¡°A MEMOIR OF A PREACHER'S LIFE¡± By Pastor YAU
Text: Colossians 1:24-29 May 25, 2014.
1) Memoirs of famous people: Many important people in the world, leaders in politics, business, academics or military, had written books that called MEMOIR, reflecting their life experience, events, that impacted the world. Most of those books honestly recorded facts of history and reasons behind them. Some would add or subtract facts or stories to make the author looked better to readers who might not know all the truth. Some had written books like this on their personal account or interpretation which may or may not be true. Others had included events or information that drew criticism or refute of truth. Many of these writer made millions of dollars on their book deals. Books like these do offer important details of history in their related areas of life. Some were written to cash in their life experience for monetary purpose and they were not exactly truthful nor honest record of history.
2) Memoirs of godly people: The four Gospels in the Bible were written not by Jesus but by his disciples and historians as records of life experience and events of his life. In many of the books or epistles written by the Apostle Paul that made up the most part in the N. T. includes lots of material that could be classified as memoir of his life. Here in the first chapter of Colossians, Paul intertwined his life story with the ministry he was called to serve. By reading his writing, we not just learn of the gospel message he brought to the new world, but also learn about Paul, the man and his call, his life experience as a servant of God and how he dealt with issues that related to many preachers after him. One thing that stands out in his writing of the books in the Bible, in contrast to many or all the memoirs of men in history, this memoirs of Paul never lose its importance in history, but other memoirs had lost their value only in a few years. How many of us still care what Jimmy Carter or Bill Clinton or Karl Marx or Chairman Mao said or what Lee Iscooca did when he saved the automaker Chrysler from bankruptcy about 30 some years ago?
ON THE POSITIONS OF A PREACHER'S LIFE:
1) Paul took on the position of a slave: ¡°Paul, a slave of Christ, Jesus.¡± (Romans 1:1) This is the original Greek text which was translated ¡°servant¡± both in KJV and NIV. He use doulos, slave, to identify him with his Master the Lord Jesus Christ. This use of ¡°slave¡± to call himself denotes his relationship with Jesus, his Master who had purchased him and set him free. ¡°Slave¡± also denotes the sense of ¡°belonging¡±, once you are a slave, you are slave for life; once Jesus is his Master, he is his Master for life. Throughout the 2,000 years of Christian history, most preachers believed and held the call to serve the Lord as a life long call and commitment: once you present your life on the altar, you belong to God forever and can't take it back.
2) Paul took on the position of an apostle: ¡°Paul, called to be an apostle of Christ Jesus.¡± (1 Cor. 1:1) Apostle, apostolos in Greek is a compound word, apo, forth, and stello, to send. So, apostle means the one who was sent forth, and in this case sent forth to present the gospel message. This title has to do with the purpose of his call by the will of God. God didn't call Paul to be someone with title or honor but someone with a mission: God sent him to bring his message to the world so men may be saved. By far, this is the most favorite title Paul loved to use. He used it in many other epistle in the Bible.
3) Paul took on the position of a deacon: ¡°I am made a deacon, (minister in KJV, servant in NIV) according to the commission of God.¡± (Col. 1:25) Diakonos, is used in Acts 6, when the Jerusalem Church selected six men to serve tables in the church. Most Bible scholar agree that ¡°servant¡± is the most accurate translation of this word. The later word ¡°deacons¡± had become title of honor, power and prestige in the church which was never there in the Bible. When Paul called himself a ¡°deacon¡±, he reflects his nature of his work in the church and the people, he was sent to be a servant, serving the needs of the people, in this case, the gospel of salvation.
ON EXPERIENCE OF A PREACHER'S LIFE: (1:24-26)
1) Paul never sought to be a preacher: ¡°I was made a deacon (servant) of the gospel.¡± (1:25) Paul never sought to be a preacher or a servant/deacon. He was called or made one by the Lord Jesus Christ. This is how most, if not all, preachers were called and made. Throughout the history, very few people actively seek to become preachers, and a few did, they won't be successful for the ministry of the gospel is totally from the Lord, not from man. The life of a preacher is never desirable nor plausible by most people in the world. Historically, preachers were not well respected in the society in terms of status of fame, wealth or power. For a few years I tried hard to run away from being called to be a preacher when my life was considered by many as good with bright future. It is a process of surrendering personal goal of life to the call of God many of the preachers were made. Surrender is the key. You need to relinquish your rights to obey God's plan in your life to be called a servant.
2) Paul suffered a lot as a preacher: ¡°Now I rejoice in what was suffered for you.¡± (1:24) Paul was in prison at Rome when he wrote this and other letters to the early churches. The chronicles of his suffering was recorded in part in 1 Cor. 11:23-33 which includes physical, emotional, material and relational. Most Christians will never understand the pain and suffering preachers go through in their lives. The sacrifices of preachers were beyond description. Many of the called nowadays prefer not to become preachers or pastors in churches, but on staff of ministries, missionaries or Christian organizations in which you do not take a pay check directly from their people and so they are not directly answerable to anyone or responsible for any problems. A peep in the life a preacher is a good opportunity to understand those who were called, surrendered their lives to shoulder the gospel ministry God called them to do. Paul clearly said: ¡°He suffered for the sake of the Colossian Christians.¡±
3) Paul was undeterred as a preacher: ¡°That I might fully carry out the preaching of the word of God.¡± (1:25b) Again, in 2 Timothy 4:7, he said: ¡°I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.¡± We see a tremendous commitment of Paul and his endurance to finish the call from God. To answer the call of God is never easy; to keep staying in his call is much harder. Throughout the 45 years of being a pastor/preacher, I have faced many temptations to quit God and His call. Both my family, friends and myself believe strongly I can make a much better living with less sacrifices and more freedom and prestige if I retract my commitment to God. Both my kids saw it how hard it is to live in a preacher's family: They never live in a bigger house, never able to buy things they want, never had their own car until after they graduated from college and got their first job. It is a constant struggle to keep the call alive and not quit. That is why I personally have so much respect of Paul in his determination to stay on the course as a preacher. If you wonder why none of my kids is a preacher after me? The main reason is they were scared to live a preacher's life again in their lives.
ON THE MINISTRY OF A PREACHER'S LIFE: (1:26-29)
1) The focus of his ministry: ¡°That is the mystery which has been hidden from the past ages and the generations; but has now been manifested to his saints, to who God willed to make known what is the riches of the glory of the mystery among the Gentiles which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.¡± (1:26-27) If you feel that these 2 verses of the Bible is hard to read and much harder to understand, basically it is about the gospel message hidden in the past but now is made open to the Gentiles. Focusing on the gospel, salvation of souls by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ was the ministry of Paul and that of millions of preachers after him. There is always temptations to swirl away from the gospel message many preachers has stumbled and fallen flat. Many preachers, pastors, leaders of churches and denominations have abandoned the gospel message, turned to social programs, political advancement or even to cult cultures that is far away from what Paul was called to accomplish. All preachers and pastors called by God's will should always keep preaching the Bible, nothing but the Bible, to be faithful to God's call. When preachers are led to stray away from God's word, their influence will harm many of those who follow their footsteps into heresy against God's word.
2) The dimensions of his ministry: ¡°And we proclaim him, admonish every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, that we may present every man complete in Christ.¡± (1:28) There are three ways Paul employed in his ministry of the Word: a) Proclaiming Him, Jesus is Christ, the Savior of the world. b) Admonishing every man, counsel their Christian life in the right way and exercise correction of their sin and wrong. c) Teaching every man to deepen in the word of God, to impart the truth of God's word so Christians become disciples. These three are the main parts of a preacher's responsibility to fulfill the call of God. Preachers are not CEOs, not organizers, promoters of activities, even church activities. They are not fund raisers or managers of church money. There are many able people in churches who can do all these jobs better than preachers can. As Peter said in Acts 6:2, 4, ¡°It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the Word of God in order to wait on tables....We will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the Word.¡± Preachers may not be good in other things, but they must be good in the imparting of God's Word to God's people¡ªfeed God's sheep.
3) The power of his ministry: ¡°And for this purpose also I labor, struggle with all his energy which so powerfully works in me.¡± (1:29) ¡°Labor¡±, kopiao in Greek, means to struggle at work to exhaustion. Doing God's ministry is not anything easy; although some of you may think that way. Struggle or striving is from agonizomai from which we have ¡°agonizing¡± in English. Paul found the source of energy to sustain his ministry and that is the power, dunamei, or dynamite, from God that worked in him. Preachers, teachers and all who serve in God's church and his ministries, all need that sustaining power of God in us to keep us alive, strong and productive. This has to do with personal time with God in reading his word and prayer. Jesus said it clearly: ¡°Apart from me, you can do nothing.¡± (John 15:5) Anyone who neglects the connection with Christ, he will not have God's power in him and will not be productive in imparting God's Word to God's people.
1) Impact of life on others: As we all live among people our life could impact others with or without our knowing. Many who lived their lives very much for themselves didn't leave much footprints on anyone. Others whose lived their lives in a negative way might leave scars of wound in the lives of others. History in public and private is the most fair judge of our lives for good or evil on others. How many people had lived their lives as did the apostle Paul in terms of leading people to God through his life journey? Although none of us may measure up to Paul's stature, we all could learn from him, from his commitment, discipline, fervency and determination in his answering the call of God. Jesus wants us to be the light of the world, that might be overwhel-mingly too much for us. How about we strive hard to be the light of our own circle of life, people among whom we live, work and serve the Lord.
2) Getting to know your preacher: Surprisingly, Paul used quite a bit of his writing to paint a portrait of himself to his readers, both on his strength and weakness, his triumph and failures, his courage of admonishing others and his humble requests on his needs of support from his people. Too often, we only see our preachers on the pulpit, expounding God's teaching. How often do we realize that they are as human as all of us and they need understanding and support like all of us do. The invisible screen between the clergy and laity is no longer needed between preachers and members in the churches. We are all called to serve the Lord in different position, capacity in meeting different needs. We should spend time and showing love to each other in God's church.