Thursday, June 4, 2009

Lesson Learned [4]

As I mentioned previously, Charity and I have recently come out of an intense time of learning. It is my desire to record some of these lessons learned for the sake of perhaps encouraging others. It is also my desire that I do not forget the lessons learned, even by encouraging accountability from readers to help me remember these lessons.

Lesson Four: Sanctification in advance

and we sent Timothy, our brother and God's fellow worker in the gospel of Christ, to strengthen and encourage you as to your faith, so that no one would be disturbed by these afflictions; for you yourselves know that we have been destined for this. For indeed when we were with you, we kept telling you in advance that we were going to suffer affliction; and so it came to pass, as you know.--1 Thessalonians 3:2-4
Pastoral care can often feel reactionary. There are fires to put out, people that need counseled on specific topics, and current events to investigate through Scripture. Even the elements of reproof and correction are reactionary, for you are calling the person to think and act differently than they had.

However, God reminded me that much of the shepherding process is also preparatory. Just as Paul knew the Thessalonians would be better prepared for his suffering by being informed ahead of time, God graciously prepares us for some things before they come. Really, this is the only way 1 Corinthians 10:13 makes sense. How does God prevent you from being tempted beyond what you are capable? Clearly, this comes through the renewing of the mind. Just as God prepared good works for us in advance (Ephesians 2:10), He also prepares the believer for the trial in advance. This does not mean the believer does not grow in the midst of the trial or that the Word of God is not needed for wisdom to endure the trial, but it certainly reminds us that a Sovereign God who knows my needs better than I is laying all things out for His glory.

I was renewed to see God's grace as I examined the passages He had me in around the time of this trial (as I mentioned in Lesson One). However, my focus was also sharpened to think about my congregation. Again, I was reminded that looking at the current felt needs of the congregation exclusively will not necessarily help equip people for future trials. God, in His wisdom, desires to not only equip people for their current circumstances, but desires to prepare them in advance for trials they will face.

And yes, it caused me to think of sequential exposition again. Say what you will about a Sovereign God and His ability to move in my heart to preach on a particular topic. I will not deny His ability to do such things. All I can speak to is what did happen. All I know is that the week before my bride received a troubling diagnosis, God saw fit to have me see His sovereign hand in the midst of suffering, and while we waited to hear the results of test, God strengthened me by reminding me of His absolute hatred of death. Could He have instructed me of those lessons from any number of texts? Certainly. Would I have naturally ended up on Leviticus to see those points? I very seriously doubt it.

How gracious to know the Heavenly Father knows both dates that will be etched on my tombstone, and that He will never leave me nor forsake me in between!

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