Saturday, September 10, 2016

Slow down and keep the lights on

Slow down and keep the lights on

“When I came to Troas to preach the gospel of Christ, even though a door was opened for me in the Lord, my spirit was not at rest because I did not find my brother Titus there. So I took leave of them and went on to Macedonia.”
‭‭2 Corinthians‬ ‭2:12-13‬

The joy and passion of Paul's life was to preach to gospel, especially to those who did not have the hope of Christ. However, there were times when Paul would become restless in his spirit because of the burdens that he carried. In Troas, his restlessness was so intense that he was unable to remain there even though he was making an impact for Christ. It appears that he had no peace in his heart because of the problems and struggles of the Corinthians, to whom he also ministered the gospel. So although he had great opportunity to minister the gospel in Troas, he needed to find relief for his anxious spirit. He needed to hear how things were going among the Corinthians, how where they responding to his reproofs and instruction? Therefore he left Troas to find Titus, who could bring some perspective that could calm his anxious spirit.      

Ray Stedman writes, "I think he could see, as he was waiting there [Troas] in those weeks and months, that, perhaps, all his labors in Corinth were about to fall apart. He must have been gripped by the great sense of personal failure that, in the visits he had made to Corinth, in the letters he had written to them, there was no way, seemingly, to work out this terrible problem that was eating at the life of this church and threatening to destroy the work he had done. In the midst of that sense of failure and pressure and anxiety he was given this great opportunity, but he could not lay hold of it. He left Troas and went up into Macedonia instead, hoping to find Titus there and find some relief for his troubled mind.
Now I do not know if any of you have ever felt that way or not, but I have. I know what it means to be called on to preach and teach the Word of God at times when my heart was so filled with anxiety and distress that I did not know whether I could open my mouth or not. So I understand what Paul felt, and I feel many of you do too, as he so honestly shares this with us."

‬‬Sometimes as Pastors, we think that we can't let others see us sweat. We believe that we are to be a model of strength and invincibility. Nothing is suppose to get us down. And we our to display this unwavering stability while, among other things, bearing the burdens of others, counseling a couple on the verge of divorce, comforting a member fighting cancer, casting a vision for the new year, delivering fresh sermons week after week, receiving criticism with humility, dealing with the unexpected. We also must devote time for prayer, sermon preparation, not to mention our own families. And no matter what struggles and challenges a Pastor may have faced during the week, come Sunday morning, he must be ready to go.

But the truth is that although a Pastor derives much joy in fulfilling the call of God, we have are ups and downs. There are mountain top experiences and there are valleys. There are times when we have great clarity about what we need to do, and other times when our head seems to be in a fog.

Like Paul, we not only can become restless, but our restlessness is compounded when we do not take the steps necessary to find relief. We often don't take the steps because we think we are suppose to be strong for others. And sadly, Pastors often struggle for long periods of time without anyone knowing. They keep it all inside, until they reach a breaking point that could have been avoided. We fail to realize that great men that have been mightily used by God have had seasons where they've found themselves down in the dumps. And we know about it because, under the inspiration of the Spirit, they wrote about their struggles and how they cried out to God in their weaknesses. If this were not the case, we would not have the book of Psalms that have brought comfort to so many.

In the Psalms, we read about David, who wrote about times when he was in a horrible pit and waited on the Lord, who inclined unto him and heard his cry. We learn that God is not only the God of the mountain, but that he's still God in the valley. He's the God of the good times and the bad times. And though we walk through the valley of the shadow of death, we don't have to fear, for God is with us. Through the raw transparency of the Psalmists, who turned to God for help in times of need, we learn how to do the same and are comforted by God.    

Now, as we have seen, Paul also shared that he had times when he was burdened and sought comfort. In 2 Cor. 2:12, he wrote that his spirit was not at rest and in 2 Cor. 7:5-7 he writes that his body had no rest. And it appears that this restlessness caused him to become downcast. He writes, “For even when we came into Macedonia, our bodies had no rest, but we were afflicted at every turn—fighting without and fear within. But God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus, and not only by his coming but also by the comfort with which he was comforted by you, as he told us of your longing, your mourning, your zeal for me, so that I rejoiced still more" (‭‭2 Corinthians‬ ‭7:5-7).‬

In a message on overcoming depression, David Jeremiah said, "Our bodies and spirt are so close together that sometimes they catch each other's diseases." In other words, when our bodies are not well due to sleepless nights, sickness or some other malady, it can effect our mood. On the other hand, anxiousness and restlessness, brought on by stress, can effect you physically. In fact, being under too much stress, can so effect a person's spirit and body that it can lead to, among other things, heart disease and death. And as much as we may think so, Pastors are not exempt.

How did Paul find the comfort of God when he was restless? He found it through his friend Titus. In fact, we learn that he took a leave of absence (2 Cor. 2:12-13) to look for Titus to find relief for his troubled mind. Paul could find comfort by seeking God directly. But sometimes God's comfort comes through others.

“It is God who ultimately comforts the depressed, but sometimes He uses people to deliver His comfort. Find a Titus for yourself. This may be a professional counselor, a support group, or someone who is older than you (or at least older in the faith). It could be an elder in your church, a pastor, or a businessperson. Take the initiative to approach a potential Titus and say, “Can we have coffee together sometime? I need to talk about something I’m going through.” I’ve been honored to have several Tituses in my life. These are people who love Jesus and who love me—in that order. They’re around if you’ll keep your eyes open for them. In this season of life, don’t make the mistake of thinking you are self-sufficient. God made you a part of His “body, and each part needs the others to survive" (Cordeiro, Wayne. “Leading on Empty.” Baker Publishing Group, 2009).

My dear sister Pam recently shared with me that she was driving home from out of state when at night she encountered some fog. As much as she wanted to keep going at the same speed, she had to slow down. Knowing that I've been in a season of weariness and restlessness, she advised me, "You ran into some fog. God is still in control. Slow down and keep the lights on."

Are you restless and downcast because of the burdens of life and ministry? Find a trusted friend that you can be vulnerable with, who will listen, pray and speak God's truth into your life. Discouragement is often the temporary loss of perspective. A Titus can be the light you need to get you through the fog. And sometimes you may even need to take a detour or pull over to get the relief you need. This is not always easy for a Pastor to do. But trying to maintain the same speed when the fog rolls in will lead to a crash. God is still in charge even when the fog rolls in. Slow down and keep the lights on.  

1 comment:

  1. Good word Marco. So good to see you. Love you my friend.