Sustaining the Weary with a Word

by | Sep 10, 2021 | Articles About Preaching

Note: I originally shared this post on my other blog, which I’ve slowly transitioned to a more professional website than a personal one. Because this post is a window into my own heart and soul for pastoring people, I’ve moved it here in hopes of encouraging other spiritual leaders to keep going, even if you keep going in a context you didn’t imagine when you first said “Yes!” to God’s calling.

This morning, I opened my Bible to Isaiah 50:4-9, one of the passages assigned for this coming weekend in The Revised Common Lectionary.

And God met me there.

The first few lines of the passage are:

The Lord GOD has given me the tongue of a teacher, that I may know how to sustain the weary with a word.

When I stepped away from Grace Hills in April of 2021, Angie and I were hopeful for a season of rest and refreshing. But the last few months have, instead, been the darkest valley through which I’ve ever walked.

I’ve been overwhelmed with doubt, especially about myself.

If I’m not a Pastor, who am I? Of what use is my life? Do I have a word for a weary world anymore? Will anyone even care? Has God given up on me?

In my final year at Grace Hills, I spoke often concerning the application of the gospel to the lives of the oppressed, the marginalized, the poor, and the underprivileged.

I learned the hard way about the level of pushback one receives when challenging the privilege of predominantly white, conservative, middle-class Americans living comfortably in a fairly affluent community.

Honestly, my message hadn’t radically changed, but the culture around me was becoming more volatile. Certain issues had become politicized and weaponized, particularly by conservative media personalities.

The message I kept hearing was simple… Stick to the gospel and avoid “politics.” (Translation: Only talk about the aspects of the gospel that don’t challenge the privileged.)

But there were words shut up in my bones, like a fire in my stomach. I was weary of holding back. The world needed to know that God particularly favors the least, the last, and the lost.

Jesus came to challenge our American Dream version of the gospel. As evangelicals, we’ve spent decades framing the gospel as purely a matter of personal salvation. We’ve ignored the reality that Jesus’ life and death were also intended to obliterate oppressive power structures and gather a new community of people following the way of Jesus.

Perhaps one of my greatest regrets in life is having allowed all of those opposing voices to convince me to hold my tongue.

While leaving Grace Hills was the right decision at the time for a variety of reasons, I made the tragic mistake of believing that my voice wasn’t needed or valued anymore.

So, back to Isaiah’s words.

My wife, Angie, ever the encourager of my soul, continues to remind me that there is a calling and gifting upon my life for the task of teaching, speaking, preaching, and writing. My friends and family have often echoed her message. But I’ve admittedly been stubbornly resistant to their positive reminders and have instead languished in a sea of self-pity.

And today, God highlighted these words to me afresh…

The Lord GOD has given me the tongue of a teacher, that I may know how to sustain the weary with a word.

I don’t believe any scripture can be lifted from its context and given a new meaning. But I do believe that God uses all kinds of messages to communicate personally to our hearts. His Spirit turned this verse toward my heart with his own powerful reminder about who I am and what I’m on earth to accomplish.

So… it’s time to speak up.

To be faithful to God’s urging, and for the sake of my relationship with him, it’s time for me to repent of selfishness and self-pity, of making excuses and giving myself over to distraction from my life mission.

It’s time to forgive and to commit to loving God and loving people and living out the way of Jesus intentionally and passionately.

It’s time to speak again. To write. To preach. To teach.

This may or may not happen in the context of a pastoral ministry within the church. I leave that to God and will be obedient to whatever he makes clear about his will.

I just know that I’m tired of being quiet. Of believing I don’t matter anymore. I’m ready to ascend from the valley and I’m so grateful to God for sustaining me there.

Please pray for me. Pray for my spirit to be humble and my heart to be strong and bold. Pray for a fresh wind of creativity and vision to break through in my head.

The world is weary, and I have a word.

And by the way, both Preaching for Change and Walk Humble have arisen and been sustained by this sense of calling to the larger body of Christ, for which I am so thankful.

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