I can remember times when Keith knew he had to confront someone, either about their lives or their teaching. I remember how quiet he became before he left the house, how pensive he looked, his inability to eat or laugh or even smile, and the amount of time he kept to himself in a back room with the door shut, praying.
A preacher’s job is not an easy one. Look at Jeremiah in the passage above. This man was vilified, threatened, imprisoned and virtually kidnapped all because he preached the message God sent him to preach. And he knew what was coming—because it always has come since the days of Noah’s ridicule to now. Especially now, when the world, and often the brethren, have deemed that the worst crime of all is to hurt someone’s feelings by telling him he is wrong. But a man who has dedicated himself to the Word of God cannot turn from his God-given mission.
The Spirit lifted me up and took me away, and I went in bitterness in the heat of my spirit, the hand of the LORD being strong upon me. Ezek 3:14. God told Ezekiel from the beginning that his was a hopeless task. The people would not listen. They would be “hard-headed,” and to help Ezekiel, He would make him just as stubborn as they. But still he did not want to go. He went “in bitterness of spirit.” Yet this man, of all the prophets to God’s people, was probably the most successful. Pay attention: success does not make it any easier. It was years before Ezekiel was respected by his countrymen, and then only after he was proven correct by the fulfillment of his prophecy. In all the years before he was a nutcase, a lunatic, at best a fanatic who was woefully misled.
Amos was flat out told to leave. “Go home, you country bumpkin and preach there.” And Amos replies, “Hey! This wasn’t my idea…”
Then Amos answered and said to Amaziah, “I was no prophet, nor a prophet's son, but I was a herdsman and a dresser of sycamore figs. But the LORD took me from following the flock, and the LORD said to me, ‘Go, prophesy to my people Israel.’ Amos 7:14-16a
Of all places for God to send this unsophisticated southerner, the urban capital of the northern kingdom, where people lived in luxury and only listened to prophets who praised them really stretches the understanding. But God knows what we need better than we do, and those folks needed a plain-spoken man of justice whose objectivity might possibly reach a few.
So let me leave you with a couple of thoughts.
When the preacher comes to see you, or when he simply preaches a tough sermon that steps on your toes, be kind. He is not “out to get you.” He does not want to hurt your feelings. What he wants to do is obey His God and save both your soul and his. It was not easy for him to say, or preach, what he did. Give him the benefit of a doubt. Appreciate what he went through before he even got there, and the fact that he cares enough about you to say anything at all.
And remember—this isn’t just the preacher’s responsibility. It’s yours too. Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Gal 6:1. If you are a child of God, you will be putting yourself on the line too. Just remember what it cost you as you fulfilled the mission when the preacher stands in the pulpit. He does it every Sunday, and every other day of the week when you are not even aware.
My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins. Jas 5:19-20