You can find armchair quarterbacks in our day who bemoan the fact that not every preacher on the planet is a doomsday prophet or that not every preacher dwells on positive-only feel-good preaching. In the Bible, God called and used a variety of different personalities to speak to His people, and it should not surprise us that He does the same today. Popularly, Jeremiah is called the Weeping Prophet. On the other hand, Jesus named James and John the Sons of Thunder. When Jesus asked Peter, “Whom do men say that I the Son of Man am?” the responses reflect the many different sides of Jesus’ personality and different ways in which His ministry had touched different people.
Nineteenth Century preaching legend Phillips Brooks spoke of “truth through personality.” Stephen Olford and others emphasized the need for “incarnational preaching” - the life lived out by the preacher supports and continues declaring his message. Erik Rees’ S.H.A.P.E. helpfully noted that God doesn’t just use a person’s spiritual gives (S.) but also his Heart, Abilities, Personality, and Experience - all of which God gives to or allows for the individual.
To sum it up, we should not be surprised to find variety among the voices God calls to proclaim His truth. What tied all of the Scriptural examples together and validated their preaching was that all of them declared only the message that God had given to them. They were His mouthpieces. They did not invent their messages or monkey with God’s revelation. They declared, best they knew how, what He had insisted they proclaim using the minds, personalities, and resources available to them. The result was a broad variety of emotions - a similar reality in our day also.
One of 1500 hymns written by Alfred Henry Ackley, who had worked with Billy Sunday's evangelism team and Homer Rodeheaver's publishing company, is "I am Happy in the Service of the King." Since July 3, 1960, the date of Ackley's death, one can sense a shift in the degree of happiness written on the faces of the King's servants. As creation marches downhill toward the end of the age, the reasons to despair seem to abound. However, God's Word gives us so many reasons, Spirit-inspired reasons, to rejoice. Let's review a few of them together - and as we do, we are not looking for a superficial rah-rah session. It's helpful to take several moments or even days and meditate on each one of these.
As I was working through Mark 14 for my sermon series, I came across the place where Jesus tells His disciples they will all be offended because of Him that night (14:27). He says this reality is in fulfillment of Zechariah's prophecy (13:7), "I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered." It occurred to me that there is a principle in this prophecy that we have probably all seen play out in various situations. Protecting ourselves and our ministries through prayer can help us guard against this principle playing out in our lives. Jesus was fulfilling Scripture of course, but no such prophecy exists for you and me. So, it serves us well to guard against this principle. How can we do that?
The ministry can be a lonely place. I'm not just talking about those rare, precious moments of solitude and rest. I'm talking about the fact that literally no one else can possibly understand the exact mix of thoughts and emotions you feel at the top of the ladder. No one else sees everything you see. No one else "gets it" like you get it. Often, even if you were free to share what's on your mind, and even if the other person supported you and was sympathetic to your vision, it is not very likely that he or she will understand - at least not in the sense that you understand.
So, before you click away from this post, please understand this: there is hope. This is one of my favorite things to repeat: There is always hope.
Pastor Billy Shaw is a full-time pastor, husband, and father with a passion for helping other pastors.