The LORD Is On My Side
By Jon Couch
His heart was broken. Total devastation. The pain was searing. Hopelessness and despair filled the room as rivers of water flowed from his eyes onto his pillow. He cried in utter desperation for God to lift the dark cloud over his life. The battle that he was in was as intense as any battle that one could face. The weight and burden that he carried daily was not a result of a fleshly battle, but an intense spiritual dogfight of mass proportions. As the fiery darts were slung his way daily, he grappled with waving the white flag on a minute by minute basis. Who was the man in this scenario? A husband? A Dad? A Christ-follower? The answer is yes, yes, and yes. And yet, he was also a pastor.
The calling of a pastor is the most noble and dangerous calling in post-Christian America. It will cost everything, as he daily dies to self to serve the people and bring glory to God. So how then does a pastor, especially here in the United States, press on in the battle and not lose heart? Many Scriptures give us great comfort and courage, but I believe a gem of healing balm is found in Psalm 118:6. Psalm 113 – 118 are known as the “Hallelujah Psalms” as they are glorious words of exaltation to God. And yet as we begin in Psalm 118 we see additional praise as the psalmist is God-centered and then we arrive at verse 6 which says, “The LORD is on my side; I will not fear, what can man do to me?” Three potent sections of one verse that should rock your world pastor as you faithfully endure hardship as good solider of Jesus Christ.
First, “The LORD is on my side.” L-O-R-D. The proper name of the One True God. There is no other. In the midst of the dark night of your soul today, The God of the Universe is for you. As he holds the planets in one hand, He holds you in the other. Stiffen that spine as you rest in the truth that God is on your side.
Secondly, ”I will not fear.” You get the sense that the psalmist is making a declaration of war. Fear of man, fear of circumstances, and fear of the unknown will no longer be an option. Do you see what happens when we start with the premise that God is on our side? Our hearts are refreshed. Our outlook becomes clear. Our motivation is God-centered, and our lives begin to sing with strength and confidence as we rest in The Great God of the Bible.
Lastly, “What can man do to me?” As we start with God, we then declare war on fear in the name of King Jesus, and this confidence places everything into perspective. Because The Creator of the world, The God of The Bible, is on your side, this positional standing gives you a launching pad of boldness and courage from having already achieved the victory, not one of still searching for the victory. Paul echoes a similar sentiment of unwavering confidence in Romans 8:31 when he declared, “If (since) God is for us, who can be against us?” No matter what you are facing today, what can man really do to you since the LORD is on your side?
Being opposed by Satan and his cohorts is par for the course for those men who answer the call of pastor. Friends will betray you. Family members will betray you. Fellow pastors will betray you. But God will never betray you. In the midst of the battle, you can and must rest confidently in the truth of God’s Word and therefore know without any doubt that the battle truly belongs to LORD as you walk by faith and not by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7).
Be encouraged right at this very moment and do not lose heart! All of the heartache and all of the pain of this broken earthly life will be worth it all when you stand face to face with King Jesus on That Day.
“Rest in the LORD, and wait patiently for Him….” - Psalm 137:7
Do The People Around You See Jesus In The Midst Of Your Pain?
By Jon Couch
Everyone has pain in this earthly life. No one is immune. It is impossible to outrun the pain, because the pain will always find its target. Therefore, the question is not, “How can I alleviate my pain?”, but rather, “Do people see Jesus in the midst of my pain?” As God continues to prune and refine my fleshly rebellious heart, He is teaching me that my pain always has purpose. Now, when the trials of life begin to mount, I must confess that this phrase that “my pain has purpose” is much easier said than actually lived-out. However, as the fog of the trials of life continue to hover near the surface of our brokenness, our overarching goal must be that in the midst of our pain, that people will see the glory of God radiating with splendor and on full display. But how do we live victoriously in the midst of one struggle after another?
First, we must embrace that it is God who has graciously given us our trials. I realize that this statement is counter to our fleshly rational human thinking, but it is biblical. Paul said in Philippians 1:29-30 “29 For to you it has been granted on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake, 30 having the same conflict which you saw in me and now hear is in me.” God grants or graces us with the privilege to not just bask in the power of Christ’s resurrection, but to also partake in the fellowship of His sufferings.
Secondly, we must embrace that our pain has purpose beyond us. Beyond us? You mean that even my pain may not be completely about just me? How this rubs our selfish flesh raw! Often, we want even our pain to be just about us. The reality is that no one is a bigger fan of us, than us, and yet even our pain is not always about us. Therefore, when we go through a trial, one of the biggest challenges is not the actual trial, but to shift the viewfinder from ourselves to a laser beam focus on God and then others’. As Paul was writing to the church in Corinth, he reminded them that their pain has purpose beyond themselves when he said in 1 Corinthians 1:3-5, “3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. 5 For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also abounds through Christ.” Simply put, your pain is not just for you. Don’t hoard your pain. Your pain is empathy training ground for effective ministry as we minister best out of our trials.
Lastly, we must embrace that we are to give God our heartfelt thanksgiving in all things. Who honestly wants to do this? Praise God in the storm? Really? Genuinely thank God for the trials that He has graciously lavished upon us? Seriously? Yes. Anyone can praise God on the mountain top when all is seemingly well. And yet, it’s fully possible that we are not in the center of God’s will. One of the biggest traps in the American church today is this ideology that if we pursue God, everything will be easy and everyone will be for us. I’m not sure what bible this idea has evolved from, but it is not from The Bible that is God’s Holy Word. The Psalmist David penned these potent words in Psalm 34:1 when he said, “I will bless the Lord at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth.” Those are big-boy words that can only be accomplished as the Holy Spirit empowers us to give thanks and praise God not because of ideal circumstances, but in-spite of all circumstances.
Do the people around you see God in the midst of your pain? As the song says, “Turn your eyes upon Jesus, and the things of this earth will grow strangely dim, in the light of His glory and grace.” Be encouraged in the battle and do not lose heart as you keep the hand to the plow and don’t look back!
By Kristin Couch
Go ahead. Turn off the computer, the feeds, subscriptions, Facebook, smart phones, texts, and Twitter. Even those "Christian" blogs and websites. Be still. Sit still. Open your Bible and feast upon a verse, a Psalm, a gospel.
There is a restlessness about our nation, our churches; myself. When I veer slightly off that narrow path I feel the discontent creeping into the corners of my heart. It might be slight at first but it is a beast that growls and demands to be fed. Don't feed it; starve and stifle it with the Word of God.
Believer and truster of Christ: imposters abound. The father of lies will whisper that the Bible alone is not enough; the gospel is not enough; Christ's death and resurrection for his children are not enough.
Be encouraged beloved of God: Christ is enough! Trust Him; love him; turn away from any teaching that is not gospel-centered. The Holy Scriptures are God-breathed (2 Timothy 3:16) and inerrant. Meditating upon Scripture will breathe peace to your soul.
It doesn't matter what is swirling around us culturally. There is nothing new under the sun (Ecclesiastes 1:9). God's truth is steadfast and unchanging. Preach this to yourself as you pray throughout the day. Love people and share Jesus with them; love God most.
"Every Christian is either a missionary or an imposter." ~ Charles Spurgeon
"Stay In The Trench And Do Not Flinch"
By Jon Couch
It has been said that pastoring is not a job, it’s a calling – and I could not agree more. One man once said, “If you think that you are called to pastor, but you also think you may desire to do something else, go do the something else.” Why the directness? Because if you are not truly called by God to pastor, as the pressures mount, you will gladly take any exit ramp possible to alleviate and eradicate the pain. So for those who are truly called by God to this noble, yet servant leadership (John 13) role of pastoring, how do we press on, day in and day out, in the midst of the struggle? The following are 7 keys from God’s Word that I pray will encourage you, embolden you, and stiffen your spine as you valiantly soldier on in obedience to the LORD:
1) Remind yourself daily Who called you. The old phrase rings true: “If God brought you to it, He will see you through it.” God doesn’t make mistakes and He has a plan for His glory and your good, yes even in the midst of the challenges and pain that you are facing today. The apostle Paul proves how powerful the call of God is when he wrote in 1 Corinthians 9:16, “For if I preach the gospel, I have nothing to boast of, for necessity is laid upon me; yes, woe is me if I do not preach the gospel!” Regardless of what others say about you, remember Who called you.
2) Remind yourself daily to have calloused knees: The preacher’s power is not from standing in the pulpit, but by helplessly falling on his knees in his prayer closet. Contrary to the world’s thinking, our power is not from ourselves, but when we are on our knees it is of God. If we are not seeking the face of God in all things, we have failed before we have even started. "Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” - Philippians 4:6-7
3) Remind yourself daily to wash yourself in The Word: If we are not anchored to the Voice of Truth, we will anchor ourselves to the other voices that are jockeying for our allegiance. Therefore, it is crucial that we daily mine the Scriptures, bind the truth around our necks, write God’s wisdom on the tablet of our hearts, and hide His Word deep within the wellspring of our soul. As Psalm 1:1-3 tells us, “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the path of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful; But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night. He shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water that brings forth its fruit in its season, whose leaf also shall not wither; and whatever he does shall prosper.” Daily bathe in God’s Word and your roots will become deep in the LORD, allowing you to withstand the storms of life.
4) Remind yourself daily to stay Gospel focused: In the midst of the battle, it is relatively easy to completely lose sight of what we are fighting for. The war is not about physical life, but everlasting life. When this mission is constantly top-of-mind, we are more apt to press through the dry seasons of ministry as we rely through desperate dependence upon God to carry us each step of the way. Because the Gospel is potent beyond human thinking, we must cling to Paul’s words in Romans 1:16 when he declared with confidence and fervency, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek.”
5) Remind yourself daily that suffering for the Gospel is inevitable: Jesus did not mince words when he warned us in John 16:33, “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” The key here is that we would recalibrate our hearts and minds to be in Christ (in Me Jesus says) for peace in the midst of the suffering. And yet, as we rest in Christ during the challenges, we must also remind ourselves the cut-to-the-chase promise that Paul gave to young Timothy when he said in 2 Timothy 3:12, “Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.”
6) Remind yourself daily that the battle is spiritual: Satan desires for us to be deceived into thinking that we are wrestling against flesh and blood. Why? Because if we are focused on overcoming flesh and blood, we are focused on the wrong enemy as the real enemy will seek, steal, and destroy us. Paul poured this deep truth into the Ephesians 6:10-12 when he said, “Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.” Keep your heart in-tune with the reality that Satan is not some little guy in a red suit, with a pitchfork, a goatee, and eyebrows gone wild. No, as the spiritual battle rages on, he masquerades as an angel of light (2 Corinthians 11:14) and he prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour (1 Peter 5:8).
7) Remind yourself daily that the battle belongs to The LORD: Praise be to God for this reality, because if it was up to us, we would be in big trouble. At the end of your day, no matter challenges we face, when we are in Christ and under His righteousness, we can and must rest in the soul-satisfying fact that the battle belongs to the LORD. You notice I said that we “should.” Of all the 7 keys to adhere, this is the one that I struggle with the most. Oh wretched man that I am, who will deliver from this body of death (Romans 7:24)? God will! As we walk by faith and not by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7), may God grant you His perfect peace in the midst of the struggle. “Some trust in chariots, and some in horses; but we will remember the name of the Lord our God.” - Psalm 20:7
Be encouraged in the battle pastor, and count it all joy when the enemy assaults you with his fiery darts of deception and slander (James 1:2-3). Don’t bend, don’t buckle, don’t break, and don’t waver regarding God’s call on your life. Keep your hand to the plow and don’t look back (Luke 9:62). Drive a stake in the ground today with great resolve that even if God doesn’t go your way, you are still going His way (Daniel 3:16-18). Contend earnestly for the faith (Jude 3), and do not lose heart. Stay in the trench and do not flinch!
"Therefore comfort each other and edify one another, just as you also are doing." - 1 Thessalonians 5:11