The Puritan pastors of the seventeenth century constructed a vehicle to keep pastors moving forward in a Christ-centered and God-glorifying way. We hope you have found encouragement through their writings. Now that you have tasted some of their work, you might consider reading more.
However, their books and sermons will not bring you comfort, encouragement, and true zeal for ministry unless you have the keys to start the engine. One of those keys is beautifully illustrated in Pilgrim’s Progress when Christian is imprisoned in Doubting Castle. Both Christian and Hopeful face the daily beatings and abuse of a giant named Despair. They didn’t have to stay there, however, because Christian had the key called “Promise” all along. That key opened the doors of the dungeon in Doubting Castle. Likewise, discouraged pastors need not stay locked up in the dungeon of despair when there are so many wonderful promises already available to them in God’s Word.
Richard Baxter tells us that there is another tyrant we must break free of to enjoy God’s strength. To enjoy the freedom that Christ has already won for us, consider the tyrant described in a riddle in The Reformed Pastor:
Yet it is so prevalent in some of us, that it inditeth [writes] our discourses, it chooseth our company, it formeth our countenances, it putteth the accent and emphasis upon our words…. It fills some men’s minds with aspiring desires and designs; it possesseth them with envious and bitter thoughts against those who stand in their light, or who, by any means, eclipse their glory, or hinder the progress of their reputation. O what a constant companion, what a tyrannical commander, what a sly and subtle insinuating enemy….
But alas, how frequently doth it go with us to our study, and there sit with us and do our work. How oft doth it choose our subject; and more frequently still, our words and ornaments. God biddeth us to be as plain as we can, for the informing of the ignorant; and as convincing and serious as we are able, for the melting and changing of unchanged hearts. But [it] stands by and contradicteth all, and produceth its toys and trifles, and polluteth rather than polisheth.1Richard Baxter, The Practical Works of the Rev. Richard Baxter, William Orme (London: James Duncan, 1830), 14:154.
This tyrannical enemy is Pride, which can be a terrible slave master for pastors. The apostle Peter says in 1 Peter 5:6–7 that the key to unlock the fetters of this giant is to “humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time: casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.” The key of humility unlocks the door and frees us from the giant Pride, and the key of promise frees us from the giant Despair through encouragement.
Christ is our ultimate encouragement. Dear pastor, your comfort and courage must be Christ, for in Him we find a glory that makes us press on to know Him better (Phil. 3:7–14). Pursue the Redeemer. William Bates (1625–1699) said God’s glory shines in all His works, but “especially his glory is most resplendent in the work of redemption…. It is here that wisdom, goodness, justice, holiness, and power, are united in their highest degree and exaltation.”2William Bates, “The Harmony of the Divine Attributes in the Contrivance and Accomplishment of Man’s Redemption by the Lord Jesus Christ,” in The Whole Works of the Rev. W. Bates, ed. W. Farmer (Harrisonburg, Va.: Sprinkle Publications, 1990), 236.
When our souls are dry and our hearts are heavy, we need a glimpse of glory. John Owen said, “A continual contemplation of the glory of Christ, in his person, office, and grace…will carry us cheerfully, comfortably, and victoriously through life and death, and all that we have to conflict withal in either of them.”3John Owen, “The Glory of Christ,” in Works, 1:277.
Owen said, “Temptations, afflictions, changes, sorrows, dangers, fears, sickness, and pains do fill up no small part of [this present life]. And on the other hand, all our earthly relishes, refreshments, and comforts, are uncertain, transitory, and unsatisfactory; all things of each sort being embittered by the reminders of sin.”4Owen, “The Glory of Christ,” in Works, 1:278.
However, “Our beholding by faith things that are not seen, things spiritual and eternal, will alleviate all our afflictions—make their burden light, and preserve our souls from fainting under them. Of these things the glory of Christ…is the principle, and in a due sense comprehensive of them all. For we behold the glory of God himself ‘in the face of Jesus Christ’ [2 Cor. 4:6].”5Owen, “The Glory of Christ,” in Works, 1:278.
So seek Christ, fellow pastors. Consider the counsels and suggestions of this book with the single-minded aim of knowing Christ better. Even if you walk in darkness and have no light, cling to Christ and do not let Him go.
Annie Hawks and Robert Lowry summarized these thoughts so well in the following verse: “I need Thee every hour, Most Holy One; O make me Thine indeed, Thou blessed Son! I need Thee, O I need Thee; every hour I need Thee! O bless me now, my Savior, I come to Thee.”
Encouragement for Today’s Pastors
Joel R. Beeke &Slachter