Understanding the Times

January 14, 2010 by Paul Chappell

Although the times in which we live are in many ways alarming and perplexing, for the servant of the Lord, they are full of ministry opportunities—to a greater extent than ever before.

To effectively serve the Lord and take advantage of the ministry opportunities before us, we must be like David’s warriors of old, “men that had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do” (1 Chronicles 12:32).

Like never before, God’s people need an understanding of the times—an awareness of the need of the hour.

1. It is time for revival.

The need in America for revival is greater than ever before—and all of us recognize the peril our nation faces without it. Unfortunately, we are sometimes slow to recognize our personal need for revival. As a first step for corporate revival, R.A. Torrey admonished, “Let a few people (they need not be many) get thoroughly right with God themselves.”

When we as God’s people ask Him for a fresh awakening of His presence and repentantly turn from sin, we then have the revived joy of the Lord that allows us to minister to others in the power of the Spirit. We must pray with the psalmist, “Wilt thou not revive us again: that thy people may rejoice in thee?” (Psalms 85:6).

2. It is time for refreshing.

It seems that people have more burdens now than ever before, and I want God to use me to lift these burdens and encourage Christians. I want Lancaster Baptist Church to have a spirit of refreshment and joy.

How does God bring refreshment?

  • By His Spirit
    The Holy Spirit, the eternal Comforter, ministers to our hearts in a way that no human can (John 14:16). And when we are filled with the Spirit, He ministers to others through us, bringing comfort, refreshment, and joy.
  • By His Word
    Over the past several weeks, I’ve immersed myself in Psalms, and I have gleaned such strength and comfort through God’s Word during the trial our family is going through.
    As we seek to refresh others, we must first drink for ourselves from the ever-springing well of refreshment God gives through His Word. Too often, however, we turn to lesser sources of comfort and diversion rather than receiving the healing refreshment from God’s written Word. We then have little to give by way of refreshment to others.
  • By His Servants
    Paul described Stephanas, Fortunatus, and Achaicus as Christians who “refreshed my spirit” (1 Corinthians 16:18). I would like to be counted among such men.
    A few years ago my family and I visited the Spurgeon museum in London, England. The guide showed us one of Spurgeon’s sermon outlines that Missionary David Livingston had taken with him to Africa. On the top of the paper, Dr. Livingston wrote, “Very encouraging. D. Livingston.”
    What a privilege it would have been to get to refresh the spirit of the Apostle Paul or encourage the heart of David Livingstone! Although many to whom we minister may never be as well known as Paul or Dr. Livingstone, God surrounds each of us with opportunities to refresh His children. Write notes of encouragement, and open your home as a center of hospitality  to those who need refreshment.

3. It is time for renewing.

There’s something about a new year that encourages all of us to renew our goals and redouble our efforts.

I find that to effectively serve the Lord, I must make frequent assessments in all areas of life and ministry. A person who feels he has arrived and is beyond assessment is also beyond increased productivity.

Haggai 1:7 instructs, “Consider your ways….” Look back over the key areas of your life from last year, and assess in what areas you need to focus on growth. How can you reach a greater level of excellence in each area of responsibility?

As you make assessments, don’t forget to follow up with adjustments! It does little good to take inventory of needs without developing a plan to meet those needs. Ask yourself, “What steps of action am I going to take to grow in this area that is lacking?” You may need to adjust your calendar to reflect your newly assessed priorities. You may need to increase your accountability to keep yourself on track. Be willing to make any changes that will help you be a more productive servant of Christ.

4. It is time for refocusing.

The beginning of a new year is a perfect time to refocus on what matters most and realign our vision of ministry with Scripture. “Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he” (Proverbs 29:18).

An important part of my process in refocusing my energy into the ministry to which God has called me is developing personal goals. Someone once said, “A goal is a planned conflict with the status quo.” Goals push me to continually reach beyond the status quo and strive for constant growth.

A rule of thumb for writing goals is to make them concrete, measurable, and written. Good goals go beyond, “I want to be a better husband” by listing concrete and measurable activities that describe a better husband, such as, “pray with my wife every night before bed, have a date night every Thursday, etc.”

I can only maintain the focus to reach my personal goals as I review them regularly and evaluate my progress. I schedule time every week to review my goals and make necessary readjustments for accomplishment.

Do you live with an understanding of the times, or are you just living in the moment? We so easily get tunnel-vision and live only in the immediate pleasures or demands in sight. To properly understand the times in which we live and the ministry opportunities of the hour, we must live beyond the moment.

As a new year unfolds before us, may we each be challenged to understand the times and to proactively make 2010 count for the cause of Christ.


1 Comment »

  1. Dr. Chappell, thank you for your help by giving me a track to run on so to speak. I am a new pastor and a father of 5 soon to be 6. This message just reaffirmed to me some things that I must make sure I am doing to be a better Christian, pastor, husband, and father.
    Thank you for going the extra mile to put together so many first-class websites that are a major help and tool to those of us just starting out!

    Comment by Amos Graham — January 15, 2011 @ 6:48 pm

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