Subject Yourself to a Pastoral Punch to the Gut from D.A. Carson

D.A. Carson is like Mike Tyson from the Nintendo game Mike Tyson’s Punch Out. At least, when it comes to convicting pastors of how much sanctification we need.

For those of you who never played the original Nintendo (dating myself, I know), Tyson was the only opponent in the game who could knock you down with one  punch, even if you were blocking it. Carson flattens me every time I hear or read him, even if I have my guard up.

I remember the first time Carson landed one of those punches. It was in the introduction of A Call to Spiritual Reformation: Priorities from Paul and His Prayers.

“Two years ago at a major North American seminary, fifty students who were offering themselves for overseas ministry during the summer holidays were carefully interviewed so that their suitability could be assessed. Only three of these fifty – 6 percent! – could testify to regular quiet times, times of reading the Scriptures, of devoting themselves to prayer. It would be painful and embarrassing to uncover the prayer life of many thousands of evangelical pastors” (page 16-17).

I was undone when I read this. I was training for ministry and I was one of the 94 percent who didn’t regularly read their Bible and pray. So in the margin of the book I wrote this prayer, “Heavenly Father, I commit to you that I will never be found to be one that does not spend time with you daily. I beg you for your help and strength in this commitment. 2/11/04.”

That commitment didn’t stick.

In fact, right next to that note is another one, in a different color of ink, that says, “Recommitment: 12/18/06.”

That one didn’t stick either.

What I have discovered since then is that my most fervent seasons of devotions are when I am in a “responding to what God has done for me” mindset. My gratitude for salvation from sin and death motivates me to draw near to God through prayer and reading Scripture.

Lately, however, I have been in a “there is so much I need to do for God” mindset. I have felt busy and overwhelmed. Not just at church, but at home, too. My focus on all the things I’m doing for him distracts me from him. More Martha than Mary.

This is now the third time Carson has knocked me to the mat, which is a TKO in Mike Tyson’s Punch Out. Thankfully, God’s grace in Christ remains. Jesus picks us back up and gives us the strength to keep fighting. We can fall seven times and still get back up (Proverbs 24:17).

He even gives us the strength to write, “Recommitment: 7/22/11.”


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