“We cannot cure humanity with the Gospel unless we have carried our own burdens to Him in a humble and secret life of prayer.” However lovely or rugged the path before us, we cannot speak with incarnate truth of its splendor or severity without walking it. Thus, it is with the Gospel ministry.
In reading through a young man’s research paper, I was struck by his ability to integrate his humanity, faith, and life with Christ, with theological concepts arising from Biblical truths. As usual, my students teach me much about faith and life and, frequently, about myself and my need for Christ.
I wrote the following to the young man in his evaluation. I believe that it could be of encouragement to those in ministry today. There may be one of you reading this now who is overwhelmed with the ministry. Remember how Christ ministered to you. Then, shepherd others out of the healing you received from the hand of the Great Shepherd. For so Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 2:3-7:
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also abounds through Christ. Now if we are afflicted, it is for your consolation and salvation, which is effective for enduring the same sufferings which we also suffer. Or if we are comforted, it is for your consolation and salvation. And our hope for you is steadfast, because we know that as you are partakers of the sufferings, so also you will partake of the consolation.”
I wrote these words for another, but they were for me. They may be for you.
There is no greater seminary than the School of the Christian Life lived with the Lord Jesus Christ as Tutor and Friend. That School, which is the first school required for the pastorate, remains the essential place of necessary apprenticeship for those who would preach the unsearchable riches of Jesus Christ. A minister may be trained in all of the other academies of pastoral preparation and, yet, if one has not sat at the feet of our Lord Jesus, such a one is not adequately equipped for faithful and effective service to the Lord and His Church. We cannot cure humanity with the Gospel unless we have carried our own burdens to Him in a humble and secret life of prayer.
So this is the first rule in pastoral ministry, and for the Christian life: The way up is down. The way forward is in stillness. The most excellent sermons preached are, first, sermons lived. This is not only our first school. This is our first lesson. The lesson is this: That a Christian shepherd’s most basic strategy for keeping watch over the flock of the Master is to know so that you may be. For only in Christ’s Divinity may we know our fullest measure of humanity. There is a greater likelihood for both accessibility to other people and an approach to lead them to eternal life in that renewed humanity.