Thank God for Your Pastor – a devotion by Rev Lester Priebbenow
When was the last time you thanked God for your pastor? Or told your pastor you thank God for him?
The Epiphany 4 Bible readings drew attention – among other things – to the human tendency to judge God’s servants by their outward appearance or manner.
After Jesus addressed his hometown congregation at the beginning of his earthly ministry, Luke tells us, ‘All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his lips’ (Luke 4:22). When God called Jeremiah as a prophet to the nations, Jeremiah was afraid that the people would not listen to him because he was too young and ‘didn’t know how to speak’ (Jeremiah 1:6).
Likewise, Moses knew he was not as eloquent as his brother Aaron, and Paul knew people criticized him because his ‘bodily presence was weak.’ People today still fall prey to the human tendency to judge pastors because of their outward traits or personality and to evaluate or compare them with others. This tendency is exacerbated by the age we live in where there is a strong focus on meeting personal needs and where digital media allows us greater ability to choose what suits us.
Jesus knew, however, that human popularity is not the way of God’s kingdom. In Luke 4 we see Jesus deliberately bursting the bubble of his newfound popularity to remind his own people that for him to become the Saviour of all nations would mean being rejected by his own people – which they immediately began to do. In Jeremiah 1 we hear God reassuring Jeremiah that when God’s message made him unpopular, God himself would calm his fears and rescue him.
Both Jesus and Jeremiah were sent with a message of judgement and grace. God told Jeremiah that the words he was called to speak would ‘uproot and tear down, destroy and overthrow and build and plant’ (Jeremiah 1:10).
The words God puts in the mouths of his servants, our pastors, are also words of judgement and grace. They are words intended to go to work on our lives, evaluating us, convincing us of sin and bringing us assurance of salvation.
Author Tim Keller puts it this way, “The power of the Gospel comes in two movements. It first says, ‘I am more sinful and flawed than I ever dared believe,’ but then it quickly follows with, ‘I am more accepted and loved than I ever dared hope’” (Shaped by the Gospel p. 66).
The first of those movements is not always easy for us to hear. It wasn’t easy for the people that Jesus, Jeremiah, Moses, and Paul were called to go to either. But let us thank God that the words God puts in our pastor’s mouth are also words he intends to go to work on our lives, ‘uprooting and tearing down’ every vestige of self-righteousness so that he may ‘build and plant’ us in the knowledge of his grace as our only sure and eternal hope.
Unlike Jesus – and more like Jeremiah, Moses, and Paul – our pastors are not perfect. Like the 12 disciples, Jesus chooses and uses people of diverse personalities and backgrounds to be his servants. Because they too are sinners, Paul reminds pastors that God’s Word needs to go to work on their lives too. Because of the high calling and ‘noble task’ to which God calls them, it is necessary that they prove themselves to be faithful, trustworthy, diligent, and compassionate shepherds of God’s flock.
So don’t forget to thank God for your pastor – and tell him that you do! (If you are in vacancy, thank God for the pastors that serve you in various ways currently.) Give thanks for what God – through you – has called your pastor to do. Pray that God would protect and rescue him, and help him to speak God’s Word without fear so that this Word may go to work on the hearts and minds of his people.
Pastor Lester Priebbenow
District Bishop, Victoria and Tasmania