Making Ministers through Difficulties

*I finished reading Lectures to My Students yesterday. The journey took almost two years and included some breathtaking sights. The Void previously published highlights related to the preacher and praying, preaching with clarity, and holding on to the truth. While creating my index inside the back cover I retread precious, providential, faith-focusing ground concerning how God makes His ministers through difficulties.

Afflictions make sensitive shepherds.

It is of need that we are sometimes in heaviness. Good men are promised tribulation in this world, and ministers may expect a larger share than others, that they may learn sympathy with the Lord’s suffering people, and so may be fitting shepherds of an ailing flock. (155)

These infirmities may be no detriment to a man’s career of special usefulness; they may even have been imposed upon him by divine wisdom as necessary qualifications for his peculiar course of service. (155)

Troubles make clean vessels.

The scouring of the vessel has fitted it for the Master’s use. (160)

Adversities make humble instruments.

Those who are honoured of the Lord in public have usually to endure a secret chastening, or to carry a peculiar cross, lest by any means they exalt themselves, and fall into the snare of the devil. (164)

Serve God with all your might while the candle is burning, and then when it goes out for a season, you will have the less to regret. Be content to be nothing, for that is what you are. When your own emptiness is painfully forced upon your consciousness, chide yourself that you ever dreamed of being full, except in the Lord. (164)

Instruments shall be used, but their intrinsic weakness shall be clearly manifested; there shall be no division of the glory, no diminishing of the honor due to the Great Worker. (163)

Trials make trusting servants.

Put no trust in frames or feelings. Care more for a grain of faith than a ton of excitement. (164)

Continue with double earnestness to serve your Lord when no visible result is before you. Any simpleton can follow the narrow path in the light; faith’s rare wisdom enables a man to march on in the dark with infallible accuracy. (165)

Misery 101

Since some reading in The Institutes yesterday afternoon I’ve been mulling over the lessons of misery under the sun, namely, misery teaches us to regard God and put our stock in another world. Even as Christians we tend to skip this required class (for some reason it’s always early in the morning) so it’s no wonder when we flub assignments like seeking things above and hating the world. Calvin points out,

[I]f you examine the plans, the efforts, the deeds, of anyone, there you will find nothing else but earth. Now our blockishness arises from the fact that our minds, stunned by the empty dazzlement of riches, power, and honors, become so deadened that they can see no farther. The heart also, occupied with avarice, ambition, and lust, is so weighed down that it cannot rise up higher. In fine, the whole soul, enmeshed in the allurements of the flesh, seeks its happiness on earth. (3.9.1)

*

Though this wasn’t necessarily a new thought, it did cause fresh reflection on all those who sit in Misery 1011, listening to Professor Vanity, but refuse to learn. I wonder how people can read books like Unrecognized and Unappreciated Abilities, Hurtful Relationships and You, Death of Family, Living with Chronic Pain, and Burning Candles on Both Ends to No Effect, and still not get the message. There’s no other explanation than the blinding, deceiving influence of sin. The god of this world is a master-teacher too and persuades his students that the earthly life will yield sweet fruit if they just put their heart into it. But that formula only adds frustration in this life to failure in the next.

As disciples of Christ there is progress to report when

we learn that this life, judged in itself, is troubled, turbulent, unhappy in countless ways, and in no respect clearly happy; that all those things which are judged to be its goods are uncertain, fleeting, vain, and vitiated by many intermingled evils. From this, at the same time, we conclude that in this life we are to seek and hope for nothing but struggle; when we think of our crown, we are to raise our eyes to heaven. For this we must believe: that the mind is never seriously aroused to desire and ponder the life to come unless it be previously imbued with contempt for the present life. (Ibid.)

I am thankful for grace to appreciate and learn from misery, though it does make me even more eager to complete the course.


  1. I might have mentioned The School of Hard Knocks but it seemed either too easy or too cheesy.