I’ve been reading Church History in Plain Language in attempts to fill in the gaps between Acts and, well, the Protestant Reformation. The other day I read something about Augustine that I really hit me hard.
In 388 A.D., Augustine’s son died, after having lost his mother the year prior.
Augustine was now as eager to leave the world as he had once been to plunge into it. It was not to be. His gifts were too well-known and the need for leadership in the church was too great for him to be left in peace.
Three years later at Hippo, by popular demand but against his will, Augustine was ordained a priest. Soon, at the request of Bishop Valerius, he was chosen assistant bishop of the church, and a year later, upon the death of Valerius, Augustine succeeded to the leadership of the church in Hippo. He was forty-three years old and for the next thirty-three years, until his death in 430, he stood in the center of the storms of his time. (p. 127)
Augustine was probably one of the greatest Christian theologians and philosophers who ever lived. His influence concerning the doctrine and understanding of sin and grace is immeasurable, and it was his doctrine that reformers like Martin Luther recovered when they separated from the then corrupt Catholic church. Yet in all his brilliance and contribution to God’s people and Christianity itself, he stood in the very center of the storms of his time for thirty-three years.
Many people my age who long to be in vocational ministry, including myself at times, have this deluded idea that once we can get paid to be in ministry that everything will be okay. We’ll be all set then. Life will be easy. We forget that to be “God’s man” is to be in the middle of the storms. Whether they are personal storms God uses to sanctify us, by getting us to see and repent from new idols or new manifestations of old idols in our lives, or the storms of those we would want to pastor, shepherd, and protect. As a minister, when someone comes up and says that a loved one just died, you begin walking with them through their storm, not throwing them a life raft and wishing them the best of luck while you go back to your calm life. And Paul tells us that anyone in Christ is a minister of reconciliation (2 Cor. 5:18).
Church history reminds us that we’re not the first to go through storms for the glory of God. The early church fathers, the disciples, the apostle Paul, all of them went through storms. The disciples went through literal storms, and when the storm hit, they completely flipped out, not remembering that they had the Son of God on board (Mark 4:35-41). Peter walked on water to get to Jesus and then got so distracted by all the chaos around him that he lost focus and started to drown (Matthew 14:22-33).
It’s so easy for us to do the same thing. I went to the latest elder-led prayer service at church, and the list of things they read off and gave us to pray for made my chest want to cave in. People getting cancer, loved ones dying, guys younger than me (28) going through heart surgery. Then at a church planter’s conference, a couple weeks later, we heard about several pastors committing suicide because it just got to be too much. To be God’s man is to be in the middle of the storms. I kept asking myself how in the world do people survive this without the ever-present grace of God on a daily basis…and the only answer I could come up with is “We don’t”. Apart from the grace of God, fighting through the storms of life will kill us.
Fortunately, like the disciples, we’re not alone. God has placed men and women around us to fight for and with us, to remind us to focus on Christ, to keep us accountable for our actions and motives, and to smack us around when we start talking crazy or don’t want to be accountable. Not only that, the Sovereign and Supreme Lord of all creation is right there with us as well. We do go through storms, but not alone. We are in a fight every day, and it’s a fight that’s already been won.
Who do you have in your corner? Who are you linking arms with? Who is fighting for you when you’re down? Who are you fighting for? Are you praying for your pastors? (hint: you should be)