It is a good thing for a minister to read the book of Proverbs. It is a painful reminder that the problems of sin and sinful men are not one-day-flies! They are perennial problems, as old as the sinful heart of fallen man. It is good to remember this, my youthful amici!
Paul was a great preacher. He should be every preacher’s ideal to imitate. It is a difficult course to follow his footsteps. He had learned the lesson so well, that it should be enough unto a servant to be like his master. He had fallen down at the feet of Jesus once, when the latter said unto him, “Saul, Saul, why persecutes thou me?” Profoundly this Saul of Tarsus had learned to know the Christ, in His death and in the power of His glorious resurrection. Christ had mercy upon him and counted him worthy unto the ministry of the gospel. He, the chief of sinners, was counted worthy! He had tasted the great grace of God; he knew what it meant that the Son of man came to seek and to save the lost! God had made a great preacher of him. He had made him, who was separated from his mother’s womb unto the Gospel, a preacher of the righteousness and the grace of Christ. He that persecuted the church in times past now preaches Christ in all the world. And many generations have glorified God in Paul.
Paul has a great preacher’s desire. He often speaks of the deep intents and yearnings of his heart. What passionate expressions he employs to express this. Reflect upon this gem from Paul’s heart and pen “My little children of whom I travail in birth again until Christ be formed in you. I desire to be present with you now, and change my voice; for I stand in doubt of you.” What prayers this great apostle offers before the throne of God for the Churches! Attend to this utterance from Paul proceeding from the bowels of Christ Jesus, “Even as is meet for me to think this of you all, because I have you in my heart; in as much as both in my bonds and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel, ye all are partakers of my grace. For God is my record how greatly I long after you all in the bowels of Jesus Christ.” Phil. 1:7, 8. What an expression of sincere concern for the real, true and eternal well-being of the flock of God; yea, for each individual sheep and lamb!
This great preacher has suffered many things for Christ. He has long ago joined the ranks of the blessed, the prophets who were persecuted because of the Word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ. Without boasting he can write, “…from henceforth let no man trouble me, for I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus.” Such a man as Paul certainly must cherish within his breast unique joys and sorrows. It is the joy of his Lord and the grief of the Holy Spirit which dwells within him. It is really Christ in him, the hope of glory. Writes he “…that I may rejoice in the day of Christ, that have not run in vain, neither labored in vain. Yea, and if I be offered upon the sacrifice and service of your faith, I joy and rejoice with you all…” Phil. 2:16, 17. Such is his suffering and sorrow and such is his joy as he hopes upon the living God!
Did you know, youthful friend, that every true preacher, every faithful elder, every believing and concerned parent has kindred joys and sorrows with the apostle. They may not reach his heights and depths, may not have his breadth and scope, still it is present. Every minister installed and ordained into office feels this “burden” upon his soul. He cannot escape the charge of his Lord “Feed my sheep, tend my lambs!” He cares for your soul as one who must give account. Heb. 13:17 I know it, I know it, my young reader, you do not often understand this concern at all. All we like sheep go astray. Only one who has been or is in this office of responsibility understands. He knows a bit of this if he has received a shepherd’s heart from Christ, of which Paul had received such a bountiful share according to the grace given him from above.
Now, I concede that you do not understand. It is better that way. Only, wisdom dictates that you believe the word of God on this score. The Bible says “A wise son maketh a glad father; but a foolish son is the heaviness of his mother.” Prov. 10:1. Or again we read “A wise son heareth his father’s instruction: but a scorner heareth no rebuke.” The term “son” here refers to the true sons of God. Such “sons” are they in whose heart the fear of the LORD dwells! That fear is the very seed, the principle of wisdom! The principal question is: do you fear the Lord and walk in holy fear and trembling? Do you work out your salvation with fear and trembling, knowing that it is God who worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure? Do you have the mind of Christ, or are you of a reprobate mind?! Do you walk according to the Spirit, crucifying the works of the flesh or do you simply serve the flesh?!
You are an exemplary type of young man, young woman? You live a good moral life, virtuous and chaste? You are virgins fair? Yes, that warms the cockles of the heart of your pastor and elders. But you don’t get along too well with your friends in Christ? You have rivalry in your mind, striving for superiority? A good dose of vainglory? That is the fly in the ointment of Christ, is it not? It is a little leaven which will affect the whole. Sin is such a terrible putrefaction in the fiber of our spiritual life. Such was the case in the church at Philippi. There were Euodias and Syntyche who were not of one mind in the Lord. They did not mind the same thing. They had not truly learned the meaning of the act of Christ washing His disciples’ feet at the institution of the Lord’s Supper; they did not follow that great case-study and example.
There was much in this church which caused the apostle to rejoice. There is much in your life which causes your minister and elders to rejoice. However, the measure is not full and to overflowing unless all party-strife and vainglory is rooted out altogether. One cannot be a little bit vainglorious. Sanctification is not so much percent. The great “shamah” is “Hear, Israel, the LORD our God is one Lord. Thou shalt love the Lord, thy God, with all thy heart, with all thy mind, with all thy soul and with all thy strength—and thy neighbor as thyself!”
When the Spirit is no longer grieved because of us, when we walk as wise sons which maketh a glad father, then will the cup of your pastor overflow!
If there be any exhortation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Holy Spirit, if any bowels and mercies, fulfill the love of your minister, elders, parents and teachers. Let the same mind be in you which was in Christ.
Such admonition and nurture is NOT moralism, but is rooted in your new relationship to Christ; that you are not your own but belong to Jesus Christ, your Lord and Savior!