1. God is the greatest Reality in the universe. And pastors swim in that sea with ever-replenished joy.
I am the Lord, and there is no other, besides me there is no God (Isa. 45:5).
Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! “For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?” “Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?” For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen (Rom. 11:33–36).
2. Jesus is the greatest Savior, Master, and Friend that ever was or ever will be. And pastors contemplate and commend him every day.
Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends (John 15:13).
At the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father (Phil. 2:10–11).
No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you (John 15:15).
Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, the offspring of David, as preached in my gospel (2 Tim. 2:8).
In this hardcover edition, long-time author and teacher John Piper draws from the preaching ministry of Jonathan Edwards to encourage pastors and leaders to gladly preach the cross, for the glory of God, to a people hungry for God and his word. Includes four extra chapters not included in the original edition.
3. The Holy Spirit is the greatest Helper in the world. And pastors are driven to have his fullness constantly.
I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever . . . . It is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you (John 14:16; 16:7).
Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law, or by hearing with faith? (Gal. 3:5).
Do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit (Eph. 5:18).
4. The Bible is the greatest book there is. And pastors delight to meditate on it day and night.
The words of the Lord are pure words, like silver refined in a furnace on the ground, purified seven times (Ps. 12:6).
Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lord and on his law he meditates day and night (Ps.1:1–2).
The rules of the Lord are true, and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb. Moreover, by them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward (Ps. 19:9–11).
5. The gospel is the greatest news ever sent. And pastors revel in believing it and telling it every day.
Even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God (2 Cor. 4:3–4).
To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ (Eph. 3:8).
I am under obligation both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to the wise and to the foolish. So I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome (Rom. 1:14–15).
6. Corporate worship is the great overflow of life together in treasuring Christ. And pastors soar with the sacred privilege of feeling that weekly wonder and fanning that flame.
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God (Col. 3:16).
I will thank you in the great congregation; in the mighty throng I will praise you (Ps. 35:18).
7. Faith is the great experience of union with Christ and the embrace of all God is for us in him. And pastors aim at this with every word, since faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of Christ.
I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me (Gal. 2:20).
Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith (Phil. 1:25).
8. Hope in future grace is the great furnace of gospel obedience. And pastors fuel it daily with the promises of God.
No unbelief made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God (Rom. 4:20).
You had compassion on those in prison, and you joyfully accepted the plundering of your property, since you knew that you yourselves had a better possession and an abiding one (Heb. 10:34).
Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” So we can confidently say, “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?” (Heb. 13:5–6).
9. Joy is the great impulse of gladness in pain and pleasure that makes its source in God look great. And pastors renounce all joy-destroying abuse and live for the holy joy of their flock.
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice (Phil. 4:4).
Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord (Phil. 3:8).
Not that we lord it over your faith, but we work with you for your joy (2 Cor. 1:24). As sorrowful, yet always rejoicing (2 Cor. 6:10).
10. Love is the greatest act. And pastors make it the great aim of all their acts.
Faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love (1 Cor. 13:13). The aim of our charge is love (1 Tim. 1:5).
Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law (Rom. 13:8).
Let all that you do be done in love (1 Cor. 16:14).
11. Holiness is great likeness to the thrice-holy God. And pastors daily kill their own sins for the sake of their own holiness and the holiness of others.
As he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy” (1 Pet. 1:15–16).
For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live (Rom. 8:13).
Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God (2 Cor. 7:1).
12. Suffering is a great seminary. And pastors must attend it for the sake of their people.
Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I keep your word. . . . It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn your statutes (Ps. 119:67, 71).
If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer (2 Cor. 1:6).
13. Explaining great truth is a path to great understanding— in the pastor! And pastors are charged to explain the greatest things relentlessly.
It is more blessed to give than to receive (Acts 20:35).
“You give them something to eat.” They said to him, “We have only five loaves here and two fish.” . . . And they took up twelve baskets full of the broken pieces left over (Matt. 14:16–17, 20).
And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ (Eph. 4:11–12).
14. Heralding the greatest realities is a great privilege. And pastors are the heralds of the living God.
I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach [herald!] the word (2 Tim. 4:1–2).
Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God (2 Cor. 5:20).
15. Humanly impossible aims throw us on a great Helper. And all the spiritual aims of a pastor are impossible.
Those who heard it said, “Then who can be saved?” But he said, “What is impossible with man is possible with God” (Luke 18:26–27).
And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will (2 Tim. 2:24–26).
16. Heaven is a great destiny. And pastors aim in everything to help people get there.
Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven (Matt. 5:12).
But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself (Phil. 3:20–21).
I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory (2 Tim. 2:10).
17. Hell is a great danger. And pastors aim in everything to help people escape it.
Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell (Matt. 10:28).
I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some (1 Cor. 9:22).
Wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come (1 Thess. 1:10).
18. Prayer is a path to the great presence and power of God. And pastors pray for their own souls and their flocks without ceasing.
Take . . . the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication (Eph. 6:17–18).
Call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me (Ps. 50:15).
My heart’s desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved (Rom. 10:1).
19. The new birth is a great miracle. And pastors are the ever-amazed midwives of God.
The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit (John 3:8).
I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth (1 Cor. 3:6–7).
You have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God. . . . And this word is the good news that was preached to you (1 Pet. 1:23–25).
20. Communion is the greatest supper. And pastors hold the sacred emblems in their very hands.
I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer (Luke 22:15).
The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? (1 Cor. 10:16).
21. Baptism is the greatest emblem of death and life. And pastors enact this drama on behalf of Christ.
Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life (Rom. 6:3–4).
Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit (Matt. 28:19).
22. Funerals offer a great vista of eternity. And pastors stand there full of hope with wide-eyed people.
So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight. Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord (2 Cor. 5:6–8).
Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting? The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 15:54–57).
23. Weddings are God’s great, life-long joining together of man and woman. And pastors put this drama on display for all to understand.
They are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate (Matt. 19:6).
Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands. Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her (Eph. 5:22–25).
24. Hospital visits are a sacred imparting of great hope. And pastors mediate this holy transaction with their voice and hands.
Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up (James 5:14–15).
Spirit you may abound in hope (Rom. 15:13).
It happened that the father of Publius lay sick with fever and dysentery. And Paul visited him and prayed, and putting his hands on him healed him (Acts 28:8).
25. The devil is a great enemy. And pastors make holy war every day.
Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith (1 Pet. 5:8–9).
I pray that every seed I ever sowed would be even this day bearing fruit.
Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you (James 4:7).
26. Wise, biblical counsel is greater than much fine gold. And pastors make many rich.
A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver (Prov. 25:11).
How much better to get wisdom than gold! To get understanding is to be chosen rather than silver (Prov. 16:16).
Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ (Col. 1:28).
27. World missions is the greatest enterprise in the world. And pastors preach and pray and agitate till all their people are goers or senders.
And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come (Matt. 24:14).
The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest (Matt. 9:37–38).
28. Loving money is the great root of countless evils. And pastors sever it in their souls and seek its cheerful death in all their flock.
Those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils (1 Tim. 6:9–10).
Godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content (1 Tim. 6:6–8).
Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver (2 Cor. 9:7).
Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Heb. 13:5).
29. Leadership in holy paths is the great need of all the sheep. And pastors wear this mantle humbly under the Great Shepherd.
Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you (Heb. 13:17).
Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen (Heb. 13:20–21).
30. Lowly servanthood is high greatness. And pastors rejoice to say: He must increase, and I must decrease.
Whoever would be great among you must be your servant (Mark 10:43).
He must increase, but I must decrease (John 3:30).
It is a great thing to be a pastor. This is my song of praise and thankfulness that, in great mercy, I was counted worthy to be entrusted with this office for so long. I pray that every seed I ever sowed would be even this day bearing fruit.
The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground. He sleeps and rises night and day, and the seed sprouts and grows; he knows not how. (Mark 4:26–27)
This is finally a tribute to the supremacy of God. He is great, not the preacher. But because he is, it is a great thing to be a pastor.
This article is adapted from The Supremacy of God in Preaching by John Piper.
Here are 43 questions and answers for preachers aimed at helping them think carefully about their calling as ministers of the Word.
Grace is slow sometimes. But grace is also powerful. The Lord will do his work.
The knowledge of God that the fear of the Lord brings is not a sterile knowledge. Those who fear God come to know him in such a way that they actually become holy, faithful, loving, and merciful, like him.
As you think about God-ordained limits of time, what changes are needed in your leadership community?