The intent of this writing is simply to grant encouragement to a few brothers in the Lord. I have been reading a book about the prayers of George Swinnock and have been blessed by it (J. Stephen Yuille: “A Labor of Love”; Reformation Heritage Books). There is a prayer under the title “A Courageous Soldier” that impacted me today and I just wanted to send out a few thoughts on it.
Ministerial discouragement is the chief reason pastors leave the ministry. They arrive at a point where they’re convinced the cost far outweighs the reward. As I write this I can assure you I have been on the precipice of running or staying to many times. There are days in which I wish I could find a road to nowhere and purchase a one-way ticket. There are days when the amount of work done to feed the sheep seems for too much in comparison to what is received as a reward. Countless are the days that I have longed for a wise pastor to give me counsel as to how to go forward. Timothy had the blessing of having Paul to give him counsel (we may be shocked by his counsel, and later I will repeat Paul’s counsel to Timothy and apply it to us) and by default we should turn to Paul and let him counsel us.
What is going on with young Timothy in 2 Timothy? What is he dealing with? First, he is dealing with doctrinal defection. Timothy is surrounded by those who have philosophies that have strangled the people and they cannot discern truth from error. Oh how frustrating it is when a man has clear understanding that he knows to be true and yet the sheep keep eating bad food. Second, he is dealing with frustration. It is a frustrating ministry to sacrifice, sweat, bleed, and die for a people who will not or cannot muster the unction to worship because they are too busy with their cell phone, I-pad, TV, and ballgames. Third, he is dealing with carnality. Worldliness in the church is a tough pill to swallow. Leading a small church that loses more than it gains and living in a world of entertainment make it difficult to grow a church. People are so obsessed with entertainment and worldliness that they are bored with church, because it does not excite them. Fourth, he is dealing with confusion in his own mind. Perhaps he feels that he is in over his head and that he does not have the capability to lead the church. Perhaps he feels as if he is walking through a minefield in the middle of the night and wondering what will blow-up next. Fifth, he is dealing with isolation. Everyone wants a godly pastor and when they finally get one, they stay away from him. Everything about his life is a testimony to what theirs is not and they keep their distance leaving the pastor alone in isolation. Sixth, he is dealing with loneliness. Surely isolation leads to loneliness. If a man cannot learn to be alone he will never make it in the role of a godly pastor. Friends are far and few between and having been stabbed by Phygelus and Hermogenes it is difficult to know who to trust. Lastly, he is dealing with some level of fear. He is dealing with the fear of man, fear of self, fear of failure, fear of rejection, and quite simply the fear that in the end all will be for naught.
All of the above can be elaborated upon for sure and perhaps you have, are, or will be dealing with every one of them and maybe a few additional ones. In George Swinnock’s prayer these lines captured my heart, “As a sworn soldier of the Lord of hosts, I wish that - when I experience trials and tribulations, and face danger and death - I might not forsake my Captain, but 'endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ'”. Swinnock goes on to say, “If I - like Jonah - were to run from Thy presence, unwilling to deliver an unwelcome message, I would expect a storm to follow me - either the waves would swallow me up or the whale would swallow me down. If the service of my God is not the best, then why did I choose it? If it is the best, then why would I leave it?
The counsel of Martyn Lloyd-Jones is fitting here, “When you feel your weakness and ineptitude, and as you are conscious of the forces that are set against you, remember that He, the Head of the body to which you belong, is at the right hand of God, that all authority and power is in His hands, controlling the universe and the cosmos, that He is Head over all things. He can direct everything, the wind and the storm, the rain and the sunshine; He can order all things, and is doing so – for you!”
Surely the prayer of George Swinnock and the counsel of Martyn Lloyd-Jones are of great benefit, but I am confronted profoundly with the counsel of the apostle Paul to Timothy. The counsel that Paul gives is so contrary to worldly philosophy, human ingenuity, and political correctness. The counsel of the modern church would go along these lines, “you deserve better”, “they are not being fair to you”, “you should go to a church that would appreciate you”, “that church does not realized how blessed they are to have you”, “you need to get away and take a nice vacation”, and on and on the counsel would go. What is Paul’s counsel?
SHARE IN SUFFERING AS A GOOD SOLDIER OF JESUS CHRIST (2 Tim. 2:3)!!!!!