On long-weekends, it is the normal practice to sleep-in on the day we're supposed to be working. Since pastors essentially never get days off, I'm not really surprised that I was up at 4:30 this morning (Monday), taking advantage of some 'me time', which is essentially extra time to read while the girls are sleeping comfortably in their nice, warm, cozy, beds.
In my musings, I ran across a book on Pneumatology (i.e. the study of the God the Holy Spirit) written by my former Church History professor, Dr. Michael Haykin, who wrote something that really caught my attention, as there was a deep resonation within my heart of something that the Spirit Himself has been teaching me of late - the priority, preeminence, and power of the Word of God, not only for Christian ministry, but also for everyday Christian life (which of course, is ministry). Haykin writes:
"In the early days of the Reformation in Germany, Martin Luther (1483-1586) reflected on the Reformation truths that he and his colleagues were preaching and publishing were making such a deep impact on various parts of German-speaking Europe. To the God-centered Luther, the answer was patent:
'I simply taught, preached and write God's Word; otherwise I did nothing. And while I slept or drank Wittenburg beer with my friends...the Word so greatly weakened the papacy that no prince or emperor ever inflicted such losses upon it. I did nothing, the Word did everything.'
In emphasizing that "the Word did everything", Luther is not simply giving his personal opinion, but making plain a vital theme in the history of the Christian faith."
Along the same vein, Christian historian/biographer Iain Murray aptly notes, "The advance of the church is ever preceded by a recovery of preaching [the Word]."
Or finally, as David Platt says in his book Radical Together, "the Word of God accomplishes the work of God." Platt rightly continues that it is God's Word, and God's Word alone that "forms and fulfills, motivates and mobilizes, equips and empowers, leads and directs the people of God in church for the plan of God in the world."
Perhaps this was why the apostle Paul asked that the believers in Thessalonica would continue to pray that the Word of God would advance rapidly and consequently be glorified, even as it did among Paul's audience there (my paraphrase of 2 Thes. 3:1).
So often in the church I see us as Christians fall into the carnal trap of praying that God would bless "our ministries". But how rarely do we hear prayers such as "O Lord, that You would bless the ministry of Your Word in that ministry"? If it is the gospel of Jesus Christ that alone evokes regeneration via the ministry of the Holy Spirit, why then are we so man-centered in our prayers, as if God will somehow use our "Word-less" efforts to accomplish His sovereign purposes in His universe?
Oh that we would remember Jesus' parable of the soils, the very one of which our Lord said is the quintessential one to understand (Mark 4:13)! If the Spirit does not cultivate and prepare the hearts (referred to as "soil" by Jesus) of our listeners (this of course assuming that we are being obedient to Christ's command for us to preach the gospel, Mark 16:15), we have - as the psalmist so aptly puts it - labored in vain (cf. Psa. 127:1). Though not all have faith (2 Thes. 3:2), God is faithful (3:3). He will not, nay, He cannot let His Word return to Him void or null; it will most definitely accomplish the very purposes for which He sent it (cf. Isa. 55:11).
If this is true, then let us pray accordingly, preach accordingly, and live accordingly. And when we see the powerful might of God's right hand extended as He furthers His kingdom on earth as it is on heaven, let us with Luther appropriately respond, "We did nothing; the Word did everything."
For Christ and the Supremacy of His Name to the ends of the Earth,
P.S. for the sermon I preached last Sunday night on 2 Thes. 3:1-5, see http://www.sermonaudio.com/sermoninfo.asp?sermonid=8291112232710])