I went to a pastor’s meeting recently and overheard two brothers questioning their call to the ministry. They were wondering aloud why in the world they did not pursue a different educational path that would have given them something to “fall back on.” This obviously caught my attention and I settled in to listen more carefully. Both men were obviously discouraged about the ministries that God had placed them in. They were just not sufficiently motivated to stay the course.
In my mind the call of God to preach His word is the highest calling a human being can have. However, it is hard for some to stay motivated amid all the possible pitfalls in ministry – the money that does not come in to pay the bills, church leaders that feel it is their obligation to stand against everything the pastor suggests, disgruntled church members that think it necessary to keep something negative stirred up all the time, not to mention the personal family pressures.
My mind went back to my own reasons for hanging tough through the years. How had I been motivated to stay the course through it all? That thought always draws be back to the amazing glimpse of grace that I received in 1989 during a morning walk. God used it to change the entire course of my ministry. I was going through a particularly rough time in the congregation similar to those mentioned above. I was looking to God for answers and pondering some passages that I had recently studied.
Centuries ago Paul was facing the same opposition for preaching the gospel that I was facing. He found that he had to defend himself before the very people who should have trusted him totally. I identified with that! Some even accused him of using the gospel to serve his own selfish desires. However quitting was never an option. Paul said that we are hard pressed on every side, yet not crushed. We are perplexed but not in despair, persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed.
What enabled Paul to persevere in the face of such suffering? He thought back to the day of His own dramatic Damascus Road conversion when he met Jesus Christ face to face. From that day on his ministry was to advance the cause of Jesus Christ, not his own. Then he gave one of his famous conclusions marked by the word “therefore.”
“Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4:16-18)
I am painfully aware that my outward man is perishing. My body is growing older and wearing out! I do not have all the time in the world to finish the purpose that God has for me. Paul went further! We are not to lose heart because the spiritual man inside is being renewed day by day. This is a comforting thought! The Holy Spirit constantly renews our mind and is steadily conforming us to the image of Christ. What an encouragement! But how is this possible?
Paul made this amazing contrast. He said that our momentary light affliction is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory. My problem with the congregation didn’t feel light at the time, but when compared to the eternal glory that awaited me it was. Seeing Christ face to face far outweighed the effects of an aging body – the suffering – the defeats – all the heartaches in this life.
What Paul said next became the motivation for my ministry. He said that I was to look beyond the things that human eyes can see to God’s unseen world. The things that I could see with my physical eyes were destined to pass into oblivion. The things that I could not see with my human eyes were eternal things. God impressed upon me that I was to use my mind’s eye to see the unseen. My thoughts went quickly to these words of Jesus Christ! “But blessed are your eyes for they see, and your ears for they hear. “ My mind quickly raced on to a third passage that I had recently studied. Paul was contrasting human wisdom with God’s wisdom. He wrote these incredible words that God etched forever into my mind.
But as it is written: “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard Nor have entered into the heart of man The things which God has prepared for those who love Him.” But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God. For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God. These things we also speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual.” (1 Corinthians 2:9-13)
God’s wisdom is knowledge that cannot be seen with human eyes or heard with human ears. That sounded familiar! In fact, God’s wisdom is that which has never entered into a human mind before. That could not be the rehashed human understanding coming from the mind of man.
Paul then wrote something that has become the motivation for the “Glimpses of Grace” ministry and the day by day church ministries that God has led me to. He said that God has revealed these hidden things to us through His Spirit. I thought of that statement for a long time. The next line reads, “What man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man, which is in him?” I cannot know the secret thoughts of another human being. Likewise, the Spirit of God alone knows the things of God. My mind began to race. The Spirit of God lives in me. He can teach me the hidden wisdom of God. The final words of the passage “comparing spiritual things with spiritual” intrigued me. What Paul is saying is that the Holy Spirit compares spiritual words with spiritual thoughts.
As I study the living words of the Bible verse by verse and line upon line, God the Holy Spirit teaches my human spirit the things freely given to us by God. That is absolutely incredible. I – we, can know the mind of God!
Another fact is that these glimpses of God’s wisdom cannot be found by looking for them. God opens them to me at His pleasure as I study the Bible word after word and line by line. He has not taught me everything that I desire to know about any one subject but has given me small insights into His plan. These insights placed together began to open God’s awesome plan for His creation. God has opened to me His incredible salvation plan, the true identity of Jesus Christ, the immense value of His death and resurrection, and the nature and purpose of the Holy Spirit, to name but a few.
These are the things that no human ear has ever heard nor human eyes have seen and the things that have never entered into the thinking of man. These are glimpses of grace.
It is my goal through this blog to share glimpses of God’s grace that He is teaching me.