Posted by: Billy Marsh | June 25, 2008

Struggling for God

Well, Kim and I made it safe and sound to the Carolinas. Right now we are staying with her parents in Wagener, SC, and later this evening, we are going to be making our way with them to Myrtle Beach where we will be staying til Saturday. Woo hoo! Still, to her family’s amazement, I brought a mini-library with me so that I could keep my reading going. You can never coast. Plus, I don’t want to give Bret Rogers a chance in catching up with me on knocking out books on our Ph. D. reading bibliographies. Nonetheless, I have little time to read what I brought as well as time to blog. But I wanted to squeeze this one in real fast.

I’ve been reading Francis Schaeffer’s third book, Death in the City, which has proved to be just as profound and prophetic as his other works. This was the case before I even reached the chapter that I want to share with you today. In Death in the City, Schaeffer includes chapter 5 which is called, “The Persistence of Compassion.” As I began reading its contents, I was at once touched and ministered to by Schaeffer’s thoughts and encouragement regarding the necessity for a messenger of God (based upon Jeremiah’s situation) to continue in compassion towards those whom God has ordained for his message to reach despite the fact that his words always seem to fall upon deaf ears or that persecution is always what seems to follow obedience to God as his faithful ambassador.

Have you ever been discouraged in doing the Lord’s work? I can testify to this from some very real examples having served in two difficult church positions where I felt like a voice crying in the wilderness. But, although the circumstances are so costly and sometimes can be quite harmful in many different areas of your life such as your health or even your marriage, there is a waking feeling deep down that keeps you coming back for more. Compassion. Love. Brokenness. If you are a believer, then there ought to be an unending reservoir of mercy and compassion in your heart towards those who had not heard nor heeded God’s Word for repentance.

Schaeffer cites Jeremiah 15:10 as an example of a heart discouraged as result of struggling for the Lord among a people who will not turn from their wicked ways, “Woe is me, my mother, that you bore me, a man of strife and contention to the whole land. I have not lent, nore have I borrowed, yet all of them curse me.” In response to Jeremiah’s lament, Schaeffer wrote, “I am glad Jeremiah said that, because I have known discouragement too. And if you are being faithful in your preaching and not just opting out, in a culture like ours you too will experience times of discouragement (82).”

However, don’t misunderstand Schaeffer’s reply. The emphasis is not on the discouragement, but rather that the discouragement is a sign that you are actually waging war for God. The purpose of this chapter is not to validate discouragement in the believer’s life. Instead, what Schaeffer wants to show is that if you can’t identify with Jeremiah’s lament as a prophet of God, there’s a good sign that maybe you aren’t preaching his Word at all. Schaeffer goes on to share,

And you say, how can a man of God be discouraged? Anybody who asks that has never been in the midst of the battle; he understands nothing about real struggle for God. We are real men. We are on this side of the Fall. We are not perfect. We have our dreams, our psychological needs, and we want to be fulfilled. There are times of heroism as we stand firm and are faithful in preaching to men who will not listen. But there are also times when we fell overwhelmed (82).

It is definitely a heroic feeling to resolve as a young preacher that you are going to go to the small churches who have been abandoned for larger church scenes, or that you are going to go overseas where no man has gone before. But it is a much different experience once you have arrived and your story never becomes something worthy of a movie script for the masses. However, God uses the reality of these situations to get our minds and hearts right. We are to preach. We are to herald his coming. We are to call all men everywhere to repent. And these demands have nothing to do with whether or not people will turn and obey. Yet there remains the fact that we still should be looking out over the people with heart-wrenching compassion as we long to see them awake from their blindness and see Jesus Christ, the light of the world. Again Schaeffer adds:

It is possible to be faithful to God, and yet to be overwhelmed with discouragement as we face the world. In fact, if we are never overwhelmed, I wonder if we are fighting the battle with compassion and reality, or whether we are jousting with paper swords against paper windmills (83).

I hope these words have ministered to you in some way. I know that Schaeffer’s admonitions gripped my heart in this chapter, especially in light of having some familiarity with his life and the radical persistence he had in showing compassion to endless amounts of people, never failing to preach God’s Word. It can be hard sometimes. Let’s not try to be super-spiritual and deny this fact. But as ministers of God, we must press on in faith, content in obedience to God’s will, even when we rarely see any fruit from our labors. Ultimately, our peace and satisfaction must be found in him, and we will be quick to find that our joy in him will sustain us when happiness in others is lost.

And what is Schaeffer’s final words to this chapter? “Keep on, keep on, keep on, keep on, and then KEEP ON!”



  1. Wow! Thanks for this encouraging word Billy. It is like Isaiah’s call in ch.6 where he says, “Here am I, send me!” Most people stop thinking right there; but the next verses God reveals that the people will not respond and judgment will result.

    You and I shared some tough battles and difficult times, but we must Keep on!

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