grace is given, to strengthen your hands in God in all your labours, and in the varied experiences you must needs pass through to be what is your heartfelt desireÂ— “The Lord’s messenger in the Lord’s message.” Not that I feel qualified to do so, but I do feel a warm sympathy for you as a younger fellow-labourer upon Zion’s walls, perplexed by things within and without which are hard to be understood. When I read your letter my heart went toward you in how you lamented your limitations and lack of spirituality. You have buckled on your heavenly armour in entering upon your pastorate, and God is confirming your labours therein by signs following; but Satan is not going to see the kingdom of God coming without seeking to harass, perplex, and dismay the poor pastor. Satan is a wily foe, and his devices are many, and, I judge, you will sometimes be subjected to his attacks from an intellectual viewpoint especially. Hence the temptation to unbelief, and as infidelity is ingrained in our fallen nature there will be times when those attacks will be severe. If God were not using you in your ministry Satan would not be so busy in seeking to undo it and discourage you. I would make one or two comments for your comfort.
(1) I am sure you have been often asking the Lord to lead you into His truth and teach you, and to make you a good minister of Jesus Christ, and that your labours may be specially blessed to your own dear people. God is answering your prayers and maybe later He will make the tempter to flee, and then some other experience will be knownÂ—all
to fulfil your people’s prayers for you:Â—
“Blest Spirit of Christ, descend on us thus;
Thy servant assist; teach him to teach us.”
Read once moreÂ—2 Corinthians 1.1-10. Therein is an inspired explanation. “We had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God which raiseth the dead.” Â—Death in ourselves known first under the law, and to the world, and our own righteousness, our wisdom, our strength, our own plans, our complicated circumstances, our self-confidenceÂ—all to make us depend utterly upon Him, who is the Resurrection and the Life. This made Paul say: “And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling. And my speech was not with enticing words of men’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit, and of the power: That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.”
(2) You are doing more than you can do in your labours, I am afraid, apart from the heavy burden of responsibility in your pastorate. I have been through such an experience in by-gone years, and had three breakdowns as reminders that God desired me to understand He had a set limitation to my labours in His name, and therefore I must rest awhile. His work still went on, and He taught me a salutary and painful lesson (hard to learn) that He was as much glorified when I was not labouring upon Zion’s walls, and doing all I could in preaching His Gospel, when I was laid aside, and unable to do so. You will remember Milton’s lines: “. . . God doth not need, . . . Either men’s work, or His own gifts; who best, . . . Bear His mild yoke, they serve Him best; His state, … Is kingly; thousands at His bidding speed. And post o’er land and ocean without rest; They also serve, who only stand and wait.” I have found waiting grace is a very scarce and valuable grace. See Psalm 40, “I waited patiently for the Lord”Â—(marginÂ— “In waiting I waited”Â—very suggestive). I can assure my dear friend it needs much grace if one is laid aside, and not able to serve awhile in the sphere where God has placed him.
(3) This comment may make you smileÂ—When you feel matters are threatening to drive you to the ends of the earth, or at least “Wits’ End”Â—get out your car, and put all your children in it, and persuade your dear wife to go with you, and take a run out of your bewildering, noisy city, and journey somewhere to a sheltering wood, and “far from the madding crowd,” and just rest for an hour or so. When I used to feel like this in later years I used to go with my dear wife to St. Mary’s Bay about 15 miles from us, and have a couple of hours or more by the sea;
sometimes we only sat in the car and I looked on, but we returned refreshed, and took up our work again.
Most of all the wisest counsel I can give is to remind you of Hart’s words:
“Ever on thy Captain calling,
Make thy worst condition known;
He shall hold thee up when falling,
Or shall lift thee up when down.”
I see various suggestions for putting our Denomination right, but I want to stand fast by Nehemiah’s method when Jerusalem’s walls were rebuilt: “Every man repaired over against his own house.” Go on, as grace is given, mixing well your mortar, and seek well to lay the stones according to Zechariah’s plummet: “Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit, saith the Lord of hosts;” and labour on in your pastorate and elsewhere, and keep in mind Berridge’s motto:
“Careless, myself a dying man,
Of dying men’s esteem;
Happy, O Lord, if Thou approve,
Though all beside condemn.”
Often, when cast down, recall how you entered upon your pastorate, and plead the psalmist’s words: “Remember the word unto Thy servant, upon which Thou hast caused me to hope.” Keep in mind your own commission to preach, and obey it, as grace is given, and never forget:
“Ye serve the Lord Christ.” Amid all the criticisms of our own Denomination from within and without, and conferences and commissions and associations all seeking to better matters, do you heed a word in Isaiah: “Go through, go through the gates; prepare ye the way of the people; cast up, cast up the highway; gather out the stones; lift up a standard for the people” (Isa. 62.10). I humbly hope this word was given me in 1914 as my authority to preach; alas, how short I have some in fulfilling it, according to my feelings. I often have to say with Ezra of oldÂ— “O my God, I am ashamed, and I blush to lift up my face before Thee.”
I say again how I can sympathise with you in your exercises and temptations. I have to say with the Psalmist: “O Lord, pardon mine iniquity, for it is great;” and, like Peter, “Lord, save, or I perish.”
The Lord bless you and your dear wife, and your little family circle;
and may your people live in His sight, and the pastor be encouraged by more signs to follow his labours therein. With our united Christian love to you each, and warmest wishes.