But try to cover a necessary dose of suffering with a spoonful of discouragement and cynicism and it makes for a hard way to end one year and begin another one. I readily admit that discouragement and cynicism have rested heavily upon me in the past few weeks and months. My endurance has worn thin, and I have found it increasingly difficult to live out Paul’s exhortation, “we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” (Romans 5:3-5).
God is neither powerless, nor willing to be thwarted in the work he is doing in me. My dad would quote Philippians 1:6 at every church we would attend during our missionary deputation and furloughs, and it rings in my ears now: “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” As of late, there have been days when I have prayed more fervently than ever for that promised day to come. That, in itself, was evidence of God’s blessed grace on me. Yet, the darkness still hung over me and in me.
Thankful for God’s grace in repentance, I have set out to live out my repentance through his enabling grace. To kill my discouragement and cynicism with a renewed look at the glorious face of my Savior and Lord Jesus Christ. I read Paul Maxwell’s excellent article today which states, “Ultimately, no virtue or action can stand on its own against the black hole of cynicism. Only the immensity of Christ’s joyful and benevolent personhood can stand against the void of scorn sedimented in the human heart (Romans8:38–39).”
Give me Jesus! You can have all this world, but give me Jesus!
For, “Christ offers affirmation, purpose, and hope to the cynic.”
In my quest I have found prayer most helpful, your prayers for me and my prayers for you. Through 2014 I plan to use Erik Raymond’s article to frame my prayers for you: (1) Pray for a hunger for the bible; (2) Pray for thankfulness; (3) Pray for gospel growth; (4) Pray for holiness; (5) Pray for unity. Probably due to my recent struggles, thankfulness stood out to me, especially when Erik writes that a desire for thankfulness is a desire, “to see churches enveloped by a real joy in God because of what He has done for us in Christ.” I want that here.
I would ask that you continue to pray for your pastors, for Ryan, Jason, and me. We need your petitions to God on our behalf. Nicholas Batzig reminds us that, “The shepherd needs the prayers of the sheep as much as they need his prayers. He also is one of Christ’s sheep, and is susceptible to the same weaknesses.” In his article he goes on to list a framework from praying for your pastors. I will be praying for my fellow pastors in this way and would encourage you to join in praying this way for each of us. (1) Pray for their spiritual protection from the world, the flesh, and the devil; (2) Pray for their deliverance from the physical attacks of the world and the devil; (3) Pray for doors to be opened to them for the spread of the gospel; (4) Pray that they might have boldness and power to preach the gospel; (5) Pray that they might have a spirit of wisdom and understanding.