Moments in the life of a Pastor

Walking with God

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21 Leading in Trying Times – Part 1

1 Thessalonians 2:11-15

11 And you know that we treated each of you as a father treats his own children. 12 We pleaded with you, encouraged you, and urged you to live your lives in a way that God would consider worthy. For he called you to share in his Kingdom and glory. 13 Therefore, we never stop thanking God that when you received his message from us, you didn’t think of our words as mere human ideas. You accepted what we said as the very word of God—which, of course, it is. And this word continues to work in you who believe. 14 And then, dear brothers and sisters, you suffered persecution from your own countrymen. In this way, you imitated the believers in God’s churches in Judea who, because of their belief in Christ Jesus, suffered from their own people, the Jews. 15 For some of the Jews killed the prophets, and some even killed the Lord Jesus. Now they have persecuted us, too. They fail to please God and work against all humanity

It’s here in the midst of the groaning that Paul reminds us of the goal, to live our lives in a way that God would consider worthy. As leaders, we should be pointing people to focus on God’s goal especially during the trying times when people are tempted to turn away from God. That is why Paul provides us with several important leadership lessons in the midst of trying times. Paul starts in verses 11 through 12 by reminding us to:

  1. Serve

If the goal is to lead people to “live lives worthy of God” then success can only come through service. We need to remember that the primary purpose of why we do what we do always has to do with people’s relationship with God. When people are right with God everything else falls into place. As Jesus clearly stated in Matthew 6:33 “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” Paul’s purpose was to please God as he reveals in verse 4, so it only follows that he would lead others to please God. Who without any doubt, lived a life worthy of God? The correct answer is Christ, God’s Son, Jesus. When we are leading people to live a life worthy of God, we are leading them to become more like the Lord. Yet so often as we lead others we make the mistake of making the goal for them to please us. But the goal of serving is to point people to the Savior not to self. Servants don’t get in the way of the Savior, selfishness does. Now there is a tremendous benefit to being like Jesus that we do not often think about. Being like Jesus, living a life worthy of God, does wonders for your self-image. Jesus Christ had a rock solid self-image.

He was secure in His identity Matthew 16:13-20

He knew he was loved by His Father Matthew 3:17

His positive sense of self allowed Him to withstand criticism Matthew 26:6-10

His positive sense of self allowed him to relate to those less fortunate, rather than building His image by relating only to the rich and powerful Mark 2:15-17

He felt competent and equipped by His Father to do what he needed to do Matthew 28:18

He could love others because he was secure in the love of His Father John 15:9

His relationship with His Father gave Him purpose in life Luke 2:48-50

He knew he belonged to the Father John 10:30; 17:21

He was affirmed by His Father Matthew 3:17

If we are going to lead people to be servants of God then they need to see serving in action, we cannot afford to be lazy leaders who preach principles they never practice. Now when we think about service how do we serve, what is the Process? According to Paul its relational based not rule based, in verse 11 he says “we treated each of you as a father treats his own children.” Today we are trying to lead without loving, we want leadership without relationship. But Paul says it’s not just relational its family, leaders take a personal interest in those they lead. Paul was their spiritual father and he related to them with a father’s affection rather than just a father’s authority. He came alongside and encouraged them. Encouragement is a powerful tool, which can have an incredible impact on the life of other people. It can enable them to hang in there when they feel like hanging it up. Instead of throwing in the towel and quitting, encouragement can cause people to dream big dreams. The word in our text that is translated encourage (parakaleo) means to stand beside, to exhort, to come to one’s aid. Leadership means standing in the gap. Do you stand beside or are you trying to lead from beyond? We all need people to stand in the gap and encourage us by cheering us on. What about you are you an encourager or a discourager? So how do we encourage others?

  • With your presence

This requires that we show up, that we are present in other people’s lives. There is a great example of this in Acts 28:15. Paul had been in prison for over 3 years, he recently survived a shipwreck at sea, and now he had just arrived in Rome, still a prisoner. And unknown to Paul a bunch of his friends and fellow Christians traveled a great distance to be there to meet him when the ship came in… Luke records these words, “…at the sight of these men, Paul thanked God and was encouraged….”

  • With your Touch

This requires us to reach out. Touch has the power to transform people’s lives. The following picture shows Jackie Robinson and Pee Wee Reese together.


In May 1947, on Cincinnati’s Crosley Field, Robinson endured racist taunts, jeers, and death threats that would have broken the spirit of a lesser man. Reese, Captain of the Brooklyn Dodgers, walked over to his teammate Robinson and stood by his side, silencing the taunts by the crowd. Who do you need to touch with God’s transforming love? Love has the power to silence not just the critics but the entire crowd.

  • With God’s Word

This requires us to speak out. When it comes to our words Paul reminds us of their power. Whether spoken or written, words have the power to bring life or death. As Proverbs 18:21 says, “the tongue has the power of life and death.” Are your words comforting or cutting, are they filled with care or criticism? Paul calls us to come alongside and comfort, what does comfort show? That we care. Remember when you were little and you hurt yourself and you would run home get a band aid. Why did you go home because it was a place of comfort. There are times when we all need to be comforted, especially in the trying times. Paul doesn’t just use his words to comfort he also uses them to urge others on. Living a life worthy of God doesn’t just happen we need urging or motivating. So how do we urge them? A key to understanding this is the meaning of the Greek word in our text that is translated urge, it is a form of the verb martureo, which means to bear witness. The noun form of this word is where we get our English word martyr. We urge best by being an example. When we live a life that is worthy of God we give them an up close and personal example, of what it means to live a life that is worthy of God. Leaders don’t expect others to live it, if you are not living it. That do as I say not as I do stuff is a bunch of rubbish. What kind of example are you of living a life worthy of God? If others followed your example would God be pleased? Is the way that you serve causing others to focus on the goal or to get caught up in the groaning?

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20 Trials that turn to treasure – Part 4

James 1:12 “God blesses those who patiently endure testing and temptation. Afterward they will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.”

One of the most photographed trees in America stands on a rocky point overlooking the Pacific Ocean on the famous Seventeen-Mile Drive near Carmel, California. It is a gnarled, twisted cypress growing out of what appears to be solid rock. The sea winds have blown its branches backward until they are permanently shaped like Medusa’s hair and is believed to be as old as 250 years. The old cypress has been scarred by fire, raked by the wind, swaddled in fog, and pounded by storms. Yet it clings to its wave-lashed granite pedestal like God’s own advertisement for rugged endurance. People have photographed and painted pictures of the tree and have captioned their art in several ways. The effort of one famous artist is entitled simply: “Strength to Endure.” This indomitable old cypress has something to say to us all. It has endured the storms through the centuries and proudly wears its “crown of life.” It contributes its strength to all who see it.

Cypress Tree

We appreciate the rugged beauty of this tenacious tree, its roots gripping to the granite rock in which it grows. This tree portrays what is often the real picture of the Christian life, not perfect but powerful, not ease but endurance. God’s plan is not just that we will survive the storms of life but that when the storms subside we will be found standing, a testimony to the grace that He grants to His children. Maybe right now you are in the midst of a storm like the old cypress cling to the rock of ages who is able to help you withstand the fierce winds of temptation and the storms and stresses of life so that you will become more like His Son.  Enduring temptation means that we must bear up under it and not get mad at God when troubles come and things don’t seem fair. We must remain faithful and not grumble if God takes His time in bringing us through the storm. Enduring trials means that we face the troubles of life head on bravely believing in the power of God and trust in His truth. Not only should we bear them patiently but also with integrity know that we are held firm in the hands of a God who can squeeze good out of our groaning. Our focus should not be on the tempest that rages all around but on the one who walks above the waves and silences the storm with His word. What glory awaits those who have faithfully faced the storms and endured to the end, for they shall receive the Crown of Life! Sometimes God allows the storms to come into our lives because they strengthen us by causing us to cling to Him. In the very last part of verse 12 James used an incredibly important word, love. Now we may have expected him to write, “the crown of life, which the Lord has promised to those that trust Him” or “that obey Him.” So why did James use the word love? Because love is the spiritual motivation behind every imperative in this section.  What motivates us to continue faithfully on in spite of the trials of life? James identifies the response as Love.

– Love motivates a joyful attitude –– We love God, God loves us and will not harm us.

– Love motivates an understanding mind –– God teaches us through the trials, and we grow.

– Love motivates surrender of my will –– when love reigns, we can surrender and obey.

– Love motivates belief – when you love you believe the best about God and the situations of life.

Love is the spiritual force behind the imperatives James gives us. When we love God, we will have no problem counting, knowing, letting, and asking. Love is not just a word it is the motivation for life, for love is what keeps us faithful to the Lord. Do you notice the sequence of events here? First, comes the cross or trial and then the crown of life. First comes the groaning then the glory. God doesn’t help us by removing the tests but by making the tests work for us. While Satan tries to use tests and temptation to tear us down God turns them into times that transform. He uses the storms like stepping-stones to build us up. Trouble can turn us to God or turn us off but when we let it drive us to God He delights in dealing with our fears and helping those who are forsaken of hope. Good times rarely grow us, when things are easy our prayer life often just skims the surface. We settle for a shallow walk as if Christ is but a casual acquaintance instead of the lover of our soul. But in times of trials and tempests, when we are tossed to and fro, we tend to turn to Him with a sense of urgency. A longing to be loved and a deep desire to be rescued. The difference between peaceful times and problematic ones is the difference between praying and pleading. Suddenly under stress, our prayers, are like swift streams forced through narrow straits that run mightily to the heart of God. Trials seem to transform our prayer life like a flash flood transforms the desert. Where once there was only dust and dry ground, now desert flowers spring up and bloom. Our lives are transformed from boring desert browns to a bountiful bouquet of reds, golds, blues, oranges, and purples. Where once there was only gray now there is green. While trials are not easy they are transforming, our problem is that we want the growth we just don’t want the groaning. Trials cause us to cling more tightly to the cross, to thrusting ourselves more fully upon God. As we do He is able to purify us and make us of proven and genuine of character. This person will be blessed and rewarded in that he will enjoy a divine sufficiency in life regardless of circumstances. God’s goal in trials is maturity and to have the right attitude in trials one must see the advantage of trials. Instead of seeing storms as something terrifying, start seeing them as transforming. Don’t let the storms of this life move you let them mature you. Let them mold you into the man or woman God desires you to be. Like the bold and beautiful cypress tree clinging to the rock, let the trials of this life transform you into a testimony that points to the power and provision of our God.