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Faith Forged in Fire: Modeling Trust in Menacing Times

Faith Forged in Fire: Modeling Trust in Menacing Times

The call of pastoral ministry should never be taken lightly. Certainly, this does not mean we should look for perfect men to fill our pulpits. Only One lived perfectly and then died for sinners, including pastors, and rose again to justify us by His grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone.

Nevertheless, it is a high and serious calling to be a pastor. There are many reasons this is true, but one significant purpose is because pastors are to model what an active living faith looks like before their people. Consider Hebrews 13:7 –

Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith.

God has appointed qualified men to shepherd His churches, in part, so that His people could have a tangible example of what it looks like to trust the Lord. This type of example is important in every season but is particularly necessary in tumultuous days like the present.

In these menacing times, brother pastors, we must seek God’s grace in order to give our people a faith worth imitating. In today’s post, I have four areas of exhortation whereby pastors can better model a tangible faith to their people. I believe the Scriptures warrant these four areas as having particular importance to the life of the church and even more so during seasons like these.

In the crucible of perilous seasons, where flames of doubt, fear, and lawlessness seem to portend our doom, godly pastors must stand as steadfast beacons of faith, their lives and teaching a testament to trust in the face of menacing times.

Where must pastors particularly model trust before their people? Here are four areas:

The Sufficiency of Scripture

From the beginning, Satan has attacked the Word of God (cf. Gen. 3:1). In every century, God’s people have felt the unrelenting barrage of the Evil One seeking to minimize the power and efficacy of the Bible. Our day is no different.

Thus, pastors must have a ready response to the devil, to the culture, and even to the church, when asked, Hath God really said?. That answer is, “Yes He has! Here is chapter and verse.”

Pastors must demonstrate to their people that the Bible really is the inerrant, infallible, authoritative, necessary, clear, and sufficient revelation of the triune God. They do this by not only preaching weekly what the Bible says in its context, but also by seeking to have the structure, worship, ministry, fellowship, and entire life of the church conformed to the Scriptures.

We must show the world (for truly, it is watching) and broader evangelicalism, that the Word of God does not change and sufficiently addresses every issue the church may face until our Lord Jesus returns. The qualifications for a pastor do not change in any age. The definition of the church does not change. Sin always has the same remedy: repentance and faith in Christ. We have a sufficient Bible.

Pastors must demonstrate to their people that the Bible really is the inerrant, infallible, authoritative, necessary, clear, and sufficient revelation of the triune God.

Pastors must not only carry the Bible with them into the pulpit, but into homes, alongside hospital beds, and in their hearts in such a way that their people truly believe, “these men really believe this Book and I should too!”

The Suitableness of Christ

Secondly, pastors must show their people what it looks like to rest wholly upon King Jesus for the forgiveness of sins. A pastor is not more acceptable to God because of his pastoring. He, as much as any other person, stands in need of the grace of God in the gospel.

Christ shed His blood for sinners’ redemption (cf. Eph. 1:7). Thus, a pastor must never seek to be Jesus to anyone – he could never be! He too stands in need of the justifying work of Jesus as applied by the Holy Spirit.

This means pastors can and must model what it looks like to humbly rest in Jesus as our only suitable and all sufficient Savior. They are to model repentance before others and forgiveness to others. They are to model evangelism as they show forth the suitability of Christ for any sinner who will call upon His name.

And they must never forget the great love God has for them! The pastor’s identity is not first and foremost in his pastoring. It is securely in our victorious Savior. So, while a pastor cannot be Christ to anyone, he is to be in Christ to everyone.

And when Satan shoots his fiery arrows at a pastor (cf. Eph. 6:16) – and he will – we do not seek to defend ourselves by pointing to our accolades or making paltry excuses for our failures. Rather, we hold up the shield of faith, singing, “upward I look and see Him there, who made an end of all my sin. Because the sinless Savior died, my sinful soul is counted free, for God the just is satisfied, to look on Him and pardon me!”

The Sovereignty of God

In seasons of prosperity, it seems easy to say that God is on His throne. But it is all the more necessary to show our people the sovereignty of God when the days are dark.

It is a shame that the sovereignty of God is a source of contention for many professing Christians and churches today. The sovereignty of God is not revealed to the church for her to squabble about it. It is revealed for our comfort. For our pillow at night. For our defense. For our shield (cf. Gen. 15:1).

Church members need to see what it looks like for a pastor to really believe in the sovereignty of God. Has God really chosen a people in eternity past despite their unworthiness? Then missions and evangelism will be a priority! We are guaranteed ultimate success in gospel ministry because God is sovereign (even if we do not see immediate results always in the here and now).

Has God really decreed all things and is He presently working all things out according to the counsel of His will (cf. Eph. 1:11)? Then away with all cowardice. We can stand confidently in the midst of every storm because we have a sovereign God who is in complete control and His Word reassures us that He will never leave us or forsake us.

Thus, while pastors should be good citizens of our country, and know what’s going on in our world today, they must never be immobilized by fear. They do not have to spend hours upon hours in the latest news cycle because they already know the most important thing: Christ is king! And all things are under His sovereign feet.

We can stand confidently in the midst of every storm because we have a sovereign God who is in complete control and His Word reassures us that He will never leave us or forsake us.

Further, we demonstrate trust in the sovereignty of God when we do things as He has shown us in His Word. We do church discipline, for example, because we trust a sovereign God. Obedience to God demonstrates our belief in His sovereign rule. Even when the world may say we are foolish, we do what God says because He is God and we are not.

The Success of the Church

Finally, pastors must show their people what it looks like to really believe in the importance of the local church. Whatever your eschatology may be, every pastor ought to be unremittingly committed to the local church and her success.

Christ is head of the church (cf. Col. 1:18). If Christ is the head of the church, and not the pope and not any human institution, entity, or committee, then how can the church not have victory? She is already seated with Christ (Eph. 2:4-6)! If Christ is the head and the church His body, do we think somehow the body of Christ will be defeated while the head prevails? No!

 Christ will never be severed from His Body. The Bridegroom will never be separated from His Bride. The Cornerstone will never be removed from the Building.

The church ultimately prevails because the Jesus prevails! Christ wins and so His body wins with Him and will be presented before God holy and blameless (cf. Eph. 5:25-27).

Now, it is true that individual churches may shut their doors. Conventions or denominations may cease to exist or even apostatize. Christians may face martyrdom. But the point is, as a collective whole, local churches win because they are united to Christ and He is King of kings and Lord of lords.

Friends, the church is not an afterthought to God. She is not a parenthesis to His plan. She is His plan! From the beginning, we see her, though not in her fullness, in the Old Testament saints and prophecies. We see her more clearly revealed in the New Testament. And we see that she is what God is doing in the world today (cf. Matthew 16:18).

The church ultimately prevails because the Jesus prevails! Christ wins and so His body wins with Him and will be presented before God holy and blameless.

The church is winning now. Christ is reigning now. Christ is building His church inside the enemy’s camp now. Society may be crumbling. Morals may be declining. Nations may faulter. But the Church is enduring. She is not forgotten. She is the apple of God’s eye. Local churches are enduring. The Spirit of God is working in them. The Kingdom is not retreating but advancing.

Consider that for the last 2,000 years Satan and this evil world have sought to snuff out the church. Constant berating. Constant persecution. Constant warfare. For 2,000 years. But where is the church today compared to the book of Acts? She is thriving. Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the uttermost parts of the earth have received the gospel, and the church continues to march forward making more and more disciples for the glory of God.

The church wins. She will always face persecution in this life. She will always meet resistance. But God is building His church in the face of His enemies. No matter what may happen to one particular local church, the church as a whole, local churches as a whole, will endure.

Pastors, our people need to see this kind of belief in the church. And this is not because the church is worthy in and of herself, but because Christ holds her dear to His heart.

Conclusion

These are not the days for retreat. Before closing, let me offer these thoughts to you in a different way. Pastors,

  • We model trust in the sufficiency of Scripture so there is No Rerouting.
  • We model trust in the sovereignty of God so there is No Rattle.
  • We model trust in the suitableness of Christ so there is No Replacement.
  • We model trust in the success of the church so there are No Regrets.

The Bible is sufficient, we will walk in the way of the Lord and no other (cf. Jer. 6:16). God is sovereign, we will not be afraid. Christ is enough and there is no other. The church wins, so we will gladly spend and be spent for her sake.

Keep pressing on, brother pastors. Rest your failures in the glorious gospel. Let your people see a faith worth imitating. Christ is worthy. To God be the glory.

Allen S. Nelson IV is the pastor of Perryville Second Baptist Church in Perryville, AR, where he resides with his wife Stephanie, and their 5 children. Allen is the author of From Death to Life: How Salvation Works and Before the Throne: Reflections on God’s Holiness . His other titles include blogger, rookie podcaster, and occasional conference speaker. Most importantly, he is a recipient of the undeserved grace of God.
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