My Dear Shepherds,
Pastors don’t have to always be upbeat, thank goodness, but we must be living displays of hope in Christ, hope here and now, and hope hereafter. We must be heavenly minded if we are to be of any earthly good. When David prayed for God’s protection in Psalm 16 he described the parapets of his security, finally coming to this:
You make known to me the path of life;
You will fill me with joy in your presence
With eternal pleasures at your right hand. (Psalm 16:11)
Pastors are pathfinders, scouts, trailmasters, exploring our God-given path of life, often out ahead of our people, so that we can better lead them. Our experiences aren’t so different from other believers but we need to be more perceptive about the journey than they may be. Just as the journals of Lewis and Clark gave their countrymen a sense of the treasures and wonders of the Louisiana Purchase, so pastors are to chart and describe the path of life.
“You will fill me with joy in your presence.” Haven’t you found that the joy of God’s presence requires patience? It’s not likely you will have a ten-minute prayer time and come away filled with joy. This prayer, Psalm 16, takes a good while to pray thoughtfully, but once done, joy settles in around us.
Finally, pastors must keep heaven in view—“eternal pleasures at your right hand.” A vital part of our job is to make God’s people homesick. Christians who never think about our “eternal pleasures” are vagabonds, hobos. Some pastors, (mostly younger ones, I suspect), almost never talk about Christ’s return or heaven, thinking, perhaps, that such doctrines are for the infirm and aged, when they are actually for the soldiers of Christ. But again, we must go first in laying hold of this hope. Our people catch homesickness from us.
In The Pilgrim’s Progress, Part 2, Christian’s wife, Christiana, along with their children, make their way to the Celestial City. They come upon “a man with his sword drawn, and his face all bloody, who tells them, ‘I am one whose name is VALIANT-FOR-TRUTH. I am a pilgrim, and am going to the Celestial City.’” He becomes their rear guard lest “some fiend, or dragon, or giant, or thief, should fall upon [them], and so do mischief.”
I want to be like that man. A pastor, Mr. Valiant-for-Truth, the guardian and guide of God’s homeward bound pilgrims, the sword of God’s Word in my hand. My favorite lines in all of literature describe what happens as this pilgrim band neared the Celestial City and this guardian hero is called home.
After this it was noised abroad that Mr. VALIANT-FOR-TRUTH was sent for by a summons … When he understood it, he called for his friends, and told them of it. Then said he, “I am going to my Father’s house: and though with great difficulty I have got hither, yet now I do not repent me of all the troubles I have been at to arrive where I am. My sword I give to him that shall succeed me in my pilgrimage, and my courage and skill to him that can get it. My marks and scars I carry with me, to be a witness for me that I have fought his battles, who will now be my rewarder.” When the day that he must go home was come, many accompanied him to the river-side, into which, as he went down, he said, “O death where is thy sting?” And as he went down deeper, he cried, “O grave, where is thy victory?” So he passed over, and all the trumpets sounded for him on the other side.
Be ye glad!