I started writing this blog after meeting with one of the Pastors at the church we are currently attending, having shared with him the struggles I face as a man who has persistently pursued ministry for the past 38 years.
He shared a story with me found in Hebrews which I had never connected to my experience:
And what more shall I say? For time would fail me to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets — who through faith conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, received promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched raging fire, escaped the edge of the sword, won strength out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. Women received their dead by resurrection.
Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, that they might rise again to a better life. Others suffered mocking and scourging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword; they went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, ill-treated — of whom the world was not worthy — wandering over deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth. And all these, though well attested by their faith, did not receive what was promised, since God had foreseen something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect.
Heb 11:32-40 (RSV)
One has to remember that scripture promises the latter to the Christian. We were warned that we are to suffer for the cause of Christ. Therefore, the norm is the suffering Christian not the “successful” Christian.
In a modern context, you have some that are blessed by God with long pastorates, dynamic ministries, good pay, steady employment, and “growing” churches. I know “pastors” living in mansions, driving the best of cars, and living financially secure. Then you have the others, like me, who have a different experience. They may have sacrificed retirements, careers, and security. They may have graduated seminary, but still waiting on God while most churches seek those billboard pastors. Faithfully serving God with little to no pay.
How then do we reconcile those who teach prosperity gospel? They seem to stop the story in Hebrews 34a and omit the rest of the inerrant teaching of scripture to make their point which is then taken completely out of context. They seem to miss the point that God has chosen NOT to bless some with materialism while others revel in it.
When Enoch had lived sixty-five years, he became the father of Methu’selah. Enoch walked with God after the birth of Methu’selah three hundred years, and had other sons and daughters. Thus all the days of Enoch were three hundred and sixty-five years. Enoch walked with God; and he was not, for God took him.
Gen 5:21-24 (RSV)
God owes us nothing. If we “walk with God,” our story may not end up any more than a short paragraph in the history of this great universe. Nonetheless, we who are spiritual must persevere.
Notice that we have here a man who lived about 4 1/2 times the modern lifespan, and all we learn here about him is that he fathered Methu’selah, and “walked with God…” Then the curious thing, “and he was not…because God took him.”
I heard a sermon Sunday that put me to thinking on this. The preacher spoke about Enoch and made the point that “He walked with God and was not.” The end of the message gave the one point that was essential here. God’s name is “I am.” Our name is “I’m not.”
As the preacher said last Sunday, will you walk with God and “become a not?”
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