Have you ever experience a significant change or loss in your life? I have too.
For most of us, change is often felt as loss—at least at first—and certainly losing loved ones, jobs, dreams or other things we hold dear is traumatic and life-altering.
Anytime we experience loss, we go through the emotional journey of grief. It's not always a linear journey where we move cleanly from one stage to the next, but by and large, people find themselves in each of the stages at various points in the process, sometimes spending longer in one stage than another, even traveling "backward" to previous stages, or having one foot in more than one.
Our church is currently going through a change: my impending retirement. For many of you, this change is perceived as loss. As I face my own retirement and the "loss" of being your pastor, I have found myself working through the stages of grief. While you may or may not personally feel a sense of loss, I believe our church as a whole is working through the grief process as well.
What does that mean and why does it matter?
I believe God has designed the emotional transitions we go through as we grieve as a protection against feeling the full weight of a loss all at one time. It's a blessing, actually, as no one is emotionally and spiritually strong enough to bear complete understanding of a loss, and so we learn to adjust over time.
While I believe we are in the back half of this pastoral transition process, we still don't know when we will have a new pastor, and that uncertainty makes arriving at the final stage of the grief (adjustment) hard to attain. But we will get there.
What are we to be doing in the meantime?
In Galatians 6:9, Paul warns us about a specific danger that we can encounter during times of working and waiting.
Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary.
Losing heart happens gradually over time. Passions cool. Emotions stabilize or turn negative. Hope sinks. Doing good, while once was an exciting sacrifice of thanksgiving and a joy-filled work, can easily slide into burdensome activity and duty as we wait for the harvest—the good we believe will come from doing good.
But Paul exhorts us to not lose heart because the promise of the harvest is a promise that God will faithfully fulfill "in due time," meaning in His perfect timing.
Where are you losing heart?
In your marriage? In your job? At school? In a friendship?
What about at church?
I don't want our church to languish in doing good as we labor through this transition process. God says the fields "are white with harvest" (John 4:35). There are many people in our community and country and around the world who need to hear the good news of Jesus Christ. We have hurting neighbors we need to invite to experience true hope and healing. The mission and ministry of Shandon Baptist Church must continue for us to be faithful to God's call. That's why we have embarked on a two-year initiative called Even Greater. Even Greater is our commitment to remain faithful to the mission.
In the gospel of Luke, Jesus gives this challenging statement:
But Jesus said to him, “No one, after putting his hand to the plow and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.”
Notice Jesus doesn't say, "No one, after putting his hand to the plow and turning back, is fit for the kingdom of God," but rather he or she who merely looks back will find himself or herself a poor fit for God's kingdom. I don't believe this passage speaks to losing entrance to God's kingdom, but rather to one's unsuitableness for the culture and ways of God's kingdom. No one likes to feel out of place, least of all in God's kingdom.
But Jesus speaks to a strong temptation here. Plowing is hard work, as is "doing good" for God and His kingdom. When the sun is high and hot and the work seems never-ending, cool shade and rest prove most tempting.
But God says to keep our eyes on Christ, the author and perfecter of our faith (Hebrew 12:2). So when you're tempted to look back on comfort and ease, or the glory days of the past, don't look at the plow or the row in front of you. Look at your King. Work for your King.
Do you find yourself somewhere in the stages of grief during this pastoral transition period? Are you worried or concerned? Or have you "checked out"?
Remember: the clock is God's responsibility. Our responsibility is to maintain heart and to be faithful to our task at hand, trusting that our good God is at work and will bring His promises to pass (Philippians 2:13).
There are 5 areas I want to challenge you to "not lose heart in doing good".
Let's focus on the first one this week, and in part 2 (to come next week), we'll take a more in depth look at the other 4.
This Sunday, January 22, we are kicking off Even Greater with a Big Give. Our goal is 100% participation. Will you prayerfully consider how you'll participate?
Patty and I will give, in addition to our regular giving, half of the "over and above" commitment we made for Even Greater. No matter how much or little you give, I hope your giving will represent faith and some sacrifice.
So, I'm asking you to spend some time in prayer this week. Review your Even Greater commitment and consider how you can take this first step in joyfully fulfilling your commitment to God and to the church.
Next week we'll look at the other 4 ways we can keep heart, continue to do good for God's Kingdom, and keep our hands on the plow:
4. Connecting to God
5. Participating & Attending
I love this church, and I have been well loved by this church. I can't wait to see what God has in store as we're faithful to keep our hands to the plow and our eyes on Jesus.