I know it’s been a while since my last post, largely due to a decided lack of inspiration. However, on Monday something very inspiring happened, something that compels me to blog it! There are no groovy pictures for this post, and I know it’s long, but I hope that these words will encourage you as they have encouraged me.
Every second Monday afternoon, all the Ministry Apprentices around Adelaide get together for some training. This week, I approached with dread. The topic was ‘The Spiritual Life of a Pastor’ and, knowing my own weakness, I expected to come out of the seminar discouraged at my failings. Instead, quite the opposite occurred. I left encouraged, uplifted, comforted and warmed! There were a number of fruitful issues raised as we considered the greetings in the pastoral epistles: Grace, mercy, peace. However one discussion in particular stands out for me.
We were in the context of talking about how to keep ourselves in the love of God, as Jude encourages us to. The question was, how does one do this? What do you do to ‘keep yourself in the love of God’? The answers seemed obvious at first: follow his commands as 1 John encourages us to; pursue holy living; set aside daily time for prayer and Bible reading. It was at this point that the seminar leader, Andrew, asked if anyone has ever had the experience when they’re praying and all of a sudden, their mind is on something totally unrelated (he used the example of the Bunnings catalogue). Each of us there smiled; it’s a scenario with which we were well familiar. Andrew went on to say then, that the way we pray actually needs to be forgiven; our sin is just as evident in that as anything else. Likewise, our prayer and godliness need forgiving. These can not sustain our relationship with God. Rather, it is the grace of God that sustains us and revitalises us.
Well, what does that mean, to be sustained and revitalised by the grace of God? In particular, what does it mean when prayer and Bible reading aren’t going so well, in the hard times when God seems far or I no longer feel that soft, repentant spirit within me? Andrew went on, talking about what he calls ‘maintaining desperation’, crying out to God “Lord, I am so dry!” He took us to Psalm 63 which talks about seeking after God, longing for him in a dry and weary land. This is what we do, he said, we cry out to God to revitalise us!
The next thing that he said was what really moved me. He asked, “What do you do when you don’t even have that prayer in you to pray? What happens when you are that hard?” I almost held my breath as I waited for the answer. Never before had I heard any pastor address this issue. It lurks at the back of my head, accusing and poisoning, and it refuses to be quietened. What courage for him to look this issue straight in the eyes! What pastoral sensitivity! So many times I have asked myself this same question, ‘What do I do when I am so hard I won’t even ask God to revitalise me?’ and when the answer came, the simplicity, the truth and the completeness of the gospel struck me again. The answer was, ‘When you do not even have that prayer in you to pray, Jesus sits at the Father’s right hand and intercedes for you.’
It is not me who sustains my relationship with God, even by praying for him to fill me. It is Jesus who does the work, advocating for me, interceding for me! And knowing that softens my hard heart, fills my dry eyes with tears, sends shivers down my straight spine. Experiencing that drives me to read what he has to say. Being comforted by that fills my heart with thankfulness and compels me to praise him and bring my requests before him with confidence.
I am delighted that my job is to teach people the gospel of Jesus Christ. I am even more grateful that it is this same gospel of grace that continues to teach me.
Categories: Written by Tamie
Tamie Davis is an Aussie living in Tanzania, writing at meetjesusatuni.com.