I find the mountains of north Georgia – particularly the town of Dillard – to be a wonderful haven for rest and reflection. It is quiet, cool (in the 70s in August), and the fresh mountain air is wonderful. I haven’t had much time this summer to get away and be alone with the Lord, but I managed to squeeze a couple of days in this week. The last couple of weeks have been filled with emotional upheaval – a real “roller coaster” ride of self doubt and discouragement. The summer has been filled with ministry to families who have lost loved ones or who have loved ones with serious illnesses. Questions and regrets have filled my mind – questions about the future, and regrets about the past. I asked the Lord as earnestly as I know how to meet with me during these few short hours. One of my Bible College teachers used to ask, “What’s the word from the Word?” It was her way of asking how God was speaking to us from Scripture, and I am grateful for what I believe is a “word” from the Lord from His Word today.
Two passages from Paul’s letter to Titus spoke to me as I read them this morning. Opening the letter, Paul described his calling to be “. . . for the sake of the faith of God’s elect and their knowledge of the truth, which accords with godliness, in hope of eternal life, which God, who never lies, promised before the ages began and at the proper time manifested in his word through the preaching with which I have been entrusted . . .” (1:1-3). Paul says that the reason God gave him a ministry was for the sake of others – for leading others to faith, for encouraging others in their faith, and to help others grow in knowledge of the truth. Ministry is not about being – or feeling – successful. Ministry is not about personal fulfillment. Ministry is about being a servant of God for the good of others.
A word of conviction that I needed to hear . . .
Then Paul gives a concise, yet comprehensive summary of the Gospel and what it means to live the Christian life.
“For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works” (2:11-14).
This passage seems to say it all. This is the Gospel: by His grace, God gives salvation, teaches us how to live a life that pleases Him, makes us part of his family, and gives us hope for the future. Here we see what it means to be a Christian: having a relationship with God by his gracious invitation, being free from past bondage to sin and living a God-pleasing life now, and having a hope through looking forward to Christ’s return in the future. Perhaps there is no better summary in Scripture of the purpose that a pastor and a church should fulfill.
A word of challenge I needed to hear . . .
Lord, I want to learn to be a servant. Lord, I am so often in bondage to a desire for significance or success the way others define or experience significance or success. Help me to serve you for Your sake, and for the sake of those you love and died to redeem. Help me take my eyes off of myself, and help me to trust you with my needs and my future.