As I reminded my congregation last Sunday, I’ve been serving as the pastor of a local church for a little more than 13 years now (having served as a campus minister for the 13 years before that). Thankfully, I have loved this work, and I hope to continue doing it faithfully for many years to come. But having said that, I also acknowledge that there have been and continue to be so many ways in which I feel unequal to the task. The personal crises that confront the members of my church family…the theological questions that create dissension within the Body of Christ…the conundrum of discerning how we should “do church” in the midst of a constantly changing culture…all of these challenges and more make me keenly aware that no amount of training, hard work, or personal giftedness could enable me to do what needs to be done.
As a result, I have come to value deeply and to pray regularly the prayer that Solomon prayed in today’s Old Testament lesson. He had just become a king, not a pastor. But his words (“tweaked” here slightly to reflect the way that I pray them) showed the kind of humility and focus I hope always to maintain:
“Your servant is here among the people you have chosen…So give your servant a discerning heart to shepherd your people and to distinguish between right and wrong. For who is able to shepherd this great people of yours?” (1 Kings 3:8-9)
Isn’t this a prayer for all of us? For who among us really knows how best to parent God’s people? or teach God’s people? or conduct business with God’s people? or provide healing for God’s people? or (insert your calling here)?
But especially when we’re prepared to humble ourselves before the Lord, He’s prepared to lift us up — not for the sake of our personal success (although God might be gracious and provide a little of that, too) — but for the sake of His glory, which is always served well when His people are taught, healed, encouraged, fed, housed, served, and even pastored in ways that allow them to experience His goodness and walk in His ways.
May God grant us discerning hearts today, so that we can bless His people and serve His purpose to the praise of His glorious grace.