Facing the Incomprehensible in 2013
As a young lead pastor in the relatively hard ministry soil of New England, I am blessed to have an associate pastor to work with. More specifically, I’m blessed to have Bruce Daggett as my associate pastor, not merely for giving me a regular break from the pulpit, but for his wisdom, experience, constant encouragement, and faithful partnership in gospel ministry.
I was particularly encouraged by Bruce’s exhortation from the pulpit this past Sunday. We’re preparing as a congregation to spend January taking a fresh look at the vision we adopted one year ago, and asking hard questions about what it will take to move closer to that vision. To prepare our hearts for this, Bruce led us in reflecting on Paul’s doxology from Ephesians 3:20-21:
“Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” (ESV)
It’s common and fitting at the turn of the year for us to make New Year’s resolutions. As Bruce pointed out, in stark contrast to Paul’s doxology, our resolutions are typically:
- Aimed at our personal benefit (as opposed to God’s glory)
- Focused on what we do (as opposed to what God does)
- Something we endeavor as individuals (as opposed to as a community, the church), and
- Limited by our personal abilities (as opposed to God’s limitless ability)
In this light, and as we prepare to consider what God would have us do to move closer to our vision, Bruce charged us as a congregation (1) to believe that God can accomplish far more than we can ask or imagine, (2) to be committed to God’s glory (not our own), and (3) to resolve collectively to be the church God would have us be to bring glory to him.
Personally, I needed this exhortation. It’s incredibly easy to be overwhelmed by our personal limitations and the difficulty of our context–not only for congregants learning how to live together as missionaries in New England, but for pastors seeking to shepherd them to that end. But praise be to God that he’s not limited by our insufficiency. Rather, it’s our insufficiency and weakness that make us useful to God:
“Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God, who has made us competent to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit. . . .” (2 Cor. 4:5-6, ESV)
“But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.” (2 Cor. 4:7, ESV)
May we at Westgate Church, together with our fellow laborers in this region, trust God to do the incomprehensible in 2013 and beyond: to so work through broken, insufficient, yet redeemed people like us, that through our common love, sacrifice, and witness men and women across New England would turn from their sin to the sweet sufficiency of God’s grace, and so glorify his name.