Hand to the Plow

Sifted by Wayne Cordeiro

imageSimon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you as wheat. Luke 22:31

Everyone in ministry hopes to avoid it, some even convince themselves that it might be possible that it will never be visited upon them, but sooner or later a period of testing will set in upon their lives. Some won’t survive and others will be permanently hamstrung. Some however, will emerge stronger than ever and into a season of greater ministry success. In Sifted, Pastor Wayne Cordeiro and his co-authors Chan and Osborne seek to build faith and spiritual muscle to prepare for the trials to come so that a greater number of pastors emerge from the other side of their troubles.

Though sin claims innumerable ministries each year, many more are weakened by trials that people are unprepared to handle. Trials claim their victims through weakened spirit, ineffective ministry and drained enthusiasm. Each of these can be avoided with the proper attitude according to the author. Cordeiro encourages the reader to prepare for trials and look for opportunities to grow spiritually while in the crucible. There may be repentance necessary, an attitude that requires change or work habits needing modification.

The chapters in the home work section are probably the hardest hitting. In the name of laboring for the Lord, so many in ministry sacrifice their marriage, children and health. The truth is that laboring to the point of exhaustion or a marital failure leaves the pastor with greater stress and problems than if the time away had been taken in the first place. The book does not mince words or tiptoe around the truth, which jumps off of each page. Tests and other evaluations help us to see ourselves in the paragraphs that we try to avoid.

This excellent book is not just for those in the midst of trials. Everyone will see them come at some point and it pays big dividends to be fully prepared for their arrival. Pastor Cordeiro opens his life as a warning. Read it and begin the process of preparation.

Psalm 26 ~ Test Me, O Lord

26Test me, O Lord, and try me, examine my heart and my mind;

for your love is ever before me, and I walk continually in your truth. (vv 2-3)

The Psalmist’s cry to the Lord should cause us to pause in prayer and ask if this is the transparency that we truly want to have before our God. In the lives of many Christians, we offer up our outer beings, the public personae that we rehearse for those around us. That is the cleaned up, polished, and groomed person that we believe will convince others that we are straight and true in our walk. Somewhere in the back of our mind we know it is isn’t true and even more importantly, we know that the Lord isn’t fooled. He needs no invitation to clamber about in our hearts and minds and the know the real us: the one who doesn’t consistently love his neighbor, the one who succumbs to her temptations and on and on.

The proclamations of faith and innocence do not begin or end with those verses that we have seen. In the opening verse, the psalmist proclaims that leads a blameless life and is a man of unwavering faith. The NIV translation of ‘blameless’ is a bit beyond the meaning of absolute purity, something that Yahweh possesses but is found in no man. It is better read as in my integrity I walk which gives it a domain inside of the fallen human experience. Is this braggadocio? Reading further we find instead it is a plea not to be judged as those who are unfairly judging him. The psalmist correctly places his ultimate trust in God.

Do not take away my soul along with sinners, my life with bloodthirsty men, in whose hands are wicked schemes, whose right hands are full of bribes.

But I lead a blameless life; redeem me and be merciful to me.

My fee stand on level ground; in the great assembly I will praise the Lord. (vv 9-12)

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