Encouragement for Discouraged Preachers

As we approach the anniversary of John Calvin’s last sermon (February 6, 1564) I am posting comments from his sermons on 1 Timothy. In the section below, from a sermon on 1 Tim 6:12-14, Calvin provides powerful encouragement for those times of discouragement, opposition and despair. Appropriately, Calvin points us to God drawing especially on the fact that Paul’s charge is rooted in “the God who quickens [makes alive] all things.”

I pray you may be encouraged in your labors today and persevere knowing your labor is not in vain (1 Cor 15:58).

As we see a great number who when they consider what they have to do, their hearts fail them if it be weightier than they are able to perform and go through with. ‘Ho, is it possible that I can do this?  I feel myself weak, I see that this is a great burden, and a burden that I am not able to bear.’  No, no, only let us take pains, although the things be hard for us, God will work for us.  And since we see that Saint Paul, naming things that surmount the strength of men, ceases not, notwithstanding, to exhort men to do them, know we that it will be no excuse for us to allege that we were astonished and amazed when he saw that we were not able and fit for that charge which God laid upon our shoulders. For he knows what we can do- that is to say, nothing at all.  And moreover, he will not be lacking to us, nor ever fail us, so long as we walk humbly and learn to submit ourselves to him, and commit ourselves wholly into his hands.

This is what we have to mark.  And because these things might discourage us let us mark well also the circumstance which Saint Paul adds. And let it be to shut up the matter withal when he says, That God quickens all things, for he shows us hereby, though it seem that we are poor and miserable wretches, that our condition is accursed, that as touching the world we are despised and reviled, that men mock at us, that they put out their tongues at us, that others torment us, that we are taken as castaways, that nevertheless we must not faint for all that, for God does quicken. Therefore let us cast our eyes upon that life which God keeps hidden with himself, and which he opened when he revealed it by the Holy Ghost and gave good witness of it in his Gospel.  So then, when the world has conspired our death a hundred thousand times, and we are taken for condemned persons, and reviled, let us go on, for our lives stand not here below. It hangs not upon men, neither upon their reputation, nor upon their credit. Let us not think so, but let us surmount all grief that the devil casts in our way to make us faint-hearted, considering that it is God who quickens all things. He holds our life in his hand. He will keep it safely and securely, and it is his pleasure that we should bend to him and content ourselves therewith, knowing that he will not deceive us in that which he has promised us.

Now God does not quicken anything but that which seems to be dead.  Therefore when we walk as we ought, and as we are called, it cannot be but we must be as it were cast away in the sight of the world, and that death itself threatens us and compasses us about on every side.  And why so?  Otherwise God would not do that which he challenges to himself in this place, namely, to quicken us; but in the midst of death we may hope for life, knowing that no man can molest us when the invincible power of God is for us; and that they who now trouble us shall abide confounded, and God will cause us in the end to triumph with our Lord Jesus Christ.

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