As a pastor, I have known rejection. It is not unique for pastors, this I understand. Unfortunately, there are those that have the mindset that if a person is proclaiming Christ and is doing the work of God that all those that profess a faith in Christ will accept and follow. The truth is that the message of God is not always a message that is readily received. It would be wonderful if all that heard the Word would follow the Word. This we know is not the truth. Just because one attends a church does not necessarily mean they are of the Church. When God was speaking through the prophet Ezekiel and was filling him with visions, there were those within Israel that professed a faith though few were faithful followers of the God of Israel. At the time of Ezekiel, the majority of the people of Israel were following and doing things contrary to what God desired. Ezekiel was sent to call them back. Ezekiel 2:1-5 was meant to guide Ezekiel in the ministry to which he was called. He was expected to be a voice to the people of Israel to call back those whose hearts still sought the Lord to repent and return to him. The human heart is prone to rebel against God. We have adultress spirits. God uses preachers to call people back to himself.
Paul knew this about himself, also. In 2 Corinthians 12:1-10, Paul cites this reality as he often does when he points to another as opposed to himself. He speaks of his struggles, and these words come to us in verse 9, “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” (2 Corinthians 12:9, ESV) It seems a strange thing to boast in, weakness. It was just as weird then as it is today. It was a counter-cultural statement then as it still is today. It is contrary to our nature. For those of us who trust in Christ, it is a statement of freedom in dependence. We are free in our full reliance on God’s grace. In our realization of this reality, we no longer must remain in our strength but walk in the confidence of what God has done and is currently doing within creation. Jesus did not enter into creation as one would expect God to enter. Jesus was like any normal man and not like many would have expected God to come into creation. He did not enter as a prince or someone of high standing, but the child of a carpenter. So, in humility, Christ shows us strength. No one could do what Jesus Christ did for us on the cross. That is the power.
God knows the hearts of man and when Jesus returned to his hometown after proclaiming the Gospel elsewhere was not met with open arms. Mark 6:1-13 shows us quite the contrary. He is met with questions and a little disdain. The people of Nazareth had seen Jesus grow up. They knew his family, they knew the history of his life in the community. In their opinion, there was nothing special about this son of a carpenter. Jesus was unable to do the ministry he had done in other places. The hearts of his neighbors were hardened against him. I have faced failures like this in ministry. Many pastors leave the ministry because of rejection like Jesus met. That is the difference between the son of God. Jesus did not lose heart. I am sure that he ached because of the love he had for these people, but I don’t know that he was surprised. Being God, he continued on his mission and sent out the disciples to proclaim the truth throughout Israel. Not only does he send them out, but he sends them out with nothing but the clothing on their backs. They were sent out to be wholly reliant on God. We are called to this mission as Christians. Our lives are meant to be lived in reliance on the providence of God. That is a humbling reality as we realize that everything we have is because of God and not because of our own doing. This is contrary to our very nature, our fallen nature. In my own life, I have had multiple opportunities to witness this as my wife, and I have stepped out in faith. This has not always been a choice. There have been times that this has been done because the reality was that we had no real option and have had to pray. Other times, other possible options did not feel right, so submission was more natural. If I were to say that either way was more comfortable then the other, I would be lying. It is never truly easy, but in following Christ and trusting in his providence there comes with it a sense of peace. My thorn is my pride and being one who has a strong sense of self, I am often humbled. I have had my share of suffering in the midst of it all. In the most significant points of struggle and pain, though, I have found great comfort and peace. When people have attacked me because I have proclaimed a word that caused them to feel convicted, I have relied on God all the more knowing that I am in his care. It did not end as I had hoped, often, but I have found things end as they needed to end. God has always provided a way. I can honestly say that as I reflect on some of the issues that arose and see where they led me eventually, I can see where my errors and my own thinking has gotten in my way. I have also found that being faithful to God’s Word has provided some difficulties as I have been challenged by those that did not feel that the way they saw things were not as the Bible had laid them out. It is hard to realize shortcomings, especially if you feel like you are a good person. To be shaped by the Word and not to form the Word around the way we want things to be is not something we like. Paul knew this and Jesus modeled this. When we lay it all down at the foot of the Cross, we find newness in life, freedom in Christ, and a new way in which we can live out our days. No longer fearful of God’s anger and punishment, but desiring to live a life that gives him all the glory. That is the blessing of our faith, and in that, we find our sufficiency in God’s Grace.