A Brief Meditation for the Month

April 2024

The grace of patience is recognized as the fruit of the Spirit in the life of a child of God. It characterizes the true Christian, who is “patient in tribulation” Romans 12:12. However, it is becoming less of a virtue in our contemporary society as more and more commodities are required to be supplied instantly, from instant coffee and fast food to instant photos and immediate delivery. It is becoming increasingly difficult to escape from such a demanding environment, but when such a frame of mind creeps insidiously into Christian society and into the life and the ministry of the Church, it becomes alarming. Instant sermons are nowadays available on the internet for the busy pastor with no time available for sermon preparation. He just needs enough intelligence to be able to download someone else’s thoughts and read them to his unsuspecting audience. Since instant worship services are likewise available from the same source, there is no need for supposed worshippers to bother themselves about appropriate or respectable public appearance in a congregation and before God who is to be worshipped. Furthermore, such religion often does not require any commitment to any congregation, nor submission to any pastoral oversight but provides the option to pick and choose what appeals to one’s personal tastes and preferences. However, sadly, where public assemblies for worship services are retained, they are regularly intimated as morning or evening programmes. The pulpit and the preacher have become antiquated oddities and have been replaced by the platform for performers, which has evolved in many places into the stage for prancing entertainers. This has increasingly become ‘Church’ in our generation.

At the risk of being ridiculed as old-fashioned and out of touch with reality, might I suggest that if the contemporary Church is to advance, we need to take some steps back. We need to return to our Bibles to discover what the worship of God is and what the ministry of the Church ought to be. At the end of three years of ministry in Ephesus, the apostle Paul stated: “I kept back nothing that was profitable unto you, but have taught you publicly, and from house to house…For I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God.” Acts 20:20&27. With his years of personal experience, he advised Timothy, his younger companion in the ministry, that if he fulfilled certain obligations, he would “be a good minister of Jesus Christ.” 1 Timothy 4:6. Whether Timothy would be a good minister according to the standards of men was irrelevant. His chief concern was to strive to be “a good minister of Jesus Christ,” fulfilling Christ’s commission, to teach them to “observe all things whatsoever I have commanded.” Matthew 28:20. The apostle further advised Timothy: “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” 2 Timothy 2:15. In light of such advice, a good and faithful minister of Jesus Christ, even in our ‘high-tech’ generation, is required, or rather, commanded, to be a diligent student of the Scriptures. God’s word, the Bible, must be his textbook and his sole authority for what he proclaims. As such, a studious minister, or any studious believer for that matter, becomes more familiar with the word of God, and with the God of the word, so they become more knowledgeable of God as “The God of patience,” Romans 15:5. The personal experiential knowledge God’s children is continually increasing, and they appreciate more and more that if God dealt with any of us as we deserve, we would perish. Therefore, if anything should be instant, it ought to be our gratitude to God for his patience and forbearance.

G. G. Hutton.