The Shepherds Who Are Sheep

church leaders are vulnerable

Speaking in real life terms, shepherds and sheep are independent entities. Sure, you might find them lurking in the same field, but whether from near or afar, you’d hardly confuse them. A shepherd is not a sheep and the four legged cud-chewer is clearly not a shepherd.

But in the stream of biblical thinking the same can’t quite be said.  Shepherds are sheep; and some of the sheep are shepherds.  The category of shepherd – a spiritual leader of the flock – is common parlance throughout the Bible (Ezekiel 34, Jeremiah 3:15, John 21:17, 1 Tim 3:1-2, 1 Peter 5:2, Hebrews 13:17). Christ is the Chief Shepherd and his under-shepherds assist him in sheep care (1 Peter 5:1-4).

Yet this is where the twist comes. The shepherd of Christ’s flock is also part of it. They are one of the sheep who has gone astray (Isaiah 53:6) and part of the number for which the Shepherd died (John 10:15). A man may play the role of a shepherd but he never departs his place in the flock. Like the rest, he exclaims with personal assurance: “the Lord is my shepherd” (Psalm 23:1).

This simultaneous reality – that the shepherd is also sheep – is something we must hold in healthy tension. The term ‘shepherd’ reminds us of the leader’s responsibility. The term ‘sheep’ reminds us of his vulnerability. A shepherd is a role of strength. It involves leading, feeding and protecting. A sheep by contrast is vulnerable. Every sheep can succumb to suffering, or stray down an unwise path.

Reasons to consider vulnerability

As creatures and sinners I would argue that church leaders are always vulnerable. But to stress the immediacy of this, let me offer two stark reasons to consider the subject.

First, the growing number of church leaders who appear to be shipwrecking their ministries. Immorality, greed and doctrinal defection are hardly new phenomena (2 Samuel 11, Matthew 23:25, 2 Peter 2:1-3).  But contemporary examples seem to be multiplying. Whether it’s big respected names or pastors only known locally, too many ministries are leaving a stench in their wake. The growing prevalence of abusive styles of leadership – whether by paid pastors or their fellow elders – is a worrying trend.¹ If these examples don’t cause us to look hard at ourselves, I don’t know what will.

Second, the growing pressures on church leaders as they shepherd their churches through the global pandemic.  There is a deadly combination here of ‘more and less.’ There is more pastoral need than ever and more problems to resolve as a leadership team. Yet as more is continually demanded, the support church leaders receive has often been less. While marvellous attempts have been made to organise online support, the loss of face to face encouragement has been significant. At this point in time, church leaders have never been so vulnerable to the twin threats of suffering and sin.


So what are some of the common vulnerabilities? In the list that follows (not exhaustive!) I’ll suggest what I think are seven of the most frequent. All of these have sadly featured at times in my own flawed leadership. They are also observations I have made of others, and the sort of thing I want to forewarn a new elder about as they enter the leadership arena.

1/ Positional pride (I have made it). A strange thing can happen when a person rises to prominence. They can morph from a humble servant into a self-assured proudling. Here the man makes his leadership position the general measure of his spiritual standing. He frequently and happily reminds himself of ‘who he is’ in relation to others. Such pride may not always ‘strut’ but is often more subtle and insidious. It can manifest, for example, in him becoming far too sure of each and every one of his personal opinions. Everyone must agree with him, listen to him and respect him no matter what. After all, he is “the pastor”, “the elder” etc.


2/ Projecting godliness (I can’t be honest). This is the next step to the previous danger. If we think that we have made it, we will start to act like it. We will project godliness. Now, one would hope that church leaders would unconsciously emanate godly character. But there is a difference between this emerging from a man, and it being projected by him. There is all the difference in the world between a man who is praying to God, and one praying to make an impression on his listeners (Luke 18:11). Similarly, we could ask our families the question: does the “godly” man in church bear any resemblance to the man we engage with at home?

3/ Unnecessarily defensive (I can’t be challenged). When a leader is projecting a spiritual image they will not take kindly to a critical comment. Granted, church members can be unfair and unkind in their assessments of us. But just as common a flaw are leaders who act like they are above criticism. Such a leader doesn’t listen to the critic but always responds with an immediate ‘comeback.’ (Sometimes this involves turning the tables on the critic in some way and pointing out their failings).  Such a leader is always angry when they are criticised and will tend to throw others under the bus to save their own reputation being tarnished.

4/ Discouragement (I can’t keep going).   Facing times of discouragement goes with the territory of Christian leadership. People wander away from the faith and the church. Individuals continue to squabble, despite your best efforts to help them see eye to eye. Evangelistic fruit seems little. Your own performance as a church leader disappoints you, nevermind anybody else!

5/ Burnout (I can’t stop or rest). Church leaders are some of the busiest people on the planet. This is especially true of non-church staff who juggle their jobs, family’s and a substantial church commitment. Being an elder isn’t something that fits into one time slot – like serving at the coffee morning on a Wednesday. And because we love people, we can find ourselves trying to fix them.  Before long we’re trying to be everyone’s Saviour; something we would admit, Jesus is much better at than us (!). Slowly and inevitably, as we suffer from ‘hero syndrome’, we move ourselves further down the road to one destination. Burnout.

6/  Overly controlling  (I can’t let others set the agenda). There’s nothing wrong with a strong personality, but it’s something of a red flag when a leader seems to get his own way every time. This sort of leadership micromanages everyone. This includes the other leaders, who need to follow my personal agenda. I use my personality, emotional pressure or personal loyalty to get people on side. I either withdraw or attack those who disagree with me. They soon learn not to dissent from me again.

7/ Ministry production (I start to see people as frustrations and obstacles, not as those I love and serve). When I started out as a young preacher, I think I was more passionate about the sermon than about the people I was preaching it to. An older gentleman in my church identified the problem. He took me aside one day and said “Colin – don’t forget that it’s about people.”  That sage advice often rings in my ears.  Whenever I feel frustrated by someone I remember that they are the very reason I am in ministry. People are not obstacles; they are those that God loves, those who I am called to serve.

we’re vulnerable – so now what? 

So far I’ve majored on diagnosis, and you might think I’ve been pretty scant on remedy. I guess it is easier to expose the problems than to deal with their underlying causes. However I want to offer some practical thoughts on creating a more self-aware and gospel shaped leadership culture. These suggestions are not just for individual leaders but for the whole leadership team.

Talk and pray in such a way that alludes to your vulnerability as leaders. This isn’t about airing all of our dirty laundry. It’s not talking at length about our every struggle and mentioning them in every prayer or conversation. But church leaders should make it clear by what they say that they don’t have everything ‘sorted.’ We do struggle with pride. We can succumb to temptation. Our tongue gets out of control at times. We need ongoing grace, forgiveness and transformation.

Ask for prayer, as well as offer it. Of course we should spend much of our pastoral time praying for people and asking them what to pray for. But asking others to pray for us is a Pauline pattern (Romans 15:30-33; 2 Corinthians 1:10-11; Ephesians 6:19-20; Philippians 1:19-20; Colossians 4:2-4; 1 Thessalonians 5:25; 2 Thessalonians 3:1-2; Philemon 22). Such a request expresses our own vulnerability, the great need we have for God’s help.

Consider ‘structures’ for pastoring each other. It is great when leadership teams support each other organically. But in the fast paced world we live in, some structure may be needed to ensure mutual support. In my own church, our elders are part of a leadership pair. The pair meet 3 times a year to discuss where we are spiritually and how we are coping with the demands and temptations of leadership.

Do something together that is just for growth. Read books together. Go to a conference. Have outside input from another church leader or organisation, just to learn. If the eldership team aren’t doing such things, it may suggest a ‘posture’ of unteachability.

Analyse the test case of conflict in your leadership team Conflict reveals a great deal your leadership culture.  Bear in mind that no conflict is a bad thing. There must always be room for healthy disagreement among leaders. Instead, we should ask questions like: how do people disagree? Do people ‘fight fair’?² Are some leaders unable to accept when they find themselves on the losing side of a discussion? Are there ongoing tensions in the aftermath, or are things resolved with generosity and forgiveness?

Keep applying the gospel to yourself as leaders. By this I don’t just mean that we should believe the gospel in a notional sense. We must relate the gospel to our view of leaders specifically. The gospel declares that we are sinners, so we  shouldn’t be surprised to find that in our own hearts as leader’s. But the gospel also proclaims freedom, forgiveness and hope. We can fearlessly face up to our sins because God is able to cover them and to increasingly empower us to turn  from them.


God is well aware that even shepherds need shepherding. He understands better than we do that shepherds are sheep. I have long thought it telling that the New Testament contains so much material specifically directed towards leaders.³ Since the shepherds are also sheep, they also need fed, protected and encouraged. The call not only to watch over the flock, but to oversee own’s own soul (Acts 20:28) seems as loud and as relevant as ever. 


(This article is an adaptation of a discussion/talk I had with a group of church leaders in January 2021. The examples it gives and focus tends to be on church pastors and elders. But there are principles here that apply more widely to leadership at all different levels across the church).

¹ Paul Tripp’s recent book Lead is worth reading in conjunction with his prior work Dangerous Calling. Dangerous Calling describes the dangers full time pastor’s face, while Lead looks at the wider leadership culture in which the pastor serves. Both can be problematic and unhealthy leadership can be just as present among the wider elders, and their power bases, as can be an issue for the set aside pastor.

² Check out the article: “How to fight right” for more on this. 2019-09-16-how-to-fight-right-tripp.pdf (

³ Consider the time Jesus invested in the apostles, the future leaders of his church. Note that out of Paul’s thirteen letters, three of them were written directly to those in leadership. We are also struck by the fact that Peter, an experienced leader, needed to be rebuked by Paul when he was acting out of line with the gospel (Galatians 2:14).


The Slow Road To Re Opening

I’m guessing like a lot of churches we are on a rather slow road to re-opening. In a fairly small building like ours, the limitations of physical distancing are significant. We have one small entrance, narrow passageways and poor ventilation. As a result, there are some health and safety issues that will need to be looked at rather carefully.

Alongside this, vastly reduced numbers (only approximately a quarter of our Sunday congregation can currently attend under government guidelines) means that most of our church members will still need to watch proceedings from home. We need to put quality camera provision in place that will allow recorded services to be watched by the majority of the congregation who will be watching proceedings from their living room couch.

The challenges of reopening.

We are eager to be together. We want to fulfil Christ’s command to meet in his name. But we are also eager to open in a responsible way that also honours God appointed government and loves our neighbour.

Until then, we are thankful for churches that have already been able to re-open already and we are also praying for congregations who like ourselves, are finding the road out of lockdown to be a slow one.



Shorter Online Preaching: What Isn’t Being Factored In

Back in the late 1990s I was press ganged in to writing a tedious essay. The subject was “monologue preaching” and whether like last week’s milk its sell by date had passed. Voices at the time were asserting that post-modern people would no longer suffer the traditional sermon. With more than a smidgen of irony we were told that we needed to change our ways – or else! “Proclamation must be replaced with conversation.” “The research showed” that if churches made this shift, they would be soon be filled to overflowing (around coffee tables, of course!).

While I definitely learned some things from these advocates for change*, their overall emphasis was flawed. They gradually encouraged a church culture that was too uncertain of what it was saying, and which eventually had nothing to say at all. Churches that embraced post-modern doctrine slowly shrunk; while conversely, less adaptable churches either held steady (or even grew) as they preached straightforward sermons.

It was a parable within my lifetime that it isn’t always best to follow the trend. It isn’t always wise to go where the research takes us.

It seems to me that there could be some parallels to the push I’m hearing right now towards much reduced online sermons. Now in most cases, I realise, what is being argued for is a 5 minute trim. That may indeed be sensible in the online context. Yet something hasn’t been sitting right with me in terms of the assumptions driving the discussion. The arguments to foreshorten sermons seem often to overstate their case or miss some critical factors.

Sunday morning context

In all the discussions about attention spans, the Sunday morning context is often strangely omitted. We’re told about attention spans, in general terms, and we hear that since people are at home there are many distractions around them. Therefore, we had better keep our sermons short and snappy.

Now quite aside from the fact that there are distractions even when doing “live” preaching, what seems to be largely missed is the context. The vast majority of our online hearers are Christian believers who are (in their minds) “going to church” on a Sunday morning. These people are used to making time for church on Sunday mornings. From a certain point of view they are highly committed and motivated. Anyone who usually rolls out of bed on a Sunday morning and goes to church is either motivated or coerced! Their busy weekly schedule is normally clear on a Sunday morning. They are happy to give up their time – an hour of it or more – and are expecting to do so.

Hearer interest

Another point that is often overlooked is that most of our target audience are highly interested in the subject matter. To compare, as some are doing, the attention spans of church members to the attention spans of University students in online lectures is to compare apples with oranges. The levels of respective interest in the subject matter may be massively different.

Of course in any communication context, if a hearer isnt interested in the subject, even a 5 minute talk will seem boring. On the other hand, many Americans tune in and watch an hour long state of the Union address because the subject matter engages them. Equally many Brits have been glued to 1 hour daily briefings from government ministers and health advisors. These presentations are nothing more than people talking being lecturns, with the odd graph being displayed. The point is that people are interested in the subject!


I think one of the unfortunate things in this whole discussion is the assumption that most preachers in our churches are not very good communicators. I hope that isn’t true. I assume the reason we let them up the front for 30-40 minutes on pre-lockdown Sundays was because they can hold people’s attention. They have a degree of teaching gift.

I would argue that a dull preacher is hard to listen to, even for five minutes, in any format. But I (and many others) have listened to good preachers online for 50 minutes plus and have still been engaged. Can the more rank and file preacher not hold people’s attention online for 25?

The work of the Spirit

One of my observations during this lockdown is that there has been a subtle shift towards the importance of technique in our preaching communication. Much of this is understandable, and doubtless there are things we have needed to learn about speaking into a camera more effectively. But I fear that too many preachers could be tempted to start relying on a fine-tuned technique than on the power of the Word and Spirit.

As John Stott reminds us: the Holy Spirit “is working at both ends” (a comment he makes based on 1 Thessalonians 1:4-5), empowering both the preacher and working in the heart of the hearer. Can’t the Holy Spirit create interest in the heart of those watching, to keep watching, and to be impacted by what they hear?

Not the last word

I’m not trying to take some sort of high ground against those who have decided that they’re going to preach for 15 minutes. This is ultimately a wisdom decision. The online screen aspect probably is a factor, and in different places and churches differing decisions will no doubt be prudent. I also haven’t factored in the question of preaching to non-Christians, many more of whom may be attending our Sunday service online. They might be the best argument for shorter sermons. I would argue, however, that it might be more helpful to consider doing shorter talks (or courses) online specifically for them, rather than shortening all of our sermons for the benefit of 10% of our audience.


* I did learn that all preaching needs to be dialogical to a degree. It was also true by the 90s that evangelism needed to happen in more socially connected, informal ways, where we listened as well as proclaimed the gospel message.

Does Joy Really Come In The Morning?

“I want to share with you a verse from the Bible that should comfort you – and should comfort me. But it’s a verse that, if I’m really honest, sometimes has troubled me a little bit.  I’ve often wondered, “what does this verse actually mean?”

So here’s the verse. It’s Psalm 30 verse 5, and I’m going to read it to you in the King James Version. Because it’s more dramatic! It says this: “Weeping may endure for the night, but joy cometh in the morning”

It’s a great verse, isn’t it? It’s a verse that we could put on a poster or a Christian calendar! It’s the kind of sentiment that we would sing in a Christian song or hymn.

But when you get down to it, you start to ask yourself: what does this verse actually mean? I mean it’s nice to text it to a friend for their encouragement, but what’s the reality behind this verse? Does it simply mean that every morning I rise as a Christian I’ll have joy in my heart and I’ll be full of the joy of the Lord?

That’s not our experience, is it? Very often we go to bed feeling tired and burdened about things going on in our lives. And then we wake up in the morning and we still feel tired and burdened! I find that particularly at the moment. I wake up and my first thought is: we’re still in the middle of the Co-Vid crisis. And my heart just sinks. So what does this verse mean? How does it apply to me as a Christian? What does it mean to say that in the morning we’re going to experience this great joy?

Well I’ve done a little bit of digging into this verse. And I think I understand a little more of what it actually means. There’s at least three levels at which we can apply this verse.

Firstly, we can apply it to ourselves. You see, in the Bible this idea of night and dawn is really a picture of God bringing us relief when we are in distress. You see that even in the context of the Psalm. That God had brought judgement on his people – his anger was expressed against them in their circumstances – but then God brought relief. It was like the morning dawn. The sun rose in their experience. And so this image of morning joy is really a picture of those times in our lives when God steps in, when he lifts our burdens, when he makes life easier, when he pours out (in a more obvious way) his blessings.

It’s that experience when we’ve been praying about something for a long time, praying for someone to come to faith, praying that some circumstance in our life will change and we pray and we pray and we pray. And then one day God answers. One day there’s that sense of morning joy. So I think this psalm can happen in our experience, but it won’t happen every morning! It’s not to be read in that kind of literal way, but it speaks of those experiences in our lives, when God intervenes in answer to our prayers.

I think those a second level this psalm applies is it applies to the Lord Jesus himself. When we think of Jesus as he hung on the cross, of course we know that he hung there in the darkness. And the darkness was appropriate because it spoke of the judgement of God and it spoke of the fact that there was no relief for Jesus on the cross. That he suffered their in agony for us. He dies there on the cross, he’s buried then in a tomb, and he’s laid there in the darkness of the depths of the earth. And that’s appropriate, isn’t it, because he’s in that place of death, of not enjoying the fulness of life. But on the third day – very interestingly and fittingly, at the dawn in the early morning – the Father raises his Son from the dead. And Jesus exits the darkness into the light of the dawn.

And that’s a wonderful picture of Jesus release from that place of distress, that place of death, as he rises into new life and in a resurrection body. So as we think of joy coming in the morning, as we run up to Easter time, we can think of how Jesus went through that darkness for us. Of how his agony means that we will never face judgement. Let’s allow that to encourage our soul. Let’s think of the fact that he rose in the morning and how that means that we have a great hope ahead of us.

But then the third level at which this verse applies is looking even further ahead than that. Because ultimately this verse – joy in the morning – is fulfilled ultimately in the new creation. Paul describes this age we’re living in as an age of darkness, but he says in one place that the darkness is already passing away. Christ is coming again. He has already come, he’s with us by his Spirit presently, and he’s coming again in future glory. And when he comes the darkness, and all the features of the darkness will be removed and taken away. Sin and sickness, decay and death, will be swept off the table in that new creation. And it’s in that day that in all of its fullness we will experience this morning joy!

So as you read this verse, think not just about those distressing things in your life that you want God to relieve, but think of the Lord Jesus who rose from the dead, and think ultimately of the fact that he’s coming again. He’s coming to bring relief to the sadness of the night. He’s coming to bring eternal joy to each of us.

Perplexed, But Not Despairing (6)








Source: John Piper, Brothers, We Are Not Professionals


“We pastors are being killed by the professionalizing of the pastoral ministry. The mentality of the professional is not the mentality of the prophet. It is not the mentality of the slave of Christ. Professionalism has nothing to do with the essence and the heart of the Christian ministry. The more professional we long to be, the more spiritual death we will leave in our wake. For there is no professional childlikeness, there is no professional tenderheartedness, there is no professional panting after God.

Brothers, we are not professionals. We are outcasts. We are aliens and exiles in the world. Our citizenship is in Heaven, and we wait with eager expectation for the Lord (Phil. 3:20). You cannot professionalize the love for His appearing without killing it. And it is being killed. The world sets the agenda of the professional man; God sets the agenda of the spiritual man. The strong wine of Jesus Christ explodes the wineskins of professionalism.”

Comment: Piper’s book struck me as saying something necessary, especially to some parts of an American constituency, when it was released in the early 2000s. Piper was targeting the drift towards seeing pastoral ministry as a job, entailing a list of tasks, which aims for the goals of popularity and appreciation. As many of the tasks of pastoral ministry have been stripped away from us during this crisis, we are reduced to core elements once again. It is an opportunity to be children of God, men of prayer, lovers of people, preachers unchained. As our ‘job’ now looks so different, let us dispense with the idea of a job altogether. It was never a job, but a calling. A call to be God’s son, and a call to serve his children in the word and prayer.

Perplexed, Not Despairing (5)







Some preachers will be pre-recording their sermons today or tomorrow – or live streaming them on Sunday. Here is what we can pray for ourselves, or for those who preach.

Source: Matthew Henry, Method For Prayer (ed. Dan Arnold, Ligon Duncan): “Pray for the Ministers of God’s Holy Word and Sacraments.”


Teach your ministers how they ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, 1 Timothy 3:15 that they may not preach themselves but Jesus Christ as Lord, 2 Corinthians 4:5 and may do their best to present themselves approved to God, workmen who have no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth. 2 Timothy 2:15

Make them competent in the Scriptures, Acts 18:24 that from them they may be equipped for every good work, 2 Timothy 3:17 in teaching showing integrity, dignity, and sound speech that cannot be condemned. Titus 2:7-8

Enable them to give attendance to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching; to practice these things; 1 Timothy 4:13-15 to devote themselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word; Acts 6:4 to immerse themselves in them and to persist in them, that they may save both themselves and their hearers. 1 Timothy 4:15-16

Let words be given to them in opening their mouths boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, that they may speak as they ought to speak, Ephesians 6:19-20 as competent ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit; 2 Corinthians 3:6 and let them by the Lord’s mercy be trustworthy. 1 Corinthians 7:25

Let the arms of their hands be made agile by the hands of the Mighty One of Jacob; Genesis 49:24 and let them be full of power by the Spirit of the Lord of hosts, Micah 3:8 to show your people their transgressions and the house of Jacob their sins. Isaiah 58:1

Make them sound in the faith, Titus 1:13 and enable them always to teach what accords with sound doctrine, Titus 2:1 correcting their opponents with gentleness; and let not the Lord’s servants be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach. 2 Timothy 2:24-25

Make them good examples to the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, and in purity; 1 Timothy 4:12 and let them purify themselves who bear the vessels of the Lord, Isaiah 52:11 and let HOLY TO THE LORD be written upon their foreheads. Exodus 28:36

Lord, grant that they may not labor in vain or spend their strength for nothing and vanity, Isaiah 49:4 but let the hand of the Lord be with them, that many may believe and turn to the Lord. Acts 11:21


Perplexed, Not Despairing (3)







Source: Paul Tripp, Dangerous Calling (p128)


“There is a fear that causes you to be watchful and to protect the people in your ministry from the dangers of the real evil that exists both inside and outside of them. Eyes-wide-open, gospel-driven, sin-warring fear that at the same time rests in the grace of Jesus is a very good way to live in a world that itself is still groaning, waiting for redemption.

[But] Fear can overwhelm your senses. It can distort your thinking. It can kidnap your desires. It can capture your meditation so that you spend more time worrying about what others think than about what God has called you to be.

Fear can cause you to make bad decisions quickly and fail to make good decisions in the long run. Fear can cause you to forget what you know and to lose sight of who you are. Fear can make you wish for control that you will never have. It can cause you to be demanding rather than serving. It can cause you to run when you should stay and stay when you really should run.

Fear can make God look small and your circumstances loom large. Fear can make you seek from people what you will only get from the Lord. Fear can be the soil of your deepest questions and your biggest doubts.

Your heart was wired by fear, because you were designed to have a life that is shaped by fear of God. But horizontal fear cannot be allowed to rule your heart, because if it does, it will destroy you and your ministry.”

Comment: Fear has been lurking around my heart during this last week of change. In my better moments the fear involves a rightful concern for the church – one that even the Apostle Paul might have resonated with (2 Cor 11:28). More often, however, my fears arise from a less devout source. “The fear of man will prove to be a snare” (Prov 29:25) and I’ve caught in it’s trap more often than a godly man should have. The levels of stress I’ve felt around video messages, and worries around the opinions of others concerning the leadership calls we are making, are evidence of my own weakness. But these fears “that make God look small” mustn’t rule my heart. The fear of man (or of anything else) must be overwhelmed by a greater fear: the fear of God.

Perplexed, Not Despairing (2)


Source: Derek Prime & Alistair Begg, On Being A Pastor (p 86)


“Some lessons we learn slowly, and one that we have found particularly difficult is that God wants quality of life from us rather than quantity of service, and that the latter is no substitute for the former. More important than all our preparation for ministry and our careful administration of church life is that we should live our lives for the will of God and reflect His Son’s grace and character in all our dealings with others.

The most powerful influence we can have upon people is example. The strength of our example – of which we ourselves are seldom, if ever, aware – comes from the reality and sincerity of our inner and secret life with God. Moral failures, which can so tragically ruin a man’s testimony and terminate his ministry, invariably stem from neglected daily fellowship with God. Walking daily in the light increases sensitivity to the first approaches of temptation and sin and strengthens our capacity to resist it by the power of the Spirit.

Comment: In these days, when we face the pressure to produce more and more content for isolated people, and where we rightly feel the need to stay in contact with the vulnerable, this quote highlights a vulnerability closer to home. Quantity of ministry eventually has its limits. At some point we will regretfully neglect our own walk with God and paying attention to our own soul. Cast in the positive light, ‘walking daily in the light’ carries it’s own exemplary power. May I never forget this!

Perplexed, Not Despairing (1)


Source: Charles H Spurgeon – “ Man’s Weakness and God’s Anointing” (Sunday Morning sermon, September 9, 1860)


“David had as strong a God as ever; but he was weak in the flesh; and that, my brethren, blessed be God, is the only weakness a Christian can know. We are never weak in our God, we are always weak in ourselves. Whenever you are in the midst of a difficulty, and you sit down and say, “I cannot do this,” who ever thought you could?

You ought to have known that you could do nothing. But if your difficulty be ever so severe, and your position ever so trying, is the everlasting arm too weak for your defence? Is the eternal eye unable to see through the difficulty? Or has eternal love failed you?

“Oh, but I am so weak!” Of course you are, and the weaker you are the better. But Jehovah is not weak; the Eternal One does not faint neither is he weary; there is no searching of his understanding. David was weak, because he lived by sight; if he had lived as in the days of his youth, by faith in the covenant God who had anointed him, he never would have complained of weakness, but would have done his duty, even should heaven itself totter around his ears. Christian, stop talking today of what you are and of what you are not; remember the Christian’s standing place is not on the shifting sand of creature weakness, but on the immovable rock of divine confidence. The reason why the Church of these days is such a poor trembling thing is because she always looks to man for help, and seldom looks to God.

Comment: This is such a powerful quote. It humbles me to the depths, then raises me to heights of new faith. It reveals my ballooning pride that I hate feeling weak and have my deficiencies exposed. When God unveils my weakness I should see the blindness that caused me to dream I ever was strong. But as Spurgeon points out, if I live with eyes of faith I will see Jehovah in his unwearied power.