“My dear friends, do not be taken aback at the testing by fire which is taking place among you, as though something strange were happening to you; but in so far as you share in the sufferings of Christ, be glad, so that you may enjoy a much greater gladness when his glory is revealed.” (1 Peter 4:12–13, NJB)
Franklin Roosevelt once said, “A smooth sea never made a skilled sailor.” I don’t know about you, but I have oft times desired little less skill-building and smoother seas. Yet, those difficult testings of life not only serve to develop us, but provide opportunities to make a real difference. No minister of the gospel has never been called to be a chaplain to the complacent. Our call is to go make disciples; to go and baptize; to go and proclaim the word of God. For“… how will they hear of him unless there is a preacher for them?” (Romans 10:14, NJB) The greatest voices in the Church spoke most profoundly during rough seas.
Early in his ministry, John Wesley returned to his boyhood home at Epworth where his father had served for 40 years (1695-1735). It was Sunday, June 6th in 1742, and he presented himself to the vicar—Wesley was both an Anglican priest and a fellow at Oxford. He had hoped to preach at the evening service that Sunday, but the vicar closed his pulpit to him on the grounds that the Methodists suffered from enthusiasm. Denied the pulpit that had so recently belonged to his father, Wesley preached to the vast crowds from his father’s tombstone. His opening words were: "The kingdom of heaven is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost"
Charles Simeon was 23 when he was appointed as vicar of Holy Trinity Church in Cambridge. The parish had another minister in mind and were incensed at Simeon’s evangelical preaching. He proclaimed the word to those hungry for it, those his congregation considered of inferior classes in such society. They locked the rented pews from being used in the evening services which they themselves did not attend. When Charles put benches in the aisles, the church wardens threw them out. He at one point considered giving up. He wrote:
"When I was an object of much contempt and derision in the university, I strolled forth one day, buffeted and afflicted, with my little Testament in my hand … The first text which caught my eye was this: 'They found a man of Cyrene, Simon by name; him they compelled to bear his cross.'"
He chose to sail those rough seas and the pews began to fill, first with college students and then with vast crowds of all ages. He began teaching young men to preach on Friday evenings and Sunday. And it is said, that at the end of his life, a full one-third of all Anglican minsters in England had sat under his teaching at one time or another.
God works through us most especially when the seas are roughest. “In so far as you share in the sufferings of Christ, be glad, so that you may enjoy a much greater gladness when his glory is revealed.”