I recently started reading 50 People Every Christian Should Know by Warren Wiersbe. It’s a rich compilation of historical Christian biographies. I have really enjoyed it, especially the discovery of two common threads shared by most of these magnificent Christians: suffering and scriptural fidelity.
It has been extremely refreshing to realize that even the pillars of our faith, men and women who the Lord used so tremendously throughout history, have suffered great difficulties and tribulations in their dedicated service to the Lord. When I go through something difficult or experience hardship I have a tendency to think that I’ve lost God’s favor, or that somehow His hand of blessing has been removed my life. But when I read about the heroes of the faith and see what they had to endure by the grace of God to be effective servants, I recognize that all of us in genuine service to the Lord are going to face hardship in one way or another. As strange as it sounds, accounts of their suffering have been a tremendous encouragement.
Jonathan Edwards for instance, one of America’s most brilliant theologian/ pastors, was fired by his congregation for insisting that only true believers share in the Lord’s supper. He lost his pulpit, his congregation, and the vast majority of his income as well. And yet his writings from that time are rich with theological truth that still resonate in our hearts today.
The other aspect so commonly shared by these effective men and women for the kingdom, is their steadfast commitment to the word of God even when it wasn’t necessarily fashionable. They did not stray from the inerrant scriptures, though their own gifting and extraordinary talent could have carried them away into populism and personal aggrandizement. The greats of our Christian heritage consistently died to self for the glory of God, and held fast to the faith once for all delivered to the saints.
As a pastor I tend to get frustrated when I see the “fluff and stuff” ministries attracting large crowds and getting so much attention in our nation. But Warren Wiersbe’s book reminds me that all of the unbiblical nonsense that resides so thoroughly in the American evangelical church today will eventually fade away with the time. Only the ministries built upon the rock of Christ and sustained by the bread of God will endure. His word shall never pass away.
All of you teachers out there who are holding fast to all of scripture, even when it isn’t very well received and even when it doesn’t generate the public excitement of a mega-church performance, take courage. The greatest and most impacting lives in the work of the ministry was done by faithful men and women who didn’t compromise their stand upon the whole word of God to gain a following or generate a short-term crowd. Like a farmer who buys a field, plows it, plants it, waters it, and then fertilizes it, the harvest will eventually come, but it requires time and effort.