Redoubling My Effort
2012-02-13
I am a church planter and a preaching pastor.  There are some Sundays where I feel really good about a certain message.  There are other Sundays where I can't wait to reach the end of the sermon so that I can allow the precious people in the congregation to get back to their lives.  In either case it is usually not a lack of effort.  I put many hours into each sermon.  I struggle through tough passages and try to draw fresh meaning from easier passages.  I read a ton of material each week--commentators, journal articles, scholarly books, practical books and more.  I listen to and read sermons from preacher's that I respect and admire to see how they handled a text.  I even have a research team that helps me shed light on the passage as they shine lights in corners I may have missed.  

Even with all of this effort--which is usually the same amount of effort each week--I can never really know how a sermon will "turn out" on a Sunday morning.  There are some great Sunday's where I am feeling on top of my game.  On those Sundays I wonder how it would be possible for God not to use my sermon that week!  There are other weeks where I feel like crap after preaching.  I went too long.  No one responded.  Heck, I personally didn't even connect with the sermon.  After a bomb I can't wait to get back to the process to redouble my efforts so that I make sure that never happens again.  

"Redouble my efforts."  This is precisely what a pastor needs less of in his life.  In Colossians, Paul asks the church for prayer with these words, "At the same time, pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ, on account of which I am in prison—that I may make it clear, which is how I ought to speak."  He asks that they may pray so that a door may be opened for him to walk through and that he might preach clearly when it does.  Paul depends on God and not his own effort.  This is very convicting to me.  I am tempted to redouble my efforts so that I can put the next sermon in the ground.  But preaching, just like all living, is about dependence upon God--not redoubling our efforts.  

A pastor can build an excellent church all by himself and with a great team.  But that church is no different than a skeleton that has strings attached and is being manned by a puppeteer.  A truly living church is built by the Holy Spirit working through God's people who are compelled by the Gospel with a love for God and for others. 

I believe that working hard is required by the Scriptures.  Paul went away for three years after his conversion before he really started to amp up and preach.  He worked hard throughout his entire ministry.  There are times where we need to "redouble our efforts."  But our effort must be viewed in light of the grace that God gives.  He is using us--with out faults and skill alike.   I think the bigger question is why we are redoubling our efforts in the first place?  Is it to bring glory to God or to ourselves?  

I am going to try my best every week knowing that my best is not the only way God uses me.  God uses us at our best and at our worst for His glory and His purposes.
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