2 Chronicles 29:1-17 – Encouragement to Keep Plowing the Field in Front of You!

Posted: October 16, 2020 in 14-2 Chronicles

2 Chronicles 29:1-17

Ahaz Closes the Temple

Opening Illustration/Comments

We all need encouragement in ministry. Sometimes, it gets hard. Especially, it gets hard when you are trying to minister in the combination of trying to change the culture/the mindset of a church and then you throw in a global pandemic on top of that. It can thoroughly make you feel defeated and not want to try anything and just bide your time through the storm.

Although I did not think of myself as feeling blue and defeated. It was about a month ago that there was a combination of factors that apparently made it outwardly clear that I had hit a spiritually low moment in ministry. During August-September 2020, I had performed two funerals for families that I had grown to love since I have been here at Lamar United Methodist Church. Those two weeks in a row, I had to prepare two funeral messages and two sermons which was spiritually draining. To those outside the pastorate, you may thing it’s not big deal to crank out a sermon every week, but it is both a spiritually passionate but also spiritually draining experience. To pour your heart and soul into it every week is what we do as pastors. Add to that, then, having to ride that rollercoaster twice in one week is draining. I don’t just throw a standard template together for my funeral messages; they are just as unique as each of my sermons, personalized to that individual.

Then add to that, for about two weeks, we were up and down the road to the Charlotte area (about 2 ½ hours northwest of Lamar, SC). My mother-in-law who had been in declining health for several years now in a nursing home was rushed to the hospital the day after Labor Day with what turned out to be a combination of pneumonia and COVID-19 from which she was unable to survive. My dear mother-in-law as weak as she was anyway could not fight that uphill battle. She was 88 years old when she passed on to glory. Family visits, funeral planning, and other family matters kept us on the road.

We were unaware when my wife, though totally masked up and geared up, when she visited with her mom for an hour and a half in the emergency room on that Tuesday after Labor Day that her mom would later that afternoon test positive for COVID-19. As a result, with her having been exposed, therefore, I became potentially exposed. We had to inform our church leadership team that Elena had been directly exposed and I had been exposed to Elena since she is my wife. We self-quarantined immediately. In-person church the following Sunday was cancelled in favor of a fully pre-recorded service to be disseminated on social media that Sunday. Putting together an hour long video service is about 6 hours of production time in addition to the preparation of the content itself. So, that was really a lot of additional work to the regular routine of preparing for a live and in-person worship service.

While Elena had waited the recommended 6-7 days after potential exposure to take the COVID test, she was on her way to Columbia when a transfer truck decided to come over in her lane and she had nowhere to go because of traffic on the interstate beside her. Thus, the transfer truck chewed up the entire passenger side of her car. So, now we had a wrecked car and potential exposure to COVID. Luckily, the test results came back two days later and Elena did NOT have the virus. At that point, we were free to emerge from quarantine and I could resume normal activities (being at the church office and conducting live and in-person worship services).

However, as we have learned in this process, having been even potentially exposed to the virus has a social stigma related to it. Our church folk, simply out of the natural fear of the virus, did not come to church. The following two Sunday after our potential exposure were the lowest attended services that I have had since I had been here. It was there I had hit my ministry low point.

Although there are reasons for it all, the COVID-19 virus had cut our attendance at church in half over the past 6 months. Ministry initiatives pretty ground to a halt. The virus seem to defeat any efforts to do ministry. And then even though we were not Coronavirus positive, those two Sundays after the news got out that we had been exposed were, like I said, badly attended church services. It was hard not to take all that personally. Combine that with the slow go it has been to find that thing that would ignite our church into something a spiritual explosion. I guess all was weighing me down without me realizing it.

At the September administrative council (the governing body of each local UMC church), it was obvious to several people that I was spiritually drained. Having said all that, God knows when we need encouragement. It was the Monday after that Sunday night meeting that one of my trusted advisors, and key leader and person of significant influence in our church, came to me and said she realized that I was drained and needed encouragement. That conversation was what was needed right at the right moment and said the things that needed to be said. It was like a clutch hit late in the baseball game where you down by 3 runs and things looked bleak. It gave me the encouragement that I sorely needed without me even realizing that I was struggling. God knows what we need when we need it even when we don’t realize that we need it.

It is that idea of God providing us the encouragement that we need to carry on in ministry is what I thought of this morning when reading this passage, 2 Chronicles 29:1-17. Let us read through it this morning, together, with that idea in mind:

Scripture Passage

Chapter 29

1 Hezekiah was twenty-five years old when he became the king of Judah, and he reigned in Jerusalem twenty-nine years. His mother was Abijah, the daughter of Zechariah. 2 He did what was pleasing in the Lord’s sight, just as his ancestor David had done.

3 In the very first month of the first year of his reign, Hezekiah reopened the doors of the Temple of the Lord and repaired them. 4 He summoned the priests and Levites to meet him at the courtyard east of the Temple. 5 He said to them, “Listen to me, you Levites! Purify yourselves, and purify the Temple of the Lord, the God of your ancestors. Remove all the defiled things from the sanctuary. 6 Our ancestors were unfaithful and did what was evil in the sight of the Lord our God. They abandoned the Lord and his dwelling place; they turned their backs on him. 7 They also shut the doors to the Temple’s entry room, and they snuffed out the lamps. They stopped burning incense and presenting burnt offerings at the sanctuary of the God of Israel.

8 “That is why the Lord’s anger has fallen upon Judah and Jerusalem. He has made them an object of dread, horror, and ridicule, as you can see with your own eyes. 9 Because of this, our fathers have been killed in battle, and our sons and daughters and wives have been captured. 10 But now I will make a covenant with the Lord, the God of Israel, so that his fierce anger will turn away from us. 11 My sons, do not neglect your duties any longer! The Lord has chosen you to stand in his presence, to minister to him, and to lead the people in worship and present offerings to him.”

12 Then these Levites got right to work:

From the clan of Kohath: Mahath son of Amasai and Joel son of Azariah.

From the clan of Merari: Kish son of Abdi and Azariah son of Jehallelel.

From the clan of Gershon: Joah son of Zimmah and Eden son of Joah.

13

From the family of Elizaphan: Shimri and Jeiel.

From the family of Asaph: Zechariah and Mattaniah.

14

From the family of Heman: Jehiel and Shimei.

From the family of Jeduthun: Shemaiah and Uzziel.

15 These men called together their fellow Levites, and they all purified themselves. Then they began to cleanse the Temple of the Lord, just as the king had commanded. They were careful to follow all the Lord’s instructions in their work. 16 The priests went into the sanctuary of the Temple of the Lord to cleanse it, and they took out to the Temple courtyard all the defiled things they found. From there the Levites carted it all out to the Kidron Valley.

17 They began the work in early spring, on the first day of the new year,[a] and in eight days they had reached the entry room of the Lord’s Temple. Then they purified the Temple of the Lord itself, which took another eight days. So the entire task was completed in sixteen days..

Passage Analysis

In this passage, we see that the Levites, chosen by God to serve in the Temple, had been kept from their duties by Ahaz’s wickedness (see 2 Chronicles 28:24). In contrast, Hezekiah called them back into service, reminding them that the Lord had chosen them to minister.

Life Application

I think the thing that we need to takeaway this morning is that we may not have to face a wicked king but pressures or responsibilities can render us ineffective or worse yet, inert. When we have been given the responsibility to minister, don’t quit or become motionless. If you have become despondent in ministry (whether as a pastor or as layperson who leads a ministry at church or in the community) because of circumstances that are holding you back either internally or externally, continue to have vision, continue to minister, and God will provide you the encouragement that you need to continue. He has proven that He will give us the Hezekiahs that we need. If God has called you to a vision for your organization, don’t let defeats and disappointments cause inertia in your soul and in your ministry. Keep plugging away.

As with the 1,000s of failed combinations of materials that Thomas Edison used in an attempt to create the light bulb, it only takes 1 combination to strike upon that Eureka moment which everything clicks and a new thing is invented. It is the same in ministry, it only takes one combination of circumstances, people, timing, and resources to create that right thing that God wants us to find that causes a spiritual revolution in your ministry.

Thus, in my own situation, the thing that I remember from last month is that God does care for us. Too often, even as pastors, we think we are working at this thing alone. We fail to remember that God just wants us to be faithful to Him and depend on Him. And sure there will be times when you feel like you are at your wits end. But God is there. He will find a way for you to make it through the spiritually tough times. God is ever present for us. He will part the Red Sea for us in our own wildernesses. We simply have to trust in Him. He will provide us the way through and He will provide us encouragement just at the right time when we need it. We, thus, keep plugging away as we trust in Him. We find that it’s not about the successes or failures in ministry. It is about being faithful to the Lord and keepin’ on keepin’ on in the work. He will reward us for being faithful to Him. It may not be in earthly success in ministry but the faithfulness leads to dependence and the dependence on Him is what He is after anyway. If you are a pastor, just keep doing what you do as long as you are seeking to glorify God in everything you do. It’s not about us anyway. It’s about Him. So, as incomplete and flawed human beings, He simply asks that we keep plowing the field in front of us. He simply asks that we are faithful just like Edison working for years to find that one right combination of elements that become the light bulb, a thing that revolutionized society. Keep being faithful, God will bring together that right combination of elements in your ministry too!

Amen and Amen.

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