Our church staff (First Baptist Church of Orange Park) was invited to join the staff at a sister church in our community (Hibernia Baptist Church) today for a time of fellowship and to hear from Dr. Donald Whitney. Dr. Whitney spoke at the mid-week service at Hibernia on Wednesday and this morning spent some time sharing with pastors and ministry leaders.
I have a number of Dr. Whitney's books and have found his teachings, writings, and sermons to be powerful, faithful to the gospel, and helpful for me personally. Many in our church have read his book Family Worship and have been in a small group with me as we studied the material together.
As is the case whenever speaking to a large group, or even a smaller group as we were today, the speaker never really knows all the details regarding what is going on in the lives of the listener. As a Christian, and especially as a pastor, it is vital that one prepares and prays prior to speaking, trusting that God will use whatever is said in conjunction with his Word to impact listeners in needed ways.
At times, this may be convictional. At others, encouraging. In fact, it could be both.
I won't go over all that Dr. Whitney shared, but there are a few points that I wrote down and have reread a few times already today. Here are some quotes that have resonated with me...
"Perseverance is developed when your prayers aren't answered."
"The proof of your faith is not always in the glorious spiritual victories, but in the gift of perseverance when there is no success."
"Job is famous for his faith, not because he is ultimately rewarded for it at the end of the story, but because he just wouldn't quit during the difficulties."
"The Christian is like a bell. The harder it strikes, the louder it rings." - John Bunyan
"The more Christ persevered, the more the persecution came."
"How do you persevere? You remain faithful when it's hard."
"Sometimes in church life, and in pastoring especially, it takes more faith to stay than to leave."
"Hang in there, even when it's not seemingly working, as long as what you're doing is right."
Perseverance is not something often heralded in the modern and marketable versions of Christianity we see in America today. Perhaps consumerism has overtaken our ability to persevere.
For pastors and church leaders, this word is vital.
For Christians in all areas, remember that just because it seems that God is not answering your prayers...just because it appears that what you are desiring to occur, even for the right reasons, is not happening...God remains sovereign and faithful.
Hang in there. Perseverance never occurs quickly. It always takes more time than we would desire. Yet, it's necessary. In fact, as Dr. Whitney stated today, "Because God's plan of sanctification involves building faith and perseverance, there will be areas in your life where you will have to persevere. It is not optional."