We are blessed to have as a regular attendee in one of the services at the retirement community where we minister, the first pastor of a large Baptist church in our city.
“Pastor Norman,” as we call him, served for more than two decades in his capacity at the church, before moving to another venue of service in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He’s 94 years old now, and still very sharp of mind, and even more, of heart. The following will confirm.
Most mornings, during my daily walk, I pass by the church where Pastor Norman ministered. I mentioned this in our service yesterday, commending our dear brother for his faithful service to the Lord and to His people. Pastor Norman’s immediate response: “The Lord did it!” He said this with much seriousness and in no uncertain terms, making sure that all glory rightly directed upward and away from himself. “Let he that glorieth, glory in the Lord” (II Corinthians 10:17 ).
Of course, our previous respect for Pastor Norman increased all the more in our hearts. I did comment, however, that Pastor Norman had responded to the Lord’s working in order to serve as a means by which God’s will was fulfilled in his own life, and encouraged in the lives of others. As the Apostle Paul was “not disobedient to the heavenly vision,” so did Pastor Norman follow the path paved for him by the Holy Spirit (Acts 26:19). The Lord Jesus receives all the honor and credit for our dear friend’s ministry, but we nevertheless affirm the faith and submission to God that characterizes Pastor Norman’s life and service.
The New Testament frequently speaks of rewards to be administered for the works of believers motivated and enabled by the Holy Spirit.
“Every man shall receive his own reward according to his own labor” (I Corinthians 3:8).
In this statement, the Apostle Paul references not our salvation, which the New Testament categorically reveals to be a free gift of God’s grace in Christ (Romans 5:15-18). He rather speaks to the issue of our response to the Lord’s abundant working upon us, and within us. Believers are not programmed automatons, but rather spiritually enlivened sons and daughters in Christ who may or may not respond positively to the Holy Spirit’s moving and motivations. At the judgment seat of Christ, we will be either rewarded or “suffer loss,” based on how faithfully we applied ourselves to the freely given grace of God (I Corinthians 3:15). Our works will be judged, resulting in commendation or approbation in that Day when, with glorified sensibilities, the honor of the Lord Jesus will mean more to us than ever.
Pastor Norman serves as a blessed example of faithfulness to God, and to the people he served. All glory belongs to the Lord Jesus, of course. Nevertheless, we hold our brother in great respect, and we remember and rejoice in his devotion. “The Lord did it!” No doubt, Pastor. But you trusted and submitted yourself to him, and we are the blessed beneficiaries of a faithful God, and the faithful son you are.
“Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; neither as being lords over God's heritage, but being ensamples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away.”(I Peter 5:2-4)