Monday, October 23, 2006

God at Work, Even When We Can't Se It

Anyone who has preached much knows the agony of it. Hopefully you know the ecstasy as well, but there is often a hollowness that I feel after preaching. You have just laid out your heart with all the earnestness you have, and as you sit down you are painfully aware of the inadequacy of your efforts. And this feeling is augmented because the inadequacies which are so evident to you have just been publicly displayed before the people of God! Of course much can be learned from this. For one, I have had to train myself not to make too much of it. It can be good for learning humility. I also must flee again to the cross being reminded that Christ alone is sufficient and if He has been lifted up then all is well. I also have had to face the reality at times that I should have been more diligent in some area of preparation. One danger though is in being too hard on ourselves. We can only do so much.

In this vein the following quote has been encouraging to me. It comes from Gardiner Spring, and it describes the beginning of great revival in his area. Much can be gleaned from this quote. My point here is first of all my ability to identify with his emotions in the first paragraph. Note it well! This pastor who is regarded as one of the giants would linger in his pulpit after the service because he was embarrassed to face his people, fearing that they would rebuke his preaching. He was laboring faithfully but felt no power, no result. However, at that very time God was indeed at work. So it often is. God is not required to allow us to ‘feel’ when he is at work. Of course it is great when you can sense that the people are with you. But we must not be dependent upon that. We must preach the word and trust God to be at work.

The year 1814 was a year of great labor and deep solicitude. Many a time after preaching did I remain long in the pulpit, that I might not encounter the reproaches of the people of God for my heartless preaching, and many a time, as I left it, has my mind been so depressed that I have felt I could never preach another sermon. But I did not know to what extent the Spirit of God was carrying forward his own noiseless work . . .
God was already beginning a precious work of grace among the people. He had taken it into his own hands, and was conducting it in his own quiet way, convincing the church and the world that it is ‘not by might, nor by power, but by his own Spirit,’ as the Author and Finisher of the whole. The spirit of grace and supplication was poured out upon the people, and they ‘looked on Him whom they had pierced.’ The weekly prayer-meeting and the weekly lecture were full of interest. Days of fasting and prayer were occasionally observed, and a Saturday evening prayer-meeting was established by the young men of the church, for the special purpose of imploring the divine presence and blessing upon the services of the approaching Lord’s day . . . Our Sabbaths became deeply solemn and affecting. We watched for them as those who ‘watch for the morning.’ I verily believe we anticipated them with greater pleasure . . . expectation, than that with which the sons and daughters of earth ever anticipated their brightest jubilee. (Iain Murray, Revival and Revivalism, 205-6)
Be encouraged brothers. God is at work. He honors His word. So, as you face a Monday, remember that if you have taken up the Scripture and preached what it said, God is at work.

7 comments:

jmattingly said...

Ray,

This post greatly encouraged my heart this afternoon. I've been struggling lately in lacking zeal, and these words speak right to my need. Thanks for mentioning them.

Jeremiah

Joel Maners said...

Reminds me of Elijah fleeing to the desert after confronting the 400 prophets of Baal.

Ray Van Neste said...

Jeremiah,
I am glad it was encouraging to you as it was to me.

Ray Van Neste said...

Joel,
Yeah, and I can fel this way after preaching to a group that really loves me and loves the Word!

Tyler Ervin said...

Thanks for the encouragement, Dr. Van Neste. That's something that you have spoken to me a few times. Maybe now that I see it in print I will let it sink in more.

Tyler

Tim A. Blankenship said...

Thank you my brother for the encouraging words.
It is discouraging at times to preach and preach and see nothing happening.
Sometimes all we have to keep going is God's promise similar to Isaiah in chapter six.

Joel Maners said...

Tim,

You need to get a copy of Lest Innocent Blood Be Shed.It's a remarkable story of a church that makes a difference in a difficult situation. Things happen when you preach whether you realize it or not. Check it out when you get a chance.