Pastors, are you wandering or directed? Ren Brokehuizen, a founding pastor of Ridge Point Community Church in Holland, Mich., addresses this question.
A close associate and personal friend of my wife betrayed her in a business situation. It caused a great deal of havoc and was very painful. I watched her closely during the whole ordeal. She was angry about the deception. She was sorry about the negative results for the ministries she engages in. And she was immediately forgiving towards the as-yet unrepentant perpetrator.
In the middle of it all, one of her acquaintances sent her a plaque that he had handcrafted. It says, “Troubles do not create character. They reveal it.”
How about one handcrafted for us? “Ministry does not create character. It reveals it.”
If Moses wrote an autobiography, the Book of Deuteronomy could be Volume III: The Desert Years. He begins by giving an abbreviated history of the past forty years and eleven months—typical Biblical accuracy!—and renews their obedience-covenant with their Deliverer. Then comes a (typically Biblical!) call to action: “Remember how the Lord your God led you all the way in the wilderness these forty years,” (Deuteronomy 8:2)
Remember what?? Led them these forty years? We’ve never heard of anything but “Israel wandering in the desert for forty years.” Led them? “Wandering in the desert” is part of our language, like “the patience of Job” or “Good Samaritan.”
Moses, are you remembering writing the Book of Numbers? “And they departed and they encamped … And they departed and they encamped … And they departed and they encamped.” Forty years of going around in a big circle. “Led,” Moses?
And then get this! In the language Moses spoke, he wrote down “led” in such a way that it really means, “caused you to go.” Like, “Caused you to depart …
caused you to encamp” for forty years.” Is he serious?
Now hear the Word of the Lord: Yes!
When God’s in charge, His people are led. When they are in charge, His people wander. The same wind drives sailboats in two different directions. It’s the set of the sail.
Trouble with staff, obnoxious deacon, meager results, wretched temptations, money trickling in? And worse, coolness with your spouse? Are you dragging out of bed in the morning just to wander for another day, or are you getting up eager to see where He is leading today? It’s the set of the sail. Will we disobediently whack the rock in front of us or will we obediently speak to it? We whack it when we lead; we speak to it when God leads. Whacking brought curse; speaking brought blessing.
You’re thinking, “That’s all well and good for you to talk, Ren. Let me tell you some of the real stuff I’m dealing with … I’m actually looking over the fence right now. Why would God do this to me?”
“In order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands.” (8:2)
Like God doesn’t know? Is this (typical Biblical) humor? Like God didn’t already know where Adam was when He called, “Where are you?” Like God doesn’t already know my heart when I pray at the end of Psalm 139, “Search me, O God?”
God does already know. He wants us to know what He knows about us. New plaque: “Trouble doesn’t create obedience. It reveals it.”
- What did trouble reveal about Job’s heart? “Though He slay me yet will I hope in Him.” (Job 13:15)
- What did trouble reveal about Jonah’s heart? “What I have vowed I will make good.” (Jonah 2:9)
- What did trouble reveal about the hearts of Daniel’s three friends? “Our God whom we serve will deliver us. But if not … ” (Daniel 3:17-18)
- And above all, what did trouble reveal about Jesus’s heart? “Nevertheless, not My will, but Yours, be done.” (Luke 22:42)
The Bible reveals the trusting hearts of these Pastors, and of many others, as examples for us. So let’s keep on keeping on. Our Caller and Commissioner wants us to know that “man does not live on bread only.” (Deut. 8:3) Pastors do not live only on numbers. Pastors do not live only on affirmation. Pastors do not live only on ability. Pastors do not live only on not making mistakes. All of those are good things. Like bread. Just not only.
Hymn of the heart beyond only:
“Sometimes where Eden’s flowers bloom;
sometimes through scenes of deepest gloom;
by waters still or troubled sea,
it is my God who is leading me.”