Pastor Chris White
“Blessed by the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” 2 Cor. 1:3-4
At age 32, Ludwig von Beethoven was so deaf he could no longer perform in concert. As a virtuoso pianist, Beethoven was the ‘rock star’ of his day having both popular acclaim and financial rewards for his music. But deafness robbed him of more than a career. Ludwig von Beethoven was also a real people-person and enjoyed socializing and intellectual conversation. No longer able to hear most things, he felt it better to withdraw from society rather than ask people to shout things or constantly repeat them.
Despite the grief of losing the ability to perform or socialize, Beethoven made a choice to continue his work as a composer. Tempted to despair and suicide, Beethoven found solace in his art and wrote some of his best works after losing his hearing. In making a decision to persevere despite his personal suffering, he also made the world a richer place through his music. Some people say his condition could be cured or alleviated today with hearing aids or cochlear implants, but it begs the question: would we still have some of the great works we do if personal loss hadn’t forced him to stop performing? I don’t know the extent of Beethoven’s faith commitment, but I do see here an example for all of us on how to face suffering and loss in a Christian way.
First of all there is no sense in pretending that loss isn’t painful or real. We are not spared from sorrows or grief as believers, only hopelessness. Secondly, the suffering we encounter is only temporary and always purposeful. Just as the Father wouldn’t have sent His only Son Jesus to the cross if there was a better way, our afflictions are not without a purpose for our highest good.
We don’t usually struggle with that unless we are in the thick of things and then we question how this could possibly be good for us at all. The short answer to our question is we tend to confuse our personal happiness with God’s highest good and they generally are not one and the same. To quote another preacher, “We want pop-beads when God wants to give us pearls.”
Finally, we need to look and see where our lives and ministries can be maximized in our current reality rather than continually mourn what is forever lost. In 2 Corinthians chapter 1:3-7 (see above) Paul and Timothy tell of their afflictions but note that in them they found God’s comfort in great measure and found they were also able to minister in a greater way to all who were suffering and afflicted. In persevering in their suffering, their ministry was expanded in an unexpected way. Humbly submit to the pressures of the Master’s hand that you might become the vessel of honor He desires. The final result will always be something greater if we persevere in faith.
Pastor Dave Metsker
Knowing who God has called us to be and what he called us to do can provide welcome security and guidance. In his letters Paul often references his calling, indicating its importance. Regrettably, people who are uncertain of their calling may hesitate to serve in various arenas even though the opportunities seem consistent with their spiritual gifts, passion, personality, etc. Often the uncertainty results from believing that a call should be as clear as Paul’s on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:1-31)! The “call” is often thought to require a highly emotional, super-spiritual event that leaves no room for doubt. When we do not have this experience, we may hold back from allowing God to use us to the full. Thankfully, the Bible gives a broader image of calling than the Damascus road experience.
During my undergraduate studies at Oral Roberts University I was required to attend twice-weekly chapel services. Navigating a particularly dull service, God seized my thoughts. I had wandered from the speaker’s to questions about how I might be more than average, how I might be ordinary and yet impact the world. As a follower of Jesus I simply could not be indifferent, maintain the status quo, or follow the crowd. I wondered, not aware of the weight of my questions, “How can I be a revolutionary? How can I lead many in the Kingdom? How can I do the right, regardless?”
As the chapel speaker continued, the profound rushed into my mind; it had to be God. I recognized that I had primarily thought of leadership as a focus on training followers rather than developing leaders. A pastor can shepherd a flock of sheep to follow him or her to greener pastures. A manager can oversee employees to get things done. These focus on their followers. I began to understand I could also be a leader who develops many other leaders. This would allow me to not only positively influence leaders, but also to indirectly influence their followers!
The simplicity and breadth of this understanding gripped me. I saw that a leader who influences 50 followers could be very fulfilled and productive. However, I further understood training and releasing 10 leaders can positively impact each of their 50 followers, potentially benefiting 500 people! As each of these trained leaders continues to do the same, the leaders influence thousands more. This foundation could yield vast impact, a revolution. The chapel service ended with a song, but my journey began with a heart-pounding vision.
Despite this turning point, when people discussed calling in the ensuing years, I would confess that I did not know my calling. I had no announcement from heaven, no visits from angels, no loud word during prayer, and no prophetic that made my calling clear. Nevertheless, I had a desire to serve God in any way I could. I went on to earn a master’s degree in ministry, pastor youth, and direct a Bible college in Nigeria. While serving at the college, my calling became clearer. It had come, not as a Damascus road experience, but as Spirit-directed realization that my passion, spiritual gifts, abilities, and fruit indicated I had been called to develop leaders. This was my design, my God-given identity. This calling had to be accepted by faith, which is the way almost everything occurs in our journey with God. If I had not embraced my calling by faith, I would have missed it.