It was early morning, seventy-four years ago on June 6, 1944. The sun broke through hedgerows in German-occupied France. For British paratroopers of the 6th Airborne Division, the day had begun hours ago.
Major John Brown walked the the length of the bullet-ridden bridge his men had just fought for, hearing his orders echo on repeat inside his head. Brown’s unit was charged with capturing a strategic German-held bridge, which would let Allied reinforcements flood into France, freeing Europe itself.
More than all the details of his orders that day, just three words rang loudest as he contemplated the day ahead— “Hold, until relieved.” — “Hold, until relieved.” History tells us that German troops mustered multiple attempts at retaking the bridge that day. Each time, Brown’s men held their ground—until finally, they were relived by advancing Allied troops.
Pastors, let us take note. Not just from Major Brown, but from our Lord Jesus. Sometimes for all of our learnedness, experience, and ministry strategizing— we forget that the battle is Jesus’ to win. And win it, He will. His glory depends on it.
Major Brown wasn’t going to topple Nazi Germany that day, and neither will any of us alone usher in the Kingdom, except the Lord Himself.
“Hold, until relieved.” — Jesus’ words to His church today are not much different
The writer of Hebrews encouraged first-century Christians by drawing them (and us) to a clearer view of God’s character:
“God is not unjust so as to overlook your work and the love that you have shown for his name in serving the saints, as you still do. And we desire each one of you to show the same earnestness to have the full assurance of hope until the end, so that you may not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.” (Hebrews 6:10-12)
God is not unjust. He’s not ignoring your work, He will repay it. The author of Hebrews further stresses that the delay on recognition keeps us from being lazy, and puts us right in step with those “who through faith and patience inherit the promises.” Hold until relieved, indeed.
On a grander scale, He will renew our world, bringing an end to the reign of death. The resurrection of Jesus foreshadows it. The return of Jesus will make it so. Lord, help us hold in love and faith, not relying on the scale or scope of our ministries and our work, but to retain our hope.
I once had a good friend and mentor describe ministry as humiliating. I thought he said “humbling”. He replied, “You probably thought I said humbling. But it is humiliating precisely because if anything goes wrong, it is always your fault, or the fault of sin in the world. If anything goes right, it’s never because of you, but only in spite of you, that the grace of God brought good out of evil.”
Fellow pastors, let us hold to the One who promised. His people are not served by our self-promotion, but by our self-denial, by our humble willingness to acknowledge the resurrection as our only hope, not just from the platform—but in our daily busyness.
God’s people need more needy pastors. Not needy for their approval, or for success, but needy in the sense that we embrace our limitations as gifts of Jesus, to borrow from Zack Eswine’s excellent book Imperfect Pastor. Needy pastors need other needy pastors by their side.
Jesus’ resurrection is the sure sign that this world will not always be patterned by death. Until that day arrives — that day when reality lines up with God’s promises — we can remind ourselves of our position in this world, “Hold, until relieved.” The more we humbly embrace our limits, allowing the gospel to shape our expectations, the freer and more joyful we can be, and a better witness to the gospel itself.
We don’t need a big ministry, God’s glory is not even dependent on a “successful” ministry — ask Jeremiah. We need a hopeful ministry, one grounded on the resurrection.
If the battle were ours to win, we would still be lost. So take heart, relief is as sure as the One who promises it. Let us take heart, obey our King, & hold until relieved.