In this edition of the Ministry Minded Podcast, I reflect on some developments I have made in my sermon writing process, specifically as it regards to including quotes in my sermons. I also chew on Ecclesiastes 1 and the fallacy of living for sand, as well as the lesson on ministerial disappointment we can learn from the life of Elijah in 1 Kings 19. There have been a bevy of things I have learned in this first year of senior pastoral ministry, but chief among them is definitely that steadfastness in ministry is less about “results” than it is about faithfulness despite the results. This, I think, is the lesson we are made to see in 1 Kings 18 and 19, in which one of the most prominent prophets of God is brought down to earth, so to speak, after witnessing the demonstrable results of God’s intervention. There is a profound lesson every minister should take to heart in this moment in Elijah’s life. Likewise, in Ecclesiastes, I reflect on the first chapter and its insistence that everlasting happiness is impossible to achieve amidst temporal materials. Mankind still hasn’t learned that lesson, though. We’re still chasing after the wind. We’re still trying to build castles with sand. “We are,” writes Zack Eswine, “a soul-starved people, scavenging for emotional and rational leftovers, searching for a reason, a purpose, a point to it all; attempting to finally arrive.”1 The tragedy is that arrival never comes. For all our energy and effort and work and labor, we are never able to realize the everlasting happiness we set out to achieve. And that’s precisely because nothing “under the sun” can ever quite our soul’s craving for something eternal. For that, you need something equally eternal. You need God.
A Commentary on Ecclesiastes, Charles Bridges
The Books of Esther, Job, Proverbs, and Ecclesiastes, Alexander Maclaren
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I’m Brad Gray and I serve as the Senior Pastor of Stonington Baptist Church in Paxinos, Pennsylvania, where I live with my wife Natalie, daughter Lydia, and son Braxton. Besides pastoring, I spend most of my time writing, reading, and ministering in many more ways. I am resolved to faithfully and fervently propagate the gospel of “grace upon grace” for the weary and the worn out. It is my sincerest desire to live and minister all “for the sake of the Name.” (3 Jn 1:7) So long as Christ is exalted, that is enough.
Intro music: “Explorers (Instrumental Version)” by The Midnight, The Midnight Music LLC, 2018.
Zack Eswine, Rediscovering Eden: The Gospel According to Ecclesiastes (Phillipsburg, PA: P&R Publishing, 2014), 44.