Spiritual Leadership is not won by promotion, but by prayers and tears.
It is attained by much heart-searching and humbling before God; by self-surrender, a courageous sacrifice of every idol, a bold uncompromising, and uncomplaining embracing of the cross, and by an eternal, unfaltering looking unto Jesus crucified.
This is a great price, but it must be unflinchingly paid by him who would be a real spiritual leader of men, a leader whose power is recognized and felt in heaven, on earth and in hell.
It’s Monday – and that’s means Biography Day on this blog. Today, I will share with you a remarkable story of a woman who faced death with great hope and courage. Her name is Rachel Barkey who died on July 2, 2009 right here in Vancouver. BC. Rachel is survived by her husband Neil and her children Quinn and Kate, parents Ben and Cathy Sawer, brother David (Johanna) Sawer and sister Andrea Sawer. Please remember them in your prayers.
After four and a half years of vigilantly fighting breast cancer, Rachel Barkey, a 37-year-old wife and mother of two was diagnosed with terminal cancer. Joshua Harris wrote on his blog when Rachel was still alive and battling cancer:
Rachel’s story is not unlike what thousands of women around the world have experienced. A diagnosis that changes a woman’s life and inevitably takes from her what we consider to be most precious. But for Rachel the essence of life is found in her relationship with God through Jesus. And that’s why Rachel is convinced that death is not dying.
In the video below, you will get a chance to meet Rachel herself as she shares her story of trusting the LORD as she faced death. You will hear her make bold statements about her faith and her identity in Jesus Christ. Just to whet your appetite, you will hear her say with great boldness and confidence, “Cancer does not define me…Neither does being a wife or a mother. All these things are part of who I am, but they do not define me. What defines me is my relationship with Jesus.”
“…Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.” “Blessed indeed,” says the Spirit, “that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow them!” Revelation 14:13
Today, I would like to follow up on yesterday’s post, Where Are All the Men, and talk about some reasons why many young men in our day don’t want to go into the ministry.
Jesus in talking to His disciples in Matthew 9:37 said, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few…” Here is what Matthew records for us in Matthew 9:35-38:
And Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”
The Lord Jesus Christ looked around Him and saw a needy people, a people “harassed and helpless” or “dispirited” “like sheep without a shepherd.” And then He gave His analysis of the situation, “The harvest is plentiful but the laborers are few.” I think Jesus’ analysis of the spiritual condition of the men and women in our cities and villages today would be the same. Though outwardly people look “okay” they are not so inwardly. All the TV stars that we know, the celebrities, “powerful” people in government, all the multitude of people across the globe, need Christ desperately. Many of them have been bruised and are being bruised by the effects of sin. They are looking for peace, happiness and joy in all the wrong places. Their relative success isn’t cutting it for them – that’s because they need Christ. Then, they are all the multitude of people all around the world who aren’t celebrities, they aren’t among the “powerful” – they are vulnerable in every way – they too need Christ! Christ alone is the answer to the problem!
Here is the BIG question: If this analysis is correct (and it is), if Christ is alone is the answer (and He is), then why aren’t we seeing more young men going into the ministry so that they can preach Christ to these people? I am sure there are a myriad of reasons as to why this is the case. And, I would also like to state here that I am aware of the fact our individual situations and circumstances are different and that sometimes certain constraints are placed upon us which make it difficult to do what we may have been called to do. I am also aware that there are exceptions to the general comments that I am about to make. But I think the following five reasons contribute to the problem:
1. A Lack of Compassion for Lost Souls – this I am sure is the biggest problem. Jesus was moved with compassion for the souls of the men and women that He encountered, every time He encountered them. He was first and foremost concerned about people’s spiritual condition above all else. When compassion for souls characterizes one’s life – it’s difficult – and I would even say, that it’s impossible to ignore the call to preach, the call to the ministry. The only response in that situation is: “Woe is me, if I do not preach the gospel” (1 Corinthians 9:16).
2. A Loss of Confidence in the Gospel and It’s Power to Save Lost Souls – This is a sad reality in our day. Even those who are in the church (clergy and laity alike) seem to have lost the necessary confidence that they need to have in the power of the gospel. That’s why you see many churches today replete with all kinds of programs aimed at “supplementing” the gospel – or “improving” the gospel – or making the gospel more “relevant” and more “attractive.” Why, because many people today do not really believe that the gospel is intrinsically sufficient, relevant or necessary to the human soul. But Romans 1:16 tells us that the gospel “is the power of God unto salvation to everyone who believes” Jews and Gentiles alike. There is a desperate and urgent need for the gospel to get out there NOW!
For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” (Romans 10:13-15)
3. A Lack of Courage to Face the Unknown – Many young men (and old men too), but mostly young men just don’t want to go there! Too many risks! Too many unknowns! Too many uncertainties! The list could go on and on! And so what happens is that most of our young men are more concerned about getting those lucrative, white-collar jobs which promise a relative measure of financial security, power and prestige. I think this lack of courage – this unwillingness to take risks for the gospel and lost souls coupled with a low view of the gospel ministry and its power to change lives for eternity cripples and kills many young people’s ambition and desires to enter the ministry.
4. A Lack of Good Role Models – I think we really need God’s help here. We need to do a better job of training our young people and modeling what faithful, God-centered, gospel ministry looks like. We need to be more intentional too about training and preparing our young people for the gospel ministry from a very young age. This means that parents as well as pastors should be praying and working together for this causes. Personally, I think every pastor should have a “Timothy” and every “Timothy” should have a “Titus” if we are to see a significant reversal in the modern trend. There is biblical precedence for this in the life of Paul (for example) – see 2 Timothy 2:2 where Paul says to Timothy: “…What you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” It would foolish and presumptuous of us to ignore this apostolic precedence and admonition! The flip side of the same problem is that there just aren’t many good, faithful, committed, strong, Word-saturated, God-centered pastors around! The “stick-to-it kind” of pastors. Many of them are “hirelings” who are always marking the EXIT doors and are ready to “jump ship” with the slightest trial and/or temptation. And, you can understand how difficult it would be for our young people to develop enough confidence in the ministry. We have given then little or no reason to urge and help embrace the call to the ministry.
5. Spiritual Apathy – Defeatism. O, what a deadly disease this is! What a plague on the modern church this has become! Frankly speaking, many of the people who frequent the church today – and yes, even those who frequently preach (pastors) – many of them have already given up the fight – tragically. They are no longer fighting “the good fight of faith.” They are walking by sight and no longer by faith as they (and all of us Christians) should. And what do they see around them? More apathy! More rebellion against God! More people drowning themselves in the pool of sin and indulging themselves in the deadly pleasures! On the other hand, they see dwindling numbers in many of our churches, lack of commitment to the truth claims of Christ and His Word. They see Christians fighting over nothing and churches splitting because they couldn’t agree on whether the main entrance should be on the north or the south side of their church building. They see the church engaged in this and several other trivialities and they want nothing to do with the church let alone the gospel ministry.
We need to repent of this and seek God’s help. And we need to heed Christ’s call! Let’s “pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest” (Matthew 9:38). Only He can do it and we want Him to do it – not we ourselves apart from Him.
For those young men out there who may be considering the gospel ministry, I have some good news for you: It’s the highest calling any man can receive from the LORD! If you have any inclination within you towards the gospel ministry, I urge you to seek the Lord faithfully and diligently in prayer and in the study of His Word. Talk to your family members about it – ask them to pray with and for you. Talk to your church leaders – seek their counsel and prayer support. Talk to your friends (the good ones – the ones you can trust). Be open to the possibility and be on the look out for God’s leading in that direction and be ready to take the first step when He calls! You will never regret! More on this later! Scripture says, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” (Romans 10:15)
In my previous post, I wrote of the importance of reading Christian biographies. What I plan to do over the next few days is to share some of the biographies which the Lord has used to inspire, challenge and teach me over the years. Typically, I will do this every Monday, but for this week, I will share some of them with you in between the other posts praying that the Lord will be pleased to use them to bless you too even as He has used them to blessed me.
William Wilberforce was a man of great courage, tenacity and endurance. Though there were discouraging moments in his life when he would have been tempted to give up the “fight,” he courageously kept on fighting for his cause and the Lord granted him success in the end. He was blessed to have people like John Newton by his side encouraging him to keep going. The move to abolish slave trade was near and dear to Newton’s heart as well. For many years, he was the captain of an African slave ship. He lived a very grotesque life steeped in sin. But by the grace of God, he was later converted and became a minister of the very gospel he once despised. He authored the famous hymn, Amazing Grace whose melody (some believe) was taken from a West African sorrow chant which some of the slaves on Newton’s ship would have sung. Watch Wintley Phipps talk about that in this video below:
Kevin DeYoung blogged on William Wilberforce and concluded his post with the following words:
In Revelation 13 John warns of a terrible beast who is allowed to make war on God’s people. Saints will be taken captive and destroyed. That’s the reality John outlines in verse 10. But the response to such antagonism is not to retreat but to entrench. “Here is a call for the endurance and the faith of the saints.” Some of us may be called to accomplish great things in the cause of Christ like Wilberforce. Others will be called to endure great trials and suffering and even persecution on account of Christ. All of us, in a world often unfriendly and unsympathetic to genuine Christian faith, are called to perseverance and faithfulness. There is no hope, no holiness, and no influence without it.
Praise the Lord for His amazing grace given to us through Jesus Christ.
Amazing grace! How sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see.
‘Twas grace that taught my heart to fear,
And grace those fears relieved;
How precious did that grace appear,
The hour I first believed!
Through many dangers, toils and snares,
I have already come;
‘Tis grace has brought me safe thus far,
And grace will lead me home.
For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.” (Romans 1:16-17)
Over the next few days, I would like to focus our discussion on the gospel. A few days ago, I posted some videos by John Piper, Michael Horton, and Jefferson Bethke talking about this very important subject. I encourage you to revisit them if you haven’t already or if you simply don’t have enough time to read this blog. But I hope that you will take some time to consider with me Paul’s words recorded for us in Romans 1:16-17.
“Not Ashamed of the Gospel” – Paul begins verse 16 by making this bold statement that he is “not ashamed of the gospel.” O, how we need such courage and bravery today. It is a terrible blight in our day that there are not enough men whose backbones are strong enough to stand up for anything. There are not enough men who are bold enough to stand up for their convictions regardless of the cost! That’s tragic! Paul was a different kind of man. It is worth noting that he was writing these words from Rome where he had been imprisoned for the sake of the gospel before his death! Even though he knew that this bold statement would be considered outrageous by many in his day and that it would get him into further trouble, nothing could stop him from declaring his position on the gospel. He was unstoppable! He was the kind of person who would just make his opponents mad! They couldn’t silence him! For as long as he could breathe, he was determined to make this gospel known to the nations!
A Bold Statement: The gospel “is the power of God for salvation!” Here is the crux of the matter! The reason Paul was so bold and unstoppable with respect to the gospel was because he so believed that the gospel “is the power of God for salvation” for all men (Jews and Gentiles alike). Paul had been given this conviction by the Holy Spirit. He once was lost but now was found. Once, he was blind to the glories of the gospel and its liberating power through Jesus Christ. But now he could see because the Lord was pleased to remove the scales from his eyes (Acts 9:1-19). He personally experienced this very truth – that the gospel is indeed the “power of God for salvation to everyone who believes…” (emphasis added).
A Sincere Confession: Some background to Paul’s life as a Jew would be helpful here because for him as a Jew, this was not only a bold statement. It was also a sincere confession. As a Jew, he had been taught that his salvation rested in his personal obedience to the Torah and all its stipulations as set forth at Mount Sinai (see Exodus 19). He once considered himself “blameless” with respect to “righteousness under the law” (Philippians 3:6). Paul, with permission from the Jewish high priest, was determined to persecute Christians. Any good Jew, the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ crucified for sinners, was a “stumbling block” (1 Corinthians 1:22). Anyone who endeavored to preach this gospel was not only weak but also a great enemy to the entire Jewish establishment. But when Paul met Christ on the road to Damascus, he was radically changed and by the grace of God, he wholeheartedly embraced the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ for himself!
First, the focus of his life changed! From that point on, he learned to “glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh” (Philippians 3:3). From a purely legalistic, moral and physical perspective, Paul had more than enough reasons to boast (glory) in the flesh. Yet, he considered all that “loss for the sake of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 3:7). In verse 8 of Philippians 3, Paul refers to this as “refuse” or “dung!” That’s how disgusted he was with his own righteousness according to the law? Why? Was it because the law is bad? Of course not! In Romans 7, Paul himself makes a very strong defense of the law. No! It was not because Paul thought that the law was bad. Rather, it was because Paul had discovered that his “righteousness according to the law” was like “filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6) before God. He realized that all those “good things” (i.e. his Jewish descent and his adherence to the law), were not good enough to commend him before God for salvation (Philippians 3:1-14).
Secondly, the passion of His life changed! He was willing even to suffer for the sake of this gospel. He was changed from a persecutor to a preacher of the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. Christ had now become the singular passion of his life as he himself writes in Philippians 3:8-9, “Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For His sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith” (emphasis added). That was Paul’s confession as a changed Jew! Praise be to the Lord for that!
So when Paul writes in Romans 1:16-17, he knows exactly what he is talking about because he was personally a beneficiary of this wonderful gospel of God’s grace. He wants to tell us that God has put His saving power in His gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ and not anywhere else! Thus, we may safely conclude that salvation does not, cannot and will not come to us (as sinful creatures) through any other way but through the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ which tells us that nothing in us or about us can commend us before God for salvation. Even our very best deeds, are “like filthy rags” before God, yes “dung” – so ugly, worthless and disgusting! But thanks be to God that that’s not the end of the story!
“The Just Shall Live By Faith”- By trusting in the Lord Jesus Christ, we are given a new (yes, a REAL) righteousness, a “righteousness from God!” Paul writes, “For in it (in the gospel), the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith” (parenthesis added) – Romans 1:17. In other words, this gospel announces to us that a new kind of righteousness which does not depend on us but on God Himself is being offered to sinners like you and me! This gospel announces to us release from bondage to the law. This gospel calls us to trust God for our salvation. This gospel offers us salvation by faith alone in Christ alone! This gospel is the world’s best news! “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23)! We need to hear and believe it as does every person on the face of the earth! As it is written, “The just shall live by faith” (Romans 1:17). It’s only by trusting in Jesus Christ that one is saved from sin and from the eternal wrath of God. That’s why the gospel also called “Good News!” Praise the Lord through Jesus Christ!
In my next post, I plan to move our discussion on this important subject along. Lord willing, I shall attempt to answer the question, “What Constitutes Saving Faith?”
Rejoicing in the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ! I pray that you are too! See you tomorrow, God willing!