I think one of the most difficult things about church planting is how fragile it all sometimes seems in the beginning.
You are working and working and working and sometimes it seems like it is going to succeed and other times it looks like it is going to fail and there are times where you just wish you could know. Is God going to establish this church as a vibrant, biblical church that lasts for a long time and makes an impact for the cause of Christ, or not?
Sometimes, I want to say as a result, but probably not really as a result, but sometimes, in the middle of those ups and downs, it is easy to go up and down emotionally, right along with them, and wish that you would be at the point where it is obvious that you have and you are doing a good job.
It is easy, in other words, to long for a little bit of honor right now, and to be discontent without it. And it’s at times like those, when it is so important to remember the honor we will receive at the hands of Christ.
I mean think about this.
James says that those who keep doing what is right even when it is difficult are blessed because they will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love Him.
If you want glory, there isn’t anything more glorious than this!
And Jonathan Edwards draws out some of the implications this future glory has on the way we think about our lives right now, saying:
“Hence we may learn: if those that love Christ are to receive a crown of life at the hands of Christ, what a dishonorable thing it is for a true Christian to concern himself much about worldly honor and greatness; what a dishonor it is to Jesus Christ, who has promised you this glorious crown that you might despise worldly honors, as if you were not contented with what he has promised, as if the honor of a celestial crown from the hands of Christ were not enough without worldly honor too.”
In other words, how can you not be contented with a honor of a celestial crown from the hands of Christ himself?
What is there more to want than that?
He goes on,
“How you dishonor yourselves by it! Christ has honored you by making a gift more excellent than any earthly thing. He has given you grace in your souls, which is heavenly riches the least grain of which is more worth than mountains of gold and silver. He has honored you by giving of you a right to a crown, not of gold and gems, but of celestial and everlasting glory, and you hope that he will honor you much more yet by placing this crown on your heads and giving you his own kingdom, placing you upon his sown thrown, adorning you with robes of glory, giving you the heavens of heaven as your kingly palace, and himself as your riches, and his eternal love as your royal dainties.”
With a future like that, why worry so much about being affirmed as a success right now?
“And will you now go and dishonor yourself so much as to thirst for silver and gold, or to seek after poor worldly greatness? Will you so dishonor your crown that is laid up for you? Will you so much undervalue it as to admit these childish things into your hearts with it; will you do your own crown so much dishonor as to make it so near equal to these things in your affections? will you regard that honor that Christ is to give you in heaven so little as to seek the honor of men? Will you who have an immortal crown, in heart thirst for earthly glory? Will you who are to shine with Christ as the sun, follow after poor earthly pomp and show? Will you who have heavenly riches, hug and embrace dirt and dung? Will you who are to be made kings and priests unto God the Father, leave your heavenly kingdom for the baubles of children? You thereby dishonor yourself more than one of the emperors of Rome did, who, although he ruled over the greatest empire in the whole world, yet used to retire constantly by himself, an hour or two every day, to catch flies.”
This worrying so much about glory now dishonors Christ and it is dishonors us and it actually dishonors the very message we preach and love so much.
As Jonathan Edwards puts it,
“Let the men of this world know that you value your crown more than…their foolish, fading glories. Don’t dishonour religion, but honor it by letting the world known that you account all other things as loss and dung in comparison to it. If Christians did so, Christianity would not be a thing so much despised in the world. If Christians did but manifest to all that they did merely scorn and despise and trample upon worldly honors, in comparison of that crown of glory which they were to receive, religion would not be so much fled into corners.”
As we labor away, sometimes with great fruit, sometimes it seems not, let’s not remember our eternal glory and keep on, and when we grow discouraged, let us look to our Savior Jesus Christ, because He has set the example for us in this.
“…follow the example of your Redeemer and Head, Jesus Christ, who although he knew himself to be the Son of God, yet despised all earthly honors and greatness, for he knew them to be unworthy of him who was to be glorified with celestial glory after his resurrection. He scorned all the fine show of kings and princes because he knew how despicable it was in comparison of the glory that awaited him…”