You are a hiding place for me; you preserve me from trouble; you surround me with shouts of deliverance. —Psalm 32:7
The summer slump is over. Children have returned to school. Similar to the difficulty of moving a long-parked train, the normal cycles of life are slowly gaining momentum. And in the midst of all of this, many patterns in the life of the pastor are gaining inertia. As we take on more and more responsibilities, the pressure to crowd out the important with the urgent lurks in every staff meeting, inbox, and calendar update. As Robert Murray McCheyne famously said, “The greatest need of my people is my personal holiness.” Therefore, you and I must strive to abide. This verse from Psalm 32 calls to us and entreats us to come, rest in the presence of our God, be protected from much, and see the great deliverance of our God.
Martin Luther is quoted as having said, “I have so much to do that I shall spend the first three hours in prayer.” Whether he actually said this or not, the sentiment is true. We must be the type of Christians who locate ourselves in the presence of God. Psalm 32:7 declares that God is the hiding place for the Christian. My children still love a good game of hide and seek. Our house is full of nooks and crannies that eight-year-olds (and even thirty-seven-year-olds) find suitable for the game. However, at this point, everyone in our family already knows all the good hiding spots, so it is just a matter of time before we are found out. This is not the case when we hide in our God. Though our enemy knows where we are hiding, he cannot search us out. Our God calls us to hide in him. As we approach the Lord through prayer, devotion to the Scriptures, and other Christian disciplines, we are protected and provided for. In the sovereign hands of our God, no trouble will befall us that can overtake us, for we are more than conquerors through him who loves us (Rom. 8:37).
This holy hiding is a realignment around the priorities and purposes of God. Without abiding in our God, we can do nothing of significance (John 15). From this, we must ask, what does success really look like in our ministries? The world of work defines all success around metrics of achievement, profitability, and advancement. Now, there is a measure of ministry that does revolve around getting things done. On this front, far too many ministers have forsaken hard work out of fear of making ministry an idol. This is a false dichotomy that pits hard work and devotion to God against family, rest, and the like. Instead of lazily spending our days tucked away in some office, we should be running hard for the sake of the gospel while continuing to rest in our identity in Christ rather than our accomplishments. Nevertheless, the world’s standards of success are not God’s standards of success. Paul speaks to this in 1 Corinthians 13, saying, “If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.” Here, he specifically speaks of doing ministry out of love, but the principle remains—if we undertake ministry in a way that looks good to the world but isn’t rooted in God, we gain nothing. To have all the outward success and not abide in our God is to ultimately gain nothing. We must redefine faithful ministry as Jesus declares it. God is our hiding place, and this means that our protection and purpose are realized in abiding in him.
“This holy hiding is a realignment around the priorities and purposes of God.”—Justin Honaker
Furthermore, our ultimate deliverance is only found when we hide in our God. Now, to say we are hiding is not a statement of reclusion but of advancement. Much like Merry and Pippin are carried toward the battlefield on the shoulders of Treebeard, we are carried forward in faithful ministry as we hide ourselves in God. Deliverance comes to our lives, our homes, our churches, and our communities as faithful Christians position themselves in the protection and purpose of God. We cannot hope to find victory outside the presence of our victorious Lord. We know this to be true in the soteriological sense, as life is only found when we are hidden with Christ in God (Col. 3). However, far too many think that soteriological success is found in Christ while practical ministry success is found in personal achievement. We must trust that as we hide in God, we are hiding in the one who has ordained our future and our perseverance.
Abiding in Christ is our only hope to endure. God has truly welcomed us into his presence by the blood of Jesus. Therefore, let us endure in faithfulness, hiding ourselves in the Word of God, in the worship of God, and in prayer to our God. It is then and only then that we will be protected, find a purpose that endures, and know a security that does not fail. As the sails of ministry begin to fill this fall, let us ensure that by prayer and supplication, we are working by the grace of God that is in us (1 Cor. 15). To the advancement of the gospel and the glory of God, we strive, and we abide.