“Sufferings are but as little chips of the cross!” -Joseph Church
For years John Piper has held a conference at his church just for pastors. During that time he has regularly presented messages on the lives of great saints of the past. I have read several of them. I was quite interested in his treatment of Charles Simeon (1759-1836), Church of England minister who pastored the Church of the Holy Trinity in Cambridge, England for 54 years. This particular article grabbed my attention because at one time I owned the 21 volume set of Simeon’s Expository Sermons, but had not really read his biography. Upon discovering Piper’s article on Simeon I purchased his full biography by Handley Moule entitled, “Charles Simeon, Pastor of a Generation.” In the forward of this volume John Stott states, “We urgently need in the pulpits of the world a new generation of Simeons!”
For a brief time Henry Martyn, missionary to India and Persia, assisted Charles Simeon at Holy Trinity Church and it is recorded that his inspiration and interest in missions was aroused at this time. Simeon had a great heart for missions, especially the Jews. In all of his years he never married and Piper describes his maturing in ministry as a “growing downward.”
A life in ministry is beset with trials both within and without. From the onset of his pastorate a large number of the parishioners did not want him, sometimes locking the doors of the church upon his arrival! It was some 12 years before things began to gradually turn around. But then, even after some 30 years of ministry, there were still “Alexander the Coppersmiths” in the congregation making it very difficult for him. In his very last sermon to the Trinity Church congregation, seemingly ignoring all the challenges, setbacks and discouragements during his long tenure as pastor, with grace abounding in his heart and compassion for his flock, he exhorted, “It is not sufficient for any man to run well for a season only. What your attainment may be, and whatever you may have done or suffered in the service of your God, you must forget the things that are behind, till you have actually fulfilled your course and obtained the crown.”
After some five decades of day by day toiling ministry he was asked by a friend how he had persevered all these years of prejudice, bitterness, and personal assault upon his service to Christ and the church. Here was his response, “My dear brother, we must not mind a little suffering for Christ’s sake. When I am getting through a hedge, if my head and shoulders are safe through, I can bear the pricking of my legs. Let us rejoice in the remembrance that our holy Head has surmounted all His suffering and triumphed over death. Let us follow Him patiently; we shall soon be partakers of His victory.”
Some of us are nearing the end of our ministries while others, by the grace of God, have many more years to serve if He tarries in His coming. Regardless of which end we are on, we must be “patient in tribulation” (Romans 12:12); “count it all joy when we fall into various trials” (James 1:3); and “be imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises” (Hebrews 6:12). May we, like Simeon, recognize that sufferings are but as little chips of the cross!
“But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you. To Him be the glory and the dominion forever. Amen.” -1 Peter 5:10-11