I have been asked to write an article on the subject, “A Day and the Life of a Minster,”
My first reaction to this title was to suppose that it had been misstated, and that what really was meant was “A Day in the Life of a Minister.” What then would be called for would be some kind of resume of an average day in my life as a minster. The trouble is that in a small, isolated congregation such as our here in Lynden, most of my days are spend rather quietly in the study, and most of my contacts with others are by mail. Nothing could be quite so much a bore to either write or read about.
Accordingly, I have thought it best to take the subject just as it was given and reflect more personally on just exactly what a day, and what each day of my life means to me as a minster.
A day, of course, is a unit of time, perhaps the most basic of all units of time. It arose from the pattern of the original creation and constitutes that span of time which we arise to each morning and which, to all practical effects, continues until we return to sleep again at night.
Moreover, a day is that unit of time which is always to us the most important. It is the present. The past is gone and cannot return. The future is not yet and is unknown to us. But today is now, the present, that element of time with which we have to contend. Jesus pointed out the importance of this most vividly in Matthew 6:34, “Take therefore no thought for the morrow; for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.”
To me as a Christian, therefore, each day has a very particular importance. It is that element of time in which I am called to live out the faith which God has given to me. Forgiven by Christ, I do not have to be filled with regrets for the past. Recognizing the sovereignty of God, I don’t have to worry about the future. My calling is to meet the day, this day, each day as it comes to me in faith. I should desire every moment of every day to be able to join in with the cry of the Psalmist in Psalm 118:24, “This is the day which the LORD hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it.”
And so now the question is what I find in my work as a minister which enables me to meet each day with this kind of spiritual joy. And the answers to this are basically two.
The first of these is the privilege which comes to me as a minister to spend a great deal of each day considering and working with the truth of the Word of God. Here, after all, is the richest, most wonderful, most beautiful reality in all of the universe, the self-revelation of God to His people. It is the light above all lights; it is the glory above all that is glorious; it is the good above all that is good. Well did the Psalmist say in Psalm 27:4, “One thing have I desired of the LORD, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the LORD, and to enquire in his temple.” Surely to spend as much time contemplating this greatness of God as the ministry allows one to do is not a privilege easily to be overlooked.
Not, of course, as though this is always, automatically the case. It is easy enough to allow even those activities which bring one closest to the Word of God, things like teaching a catechism class or preparing for a society or even making a sermon to become a mere mechanical chore which must be gotten out of the way. It is easy enough to allow the Word of God to become the mere stuff with which one works. It is a sad thing when it happens for it means that the working of faith has been substituted by mere mental activity, and the result is inevitably that the joy and satisfaction of the ministerial life also disappears.
This is perhaps even more true in the second area of satisfaction in the daily life of a minister: working with the lives of the people of God. Here arises any number of problems and frustrations, of sorrows and disappointments. Many a time a person would nearly despair over some of the most serious problems of life which are thrown upon the minister’s shoulders without any apparent answer. And then it is important to remember that those who come to the minister are the world’s most important people, the elect for whom Christ died. Rather than a burden, it is a privilege of the highest order to be able to meet and labor, and worship with them. When through faith one can grasp this truth and hold to it, once again the labors of the ministry take on a new and blessed light, an occasion to meet each day with spiritual satisfaction and joy.
At this point, however, I do want to be careful not to leave the wrong impression. I certainly would not want to imply to anyone that my occupation, even as a minister, is the only source of such spiritual satisfaction. For those who are called to labor within it, I certainly would hope that it should be. But there are many different Christians with many different callings in life. And to all the Word of God gives its own promise of joy and satisfaction. And so, whatever our calling in life, what we must all do is to recognize the areas of spiritual possibility and opportunity in life so that each day may come to us with promise of spiritual pleasure. Then each day we can go forth with the song of the Psalmist in our hearts, “This is the day which the LORD hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it.”
Originally Published in:
Vol. 30 No. 5 August September 1970