Brothers and Sisters,
One of America’s great writers, Wendell Berry touches upon the matter of the our proper perspective of all work and I think it applies quite well to the work of the church. This is what he has said:
We don’t have the right to ask whether we’re gonna succeed or not. The only question we have a right to ask is, ‘what’s the right thing to do?’
It is easy to grow impatient and frustrated in all our labors, especially in the labor of supporting and seeking to grow the church when we do not see the results for which we are hoping. Most often those results are synonymous with some spoken or unspoken measure of success that is best described as numerical growth, and influence within our community and across the globe. What is interesting is that there is some measure of success which Christ does promise to the Church:
And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. (Matt. 16:18)
One measure of success that Christ gives to His Church, through the disciple is that the church, His bride will be victorious over death, the grave and hell. A victory with Christ Himself secured in his own death and resurrection. Beyond this the details, the more local and subjective matters of success are mysterious and impossible to predict. For instance, whether or not Reformation will succeed in the way that we, the members of Reformation desire, and Berry is right by exhorting people not to ask the question of whether we will succeed, but rather are we faithful. This is a question that everyone can immediately answer in their own hearts in this way: “Have I been faithful to the call to glorify God and enjoy Him, within the sphere of labor in my own local church?” Well… Have you?
Even beyond the call to the local church, do you seek first Christ’s Kingdom and righteousness in every aspect of your life? Do you seek faithfulness over success? Is it enough that you have been obedient, that you have done what is good, according to God’s call? The path to joy and contentment cannot be trod well if we are consistently worried about success before the simple call to walk well, righteously, and true according to Scripture.
Sunday Morning - John 20:11-31 - Our coming text serves to answer well this question: How is it that we must behold Jesus that we might be saved? Is seeing believing? Well, yes and no. Beholding Christ in the flesh was and never would be enough, rather the confrontation of disbelief and doubt is through Christ revealing Himself by the Spirit. This is we must behold Christ through the spiritual gift of faith - we must see Him through the eyes of faith. The exaltation of Christ is made manifest among His beloved people by granting them eyes to see and ears to hear. This is yet another incredible example of God’s grace that He is patient, loving and gentle enough to bear our blindness and unbelief and reveal Himself unto our believing, loving, and devoting ourselves to Him.
Sunday Evening - 1 Corinthians 16:12-24 - This is it. The final sermon from Paul’s first epistle to the churches in Corinth. Some might look at the situation and say, “well at least we aren’t as bad as those folks in Corinth.” This is no doubt a reckless statement to make and reveals the very heart of the problem that plagued many in Corinth - spiritual pride that was the result of seeking first another kingdom before Christ’s own. Here at the close Paul gives a simple exhortation to live like faithful soldiers of the Cross of Jesus Christ with all strength and love, and that the love that they have for one another be come first from their love of Christ. You cannot be a disciple of the Cross unless you love the One who died for you, and you cannot love one another unless the love of Christ is alive within you.