I Heard ‘Em Say It
Inside the cover of my Bible, I have a prayer guide that I reference in the mornings to help sharpen my prayer focus. As easily as I can be distracted, I need such a tool! Some of the categories include: worship, confession, thanksgiving, country, persecuted church, unbelievers, among others. One line reads: “Church Family.” This is my reminder to intercede for you, my brothers and sisters in Christ. And this week, my prayer has been, in part: “Father, help us to be glad in you, and to find joy in your steadfast love. Break us of our self-reliance and forgive us of our longing for human validation; enable us to be satisfied in your acceptance of us in Christ.”
Many of you know that last week I was in Louisville, Kentucky for the biennial “Together for the Gospel” conference, along with Scott Williams, Jonathan Clubb, Taylor Mendoza, and some ten thousand other pastors and leaders.
Well, since you couldn’t join us for the week, I thought I would pass along (and briefly comment on) three of the (many) meaningful statements that I heard during my time there.
CJ Mahaney: “Comfort for those who are suffering does not come from explanations but from a revelation of God.” In his overview of Job, and, in particular, his summation of John Calvin’s expositions of this great book (159 sermons in total!), Mahaney talked about the futility of offering those in the throes of suffering speculative reasons for their tribulations. He warned about rushing to conclusions a la Job’s friends (“There must be secret sin in your life that you haven’t confessed,” or “There’s a lesson that God wants to teach you that you’re not receiving.”). Instead, Mahaney pleaded with pastors and counselors (as well as spiritual friends) to help those who are hurting to see who God is, and show them the faithfulness of his character, the sufficiency of his grace, and the depth of his love, most arrestingly displayed on the cross, where the Ultimate Sufferer bled and died to both identify with us in our travails, and to put an end to reign of death altogether.
Matt Chandler: “Trying to fully grasp God’s sovereign plan, with our limited perspective, is like watching one second of a five-hour movie and trying to make sense of it.” Continuing with the theme of dealing with difficulty, Chandler reminded us from Romans 11, that, despite our best efforts, we only see but a tiny blip of the whole picture. God, however, sees it all. (“Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!” [Romans 11:33]). Naturally, with our noetic myopia, it’s easy to conclude that God has forgotten us, that suffering is pointless, or that it couldn’t possibly be for our good. But Chandler stressed God knows the end from the beginning. His purview is eternal. He is working out a plan that we may never fully understand this side of heaven, but our short-sightedness should not prompt us to conclude that God is not good. After all, the rest of the movie, so to speak, is yet to be shown.
Mark Dever: “Fruitfulness in gospel ministry, just like fruit in our own lives, is seen over the long haul. Beware of the allure of speed.” Man, this was helpful to me. In an age where churches pop up overnight, explode in growth over months, and then dissolve when the founding pastor moves on, it was encouraging to be reminded that the work of disciple-making is a marathon, not a sprint. I am impatient, and I know it. It’s a sin I repent of regularly. I am a results-driven sort of person. It helped me to succeed in sales and advertising many moons ago, and it propelled me in the television industry. It’s not so helpful, however, in the ministry of spiritual formation. And even though, by God’s grace, I see “results” all the time (e.g., our 17 baptisms only two months ago), I need to be reminded when things seem to be going slowly (in the church or in my own life) that God’s timing is not like mine, and he is working even when I can’t see it.
There you go—a few pithy statements on which to reflect and cogitate. Now, hopefully, you feel like you were with us in some way. And you didn’t even have to wait in line fifteen minutes for a restroom or shell out $4.00 for a bottle of water!
For his glory,