6-Week Series: Against All Odds


Summary: We are all commanded to learn to obey everything Jesus taught so that we can do our part in the ministry of reconciliation. We cannot do this if we feed our spirit distorted scripture and the wisdom of man.

Positively Not a Hireling


Right after a young man graduated, with high honors, from a prestigious Bible College he was hired by a rather large church. His father, the pastor of a small rural church, was bursting with pride at his son’s accomplishment. “Son,” he said, “I want you to have this copy of My Utmost for His Highest, by Oswald Chambers. I am convinced this book of daily devotionals will become a most cherished possession, perhaps second only to the bible.” The young man graciously took the book from his father. After getting settled into the parsonage of his new church, the young preacher placed his father’s gift on the kitchen table and vowed to read it every morning. It was easy to fulfill this commitment because he found Chamber’s devotional to be spiritually inspiring. In fact, Chamber’s writings began to have a significant influence on the young man’s thinking and on his relationship with Jesus. His father gracious gift actually began to manifest itself in the young man’s preaching style.

One Sunday, after a particularly inspired sermon on ‘Jesus as Lord as well as Savior,’ one of the senior church leaders approached the young man and complemented his preaching. “You have an excellent delivery,” beamed the church leader, “but your subject matter could use a little work.” “Please explain what you mean,” questioned the young preacher. “Don’t take this the wrong way,” replied the church leader. “We are very happy with your work and you do an excellent job of preaching. It is just that you seem to be getting a little too heavy on the idea of works and not heavy enough on grace. Take today’s sermon for example. You really kind of over did it with the idea that we are obligated to build on the foundation of Christ with gold, silver and precious stone instead of wood, hay and stubble. Think about it from our perspective. How is it right for you to make us feel obligated to do something that you yourself cannot adequately explain? I mean, you really do not know for sure what Paul meant when he talked about things like gold, silver or hay. Please understand, we are not criticizing you. After all, you are a young preacher and you are still learning.” The young preacher coldly responded. “Just what is it you would like to hear me preach?” “Now don’t take offense to what I have said,” the church leader urged as he gently laid his hand on the young man’s shoulder. “Son,” he went on, “these people are used to hearing about God’s love and His grace and how God want all of us to be healthy and prosperous. Your sermons should make the people feel happy about themselves … not make them feel guilty. Look at it from a stewardship perspective … after all, you are the pastoral manager of this church. Just remember, a happy congregation is a giving congregation, and we have found that it is also a growing congregation. It is your job to keep the people happy.” The church leader smiled and gave the young preacher a reassuring pat on the shoulder. As the church leader walked away, the young preacher felt a knot tightening in his stomach … this is not what he expected.

The young preacher stumbled back toward the parsonage, devastated by the realization that the church leaders were more interested in his keeping people happy than they were in having him teach people to observe all that Jesus commanded. He had been with this church for less than a year, but in this short time he had come to know the church leaders; and, he knew he had just received a command to change his sermons. It was with great joy and enthusiasm that he had set out to make disciples by teaching his people to obey everything Jesus taught. Now, it was all gone. His whole world had just been turned upside down. His vision with its carefully planned goals and objectives was shattered. The young preacher reached the parsonage and leaned against the door frame as the whole world seemed to swirl around him like a demented carousel. Only the door frame kept him from collapsing to the ground. Then he heard a voice, “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; and they shall turn their ears away from the truth, and they shall be turned toward fables.”

The young preacher looked around to see who had spoken to him but no one was there. Yet, someone had spoken to him; and, it had temporally cleared up his head and strengthened his knees. The young man pushed open the door to his kitchen and walked over to the table where he collapsed in a chair. He laid his head on the table and wept. “My God … oh my God,” he prayed. “Why has this happened so soon in my ministry? Why have you lifted me so high only to cast me into dark despair? At this very table I gave you my heart and soul. I promised to only preach where the bible speaks, and that I would not preach on things where the bible is silent. Now, if I keep my word to you, I will be cast from this church; and, if I am cast from this powerful church I will never preach in this denomination again. My career will be ended before it has even begun. You have lifted me on high only to cast me upon the rocks below.” The young preacher wept; the young preacher slept.

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