Recently, I was asked what advice I would give to a newly ordained pastor as he was placed into the office of holy ministry. Immediately, I said two words, “patient endurance.” In other words, I would encourage him to patiently endure in his new vocation where God has called him. God does not make mistakes. In his new vocation as pastor, he will be given a new place in life where he can do good works to praise God’s holy name and to serve others. The Lord gives shape to the way in which He is to be honored and the neighbor loved in patient endurance. The Holy Spirit will be at work doing a new thing. He will begin to produce the fruits of joy in suffering and patience in affliction.
To be clear, God does not promise smooth sailing and stress-free situations. In fact, He assures us that in this world there will be trials, troubles, and tribulations. His promise is that He will work together for the good in all things for those who love Him, who are called according to His purpose. Let’s be honest, it is challenging to discern God’s hand in weakness. In this life, we are beginning to believe that the Lord is at work even when we cannot see it.
In the Psalms, we are learning to walk by faith and not by sight. We are taught how to pray the promises of God and exercise our faith. Of course, this a gradual process in which we are always beginning to pray as we should. For instance, when we pray Psalm 34, we are more than willing to declare, “I will bless the Lord at all times; his praise shall continually be in my mouth” (Psalm 34:1, ESV). As the baptized we rejoice in His promises. As we pray the promises found in Psalm 34, we confidently claim that the eyes of Jesus are set on the righteous and His ears are attentive to their cry. We boldly boast that when the righteous cry to the Lord, He hears and helps them from all their troubles. We assuredly assert that the Lord is near to the brokenhearted. However, when we reach verse 19, we slowly say, “Many are the afflictions of the righteous.” It is at this point in the Psalm that we realize “blessing the Lord at all times” means in many afflictions. Likewise, “continual praise in our mouths” means during many afflictions. It is at this intersection that God’s promises and our experiences meet. In Psalm 34, we are taught to be patient in tribulations and rejoice in our sufferings.
Thus, the advice for a newly ordained pastor is “patient endurance.” It is the duty of the pastor, as a preacher of the Word, to faithfully care for the congregation with the Word of God. It is the duty of the congregation, as hearers of the Word, to honor their pastor as he serves faithfully in the name of Jesus. This is God’s holy ordering of things. Nevertheless, the new pastor will have unrealistic expectations of his new congregation. Likewise, the calling congregation will have unrealistic expectations of their called pastor. Nonetheless, the Lord is gifting the congregation with a pastor and the pastor with a congregation. God does not make mistakes.
As time progresses, the “honeymoon” stage will soon disappear. The pastor and the congregation will begin to see each other’s flaws, failings, and faults. The temptation to want a different pastor or a different congregation will surface. However, this is precisely how life in a fallen world works. This is where the advice to a newly ordained pastor is the same advice to all of us in our own vocations: “patient endurance.” The “honeymoon” stage is temporary between a husband and a wife, a parent and a child, an employer and an employee, etc . . . It is in our vocations that sin is made manifest. Either we will see the sins others commit against us or they will watch our wicked actions against them. We know that we should love our neighbor. Yet, we tend to understand this teaching as a concept in the abstract. In fact, we would like to pick the neighbor whom we are to love. It would be much easier to love the lovable.
However, this is not the way the Lord works. And remember, God does not make mistakes. In our vocation God gives us a place in which we are to serve others. He sets things in order. In our vocations, He gives shape to the way in which we are to honor Him and love others. He does not work in the theoretical realm. God acts in and with His creation. The Father loves us, that is, He sent forth His Son in the flesh. Jesus is Immanuel, that is, God with us. He is incarnate love for humanity.
Jesus serves in the office of the one True Mediator uniting humanity and divinity. This is His vocation for us. He reconciles corrupted creation with the Creator. He was afflicted for us. He suffered for us. He bears our iniquities as the Sacrificial Lamb of God and continues to make intercession for our transgressions as our High Priest. He patiently endures with us. As our Meditator, He grants us the remission of our sins and the renewal of the Holy Spirit. He is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit. He is Yahweh who delivers us out of our many afflictions.
Jesus assures us that He is Immanuel, that is, God with us. He speaks peace to our hearts saying, “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me” (John 14:1, ESV) . And He says, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid” (John 14:27, ESV). And again, He says, “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33, ESV). Jesus is our peace in the midst of many afflictions. Jesus is incarnate patient endurance. In His office, He patiently endures with us. He knows our flaws, failings, and faults. Yet, He selflessly loves us. Jesus puts everything into order. He places each one of us in a place to praise God’s holy name and be of service to others through patient endurance. God does not make mistakes; in Christ, He is making all things new.
© Concordia Publishing House
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