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Motivated by Joy

This month marks four years since first becoming a pastor.  It is a role I never really aspired to, and yet something I can see God was preparing me for throughout my life.  Still, there are many aspects for which one cannot be prepared--just as that is true in parenting, growing older, coping with loss, and probably in your vocation as well.  2020 is a year we are all discovering the hard truths that planning, control, and preparedness have their limits; my life is no exception.

Work and family life carries on despite a pandemic, though the added pressure has certainly put a spotlight on what is most valuable and what is most in need of healing.  Similarly, those all around our nation and state and local community are finding their values and brokenness exposed through waves of viral outbreaks and civil unrest.  As the months drag on, I am becoming aware that this is a marathon rather than a sprint, and I am reminded of a favorite passage in Hebrews chapter 12.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
Hebrews 12:1-3 NIV

Focus on Jesus, he knows the way.  Boy is that easier said than done!  But then I notice his motivation, joy: "for the joy set before him he endured."  Joy motivated Jesus.  Joy in knowing that his suffering would result in the forgiveness of my sins, his suffering would result in my reconciliation with the Father, his suffering would result in that same healing salvation for you too, and his suffering would result in an eternal defeat of the enemy.  Jesus was motivated by the joy of making life better for others.

I can relate to that--though not on such a complete and cosmic level.  I imagine you can relate too.  As friends, we can be motivated to help one another move house or to sit beside one another in grief or to share our resources because we find joy in making our friend's life a little easier.  In families we do the same; healthy spouses and parents would endure all kinds of discomfort to make life better for their loved ones.  Nurses, trainers, teachers, chefs, counselors, and others will tell you they are motivated in their careers by an intrinsic value to improve the life of others.  And all of them feel the additional pressure of this marathon season.

This is certainly true of pastors too, and it is a truth not lost on the author of Hebrews.  As the letter draws to a close in chapter 13, we find these words that also make an appeal related to joy:

Be responsive to your pastoral leaders. Listen to their counsel. They are alert to the condition of your lives and work under the strict supervision of God. Contribute to the joy of their leadership, not its drudgery. Why would you want to make things harder for them?  Pray for us. We have no doubts about what we’re doing or why, but it’s hard going and we need your prayers. All we care about is living well before God. Pray that we may be together soon.
Hebrews 13:17-19 MSG

To be honest, reading this passage brought tears to my eyes because it captures the idea that, as pastors, we can be unwavering in our faith and commitment yet still get weary.  So reassuring!  Of course, I am just one of the pastors on staff, so the reminder that I could contribute to the joy of my pastors with trust and prayer--even better!  

Just like parents and teachers and friends and coaches, pastors are imperfect, but we are doing our best in this season to lead in a way that makes life better for you.  We are focused on following Jesus and hope to help you do the same.  We are praying for you and we could use your prayers.  We know you miss gathering in person and we are looking forward to being together again!

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