To Stand Athwart That Pulpit

In this morning’s sermon, while meditating on Paul’s praise for pastor Epaphras in Colossians 1:7, Rev. Bredenhof reminded us of the weight of praying for the seminary. As there are nine students, two professors, and one administrator in our congregation at Providence, we of CRTS have sort of marched into the hearts and minds of the church here and made ourselves at home. We arrive, we eat their cake on Sundays, mow their lawns in the summer, preach from their pulpit after third year, and then we’re gone. I’ve never heard anyone compare it to a flash mob, but I think you could.

The point is, even a church like ours needs to be reminded to pray for the seminary. Even I need to be reminded, and I go there. So allow me to gently remind you, too. Do pray for us. There is no shortage of petitions to bring on our behalf before the throne, but three of the more important would be faithfulness to the truth, encouragement, and guts. If the devil wanted to score a real victory against our seminary, he wouldn’t take the place out with a car bomb. Rather, he’d take us down the path that so many Christians today seem to be walking, and he’d turn us into a bunch of wussed out and discouraged agnostics. You can be sure that’s what he’s trying to do, too.

Faithfulness to the truth is by no means a given, nor does it have anything to do with brains. So don’t be content if you think that having the brightest profs and students is some sort of insurance against heterodoxy. Working with a line from fishing writer John Gierach, being smart is like having four-wheel drive. It doesn’t mean you won’t get stuck, it just means you’ll get stuck in more remote places. You’ll find a whole labyrinth of academic forestry service roads on which to bust up your intellectual axle. Also, the world of ideas isn’t constrained the way the physical world is. In the physical world, blithely dropping a block of oak on a spinning table saw blade will leave you flat on your back, gasping, with an ugly purple bruise around your solar plexus. You are repaid quickly and fully for the mistakes that you make. But the world of ideas isn’t bound by such strict parameters. There you can publish the most profoundly stupid rubbish and still find yourself surrounded with adoring fans and making the elite speaking rounds. Yes, there are standards of true and false, but those are easily ignored. See most universities for details.

Even God’s people can have difficulty navigating the world of ideas. Humility is needed, as is the enlightenment of the Spirit. Pray that he would work mightily in our minds, that we would discern what the path of true knowledge is, that we would seek it out and walk it with care.

Encouragement, simply enough, is the opposite of discouragement. And discouragement, as Mrs. de Visser once told me, is the devil’s most potent weapon. I can’t speak for the other students, of course, but I’m assuming I’m not the first seminarian to find himself discouraged at times. The ministry, even off in the distance, can look like a heavy burden to bear. The work, the busyness, the inevitable criticism, the darkness that you see that you will carry to your grave. It can soon make you feel like you aren’t cut out for that, and when you suspect that you are cut out for it, it can make you feel like quitting, anyways.

So do pray that we would not suffer from discouragement. Pray that the joy of the gospel would encourage us in our work, and have us yearning to preach Christ from pulpits and apply him to hearts. His burden really is easy, and his yoke light, and to be a man of Christ’s Word really is the highest calling.

Finally, guts. Manliness. There isn’t much respect for the gospel left in our culture, and there’s increasing pressure to shut the gospel down. The church needs men, as in the real, robust, fearless kind who don’t just know how to be concerned and caring, but who, like Father Mapple in Moby Dick, know how to stand athwart that pulpit like it’s a prow crashing through the wildest seas. There is a sort of splendid delight in the gospel that can only shine from a masculine heart, and it is the sort that inspires submission to that gospel. I could keep going on this topic but I’d probably run away with it, so I’ll keep it short.

Pray that we would not be just good preachers, but good men, men who aren’t afraid to be men. Pray that we would be courageous, and convicted, and plenty aggressive when we need to be.

As I said, these are only three things to bring to the Lord in prayer. No doubt each student would give a different list that might include things like diligence in our work, mental strength, and protection from temptation. My three are in no way representative of the seminary, they are merely ones that I feel are important. But do pray for the school. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful, and the prayers of a federation …


7 thoughts on “To Stand Athwart That Pulpit

  1. Oh, man, Jeremy, I love the way you write!! You know, we faithfully pray for out minister, and our office bearers, and the seminary in the same way as we pray for all our schools, but we never heard a plea for seminarians the way we heard it this morning! Professors and students. We really got the sense of the urgency and of the seriousness of the need to pray for you all. And we will! Coosje

  2. Me and Josh have the seminary on our prayer list for every Tuesday (and any other time it crosses our mind), but it’s nice to be given some ideas of specifics to pray for. Keep up the blogging Jeremy, your posts are interesting and well written! 🙂

  3. Monica and I were talking the last couple of days about “criticism” and how easy it is for us to see the shortcomings of others and forget to follow up with encouragement to build them up. Your father-in-law reminded me yesterday to check out your blog and this is the post I chose to read. God is in control of all things…..ALL things…. and I thank Him for giving me a reminder yesterday of the work you and your family are doing and our thoughts and prayers are with you all! Hope you guys are doing well. 🙂

    • You wrote this awhile back, but I’m reading it today. I think discouragement is a debilitating weapon. One of my pastor brothers noted that a minister will cheerfully work himself to the bone if he knows that he is supported and appreciated by his congregation and church leadership in word, action and prayer. The prayers are like walls of support and protection!

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