The comfort of election
The eyes of the pastor open from sleep and his prayers begin before his feet hit the floor: “Lord, to these people, in this place you have given me the call to preach the gospel. Bless my work this day. Give me wisdom and patience, energy and opportunity, boldness and compassion to preach this gospel so that your people are comforted and all those who are lost in sin may be brought to faith in you.”
The pastor seeks to be faithful to his call. He labors with all his strength and with all available excellence trusting the Holy Spirit will work while he pours himself out in service. The day passes and is filled with earthly triumph and tragedy, success and failure. The pastor struggles with his own sinful nature and fights against self-pity, jealousy, frustration, pride and fear. Sometimes he sees and hears the outward confession of inward faith. Other times he feels ignored and ridiculed.
At the end of the day as he reviews his service and prepares to close his eyes again in peaceful sleep it isn’t the Great Commission passages or the duties of his call that give comfort to his heart. It is the doctrine of election.
In Revelation 7, listen to the words of the powerful angel who holds the seal of the living God. John reported: After this I saw four angels standing at the four corners of the earth, holding back the four winds of the earth to prevent any wind from blowing on the land or on the sea or on any tree. Then I saw another angel coming up from the east, having the seal of the living God. He called out in a loud voice to the four angels who had been given power to harm the land and the sea: "Do not harm the land or the sea or the trees until we put a seal on the foreheads of the servants of our God." The angel speaks to the other angels holding back the destructive wind so that no harm, no judgment would come until they put a seal on the foreheads of the servants of God.
In faith we find no conflict between the call to faithful gospel ministry and the assurance that in spite of our sin and failure not one of his chosen ones will be lost. So pastors get the best of all - the privilege of throwing ourselves fully into service to our King as heralds of his message and also the knowledge that our human weakness and limited abilities cannot cause his Word and will to fail.
What comfort this is for the people whom pastors serve as well. The seal of their baptism identifies them as a chosen people, a holy nation, a people belonging to God. For them he sends his powerful angels to protect now, and to gather then, before the coming Day of Judgment.