We often receive requests for prayer, mentoring and counselling. Emails, mobiles, SMS and Skype are great tools the Holy Spirit uses!
Or we find he sets up God appointments — ‘God-incidents’ — not always within a local church’s ‘sacred’ four walls but ‘out there’ where ordinary people live, work and relax. We’ve always claimed that ‘out there’ is the real marketplace of mission activity.
But then we see mission activity worldwide not only as opportunities to witness Jesus as Saviour but as one who cares for the hurting, misunderstood, disillusioned, disappointed and the sick. Ordinary people, Christian and non-Christian, need caring, understanding, unselfish love and an arm thrown around them!
So many opportunities in these troubled days to say a kind word and do a good deed… just like Jesus did in the marketplace of his day.
Recently guys came by to do some maintenance work. Warmly greeting them, we casually asked the younger one, whom we hadn’t seen since last year, what was new. Normally cheery-faced, he shared that in two weeks’ time he faced major operations.
Our reaction was automatic – throwing an arm round him we quietly prayed for God’s love, protection and healing. Now he’s not a Christian but he was touched deep within. It’s amazing how non-church goers are open to pray when they sense genuine caring…the Jesus thing!
Someone else called by – in regard to selling our home, a precious Christian lady. Expressing our thanks for her excellent professional services, we took the opportunity to pray with her for success and daily protection … she too knew that the Holy Spirit was ministering to her in a very encouraging way.
A young couple just emailed saying, ‘Hello Robert and Maureen, Greetings to a couple we are so very thankful for, for your guidance and encouragement … and speaking into our lives! We would love to catch up asap. When suits you guys?’
We’ve also been praying for and encouraging a good interstate friend. He not only has been ill but is concerned about a number of church matters. His recent comments (below) inspired this article…
‘Firstly, to say I’m grateful for the prayers of my brothers and sisters in Christ like you two is a massive understatement. Along with the promises of God, this really sustains me. We love our church but something is missing. Most leaders in recent times are young people, and generally speaking, haven’t yet been through God’s wringer.’
‘Spiritual Fathers and Mothers in Israel’ needed
A converted Jew, he continued: ‘I think the biggest need in the body (“our Israel today”) today is for “Fathers and Mothers.” That is, experienced senior ministers who keep their eyes on their young people, and are not afraid of coming alongside with an encouraging word and – occasionally a gentle word of correction. Such seniors are listened to.
He added, ‘Whenever I can I engage with certain young people in our church and they readily listen to me. I look them straight in the eye and ask straight out, “How’s your prayer life?” or “Are you reading the word?” Occasionally I’ll buy them a good Christian book.’
Reflecting on his own experiences, he openly shared: ‘I value so much the godly advice received from an elder when a young Christian. I cringe now when I think of how I – with untidy longhair and wearing casual hippie beach clothing – led worship at the very conservative Sunday services. One day he put his arm around me and gently suggested I modify my attire, attitude and approach – which I did. Things began to change in my life. And I began to understand the importance of being open to meaningful correction and good, godly advice.’
Our friend learned much from that wise elder, grew in his faith and in trusting God. He also said, ‘So now I try to help whoever, wherever I can. Maybe I can also prevent some young leaders or potential leaders from making the same mistakes I did.’
The road of hard knocks
What our friend shared rang some bells!
One in particular went back to Bible college days. The renowned principal had recalled how one time he was walking with his brother, a learned lecturer and pastor, when they noticed a young minister nearby. He had commented that ‘Now there’s a bright young guy who’s going places in ministry.’ To his surprise and bafflement, his wise brother had merely responded: ‘Not enough tears yet.’
It was several years later that this principal realised the depths of that comment. That young minister he thought was all right was to learn hard lessons in life and repent of indiscretions and careless treatment of God’s word and God’s people before his ministry really developed.
There are a lot of good young leaders achieving great kingdom advances by knowing how to relate to their people – and to respect the wisdom of more-experienced-in-life-and-ministry senior colleagues.
Unfortunately we learn of some church leaders – especially some straight out of Bible college – who exude an air of knowing everything, a questionable superiority and can’t relate to ‘ordinary’ down-to-earth church members. They regularly talk telephone numbers in respect of financial visions, promise much and deliver little, talk the talk but don’t walk the walk. Some bring worldly trends into church life, non-exegetical Bible teachings that lead to confusion, often with a ‘The Spirit told me…’ and won’t listen to the concerns of faithful church members.
It seems that such have never encountered any of life’s troubling curves – where the rubber hits the road – and live so apart from life’s realities that they just don’t relate. And just not leaders – we all need to listen to the builder of lives – the Holy Spirit – the real builder of the church and of Christian character.
Tears. As we challenged one church recently, sometimes things just don’t happen until a few tears are shed. Until godly correction is taken on board and there is repentance. That we shouldn’t be afraid of such challenges – we learn so much about really trusting God, grow in Christ, become stronger and wiser, our faith develops and we really get to know the Holy Spirit. Then opportunities come along where we can confidently help others.
For some at this season it’s time for a few tears – lessons from God’s wringer on the road of hard knocks resulting in a wake-up call to reality and changed ways and practices.
God’s wringer produces humility – and growth
Psalms and Proverbs bring good news about being humble before God and others…
- 138:6 – ‘He cares for the humble, but he keeps his distance from the proud.’
- 147:6 – ‘The Lord supports the humble, but he brings the wicked down into the dust.’
- 149:4 – ‘For the Lord delights in his people; He crowns the humble with victory.’
- 3:34 – ‘The Lord mocks the mockers but is gracious to the humble.’
Humbling (note: not humiliation!) is part of God’s remolding process and we shouldn’t be afraid of his dealings with us. Tears caused by God’s wringing influences effect both personal growth and kingdom growth in many ways.
Problems – challenges in life are nothing to be afraid of! God is at work, changing, regenerating us, enabling us to see and deal with baggage that needs to be dealt with.
Now most young folk won’t know what a wringer is! Well, an unknown wise one has said that problems are like washing machines – they twist us, spin us and knock us around but in the end we come out cleaner, brighter and better than before. It’s part of God’s humbling process.
1 Peter 3:8-10 Mge is for leaders as well as ‘ordinary Christians!’ The apostle writes, ‘Summing up: Be agreeable, be sympathetic, be loving, be compassionate, be humble. That goes for all of you, no exceptions. No retaliation. No sharp-tongued sarcasm. Instead, bless – that’s your job, to bless. You’ll be a blessing and also get a blessing. Whoever wants to embrace life and see the day fill up with good, here’s what you do…’
Don’t know about the old-time wringers? Think toothpaste… we have to remove the cap (the blocker) and squeeze (wring) the tube to get the good stuff out where it can be effective. God’s wringing process is like that. The Spirit speaks to our heart and, when we allow him, he removes the blockages and brings out the best in us. This ’best in us’ – our caring, understanding, sympathy, empathy, kindness and promptness to pray and prophesy enables others to be helped and blessed by our God. And to help others!
It’s not only ministers who have the responsibility to take every opportunity to touch people – genuine real Christianity should be demonstrated by every Christian!
Some people refer to humbling as God’s chastening – see Hebrews 12: 5, 7 and 11. But the word indicates not only disciplinary correction but instruction, education, training and tutorage.
Hey…we’ve been there! From our humbling days’ experiences, we grew in Christ and in the ministry through letting God use his wringer on us. We went on from that early experience to serve God in many areas…all of them caring for others.
(Scripture emphases ours)