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A Pastor's Joy

Children can bring great joy to their parents. When they show courage in adversity, when they work hard at school, or demonstrate godly character, children make parents glad. By sure and steady growth in the Lord, a child gives her parents much occasion to thank God.

So it was for the Corinthians and Paul. The apostle saw himself as their spiritual father. It’s a motif found in both of his letters to them. For instance, he writes, “Though you might have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet you do not have many fathers; for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel” (1 Cor. 4:15). God had used Paul to bring them to faith, so Paul would also nurture them, even as a father and mother will lovingly nurture their children.

Think of how Paul says something similar to the Thessalonians, “For you know that we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children, encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into his kingdom and glory” (1 Thess 2:11-12).

And like a parent will rejoice in a child’s progress, Paul rejoices in what he sees in the Corinthians.

This joy is striking because their relationship had previously been greatly strained. By their unfair criticisms and worldly attitudes, they caused Pastor Paul much regret. It’s not too much to say that he knew the parental pain of having a straying child. In 2 Corinthians 6:13 he had pleaded with them to be more open:

As a fair exchange—I speak as to my children—open wide your hearts.

Yet after more recent developments, he can say, “Now I rejoice, not that you were made sorry, but that your sorrow led to repentance” (2 Cor 7:9).

He is like a parent whose children bring joy for their developing character. Paul rejoices in his converts’ faith, and he is sure that the Corinthians will afford him still more joy: “I rejoice that I have confidence in you in everything” (2 Cor 7:16).

And Paul wants the Corinthians themselves to experience a renewed delight in the gospel: “We are fellow workers for your joy” (2 Cor 1:24). Through a healed relationship with God, the Corinthians will have every reason to rejoice in the Lord. This mutual joy illustrates the nature of Paul’s close bond with his congregation.

At the same time, Paul’s joy offers a lesson about the pastoral task today. By God’s grace, there is much that can bring joy to pastors. When a pastor sees God’s handiwork in his congregation, he can have real delight. He rejoices in the believers’ growth in faith and celebrates their devotion to Christian service. Particularly when someone has been living in sin, there can be great gladness when a person repents and resolves anew to follow Christ. The angels rejoice, and so should we!

In probably every pastor’s ministry there will be times of discouragement. There may come seasons of joylessness because of the effects of stress or sin or strife.

But a disheartened pastor should remember to rejoice in the works of God. Like Paul, he should learn to notice the many ways that the Lord is moving in his congregation.

Seated in every pew on a given Sunday, there is cause for pastoral joy. See the earnest children, the committed young people, the inquisitive visitors, the godly husbands and wives, the recovering addicts, the steadfast seniors, and many more.

On the outside they appear to be very normal people, but these are the miraculous results of the Holy Spirit’s sanctifying presence, who brings sinners from death to life. What a reason for joy!

During the week too, a pastor will regularly have occasion to learn about the quiet faithfulness of the congregation. He hears about those who find ways to bless the needy, who are active in visiting the lonely, and who try to share the gospel with their neighbours.

Again and again, the pastor can have joy in these evidences of the Spirit’s mighty work.

For the Father is lovingly nurturing his children toward maturity. He is helping us to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour.

In this work we can rejoice, even as God rejoices!


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