As a pastor I am blessed with the opportunity to teach and preach God’s word on a regular basis, which requires me to spend much time each week reading, studying, and meditating on Scripture. When I preach a message or teach a lesson, it is safe to say that I have struggled to come to grips with the issue at hand in my own life, but that does not necessarily mean that I have mastered it. This past Sunday I prepared a daily devotional for the folks at EBC, hoping to extend the impact of my sermon and delve into some details which I believe should be an encouragement and a challenge to each of us. And while I don’t know the impact that those devotional thoughts will have on their readers, I know that they have already profoundly affected me. Let me explain.
In 1 Corinthians 9:27 Paul declares to the church at Corinth that he disciplines his body so that he will not be found a hypocrite after he has preached to others the importance of disciplined obedience to the Lord’s commands. This verse came to my mind, along with an acute awareness of my own tendency toward hypocrisy, as I began posting the daily devotions to the church website at http://ebcelkhorn.com. I posted Monday’s excerpt which focused on rejoicing in the Lord at all times, and I was confronted by the question of my own attitude. Was I rejoicing in the Lord always? I must confess that in spite of my earnest desire to delight in the Lord, spiritual weakness, distraction, and outright sin often turn me from rejoicing in the Lord to pursuing something of lesser importance and quality. But I thank God for graciously reminding me of the need to obey Philippians 4:4, “Rejoice in the Lord, always.”
Then Tuesday came and I was once again confronted by a challenging thought, even as I posted the link to the July 1st devotion about letting gentleness toward all men be my defining characteristic. Am I really gentle with others, especially those with whom I disagree or come into conflict? And once again I must confess that I find myself responding in anger when I am mistreated or misunderstood, but the Lord, in his great love, saw fit to confront my sin and turn me to repentance and confession. I am thankful that he does not respond to me the way that I so often respond to others, and through his tender but firm correction I am learning to let my “gentleness be known to all men” (Philippians 4:5).
And this morning I posted an excerpt about the Lord’s sure return, and I have come face to face with my own tendency to focus only on this life without giving thought to the coming judgment. Though I have been saved from my sin, and I do not fear condemnation, I know that I must still give account of my labor before the Lord, the Righteous Judge. Yet, like many in this day of rampant materialism and skepticism, I may fail to see how my choices today affect my future in this life and for eternity. But God’s mercy is once again evident by the reminder from the Apostle Paul that “The Lord is at hand” (Phil. 4:5).
I am sure that tomorrow will reveal more areas in which to seek God’s merciful forgiveness, but I will thank him in advance for loving me enough to speak to me even as he speaks through me.