From the Pastor

Each week, I’d like to share a little what the Lord has been teaching me in relation to TVBC.  Maybe you can relate.

As we have finished up our study in Jonah and transition to 2 John for the remainder of the month.  One key phrase has popped into my mind in reflection and mediation:

Would you still trust God if…?

Would you still trust God if He called you to take your family and travel half way around the world to do His will and work?

Would you still trust God if you followed His call and all of your plans for serving Him failed?

Would you still trust Him in that moment?

Would you trust God if you ended up being abandoned and alone?

What if you died a miserable, slow, and horrible death? What then?

Would you still trust God if you lost everything you loved in life, including life itself?

On September 7, 1850, a group of seven committed Christian missionaries set sail from the English city of Liverpool.  Under the leadership of Captain Alan Gardner, the missionaries were headed to the southernmost tip of South American to start missionary work.

They had planned, prepared, and packed 6 months’ worth supplies. The group had very high expectations for the work of the Gospel among the native people there.  They believed their calling would both serve the kingdom of God and advance it.

Yet, their trip ended in total failure.

The inhabitants were hostile. The weather and climate were harsh and rough. The ground was unforgiving.  The second ship with further supplies failed to arrive until it was much too late. So, sadly and unfortunately, the missionaries died one after another of starvation.

Richard Williams was one of the missionaries on the journey and the surgeon on the ship.  When his dead body was later found and recovered, the search party also found his personal diary. The last entry on the last page of the diary was his dying testimony to his unending faith in Jesus Christ.

Can you see in your mind’s eye the good doctor huddled in the hull of the small ship suffering from many ailments and writing the following words as his last testament?

Should anything prevent my ever adding to this…let my beloved ones at home rest assured that I was happy beyond all expression the night I wrote these lines and would not have exchanged situations with any living.

Let them also be assured that my hopes were full with immortality, that heaven and love and Christ, which really mean one and the same thing, these things were my soul, that the hope of glory filled my whole heart with joy and gladness and that to me to live is Christ and to die is gain.

What faith! Nothing in life or death would ever compel him to abandon his faith.

Perhaps this is why the apostle James wrote in the first chapter of his epistle (verses 2-5):

 Count it all joy, my brother when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.

Despite the popular understanding of verse 5, “if any of you lacks wisdom,” we need to understand that the phrase isn’t meant to be a change of a topic from verses 2-4.  No, verse 5 is, in essence, is asking what the introduction asked, “Would you still trust God if…?”

James is still talking about trials here. He is saying that God will take you to places and put you in situations where you haven’t planned to go to create in you what you couldn’t achieve on your own. In His divine, sovereign, and providential will, God is seeking to drive you beyond your normal routine of strength and abilities.  In doing so, you reach out in humility and cry for His help alone. Trials—the “Would you still trust God if…” situations of life—are meant to release you from the slavery of self-reliance.

Truth be told, we are all there–whether at home or at church.  We each think we are wiser than we actually are.  We think we are stronger than we actually are.  We each think we are more righteous than we actually are.

Yet, praise be to God, the biblical Gospel is for weak—to those who know themselves as they should know themselves. The Gospel is for the unable (see Romans 3:10-19!). The Gospel is a welcome truth to people who say, “I can’t,” but who run to a Redeemer who can. That is the Gospel!

TVBC, God wants you, me, and our church to come to the end of ourselves. Our self-made righteousness is in the way of His amazing, never-ending grace that Richard Williams experienced. Our strength is in the way of His grace. God wants us to be driven where we no longer rely on so-called strong self. We’re now left with nothing else but to rely on Him—first for salvation and second for daily dependence (Psalm 68:19).

Like Richard Williams, I am comforted in my deepest and darkest trials, not because I understand what is going on, but because my Lord is wise, generous, and near. There is hope for you and me!

Father, thank you for the beauty and the practicality of this passage for everyone reading this at TVBC and beyond. Thank you for the comfort and call of the Gospel as a continual reminder of who I am and who You are. Lord, I pray that in our struggles, in our divided hearts, and in our daily, sinful foolishness that we would run to You and not from You to receive the grace that can only be found in You. In Jesus’ name. Amen.