When I studied at Glasgow University, I did a bit of open-air preaching with some other other young guys. Most of us did so with ghost-white faces and jelly-knees. We also published and distributed a Christian newspaper for students. I remember handing it out to 300 students at the door of my moral philosophy class, and then entering the lecture auditorium to find 598 angry eyes staring at me (there was one Christian in the class). I must admit that I used to have sleepless nights before such baby-steps of Christian witness. However, I still remember the spiritual power I enjoyed when I tried to memorize Scripture before venturing forth on these mornings. I used to look for two verses: one to remind me of God’s greatness (e.g. Isa 40:12) , and one to remind me of human smallness (e.g. Isa. 40:6). 2. Ponder the potential
When faced with challenges, I have a tendency to focus on all the possible negative outcomes: he will laugh/shout at me, they will leave the congregation, she will slam the door in my face, they will assault me, etc. I have to battle to think and keep thinking about the possible positive outcomes. I especially want to remind myself of the potential of my pathetic witness being used to save a precious soul to the glory of God. “Come on, David, think of what one verse of Scripture can do with God’s blessing….This tract could transform a family…This young man may become a missionary to the Jews…This young Christian woman could be rescued from a miserable marriage to a worldly man…Jesus might be loved by one more person”
3. Seek the En-courager
The Holy Spirit is called the Comforter, which can also be translated “the Encourager,” the one who comes alongside us to prompt, motivate, and move us forward. The most Spirit-filled people I’ve known have been marked by a gentle courage. And that’s quite different to a rude, aggressive, and abrasive spirit that has more to do with nature than with grace. 4. Take baby-steps
Military cadets are not thrown straight into front-line battle. They are broken in gradually; trained and pushed further and further until they are battle-ready. Some Christians, and some Pastors, let the “small” battles pass them by; they’re waiting for the big test; but that never comes. Meanwhile they are softened and weakened more and more by their refusal to fight the “little” fights God brings their way – until they are useless for anything. (Although they are usually fantastic armchair generals). So, don’t view the little fights as beneath you, but as sent by God to train you and gradually build you up for more vicious battles ahead. 5. Serve in the shadow of Calvary
Above all, maintain a daily awareness that, “I am a great sinner, but Christ is a great Savior.” Let the suffering, death, and resurrection of Christ em-power and en-courage you. There is a strange and mysterious energy in grace. It changes “ought-to’s” into “want-to’s,” and conscription into consecration.
UPDATE: Some further thoughts I had last night
6. Trust the Lord with your future
The Lord may ask us to take action that risks our future ministries. We may have to take a stand against powerful people, even Christian leaders, who might not hesitate to use their influence to destroy us and our congregations. Everything is saying, “If you do this, or say that, then your ministry will be terminated, your character will be blackened, you will be put out of the church, your past will be dredged for skeletons, etc.” But we must trust the Lord, not just for our salvation but for our providence. Providential faith is often harder to exercise than saving faith. I once had to do something which I was sure would end my ministry. I’ve never had such a momentous struggle with my conscience. I had to come to the point where I said, “This is my duty. This is the right thing to do. If I lose my character or my ministry, then the will of the Lord be done. If He slay me, yet will I trust in Him.”
7. Hold on to the promises
The Lord has promised that He will honor those who honor Him (1 Sam. 2:30). How many Christian men and women have held on to that promise in the heat of battle. How many have found it to be so abundantly true, no matter how much dishonor may be heaped upon them for a time.
8. Maintain a clear conscience
Nothing weakens a person like an accusing conscience. I’ve seen good men retreat from spiritual battles because of something in their past: “How can I take this action, speak this truth, if I’ve done this or that myself?” The Devil uses these weaknesses: “Who are you to take a stand when you’re no better yourself…” Why was Paul so courageous? Because he exercised himself to have a conscience void of offence before God and man (Acts 24:16).
9. Remember the final judgment
We may have to suffer loss for a few years here on earth. We may see the wicked prosper and the righteous suffer. We may even see good people defend the wicked and oppress the righteous. However, we must all stand before the judgment seat of Christ to give an account for the deeds done in the body. However many unjust judgments are passed upon us here, we may appeal to the final judgment, lay our case there, and wait for the verdict that will both bring forth our judgment like the noon day sun (Ps. 37:6) and also cut down the wicked, no matter how strong their tree may appear (Ps. 37:35-36).
Be of good courage, and He will strengthen your heart (Ps. 27:14).
Here’s the audio from week 2 of my Christian Leadership course lectures at Puritan Reformed Seminary. There are two parts to the lecture: The Humble Servant (1) and (2).And here’s a pdf of the lecture. The previous lecture notes can be found by clicking the “Leadership Lectures” tab below.