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Ministry of the Word

June 4, 2020 by Tony Roberts (Indiana, USA)

I served almost two decades in pastoral ministry. There were many things I enjoyed about being a pastor, but perhaps my favorite was being entrusted with the stories of people. These stories shaped my understanding of life and what it means to be in a living relationship with a God who loves us and wants what is best for us.

Stories have a way of getting to the marrow of our spiritual bones. When properly shared, they can bring great healing to those with ears to hear. Jesus described God’s kingdom by telling stories. A woman who found a great pearl. A father welcoming his lost son home. A man caring for a stranger abandoned in the ditch. Stories do more than illustrate truth. They provide a vehicle to get to Truth.

In addition to writing devotions and blogging, I have now completed my second book, which contains stories to cultivate hope for those with serious mental illness. The process has been laborious, but it has been a labor of love. It has exercised my heart and soul such that I have been strengthened spiritually. I have also received a good measure of psychological healing.

As someone with bipolar disorder, I often find it difficult to function in the most basic ways. As my illness progressed, I became unable to fulfill my duties as a pastor in a fruitful way. This has caused me great distress. I have often felt that I let God down and abandoned my calling to serve God’s people. Writing has given me purpose and meaning and has reconnected me with a congregation of hurting souls who likely would never pass through the doors of a church building.

Since my book is mostly a memoir, the strength I gained was in large part self-awareness. This book was like a six-year session of intense therapy. Though my fingers typed the keys, the concepts were composed by the Holy Spirit speaking through the voices of those around me.  While I’m reluctant to say my own words reflected God’s words, I do believe God guided the hands that created my book. I only pray that I was able to keep enough of myself out of the process for the truth to shine through. Said better, I pray that reflections on myself and others ring true in such a way that people would be drawn to the Truth, Jesus Christ.

I take pride in my work as a writer. I have honed my skills with years of practice, cutting away bad habits by reading extensively and intensively, watching and listening to human behavior, and reflecting on my own thoughts and feelings. Still, were it not for God’s gift to me in this art, my words would be nothing more than dross and drivel. The only credit I can take for the writing I do is that I’ve been faithful in doing it, in putting the divine gift to good use for the glory of God.

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The Upper Room magazine's mission is to provide a practical way to listen to scripture, connect with believers around the world, and spend time with God each day.

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