The Lord Does Not Despise the Day of Small Things

This article originally appeared at Small Town Summits Articles. I serve as the Content Manager for STS Articles.

“Oh, that’s good that you’ll be in a small church for your first Lead Pastorate,” the well-meaning former church member commented. “It will be a great opportunity before God expands your ministry.” In the context of our conversation, the idea was that a small church would be a place of growth until God called me on to bigger and better things. They weren’t trying to be rude or demeaning, but the insinuation was that a small church in a small town was a good place for a pastor in his mid-thirties, so that God could use him in a bigger place when he was older and wiser and could handle more responsibility.

My friend did not seem to know that being a pastor of a small church means that you have to wear more hats and be more of a “Renaissance man” than you usually have to be in a larger church. I was going from an Associate Pastor role with five full-time or part-time support staff members who partly helped my ministry through administration, copying, scheduling or helping with e-mails, to being the only staff member. My first week in the new church office, my first week preparing and copying the bulletin on my own, my first week sending out the Children’s Church volunteer e-mail and checking the church post office box, my respect grew exponentially for all of the small-town pastors who have to broaden their skills and manage their schedules to handle a more diverse set of responsibilities. No matter how much you delegate, the rubber-meets-the-road reality of being a small-town pastor will sometimes mean that the joke I once heard is true: “Happy ‘Small-Church Pastor Day.’ Here’s a plunger.” 

Most days I don’t mind this reality, and today I am helped in some of those responsibilities by volunteers or part-time staff. But other days I need God’s help to see that not only does God not want me to despise the day of small things, but he does not despise it either.

This glorious reality became fresh to me again in a recent Men’s Bible Study through the minor prophets. We were studying Zechariah and we came to chapter 4. I was floored by this verse: “For whoever has despised the day of small things shall rejoice…(Zechariah 4:10a)

Zechariah was a prophet to the nation of Israel during a difficult time. About 50,000 Israelites had returned from exile in Babylon to rebuild the country that had fallen into ruin for 70 years. But opposition from enemies and apathy from within God’s own people had caused the work to be abandoned for 16 years. When the foundation of the temple had been completed, the young men who had never seen it in its former glory rejoiced greatly, but the older men who remembered its prior greatness wept out loud. Now, years later, the faithful were hopeless, having seen God start to work but wondering if they would ever see the completion. And many of God’s chosen people were there in person but just didn’t seem to care in spirit.

God sent both Zechariah and Haggai to stir up his people. Part of their mission, like the mission of any faithful preacher today, was to afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted. God promised that what was started with the temple would be completed, even soon. What seemed impossible would happen because the Lord of all the earth would accomplish it: “Who are you, O great mountain? Before Zerubbabel you shall become a plain. And he shall bring forward the top stone amid shouts of ‘Grace, grace to it!’ Then the word of the LORD came to me, saying, ‘The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this house; his hands shall also complete it. Then you will know that the LORD of hosts has sent me to you. For whoever has despised the day of small things shall rejoice, and shall see the plumb line in the hand of Zerubbabel.” (Zechariah 4:7-10)

What seemed impossible would happen because the Lord of hosts would accomplish it. Those who had despised the day of small things would rejoice. But here is the truth that you and I need to see, fellow small-town pastor or ministry leader: even though God promised that a day of rejoicing would come when the work on the temple would be accomplished, that temple was so much smaller than the temple during Solomon’s splendor. It would be a great work, but it would be a small work.

It would bring rejoicing even from those who had despised the small beginnings before, but it would still be small. And God was pleased with it.

God was saying in effect, “Don’t despise what I am pleased with.”

This call to both long for God to do great things and yet to be content with where God has our church and our work in our small places today can seem impossible sometimes. How can we both want revival more and yet need it less, as Small Town Summits co-founder Stephen Witmer calls us to?  

The secret is in Zechariah 4:6: “Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the LORD of hosts.”

Fellow laborers in small places, you have an even better word than Zechariah received because you are a minister of the New Covenant. You not only have the promise that God will accomplish his work in small places because of his Spirit’s work, you actually have the Holy Spirit living in you to bring you God’s power and strength and joy for each new day.

And if you have ever despised the day of small things, be still before the Lord and seek his heart for your small-place ministry. Hear him say to you, “Whoever has despised the day of small things shall rejoice.”

That rejoicing can begin today. God’s Spirit guarantees it.

Together In Our Solitude: The Power of “One Spirit” During COVID-19

One faith.

One Lord.

One baptism.

One body.

One Spirit.

I never knew the power of these phrases from Ephesians 2 until we were forced to shelter in place. But these inspired words have been infused with new meaning for our local church bodies. The power of “one Spirit” bringing us together in our solitude brought a smile to my face last week.

The tone on the other end of the line sounded again and I wondered how I could get their correct phone number. But suddenly, this time, a cheery voice came through on the other end.

“Hello, Jane?” I inquired.

“Oh, Pastor Tim, how wonderful to hear your voice!”

I had been trying to get ahold of the elderly couple who had recently moved to town. I was worried they would think no one from their new church cared. I wondered about their health. Was her husband’s heart ok?

Jane assured me they were fine. “We pray regularly for the church prayer requests you have been e-mailing,” she shared. “And we pray for you and your precious wife and kids every day.”

That’s when it hit me. One Spirit.

My concern for Jane and her husband was eclipsed by their daily prayers for me and my family. Because we share the same Holy Spirit, we are together in our solitude.

We are only a prayer away from strengthening hearts and impacting eternity.

The Spirit binds us even when we are apart. The Spirit works in our lives even when we are not physically in each other’s lives. The Spirit ministers in each person when I only wish I could minister in person.

Because of the power of the Spirit’s ministry, we are together in our solitude.

One faith.

One Lord.

One baptism.

One body.

One Spirit.

Even far apart.

 

Uniqueness & Unity

Note from Tim: Over the next eight days I will be publishing a short devotional each morning. I originally wrote these devotions for the Winter 2018-2019 issue of Open Windows and I have permission to republish them. I pray they are an encouragement to you in your walk with Christ!

Devotional passage: 1 Corinthians 12:1-11

All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills. – 1 Corinthians 12:11

The body of Christ is beautiful when both its uniqueness and unity are on display. We have great unity because we have one Spirit. Yet we have great uniqueness because the Spirit delights in giving us different gifts.

When my wife and I pick out Christmas presents for our children each year, we don’t give them all the same thing. Each child is different, and we delight in thinking about what will uniquely bring him or her joy. We also think about the big picture of what toys the other kids already have. We don’t do this because one child is better than the other. Rather, we pick different gifts for each child, because we can see each child’s unique makeup and how he or she fits into the whole family.

In considering how the Spirit has given gifts within the church, the apostle Paul wanted the Corinthians to see wisdom rather than competition. Instead of comparing your spiritual gifts with the spiritual gifts of another Christian, rejoice in how God has uniquely designed you to serve and glorify Him.

Father, show me the beauty of both uniqueness and unity in the body of Christ.

The Congregation

preach the word

Note:  This is part of an on-going series as I blog through D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones’ “Preaching and Preachers.”

Martyn Lloyd-Jones turns to the congregation in Chapter 7 of Preaching and Preachers.  Considering that this book was originally published in 1972, it has amazing relevance to today.  In talking about modern men and women and how the “pew” too often now tries to dictate to the “pulpit,” Lloyd-Jones defends the idea of a pastor opening the Bible and preaching from the text.

We are told that today they cannot think and follow reasoned statements, that they are so accustomed to the kind of outlook and mentality produced by newspapers, television and films, that they are incapable of following a reasoned, argued statement…

…Another form which it takes is to say that these people cannot understand the biblical terminology, that to talk about Justification and Sanctification and Glorification is meaningless to them… (135)

Lloyd-Jones explains that although people in the congregation at different levels of maturity (and even different ages) will be able to comprehend biblical truths on different levels, that there should be a simplicity to our preaching that all can understand: “There is no greater fallacy than to think that you need a gospel for special types of people.” (141)

I praise God that I serve a congregation who hungers for God’s Word.  We are a local body that ranges from men with Master of Divinity degrees to stay at home moms to university professors to little children.  We have union workers and high-level programmers and custodians all sitting in our pews on Sunday.  We have believers who have walked with God for over 60 years and others who are still asking questions about who Jesus is.  My job is to tie myself to God’s Word and proclaim Christ Jesus and Him crucified.

Times will change.  Times have changed since Lloyd-Jones wrote Preaching and Preachers.  Education level and careers and technology and even spiritual maturity will be in a constant state of flux in our world.  But there are several constants that I thank Lloyd-Jones for reminding me of: people are sinners, Jesus is a great Savior, and the Holy Spirit speaks powerfully to people through His preached Word!

With the Apostle Paul I declare, “For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.” (1 Corinthians 1:22-24)  The Spirit of God takes the Word of God and points to the Lamb of God to bring people to God.  That will never change.

Source:  Lloyd-Jones, D. Martyn.  Preaching & Preachers: 40th Anniversay Edition.  Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2011.

Our Resurrection, Eternal Life, and Union with Christ

Romans 8 has long Kilimanjaro_Sunrisebeen one of my favorite passages of Scripture, both in happy and hard times.  As I read the incredible truths all throughout Romans 8 in happy times, it only adds to my happiness and praise of what God has done and is doing for me and those He loves–and in hard times it adds to my joy in and worship of our good and sovereign God, even if that joy is not a feeling at the moment.

I remember my wife and I reading Romans 8:31-35 with a high school girl in our youthgroup years ago who was struggling with depression over an abortion she had had before she was a believer:  “…If God is for us, who can be against us?  He who did not spare His own Son but gave Him up for us all, how will He not also with Him graciously give us all things?  Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect?…Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?”  The answer, of course, was that since she was now in Christ, even in the face of great regret, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” (Rom. 8:1)

Romans 8 has been the solid rock that the Holy Spirit has been using in my heart this week as our church goes through a time of great mourning.  The same chapter that comforts the repentant sinner also comforts the bereaved.  Romans 8:10-11 teaches that our resurrection and the hope of our eternal life is just as sure as the resurrection of Christ, because of the work of the Holy Spirit.  For those who are in Christ, for those who have the Holy Spirit (Rom. 8:9), we have this blessed assurance: “If the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.” (Rom. 8:11)

When God saves you, He gives you His Holy Spirit (Rom. 8:9-10a).  We usually think of the Holy Spirit as being the agent of our regeneration and sanctification.  In other words, He is the member of the Trinity that gives us a new heart at salvation and brings us from spiritual death to spiritual life (Rom. 8:2).  The Holy Spirit continually works in the lives of those He has saved to transform them more and more in practice into who they are spiritually–children of God (Romans 8:29; 8:16-17).  But don’t forget, brothers and sisters in Christ, that the Holy Spirit does not leave us when we die.  The Holy Spirit who actually resides in you not only is with you to the brink of eternity, He continues the spiritual life He had begun in you (2 Cor. 5:4-5) and ushers you right into Heaven!  Those who had God dwelling in them on earth will then dwell with God in His home (Rev. 21:3)–through the power of the Holy Spirit.  God will never forsake His own, just as He would not and cannot forsake Himself (2 Tim. 2:13).

Your resurrection–and the resurrection of those brothers and sisters in Christ whom we love–is just as sure as Jesus’ bodily resurrection.  The Spirit of Christ has united us to Jesus so closely that we cannot fully comprehend it this side of Glory: “For if we have been united with Him in a death like His, we shall certainly be united with Him in a resurrection like His.” (Rom. 6:5)  What a joy that brings, even through tears.