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UK Ministry Trip: The gloriously grueling task and the particular burning verse

Gavin Peacock

       In a recent article John Piper writes that the "...particular glories of God are seen and enjoyed not mainly by gazing over the whole dazzling landscape of redemptive history, but by focusing on some particular thing God did or said inside the story."

       Of course you need to understand the verse in its historical grammatical context within the canon of Scripture. In other words you need a grasp of the full sweep of redemptive history from creation to consummation.  However, what Piper wants to highlight is that this big picture exists to also reveal the particular ways and glories of God with his people inside of that story.

       This often happens when he burns a particular verse of Scripture into your heart. That can be ongoing or it can be for a specific time.
       One promise which God has currently burned into my heart comes from Acts 18: 9-10:
 "Do not be afraid, but go on speaking and do not be silent, for I am with you, and no one will attack you or harm you, for I have many in this city who are my people." 
         I have just arrived in Edinburgh for 10 days of ministry amongst some of Scotland's poorest in the most deprived areas. I expect to serve and to learn much. I'll be staying in Niddrie with Mez McConnell, who is doing some amazing Gospel work there and seeking God's blessing upon a new initiative to plant 20 Gospel churches in 20 housing schemes. Now that is a gloriously grueling task: Glorious because it is for the fame of Christ’s name and grueling because of the difficulty of the work. But how will it be accomplished?

       In the other chapters around Acts 18 Paul is going around the churches "strengthening" them by his ministry (14:22; 15:41; 16:5; 18:23). Surely the task of any visiting minister is to strengthen the saints whom he serves. Yet in Acts 18 an aspect of an awakening ministry is in view. We see Paul in Corinth given a promise from God not to fear but to boldly proclaim the gospel because there are people of God in that city who need to hear the word and be saved. Christ has already purchased his bride on the cross. To put it another way, Christ has other sheep that need to be brought into the fold through the preached and received word.  All we need to know is that God is sovereign and he is with us as we go. If he is sovereign there is nothing that can happen to us outside of his will and if he is with us then how can our task fail? At some stage someone is coming out saved, "I have many in this city who are my people".

      That's the promise that is strengthening me as I go to strengthen and by grace awaken others. That's the particular burning verse that church planters in the 20 Schemes initiative would do well to embrace for this gloriously grueling task. So as they suffer for Christ sake they will be strengthened by God's word.

     Mez and I chatted over the phone a couple of days ago and I Iet him in on my burning verse. He informed me that he had just taught a Bible study on it that morning! By the way, there is a Church Planting Conference in Edinburgh next week which we will attend called, wait for it, " In this City 2012". Oh, and in Piper’s article, the particular verse that sustained him through the years? “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” (Isa.41: 10).