Preaching the Gospel, Preparing a People

Pastor's Corner - May 29th, 2020

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A Congregation of the United Church of God

Pastor's Corner - May 29th, 2020

Wow. 

What a week!

You ever have a week where you get to the end of it, and you are just physically, emotionally and mentally spent? But when you look back over the week - you can’t really pinpoint specifics as to where and why? It’s like the proverbial ‘death of a thousand cuts’ – just a little bit of everything. I suspect that it is a combination of Screen fatigue, the 24 hour news cycle, constant arguments everywhere as everything is being politicized in the run-up to the election. The 9th week of “Stay Home, Stay Healthy”. In the meantime, while all of these distractions are occurring… people are struggling with very real, very difficult things in their lives, and there is very little that anyone can do to solve them.

In these circumstances, you have no control. You have an illusion of control, but you have to wait for them to play out as God plans. Trusting in Him, and letting the chips fall where they may. It doesn’t mean it is easy, in fact, quite the opposite - it can be very challenging and at times, quite discouraging. 

The Apostle Paul was someone who was no stranger to difficulty. 2nd Corinthians 11 gives a list of the various things that he experienced in his service to God. Many of them occurring in his various missionary journeys as he set out to serve God and the brethren of Asia Minor. He was beaten, stoned, shipwrecked… he was in perils almost too many to count, his life was threatened on more than one occasion, yet he states in 2nd Corinthians 12 that he beseeched God three times to remove from him the thorn in the flesh with buffeted him, keeping him humbled.

God’s response to Paul was, “My grace is sufficient for you… for my strength is made perfect in weakness”.

There are times in which we are weak. Times where we are buffeted on all sides by trials and challenges, and concerns - and yet, as God instructed Paul… in the end, His strength is made perfect in our weakness. That through our weakness, when we rely on Him and can push through the challenges, when we’re up against the ropes and think we can’t take another punch, in those moments His strength is manifested.

It is these times of weakness and challenge when God’s strength is made evident in our lives, and when we are able to cleave unto Him and hold on for dear life as the hits come. As humans, we often want to cleave to a number of other things - and often not God. We want to hold onto and rely upon the things WE can control, because we feel as though by maintaining some semblance of control, that we can affect the outcome, but in the end - those worldly things will fail. They are not lasting… not like God and His comfort and peace.

Paul took along a friend through much of His travels. A young man named Joses, who was also called Barnabas. He was named that because he was the son of comfort, of consolation, of encouragement as the Greek word paraklesis implies. Frequently, God’s strength comes through the encouragement of others, and I truly believe that it would have been much more difficult for Paul to undergo a number of the things he underwent without Barnabas alongside him. Obviously - at some point, the two of them parted ways as a result of a disagreement over John Mark. Paul found a couple of younger men to mentor, throwing himself into his work. Helping to prepare Timothy and Titus for service to God’s people, while Barnabas went his own way and served God.

His comfort and encouragement over the time they were together certainly helped Paul through many difficult times. Through their labors in Antioch, through the stoning in Lystra and their escape. They traveled the roads together, working and talking. 

Who is your Barnabas? Who is the person who encourages you? Have you told them lately? Have you worked to encourage them in return? God’s strength is made manifest in weakness, but it is frequently provided through the encouragement of others, giving us just enough to go a little bit further.

Encourage someone today. 

Happy Sabbath.