Affection for the Lord while Serving in the City
“…And though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, obtaining as the outcome of your faith the salvation of your souls.”
While serving in Houston, we labor and strive with combined blessings and challenges. This mega-city overwhelms with its splendor of ethnicities, with men and women and children learning to exercise dominion in the concrete garden with the variety of trades, and with the varied expressions of vocational pursuits, like: commerce, medicine, architecture, and entertainment. It equally overwhelms with the heartaches of the spoils of sin and sin’s ruin, the self-centered-ism leading to greed, envy, lusts of the flesh, status-seeking strutting, and our abusive ways to one another. A combination—blessings and challenges!
While serving, what keeps our hearts and hands fixed on our purpose? Devotion to Jesus Christ. It would be easy to give up, to walk away and to leave the task of planting churches in Houston to someone else.
But devotion and love in the Lord Jesus captures us—and so we move forward. Though we do not see the Lord Jesus now, we believe him for his words and his works. Our trust in Christ inspires us step by step. To be overwhelmed with splendor or overwhelmed with heartaches does not match the affection that Christ enlivens.
From a pastor of old times, from his old Geneva pastorate, 1550s-1560s—it’s John Calvin on words from I Peter 1:8, “whom having not seen.”
Calvin instructs us: “He [the Apostle Peter] lays down two things, that they loved Christ whom they had not seen, and that they believed on him whom they did not then behold. But the first arises from the second; for the cause of love is faith, not only because the knowledge of those blessings which Christ bestows on us, moves us to love him, but because he offers us perfect felicity, and thus draws us up to himself. He then commends the Jews, because they believed in Christ whom they did not see, that they might know that the nature of faith is to acquiesce in those blessings which are hid from our eyes. They had indeed given some proof of this very thing, though he rather directs what was to be done by praising them.
“The cause of love is faith…”
The first clause in order is, that faith is not to be measured by sight. For when the life of Christians is apparently miserable, they would instantly fail, were not their happiness dependent on hope. Faith, indeed, has also its eyes, but they are such as penetrate into the invisible kingdom of God, and are contented with the mirror of the Word; for it is the demonstration of invisible things, as it is said in Heb. xi.1. Hence true is that saying of Paul, that we are absent from the Lord while we are in the flesh; for we walk by faith and not by sight (2 Cor. 5:6-7).
The second clause is, that faith is not a cold notion, but that it kindles in our hearts love to Christ. For faith does not (as the sophists prattle) lay hold on God in a confused and implicit manner, (for this would be to wander through devious paths;) but it has Christ as its object.
“…faith is not a cold notion, but that it kindles in our hearts love to Christ…”
Moreover, it does not lay hold on the bare name of Christ, or his naked essence, but regards what he is to us, and what blessings he brings; for it cannot be but that the affections of man should be led there, where his happiness is, according to that saying, ‘where your treasure is, there is also your heart.’ (Matt. vi. 21).”
The combination—blessings and challenges—of ministry in the city of Houston calls for the eyes of faith fixed on the person and work of Jesus Christ. That is, staying in the words of Scripture, the stories of who he is and the wonders of the Son’s matchless love unto his Father, whom he served with ardor and fervency, stir us. His love compels. His love fuels. His love reaches forward to serve others. Because we cannot see God, we serve him and love him in showing our service and love to others. It’s city service, city faith, city love—in Houston; for his glory! And there are blessings galore with the eyes of our hearts on Jesus Christ.