Reading The Best of Vance Havner1 this morning, his thoughts struck a common cord I’ve been challenged with lately, one I think more ministers of the Gospel should heed–especially myself.
Vance Havner says…
“I am convinced that if the devil can’t make us lazy, he will make us so busy here and there that the best is sacrificed for the good.”
“We display the Lord’s leading as much by what we refuse as by what we accept. The Lord is not interested in mere quantity production. We can often do more by doing less.”
“If our lives and ministry count for anything today, we must make time for God. It is not easy. Some people won’t like it, but somebody else wouldn’t like it if we did some other way, so that doesn’t matter. We must make out a schedule and work out a program at all costs that will eliminate the nonessential (including a lot of things some dear folks will think are very essential), put first things first, and make a lot of second rate things stay in line, no matter how much they clamor for first place.”
I was also reading last night from Warren Wiersbe’s book Walking With the Giants: A Minister’s Guide to Good Reading and Great Preaching2. I was reading the chapter on Alexander Maclaren and was challenged with similar thoughts from this man’s life. Wiersbe says of Maclaren…
“He turned down most speaking and social invitations. He stayed home, did his work, and built a great church. ‘I began my ministry,’ he told a group of young preachers, ‘with the determination and concentration of all my available strength on the work, the proper work of the Christian ministry, the pulpit…I have tried to make my ministry a ministry of exposition of Scripture'”
Maclaren “…refused most invitations and concentrated on studying the Word and feeding his people. He was not a visiting pastor, and he repeatedly challenged the adage that ‘a home-going pastor makes a church-going people.’ He reminded ministerial students that the adage is true only if, when the people come to church they hear something worth coming for.”
“To Maclaren, studying was hard work. He often said he could never prepare sermons while wearing slippers: he always wore his outdoor boots. Studying was work and he took it seriously…[h]e studied a passage in the original language, meditated on it, sought its divine truth, and then ‘opened it up’ in such a way that we wonder why we didn’t see it before ourselves. No artificial divisions, no forced alliteration, nothing sensational; just divine truth presented so simply that any listener (or reader) could understand and apply it.”
“He scheduled his time and saw to it that none of it was wasted. He knew how to enjoy a vacation or an evening of relaxation; but even those times were opportunities for meditation and preparation. He did more by doing less. He knew how to say no. He did not feel obliged to attend every meeting, sit at every table, or grace every platform.”
“‘This one thing I do’ characterized his life as it ought to characterize our lives today.”
How dare I think I can do a hundred things well–how dare I try.
Why is it often true of us as pastors that we willingly place piles of small, good burdens on our own backs that accumulatively sap our energy and time and take us from the most necessary, the best things, such as personal holiness, cultivating in our heart a love for God’s Word, drinking deeply from the well of God’s Word, preparing our heart spiritually for the study of God’s Word and then mining the treasure of the Word as we prepare to feed God’s people?
May God help me.
1. The Best of Vance Havner, Baker Book House, 1992, pgs. 37-38
2. Walking with the Giants, A Minister’s Guide to Good Reading and Great Preaching, Baker Book House, 1976, pgs. 36-39