Monday, April 3, 2017

Faith and Courage From the Sidelines

I saw something in church yesterday which I have rarely seen before. The text was Hebrews 4:14-16, which in itself is a charge worthy of any spiritual battle the believer may face, but it was the pastor's response to the preaching of it which blessed my heart.

You've seen how teammates on the sidelines will lean forward ready to jump to their feet for joy as they witness their comrades gaining ground on the opposing team. That was the pastor's posture yesterday as he listened intently to another lay minister delivering the message. He simply could not hide the inner excitement of hearing once again the truth of the exaltation of Christ who opened the way for needy sinners to come boldly before the throne of grace and find mercy. To say the least, by the close of the service, he was pumped for the communion celebration!

That's how it should be among ministers of the Word, and it is one thing I truly appreciate about Ventura Baptist Church​. The humility of the men who lead there and the love they have for Christ and one another is such a breath of fresh air! There is no vying for the pulpit; the pulpit belongs to Christ. There is no vying for the love and loyalty of the congregation; the congregation belongs to Christ. The men who teach and preach there are on the same team in the battle against sin and Satan. And that is as it should be.

Truly, the battles we face every day against the devil, the world, and our own flesh (indeed our strongest foe!) are much better fought and won when we've been challenged to remember who our Conquering Savior is and who we are in Him. I rarely leave a service at Ventura without feeling ready "to charge Hell with a water pistol," as the old timers used to say. Indeed, I, too, felt the anticipation of the win as I came home with a renewed vision and courage to fight the sins which so easily beset me.

The pastor's excitement during the sermon reminded me also of a scene from Kenneth Branagh's Henry V (1989). If you choose to view the clip I've included with this post, take note of how the posture of the men changes as they are encouraged by King Henry and how they look on one another with a light in their eyes with renewed courage by the power of his inspiring words. Though they knew not the outcome with the odds against them, yet they were ready to fight!

And, yet, we have a more sure outcome in our spiritual battles whereby we may gain courage. We have a Leader, a commander of the people (Isaiah 55:4), our mighty King Jesus, who encourages us by His Spirit through men of God called to that ministry. Truly, this is what the cowering, struggling church needs today.

However, the Spirit of God cannot move where there is pride in vying for position in leadership or bickering and infighting among the warriors. We need a new vision of who the enemy is, who our Leader is, and who we are in relation to one another if we are ever to see the conquests which our Commander has promised are possible. We must pray for it, pray for our pastors and leaders, pray for one another, put down our own pride, and then expect God's blessing on the battle.

"God be with you all!" Amen.