A man recently wrote to me and said this: “I was recently reflecting about the absence of zeal in ministers and their discouragement. Most pastors I meet here seem not far from burning out. They look tired, some are quite cynical about ministry. They seem to be keeping on only out of a sense of duty; “if I don’t, no-one will”. I heard recently the former pastor of the church we attend saying he had never wanted to be a Pastor (he was there for 23 years). There’s lot of cases like that. There’s all sort of excuses: “I am too busy, there’s too many things to do . . .” So here is my question: how do you keep the fire burning, and develop a passion for Christ and preaching?” I replied like this . . .
I had several convictions when I began here. The first was of the depravity and hostility of the people of this land to the Christian faith. This was going to be sustained by the influence of the media and education. It would be enormously powerful across Europe so that we were in for a life-long fight. What we could hope for was the spread of an alternative community of individuals, families, congregations, Bible Colleges, publishing houses, conferences, camps, websites, magazines, DVD sets, home-schoolers and Christian schools. I would do all in my power to strengthen them and I would do so by my own life of love for God and man, my family life in raising children and grandchildren to glorify God, and strengthen a local congregation to be a Bible influenced church. The best I could be for this network of Christians (this alternate society and fellowship of those who were not following and serving Caesar), would be my own godly living, my orthodox preaching and speaking, my evangelism and writing here in Aberystwyth. That would be what God would honour, and he would add to our church those he had ordained for eternal life. It would always be his grace, compassion and concern for his people and the honour of his Son that would be all important. I was reading recently 2 Kings 13:22 and 23 “Hazael king of Aram oppressed Israel throughout the reign of Jehoahaz. But the LORD was gracious to them and had compassion and showed concern for them because of his covenant with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. To this day he has been unwilling to destroy them or banish them from his presence.” I always begin the Sunday evening service affirming that our help is in the name of the Lord who made heaven and earth. So I had no delusions about the strength of the opposition and the courage needed to go on unchanging in the face of it. I was in for the long haul. I would be at the pit-face all my life.
Then the second conviction I had was that protestant Christianity was the fullest form of revealed religion. Our simple worship, and our biblical doctrines were the way God desired us to worship him and what his message must be to this rebel world. That belief has grown ten-fold in the last 48 years. I would say nothing original or new. I would preach all the Bible to all the church. That has been tough because the Bible is a demanding word, and I can be heavy, but the more I have given myself to preach then the sweeter and clearer it has seemed. During my time of ministry many more men and publishing houses and books and conferences and websites have sprung up. The world is more of a global village than ever. There are barren spots (and you are ministering in one) while there are others where the barren land has been ploughed up and God is giving more of an increase. I am encouraged by that because I know people in those places, their work of faith and labour of love and patience of hope. The set time to bless us will come, but it will come through faithfulness, initiative, preaching, prayer and especially courage. William Gurnall said, “Cowards never win heaven. Do not claim that you are begotten of God and have his royal blood running in your veins unless you can prove lineage by this heroic spirit: to dare to be holy in spite of men and devils.” No other way. So I continue to sow and water and wait for him to give the increase. I cheer myself with keeping in touch with a range of men and conferences, That cheers me up, testing my ministry in other places.
So my realistic view of the depravity and rebellion of man, and the revealed response of preaching and living a godly life and encouraging men everywhere – these are the convictions and energies that God gave and sustains that keep me going so happily in this blessed work. I have the best job in the world.
With warm affection and good wishes,