This week I took delivery of a new set of upper front teeth. Not just the front two, but the front six. “The Social Six.” The dentist was able to transform my smile in a matter of two hours. All I had to do was kick back and watch HGTV on a monitor perched above my head, headphones drowning out any unpleasant sounds coming from the procedure.
Sounds easy, right?
If you’ve ever undergone major dental work, you know that I haven’t relayed the entire story. I skipped ahead to the final chapter when I took on a new set of teeth. Previous chapters include… having five teeth fractured in a traumatic college incident. A decade of restoration and bridgework. An ongoing relationship with an oral surgeon. And, most recently, a ten-month process involving multiple 3-D scans, a bone graft, two dental implants, and a month-long porcelain production process. It was necessary for all of these steps to take place in order for me — all of a sudden — to receive a new smile.
A friend of mine is planting a church not far from where I live. The day after Easter, he posted to their Facebook page: “Amazing day. Record attendance. Several salvations. We are just getting started!”
Sounds easy, right?
For anyone who’s ever felt the tug of envy while observing the church (or school or youth ministry ) down the road, remember this: You are only witnessing one part of a much bigger event. Although I rejoice at the successes of my church planting partner, I remember the days when he was ready to throw in the towel. I think back on the spiritual and psychological battles he fought. I recall the second job he had to take on, in order to make ends meet. And I vividly remember the time when every one of the families who moved to Austin with him pulled a Mark 14:50 on him (Then everyone deserted him and fled).
Whenever we see success “all of a sudden,” we are only reading one chapter in a story that’s been going on for quite some time. When the prophet Samuel’s word came to all of Israel (1 Samuel 4:1), it came after years of obscure service, with Samuel ministering in the temple under Eli (1 Samuel 3:1).
Many pastors I know would love to see the Word come to their whole region. They would love to grow their church, grow their influence, and grow their numbers. But not many leaders relish the idea of ministering quietly for decades, serving patiently, praying steadfastly, teaching tirelessly, and setting a Gospel course upon which others might build.
I don’t know what it is exactly that God has called you to do and to be. But I do know that, whatever happens, it will not happen all of a sudden.
Take heart. Believe the Gospel. Make disciples who make disciples. Be steady. Pray. And anticipate all that God has yet to do, in and through Christ our Savior!
Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him. James 1:12 NIV
By Rev. Pete Mueller
Area C, Mission Strategist