Anyone who has spent anytime working out has likely heard this phrase. It is not entirely true, but there is some truth to it. I remember well when a friend got me running again a few years ago... There was pain. A physical “terrorist” friend called it an “overuse injury”. How embarrassing. I am now working out with another friend... And there is often pain. It seems each week I find a new set of muscles that I didn't know existed, and I get to experience a new aspect of pain. Then there is pain when I have sat for a while, but suddenly jump back into doing something physical. But pain that comes from awakening disused or underused muscles and tendons can be a good thing if done properly.
A few days ago I was doing my devotions for an accountability group I am a part of. Each day we "SOAP" Scripture. (We write out a verse; write an observation of what it means; write out an application - often personal; and then write out a short prayer. It's pretty awesome to join in with and see how God is moving in other men's hearts!). That morning I came across an interesting quote from a guy named Max Dupree: "Leaders don't inflict pain; they bear pain". What an awesome statement! It has had me thinking...
I know what Mr. Dupree is saying here. Shepherd's do not attack and hurt their sheep. Like the good shepherd that Jesus spoke of in John 10; it is the enemy… and false shepherds that attack and hurt God's sheep. As a pastor/shepherd, God has called me to teach, guide, protect, and lead God's people... His sheep. And so it is with leaders in His Church. And yet, all to sadly, I hear of pastors and leaders who become vindictive, even hateful towards their flocks and church families. Pastors and leaders who take advantage of, and rip off brothers and sisters in Christ. Pastors who violate their calling, and violate God's people. And even so-called pastors and leaders who lead their flocks astray.
No one but a "good" shepherd, a genuine pastor and leader for Christ, knows the pain we bear when those we have been called to lead and love, those we have poured ourselves into, and given the best of our teaching and ministry choose to reject God's truth and "do what is right in their own eyes". Shepherds and leaders often bear the pain of ministering to those who have lost loved ones, and yet know that the deceased likely had no relationship with Christ, and thus is forfeit of all hope. Shepherds and leaders often hurt for those in hospitals and nursing homes. There is the pain of confronting someone who persists in making bad choices contrary to God's Word and counsel. And then there is the pain of defending the flock against someone who would do it harm, even though they themselves seemed to be a part of it. Few people can get past the emotions to the heart and calling of the leader who must biblically protect their flock.
Leaders do not inflict pain... And yet, there are times when it seems that we do. Truth can be a hard and bitter pill to swallow when you do not want to hear it. To be confronted by your sinful, destructive choices can be quite unsettling and even angering if you do not want to deal with it. One of the roles of a pastor and ministry leader is to lead our flocks, our church family to still water and pastures with the right food for the sheep. That means we often need to lead, nudge, even confront our flocks when they desire that which might hurt them. And it can be painful when we lead our people to exercise muscles and tendons of faith that have lain dormant and underused. Truth must always be told in love; but even with the most loving heart and intent… it can still cause pain. But then as Jesus said, “Blessed are the peace-makers” (Matt. 5:9); not the peace-keepers. Leading can be hard and painful, for example, when people would rather fight than repent, forgive, and seek reconciliation when offended.
But it is in those instances when the old axiom, "No Pain - No Gain" becomes a truism. If truth were easy, everyone would be living it out. But it isn't. Why? We like what we like, and want what we want, and all to often do what we do, and it has absolutely nothing to do with truth. But the pain that comes from doing what is right is always worth it in the long run. And let's face it, the long run always ends with our leaving this life for the next.
If I have taken the time and endured the stiffness and pain to get serious about walking; it makes things I like to do, like exploring, hiking, and vacation jaunts so much more fun. I have the stamina to buzz through a busy day of life and ministry. When I get serious about living out truth, I find this life God has called me to live so much more fun. I don’t just endure life, I love it… embrace it, and can’t wait for the next adventure God has in store for me. Jesus, after all did say, “You shall know the truth, and the truth shall set your free.” (John 8:32) I like that “free” part, but I have to practice truth to experience it.
What about you? Are you free? Or are you stuck in your pew… stuck in your religion… stuck in your ruts, routines, and simply enduring? Try flexing those spiritual muscles. Remember: No Pain - No Gain; and the “gain” is a huge eternal blessing!
By the way… This Sunday I am going to be addressing the question, “Is there sin that cannot be forgiven?” I am going to talk about what the “Blaspheme of the Holy Spirit” means; what the “Unpardonable Sin” is; as well as what the “Sin unto Death” is all about. You might want to tune in this Sunday, 3/13, at 10:45.
Love you… In Truth! Pastor Brian