Whose image and inscription is this?… Therefore give back to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s.
Matthew 22:20, 21
We will not have to look further than the stirrings of our own heart for an explanation of our conduct. Jesus spoke a parable about the wedding banquet, and the Pharisees’ hearts were not softened, leading to repentance, but instead was hardened even further, which fueled their resentment towards Him.
The Pharisees and the Herodians did not see eye to eye. The Pharisees despised the rule of a foreign power, and the Herodians advocated the supremacy of Caesar. But their shared vision of hatred united them in their pursuit to ensnare our Lord.
The pride of the enemies of Jesus presumed their wisdom and intellect was superior to His. Together, they plotted and formulated questions they assumed Jesus would be unable to unravel, and thus they imagined they could easily trap Him by His words. Flattery is insincere praise used to further the interest of the flatterer. So with deceit in their heart, their approach was to use flattery in an attempt to draw out His pride (As if the Darling of Heaven suffered pride in His heart as they did.).
They began by calling Him teacher, but their hearts did not respect Him. They applauded His morality by saying He was truthful, but they did not believe He taught the truth of God. They praised Him for His fearlessness and impartiality, but they thought He was out for Himself. Familiar with how the pride of man operates, Jesus’ enemies were certain the flattering techniques would throw Him off guard. Interestingly, what they said was right, but the eyes of their heart could not perceive it. We should take note that when flattery begins to emerge, knowingly or unknowingly, prideful insincerity is at work to deceive. What Jesus’ enemies failed to calculate was that His brilliance could see through the flattery straight to their malice. He was able to unravel their questions and answer them in a way they never imagined He could.
We must ask for the Lord’s wisdom and knowledge so that we can see through flattery, unravel puzzling situations, understand with clarity, and can answer questions with God’s wisdom and knowledge. As we ask this Lord, we also ask for assistance in casting down our pride so that we are not enticed with the temptation of the Pharisees.
Humility is pride’s enemy. The guidance of God says wisdom comes with humility (Proverbs 11:2), and if we want to be honored, humility must come first (Proverbs 15:33, 18:12, Luke 14:10). Oh, that we would be encouraged by Christ, comforted by His love, and desire more fellowship with His Spirit! May we overflow with affection and mercy. May we no longer be driven by rivalry and conceit, but in humility, may we consider others as more important than ourselves. May we not only look out for our own interests but also for the interests of others (Philippians 2:1-4). In the name, power, and authority of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, we ask for humility to work powerfully in us to kill our pride. Amen.
In His grace,
❀ Christward: A Hopeful and Joyful Embrace of Jesus Christ of Nazareth (Available at Amazon)
Greetings fellow sojourners! As we approach Holy Week, let’s behold the days in the life of Jesus and the disciples by contemplating the significance of each day leading up to and including the Resurrection. Perhaps you would like to print each day of the week and post it in a visible place in your home as you consider the day’s events and their spiritual significance in your life. Let’s ask the Lord to tender our hearts to everything that transpired and let’s be eager to learn what He shows us. I encourage you to read the events for yourself as you will find more details that will bless you.
Jesus began his trip to Jerusalem. Nearing the village of Bethphage, he sent two of his disciples ahead, telling them to look for a donkey and bring it to him. Then Jesus sat on the young donkey and slowly, humbly, made his triumphal entry into Jerusalem, fulfilling the prophecy in Zechariah 9:9. “Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion! Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”
The crowds welcomed him by waving palm branches in the air and shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!”
On Palm Sunday, Jesus and his disciples spent the night in Bethany where Lazarus and his two sisters Mary and Martha lived. Perhaps they hosted him and his disciples.
Matthew 21:1-11, Mark 11:1-11, Luke 19:28-44, John 12:12-19
Jesus returned with his disciples to Jerusalem. Along the way, he cursed a fig tree because it had failed to bear fruit. This symbolism extends to all believers, demonstrating that genuine faith is more than just outward religion but true living faith must bear spiritual fruit in a person’s life.
When Jesus arrived at the Temple he found the courts full of corrupt money changers. He declared, “My Temple will be a house of prayer, but you have turned it into a den of thieves.” (Luke 19:46) What is the condition of your “temple?”
That night he probably stayed in Bethany again.
Matthew 21:12-22, Mark 11:12-19, Luke 19:45-48, John 2:13-25
Jesus returned with his disciples to Jerusalem. They passed the withered fig tree on their way, and Jesus spoke to his companions about the importance of faith.
Back at the Temple, religious leaders were upset at Jesus for establishing himself as a spiritual authority. They attempted to arrest him but Jesus evaded their traps. He addressed the scribes and Pharisees seven times with, “Woe to you” before He identified each sin. “Blind guides!…For you are like whitewashed tombs – beautiful on the outside but filled on the inside with dead people’s bones and all sorts of impurity. Outwardly you look like righteous people, but inwardly your hearts are filled with hypocrisy and lawlessness…Snakes! Sons of vipers! How will you escape the judgment of hell?” Matthew 23:24-33
Later that afternoon, Jesus left the city and went with his disciples to the Mount of Olives. He gave his Olivet Discourse, an elaborate prophecy about the destruction of Jerusalem and the end of the age. Jesus again uses symbolic examples regarding end time events, his Second Coming, and the final judgment.
This is the day Judas Iscariot negotiated with the Sanhedrin, the rabbinical court, to betray Jesus. Matthew 26:14-16
Jesus and his disciples probably returned to Bethany to stay the night.
Matthew 21:23-26:5, Mark 11:20-13:37, Luke 20:1-21:36, John 12:20-43
Scholars speculate that Jesus spent this day resting in Bethany in anticipation of Passover. A few nights earlier, Lazarus’ sister Mary had lovingly anointed the feet of Jesus with pure and expensive fragrant oil. By pouring the fragrant oil on His body, she prepared Him for burial, and Jesus said it was beautiful.
Matthew 26:6-16, Mark 14:3-9, John 12:1-7
From Bethany, Jesus sent Peter and John ahead to the Upper Room in Jerusalem to make the preparations for the Passover Feast. Jesus said, “I have been very eager to eat this Passover meal with you before my suffering begins. For I tell you now that I won’t eat this meal again until its meaning is fulfilled in the Kingdom of God.” Luke 22:15-16
As the Lamb of God, Jesus was about to fulfill the meaning of Passover by giving his body to be broken and his blood to be shed in sacrifice, freeing us from sin and death. Jesus established the Lord’s Supper (Communion), instructing his followers to continually remember his sacrifice by sharing in the elements of bread and wine. Luke 22:19-20
That evening after sunset, Jesus washed the feet of his disciples as they prepared to share in the Passover. Jesus demonstrated by this humble act how believers should love one another.
Later, Jesus and the disciples left the Upper Room and went to the Garden of Gethsemane, where He prayed in agony to God. Jesus took Peter, James, and John with him and asked them to stay awake and pray so that they would not enter into temptation. Are you ‘awake?’
Jesus was betrayed in the Garden with a kiss by Judas Iscariot and arrested by the Sanhedrin. He was taken to the home of Caiaphas, the High Priest, where the whole council had gathered to begin making their case against Him.
In the early morning hours, as Jesus’ trial was getting underway, Peter denied knowing Him three times before the rooster crowed.
Matthew 26:17-75, Mark 14:12-72, Luke 22:7-62, John 13:1-38
Judas Iscariot was overcome with remorse and hanged himself Friday morning.
Before 9 am, Jesus endured the shame of false accusations, condemnation, mockery, beatings, and abandonment. After multiple unlawful trials, he was sentenced to death by crucifixion. Before Christ was led away, soldiers spit on him, tormented and mocked him, and pierced him with a crown of thorns. Jesus then carried his own cross to Calvary where he was mocked and insulted as Roman soldiers nailed him to the wooden cross.
Jesus spoke these statements while on the Cross:
~ Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing. Luke 23:34
~ He said to one of the criminals next to him, I assure you: Today you will be with Me in paradise. Luke 23:43
~ About 3 in the afternoon Jesus cried out with a loud voice, “My God, My God why have You forsaken Me?” Matthew 27:46
~ Father, into your hands, I commit my spirit. Luke 23:46
About 3 pm, Jesus breathed his last breath and died.
By 6 pm Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea took Jesus’ body down from the cross and lay it in a tomb.
Matthew 27:1-62, Mark 15:1-47, Luke 22:63-23:56, John 18:28-19:37
Jesus’ body lay in the tomb, where it was guarded by Roman soldiers throughout the day on Saturday, which was the Sabbath. When Sabbath ended at 6pm, Christ’s body was ceremonially treated for burial with spices purchased by Nicodemus. “He bought about seventy-five pounds of perfumed ointment made from myrrh and aloes. Following Jewish burial custom, they wrapped Jesus’ body with the spices in long sheets of linen cloth.” John 19:39-40
Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea were members of the Sanhedrin, the court that had condemned Jesus Christ to death. For a time, both men had lived as secret followers of Jesus, afraid to make a public profession of faith because of their prominent positions. Because they were both deeply affected by Christ’s death, they boldly came out of hiding, willing to risk their reputations and lives because they knew he was Messiah. Together they cared for Jesus’ body and prepared it for burial.
Jesus Christ paid the penalty for sin by offering the perfect, spotless sacrifice. He conquered death, both spiritually and physically, securing our eternal salvation. “For you know that God paid a ransom to save you from the empty life you inherited from your ancestors. And the ransom he paid was not mere gold and silver. He paid for you with the precious lifeblood of Christ, the sinless, spotless Lamb of God.” 1 Peter 1:18-19
Matthew 27:62-66, Mark 16:1, Luke 23:56, John 19:40-42
Early Sunday morning, several women (Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Salome, and Mary the mother of James) went to the tomb and discovered that the large stone covering the entrance had been rolled away. An angel announced: “Don’t be afraid! I know you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He isn’t here! He is risen from the dead, just as he said would happen.” Matthew 28:5-6
On the day of his resurrection, Jesus Christ made several appearances. The first person to see him was Mary Magdalen. Jesus also appeared to Peter, to the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, and later that day to all the disciples except Thomas, while they were gathered in a house for prayer.
“Peace to you!”
Matthew 28:1-13, Mark 16:1-14, Luke 24:1-49, John 20:1-23
Greetings fellow sojourners! Perhaps you have heard the ‘knives out’ phrase recently. It refers to people who blame or punish someone unjustly, deliberately causing them problems. Families are a wonderful blessing of God, but like people, they tend to be less than perfect, and some can be worse than others. In 2 Samuel Joab created some family chaos when he choose not to see God’s sovereignty in his circumstances but instead looked to his dark jealousy resulting in him bringing out a sharp knife to revenge his offended heart. In all our disputes, it is far better to bring peace, not a sword into our relationships. To do this will require complete trust in God’s sovereignty in every area of our life ~ even and especially the part that seems most out of control.
Absalom had appointed Amasa over the army in place of Joab. Amasa was the son of Jether, an Ishmaelite who had married Abigail, the daughter of Nahash and sister of Zeruiah the mother of Joab.
2 Samuel 17:25
When Absalom conquered Jerusalem and Abigail’s son, Amasa, became commander of the rebel army, his mother may have rejoiced that he’d gained such a grand position. But before long, Abigail would have understood the turmoil and danger that faced her child. Because soon, rebellious Absalom was dead, and her son was labeled a traitor to King David.
Then, in a peacemaking twist, King David offered Amasa the position of commander of his army, setting aside Joab, Abigail’s nephew, who had that job. Again, Abigail must have been on top of the world and relieved that her child was both safe and trusted by the king.
But what a family feud David’s decision started! Jealous Joab responded by killing his new commander with a single stab of his knife. A situation that seemed so promising instantly turned to tragedy. Believer, instead of having our knives out, let’s allow God full access to search our hearts in order to reveal anything there that is prone to offense. Any heart stoked by an offensive ‘sword’ that has not first had the Spirit of God bring it deliverance, will retaliate. Lord, search my heart and know me. If there is any offensive way in me, reveal it to me so that I may yield it to Your healing. I desire everything in my heart to be transformed by the power of your love.
Why am I so depressed? Why this turmoil within me? Put your hope in God, for I will still praise Him, my Savior and my God. I am deeply depressed; therefore I remember You…
Sorrow here is put to the question. “Why am I so depressed? Why this turmoil within me?” The words imply that God’s people have the habit of pressing down their own souls. That by our own sin, turmoil roars within us and tosses us around. This pressing down of our soul and the resulting turmoil creates more trouble for ourselves than the devil tempts us to.
We should always be quick to consider how much of God’s providence is in our affliction. Why are we downcast if we know that the Father is aware of our difficulty and would have stopped its course had it not been best for us? Like David, we shall not murmur as if God has treated us wrongly. The wisdom of His providence is always acting on our behalf. Oh Lord that we may be strengthened and comforted to bear with you and not be guilty of casting down our soul and allowing turmoil to reign within us as if we had no hope.
Resolve for the anchor of your soul to search for the present fruit in your trouble, however small you imagine the fruit to be, so that you may praise Him even in your painful experiences. When we allow our soul to become despondent, we make it disquieted, and thus, we are unable to praise. When the anchor of our soul is hope in God, this hope will unbridle us from the heavy yoke of anxiety and worry. Hope in the Lord is an expectation founded on faith in God and leads the soul to wait for him. The expectant soul does not cast itself down but hopes for the goodness of the Lord to be revealed!
Is He not called the Mighty Physician? Does He not identify and evacuate the diseases of our soul and yet at the same time, offer His comfort and strength? If we were to ask ourselves, “Why, poor heart, are you so depressed and disquieted?” Would we not respond with, “My distress and sadness springs from my unbelief?” Come Mighty Physician and remove what does not belong in my heart! I know my human condition is inclined to be impatient and haunted with a discontented soul when affliction remains upon me. Lord, I desire to not disquiet my soul from trusting in you, but instead, I am determined to silence my inner turmoil. I need Your help. Thank you for Your Holy Spirit that guides me into all truth and teaches me how to put to death my carnal inclinations that do not align with You.
Transformed thinking. We will not make any progress towards this mighty thing called Christian ethics without transformed thoughts. The moral standards listed below can only be achieved by the transforming effect of a renewed mind (Romans 12:2), which is holy and pleasing to God. We are exhorted to think sensibly and therefore act sensibly. It is not ourselves we represent nor even defend, but Jesus Christ of Nazareth. How will we live our lives so that we make Him known? We allow ourselves to be trained by His moral code for one thing. His Word is efficacious. Read through these commands, inviting the Spirit to teach you what obedience toward these goals will look like in your life and then be in agreement. Let’s mold our lives toward these ends with joyful anticipation of making Him known. You can do it.
Love must be without hypocrisy.
Detest evil; cling to what is good.
Show family affection to one another with brotherly love.
Outdo one another in showing honor.
Do not lack diligence; be fervent in spirit; serve the Lord.
Rejoice in hope; be patient in affliction; be persistent in prayer.
Share with the saints in their needs; pursue hospitality.
Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.
Rejoice with those who rejoice; weep with those who weep.
Be in agreement with one another.
Do not be proud; instead, associate with the humble.
Do not be wise in your own estimation.
Do not repay anyone evil for evil.
Try to do what is honorable in everyone’s eyes.
If possible, on your part, live at peace with everyone.
Friends, do not avenge yourselves; instead, leave room for His wrath. For it is written: Vengeance belongs to Me; I will repay, says the Lord. But if your enemy is hungry, feed him. If he is thirsty, give him something to drink. For in so doing you will be heaping fiery coals on his head.
Do not be conquered by evil, but conquer evil with good. (Romans 12:9-21)
Thank you, Lord, for Your Spirit that leads, counsels, and teaches me in all truth. I desire to meditate on Your word and be transformed. Amen.
Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are an obstacle in my way, because these thoughts of yours don’t come from God, but from human nature. Matthew 16:23
Jesus turned, most likely confronting Peter face to face. A few moments earlier, Jesus had called him a rock upon which He would build His church. Now he calls Peter a different kind of “rock,” a “stumbling block” or an “obstacle.” Satan’s method offered Jesus kingship without suffering (Matthew 4:8-10), now Jesus finds Peter speaking the same way.
Again, the Devil took Him to a very high mountain and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. And he said to Him, “I will give You all these things if You will fall down and worship me.” Then Jesus told him, “Get behind me, Satan! For it is written: Worship the Lord your God and serve only Him.”
Jesus recognized the unholy source behind Peter’s temptation. The notion of a suffering Messiah was misunderstood by Peter so that he became a stumbling block to Jesus (Expositors Bible Commentary). Peter did not have in mind God’s thoughts but thoughts originating from the human nature. The sort of beliefs that persistently desire not to havesuffering in mind. Peter did not, however, have exclusively human thoughts. He also had God’s divine thoughts because revelation was given to him (Matthew 16:13-17). Here, however, he has switched sides, aligning himself not only with men but with Satan.
He asked His disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God!” And Jesus responded, “Simon son of Jonah,you are blessed because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father in heaven.
Matthew 16:13, 15-17
Peter’s quick change in allegiance is a persuasive learning lesson for us. Peter indeed had God’s thoughts in his mind and God’s desires in his heart when Jesus asked him, “Who do you say I am?” but as soon as another opportunity presented itself to apply this divinely revealed truth, he instead reverted to his old human nature. Rather than allowing the Spirit to continue to reveal wisdom and knowledge to him, he yielded to his carnal nature and rebuked Jesus, creating a stumbling block for Him.
Jesus rebuked Peter, saying, “Get behind me, Satan.” Things that do not bring God glory and are against His purposes are to be put behind us. They are to be put out of our sight so that our vision is faith, not doubt. Fears that tempt us to opt for self-preservation and that violate God’s commands are stumbling blocks in our lives and the lives of others. Carnal obstacles laid before God’s will, work, and glory must intentionally ‘be put behind us’ so that the provoking snare of carnality and its temptations do not prevail.
Put on the full armor of God so that you can stand against the tactics of the Devil. For our battle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the world powers of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavens. This is why you must take up the full armor of God, so that you may be able to resist in the evil day, and having prepared everything, to take your stand.
The armor of God enables us to put all of our human nature ‘behind us’ and to stand in full assurance of who we are IN Christ. The pride of our hearts must be brought low and put behind us as well as any of the world’s and Satan’s temptations. Satan desires to hinder the redemption of mankind and to give deadly advice regarding our abilities and worth. We are to make no agreements with his will, work, or any of his unholy ways. Carnal advice that says we are to favor ourselves over God will, work, and glory is to ‘get behind us.’ We are instructed that if we are to follow Christ, we are to deny ourselves (Romans 12:1); therefore, we are to renounce our own will and substitute it for the will of God. If we are not standing on guard, pride and self-confidence will slither its way into our hearts as soon as we make agreements with the lies of the world and with Satan.
Thank you, Lord, for bringing us into your truth. Help us to be quick to hear and slow to speak. I desire to meditate on Your word and to be taught by the Spirit You sent to help me. I am eager to take my failures, my fears, and anything else that has the audacity to hiss about my unworthiness and put them behind me. I take my stand in the fullness of Jesus Christ of Nazareth. HE is altogether worthy. Amen.
Indeed, we groan in this body, desiring to put on our dwelling from heaven. 2 Corinthians 5:2
Perhaps most days, the majority of us take our health for granted. Similar to the sun, we expect health to continually make its daily appearance. We are thankful for both, but one, as well as the other, can be easily presumed.
I am thankful that I am rarely sick, but when I do get sick, it always reminds me of how grateful I am for health. During sick days I frequently tell the Lord how grateful I am for my past health and how I regret the days I took it for granted.
One day while sick I was reading and paused to agree with 2 Corinthians 5:2. We indeed groan in this body while we are ill and long for the days of health! I sensed the Holy Spirit prompting me that the ‘groaning’ went beyond what my mere memory could recollect concerning past feelings of health; it was indeed much more profound. I agreed with God’s Spirit that the ‘groaning’ was not just for the return of my health as I could remember it, but for the perfect restoration I would receive at the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. The real ‘groaning’ was not for the return of imperfect health but for a magnificent perfect health. My spirit longed to “put on the dwelling from heaven.” Oh, how we limit our thinking when we think only of what our senses reveal to us as truth.
The Spirit teaches us not to be satisfied with mere temporal things but instead to prefer eternal things. Yes Lord, come and restore our health so that we can live out our days ministering to you, but may we have an even greater longing to put on our dwelling from heaven. Don’t settle for “groaning” as a way to return to the status quo. Allow your spirit to be in agreement with the Spirit of God and “groan” for the unseen things to be more real to your heart than what you senses are currently able to reveal.
Agree with the Word and count your trials as joy (James 1:2) because most times it is during these trials that the Lord will reveal a newness to you that you may not have otherwise known. Thank you, Lord, for your perfect ways.
Whenever you fast, don’t be sad-faced like the hypocrites. Matthew 6:16
Perhaps the first question that comes to mind is, “How can a hypocrite fast?” “Isn’t fasting for the one authentically searching?” Sad-faced, somber, gloomy, downcast, sullen; it all amounts to how someone desires to appear before man. Or even worse, because the fast is resented in the heart. My question is, why on earth would someone look gloomy when they are seeking God? Do they think He will not be found? Is it because it is too hard of a work?
A hypocrite is someone who claims standards or beliefs to which his behavior does not conform. As a Believer, we claim the promise that when we seek Him, we will find him (Jeremiah 29:13, Deut. 4:29, Luke 11:9)! As a bold believer seeking the spiritual reward found in a fast, it should be done with a heart of joy which results in a happy countenance! There is no place for gloom. There is no place for sad-faced believers acting as if they were enduring some strenuous pursuit that required more than they desired to give.
When fasting, we deny our hand the ability to fulfill our need for nourishment. Instead, we are promised that if we ‘hunger and thirst’ for righteousness that we will be filled (Matthew 5:6). Believer, let’s resolve not to follow the example of the hypocrite but instead possess a joyful face and a heart full of anticipation that the Lord will indeed ‘fill’ us! Seek Him in his Word, and you will find a feast. This will require the transforming effect of receiving Jesus as the Treasure that he is; faith that sees his truth, beauty, and worth as that which far exceeds anything you can provide for yourself. With this truth thumping in your heart, there will be no hint of that hypocrite gloom. No indeed! There will be hope! And this Hope DOES NOT DISAPPOINT (Romans 5:5)!
In the same verse, Jesus says the hypocrite makes their countenance unappealingto others. Does this unpleasantness translate as such an arduous chore that it keeps others from desiring to fast? Not only have they made fasting unappealing, but the Lord gives an assurance that their reward would only be temporal.
Not only are we expected to fast (Matthew 6:17), but God rewards fasting (v16)! Lord, may our light appear like the dawn, and may our recovery come quickly as Your Word says! May Your righteousness go before us and may Your glory be our rear guard! Lord, when we call you will answer, and when we cry out, You will say, ‘Here I am.’ (Isaiah 58:8-9) What a fantastic promise. Instruct your heart to be full of expectancy during your fast. The Lord blesses us. Amen.
Greetings fellow sojourners! I have attached an article that I pray blesses you. I do not know the person’s ministry but I like his encouragement for those in spiritually dry seasons. The points articulated in the essay provide good advice to ponder. Perhaps it is written with pastors in mind but consider how the counsel might assist your own life. Lord help us to not allow a spiritually dry season to become fertile ground for sin! Believer, let’s not only pray for our own dry seasons but also for our leaders. May this empower you to keep returning to the fountain of living water, particularly when you are feeling parched.
In His grace,
Here is the article in its entirety:
Every Christian—and every pastor—has spiritually dry seasons. These moments range from mildly annoying to living in a pre-Aslan Narnia where it’s “always winter but never Christmas.” Some pastors are embarrassed by this experience, which further complicates the matter. What follows includes things I have done—or, things I wish I’d done—in response to my own dry seasons. I hope it will edify and encourage you.
1. Invite other voices to speak to you.
This seems like a no-brainer but it may be the most difficult step of them all. Tell someone that you are struggling. Don’t stay silent and save face. This leaves you abandoned, under an ever-increasing sense of loneliness and insecurity.
The impulse to save face is particularly difficult when dealing with those close to you. However, giving into it robs you of the opportunity to lead even as you’re walking openly and honestly through difficulty. It also robs those close to you of the opportunity to love you by carrying you for a while. If I could have one mulligan in ministry (“one” is of course rhetorical, as my ongoing Mooney mulligan list is absolutely daunting!) it would be to entrust myself as weak to those close to me rather than deciding to push through sadness alone. When I didn’t do this, I became cruel, defensive, fearful, and distrusting, all of which I covered with a thin veil of confidence. I devastated at least one relationship that I miss to this day, and I’m sure I wounded others beyond repair.
Finally, saving face turns dry seasons into fertile ground for sin. Think about it. You tell your members that dry seasons are a normal aspect of any relationship, including their relationship with Christ. However, by denying your own dry season, you perceive yourself to be above the norm. And so you become safely insulated by your own facade of abnormally strong spirituality. Your make-believe piety is safe from every external perception. This isn’t safe. It’s not safe from your own flesh and the enemy, who will gladly use it to steadily eat away at your soul.
Brother-pastors, trust me. Saving face is worth none of the hype it promises. Tell someone you’re struggling, and after telling others, let them do what you have equipped them to do—namely, the work of the ministry. Listen to their voices rather than your own.
2. Tell your wife and your other elders.
In a dry season, your voice is perhaps the last one you need to listen to on a regular basis. As I mentioned, you need outside voices from those who love you. In particular, dry-season pastors should share their struggles with their wife and their other elders.
Don’t neglect your wife! Robust complementarianism doesn’t require an approach to your wife as if she cannot handle your weakness. In fact, the opposite should be true. If you don’t believe this, you may need to read a different article. She’s your equal, and at times your spiritual superior. Can you imagine being stranded during a tornado and finding yourself physically incapable of moving yourself to safety? You’d be foolish to refuse her help. She’s there for you, and you both should know one another better than anyone else.
Brother-pastor, share your darkness with your wife. After all, she probably already knows that you’re in a bad spot—and she can probably tell you why, at least in part. She wants to help more than others, and is probably more capable of helping than others. Let her be your guiding voice. Let her direct you back to the core elements that you consistently tell others to pursue.
But she doesn’t need to be the only one you tell. You should also share your struggles with your fellow pastors (if you have them).
On multiple occasions, one of my fellow elders has come to my office to read and pray with me. The Word of God is the primary voice you want to hear during dry times. During these times, he reads a chapter or so to me, and then prays with me and for me. He doesn’t take a long time. The Scriptures do the work. Even a glancing blow from the life-giving Word of God does damage to the dry times. It provides a source of unparalleled encouragement.
The Word of God and the gospel-shaped wisdom of those closest to you offer much help during dry times. But that’s not all.
3. Meditate on the psalms of lament; sing songs of comfort.
Don’t neglect music during dry times—particularly the Bible’s songs or psalms of lament.
One sings a lament to confront reality even when there’s no tangible evidence that you will win the battle. “Why so downcast O my soul? Put your hope in God!” (Ps. 43:5) To sing a lament is to sing of pain and suffering; to cry out about the seeming absence of God.
But laments are certainly not the only type of song to listen to and sing. Any good music that provokes you to dwell on and even feel gospel realities is helpful. Some of my favorites hymns are “Be Still My Soul,” “And Can it Be,” “He Will Hold Me Fast,” and “I Asked the Lord.” I also love Bach’s solo cello pieces, Bill Evans’ “You Must Believe in Spring,” and Chick Corea’s album Alive. Each provokes me toward helpful and fruitful mindsets.
On a related note, dry seasons are horrible times to listen to the wrong music. By wrong music, I simply mean music that will push you away from love for Christ and others by pushing you toward loving yourself more than you should. Due to music’s capacity to throw you back in time, you might begin to focus on opportunities missed; you might be tempted to recollect old lovers, old grudges, old lifestyles, and old habits. Music can take you to old places and recraft old times. It can even manipulate your depraved imagination to turn those seasons into something different than they were. This is not helpful to say the least. While you may listen to all types of music without incident throughout most of life, dry seasons require more discernment.
A Brief Word on Authenticity
I remember a well-meaning brother telling me in an early dry season, “Bro! You gotta fake it ’til you make it!” I still love that guy but that was and is a wrongheaded way to view a dry season. A genuine pursuit of Christ regardless of feelings is not tantamount to disingenuous motives or actions. Dry seasons shouldn’t encourage you to fake affection, but rather to demonstrate genuinely mature affection by pursuing Christ in daily, mundane, and even seemingly fruitless ways. These habits will shape your heart so that when the dryness itself dries up, you will not be the same. By God’s grace, you will be more mature, marked by a steadiness and depth that wasn’t there before.
Brother-pastor, I hope you will not waste your spiritually dry seasons.
But when you ask him, be sure that your faith is in God alone. Do not waver, for a person with divided loyalty is as unsettled as a wave of the sea that is blown and tossed by the wind. Such people should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Their loyalty is divided between God and the world, and they are unstable in everything they do. James 1:6-8
When you ask him…..be sure your faith is in God alone. No wavering, no half-heartedness. Faith believes God answers prayer. Believers, we must resolve not to waver, for He who promised is faithful (Hebrews 10:23). He who gave us promises to pray will not now deny what He has already promised. Abide in Him and allow His words to abide in you (John 15:7) so that your loyalty is not divided between God and the world. Did you notice that the wavering person is not only unstable in their prayer life but in everything they do?
“The possibilities of prayer are the possibilities of faith. Prayer and faith are Siamese twins. One heart animates them both. Faith is always praying. Prayer is always believing. Faith must have a tongue by which it can speak. Prayer is the tongue of faith. Faith must receive. Prayer is the hand of faith stretched out to receive. Prayer must rise and soar. Faith must give prayer the wings to fly and soar. Prayer must have an audience with God. Faith opens the door, and access and audience are given. Prayer asks. Faith lays its hand on the thing asked for.” (E.M. Bounds on Prayer)
It pleases God when we obey his Word, and we will discover that it also strengthens us. Jotham strengthenedhimself because he did not waver in obeying the Lord his God (2 Chronicles 27:6). Abraham did not waver in unbelief at God’s promise but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God (Romans 4:20).
When you pray, be motivated by God’s Word, His love, and His Spirit. When the fierce winds of trial come, prove just how firmly attached to the Vine you are. Abide in the Lord, allow your faith to boldly pray His promises, and don’t let go of the prayer until you receive from Him. Ask for the wisdom to hang on in prayer while those fierce winds of the trial blow. Never worry, He gives generously and without criticizing.