Too many pastors in too many churches today are pressed with unreal expectations. They are expected to be spiritual supermen, always able to leap tall buildings with a single bound. The pastor is expected to counsel without a degree in counseling. He is expected to manage the financial affairs of the church without a degree in accounting. He is expected to effectively handle all personal matters without a degree in management as well as lead the business affairs of the church without a degree in business administration or finance. In addition to all of this the pastor is also expected to have the theological mind of Paul and preach with the persuasiveness of Billy Graham. And, by the way, he is expected to simply smile and nod when someone says, “What a great deal he has. He preaches a time or two a week and that is about it.”
The modern pastor is overworked…often overlooked…and most of the time overwhelmed by all the daily demands. Here at GuideStone we serve almost 250,000 pastors, church workers, missionaries and the like. Over the years one thing has remained consistent in our health care program: the top two pharmacy prescriptions are both for stress related preventable diseases.
James wrote his epistle in the New Testament to a group of people, just like us, who were filled with stress. They were “scattered abroad” and facing “various trials” (James 1:1). He was writing to those believers who had to leave their homes, their jobs, their properties–everything. Talk about stress. Today we are two thousand years removed from James’ writing but his letter remains as relevant as the morning internet news. Why? Because the book of James is a sort of code-a James Code-outlining for us how we can put our faith into action in the midst of our own stress filled surroundings.
For any and all of us under the pressure of stress in ministry James begins his letter with five fascinating facts that can turn our stress from our foe to our friend.
*STRESS IS PREDICTABLE…He does not say “if” we face stressful trials but “when” (James 1:1-2). Stress is inevitable, inescapable, unavoidable. We can’t avoid it. Stress happens!
*STRESS IS PROBLEMATIC…It brings about these “various trials” (v.2) of which James speaks. Stress is at the root of many of our own problems today.
*STRESS IS PARADOXICAL…James says we should consider it pure “joy” when we face stressful trials (vv2-4). We generally count it joy when we avoid trials and not when we face them. But there is a paradox here. Job said, “When He has tested me, I shall come forth as gold.” (Job 23:10).
*STRESS IS PURPOSEFUL…It purposes to lead us to purity (v.3), perseverance (v.4), perfection (v.4) and prayer (v.5).
*STRESS IS PROFITABLE…The Christian is like a tea bag; not worth much until he or she has been through some hot water. Stress can ultimately be profitable (vv9-12).
There are no more helpful words for the stress filled pastor today than those of James. After all, for too long too many have confused his message. He is not speaking to us about faith AND works…but a faith THAT works!
Adapted from the new book The James Code: 52 Scripture Principles For Putting Your Faith Into Action by O.S. Hawkins. Thomas Nelson publishers.
O.S. Hawkins—For more than 20 years, O.S. Hawkins served pastorates at the First Baptist Church in Fort Lauderdale, Florida and in Dallas, Texas. He is president of GuideStone Financial Resources, which serves 200,000 pastors, church staff, missionaries, doctors, and other workers of various Christian organizations with their retirement needs. Hawkins is the author of more than 25 books, including bestsellers The Joshua Code and The Jesus Code, which have sold more than 300,000 copies to date.