For many years I have read and reread the stimulating sermons of J Wallace Hamilton. He was the dearly loved pastor of Community Church in Pasadena, Florida. He was called there in 1932 and long before the term “mega-churches” was common-place in America, he pastored one. Ushers counted 3,450 cars one Sunday with families sitting in them and listening to messages from amplifiers on posts and in the trees to this instinctive, brilliant, present tense truth teller. The building held about 1,500, but over 8,000 of his members never came inside.
The powerful, fascinating, thought provoking truth got into their hungry hearts though. Recently, I was re-reading one of his books titled, Ride the Wild Horses. It is from a series of messages preached from the proposition that all of our God-given energies are meant for creative, constructive and eternal spiritual use.
As I read the message titled, Fruitful Frustrations, many pastoral and personal thoughts came to my mind. I have lived in this meaningful message before, maybe all of us have. So, I just felt prompted to share a little of it with you.
“Paul wanted to go to Spain. He had his heart set on that. In his dream of Christian conquest, he had laid his plans for reaching the outermost rim of the world, to preach the good news of Christ. But he never got there.
Instead he got a prison cell in Rome.
A large majority of us have to settle for something less than what we want, and for many that is a major problem of life – to take a broken plan, a disappointment, a frustration, and make something out of it.
The world has many philosophies, but no one answers back to this tragic element in life so persuasively and redemptively as Jesus. Christianity was born in the fires of failure and defeat; its symbol is a cross on which its Founder took the worst in the world and made it an instrument of redemption. And part of the many meanings of this cross and this faith lies in its teaching that all our frustrations, even the worst the world knows, may be made fruitful.
Everyone has learned to some extent how to make frustrations fruitful by getting traction out of trouble. No one but a fool would pretend to understand the mystery of pain and no one but a liar would pretend to enjoy it, but certainly this is clear: that without pain there would be no progress, and without frustration no traction for our feet.
All life makes progress in a resisting medium. The bird needs resistance of the air to fly; the fish needs the resistance of the water to get traction for his fins, and even the simple business of standing on our feet could not be accomplished without frustration – without resisting forces pushing against our action.
Life’s troubles are so disagreeable, the weight of them so heavy that we never give them credit for their help. I am sure that most of us, looking back, would admit that whatever we have achieved in character we have achieved through conflict; it has come to us through power hidden deep within us, so deep that we didn’t know we had them, called out into action by the challenge of opposition and frustration. The weights of life keep us going.
The cults of comfort are in error, and they have no worthy answer to trouble when they call us to dodge it by metaphysical gymnastics, or to think it away. The Omar Khayyam’s are useless too, they have no answer but to suggest that we damn ‘this sorry scheme of things’, they want a world that is all pleasure and no pain. These light, easy answers are based on the false assumption that the goal of life is happiness, peace of mind and comfort. It isn’t.
Holiness, not happiness, is the goal of life. So, when God molds a man, He puts weights on him, gives him burdens to life, crosses to carry, hardships to endure, tribulations over which to triumph. All is a profound mystery, to be sure. A little boy wanted to know why vitamins are always put in spinach and never in ice cream, where they should be. Don’t ask me why, but for some strange reason our sweetest songs come out of our saddest thoughts; the Negro spirituals are sad songs of a sad race, and they are the loveliest music in America. Arnold Toynbee, the historian, traced through history in his monumental study. In a chapter entitled “The Stimulus of Blows,” he shows how hardy civilization has come to birth in response to challenge: “The greater the challenge, the greater the stimulus.” Without weights, even civilization cannot keep going. A little boy was leading his sister up a mountain path. “Why,” she complained, “it’s not a path at all. It’s all rocky and bumpy.” “Sure,” he said, “the bumps are what you climb on.”
Hamilton isn’t just preaching pious platitudes from a paneled pulpit. He has walked through the bumpy, tangled jungles of life. He has had his share of scratches and patches, but he kept on going and I love how he comforts the afflicted and afflicts the comfortable.
About the Author
R.J. Koland, M.Div.
R.J. Koland is an experienced pastor and administrator. Having received education from the University of Minnesota and Bethel Theological Seminary, he was well equipped to lead six churches as well as support numerous other ministry endeavors. Currently, he pastors Central’s Assembly Of God in Mesquite, Texas, as well as serving as the Director of Development for Newman International Academy, a charter school based out of Arlington, Texas. R.J. Has helped launch several successful institutions of higher education, as well as held multiple professorial and administrative roles in other various colleges.
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