What’s happening when we don’t even know it
Eric S. Roecker
I had no idea.
This was what went through my mind as I read his letter.
The impact of ministry
Let’s call him “Jim.” He had been a member of my church for a few years. Jim was a retired widower. He had been without a church home for some time when I met him. Now he was a regular. Every Sunday morning he attended worship and Bible class. He was a sweet, gentle sort of soul. He enjoyed painting and was a gifted artist. We had a few extended conversations over the years. But most of our interaction was the sort of small talk pastors tend to have with their members on Sunday mornings—so many people and so little time.
This is why I was so surprised—and touched—by his letter. He had written it because I had been called by another church to serve as its pastor. He wanted to let me know why he thought it would be best if I continued serving at my current congregation.
It was not surprising that his letter was thoughtful and intelligent. I would expect nothing else from Jim. What I did not expect were the two ways he told me my ministry had impacted him. Allow me to share some of what he wrote:
“You are, I’m sure, not aware of how you helped me accept my recent eyesight crisis. . . .” Jim’s eyesight was failing from disease. He had told me that he was no longer able to paint. The sadness in his eyes as he told me about losing the great love of his life had been heart-wrenching. “I have not only accepted my handicap but consider it a blessing and thank our Lord. Several of your sermons and quotes from Paul’s book of Romans were deciding factors. I’m painting again, with a different technique and renewed enthusiasm.”
He went on, “You, Pastor, have helped me (unbeknownst to you) resolve some serious problems with my marriage that surfaced after my wife’s death. Your instruction in Bible class strengthened my Christian faith and helped me to face my wife’s behavior during our near 60 years of marriage. . . . I was able to forgive her only recently. The clincher was some consoling words of yours at a Sunday morning education hour. I was miserable before I forgave her; you showed me the power of forgiveness.”
I was stunned. I had known that Jim’s eyesight was failing, and I had known a bit about his troubled marriage. But I had absolutely no idea how God had used my ministry to impact his life. All that time, preaching all those sermons and teaching all those Bible classes, the Holy Spirit had been working in Jim’s heart to help and to heal . . . and I had no idea.
The impact of God’s truth
So, it is. So, it is not just for pastors, but for all of God’s people. We simply cannot know all that God is doing through us. This is especially important to remember when we share our faith with those who do not know their Savior. We can easily become discouraged if we don’t see the results we want. We can begin to believe it is doing no good.
But it is. Even when we are unaware, it is.
Jesus said something very interesting in Luke chapter 10. The 72 men he had sent out to preach the gospel had returned. After hearing their report about their mission trip, Jesus said, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven” (Luke 10:18). In other words, while those men proclaimed the gospel, Jesus saw what was happening in the supernatural realm. Satan was being defeated. God’s truth was being proclaimed. Whenever God’s truth is being proclaimed, the devil’s lies are being defeated.
But it sure doesn’t seem that way. It seems like Satan is doing quite well. Christianity is on the decline in the West. Basic rights and wrongs aren’t so basic anymore. Mentioning Jesus in the workplace can bring a reprimand, even as believers are force-fed anti-Christian ideologies. Say that you are convinced that the Bible is true and you risk being laughed out of the room. It doesn’t look like Satan is doing much falling. It looks like he is gaining ground. We appear helpless, and all we do seems to be losing ground.
But looks can be deceiving. There are spiritual realities happening that we cannot see.
Every time the good news of Jesus is proclaimed, every time a newborn baby is bathed in Baptism, every time God’s people are assured of his forgiveness as they receive his Holy Supper, Satan is falling like lightning from the sky. God’s truth trumps Satan’s lies.
The impact of sharing your faith
Remember this! Remember it when you are proclaiming God’s truth to your wayward friend, your questioning coworker, or your skeptical schoolmate. It may seem like it is having no effect. It may seem like a waste of words. But remember that whenever God’s Word is proclaimed, unseen spiritual warfare is being waged. Victories are being won that you may not be aware of for years, perhaps not until eternity.
Jesus once made the same promise in a different way. He said, “This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man scatters seed on the ground. Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how. All by itself the soil produces grain—first the stalk, then the head, then the full kernel in the head. As soon as the grain is ripe, he puts the sickle to it, because the harvest has come” (Mark 4:26-29). We scatter the seed of God’s Word. He makes faith grow. We may not see it. We may not know it. But it is happening. We have his word on it.
So, go ahead! Lovingly remind your wayward friend that she has a God who loves her and wants nothing more than to spend eternity with her. Go ahead! Lovingly tell your questioning coworker that there are answers to his questions—and then tell him what the answers are. Go ahead! Lovingly spar with your skeptical schoolmate, not to win an argument but to proclaim the gospel and to save a soul. Go ahead and tell the people the Lord has brought into your life all that he has done to give them eternal life.
And as you do, picture Satan falling like lightning.
Author: Eric S. Roecker
Volume 106, Number 4
Issue: April 2019
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