Happy Reformation Day! In honor of this profound memorial, it feels appropriate to correct some common theological misnomers. For example, “Where two or three are gathered” is so often used as justification for a poor turnout at prayer meeting, or as an encouragement to a small group of faithful, but this is an abuse of scripture. The reality is that Jesus is with us always, no matter how many, or few, there are — even if there is only one. The verse in Matthew 18:20 is to be understood in the context of church discipline and the authority of two or three to take corrective action. But that’s not what I think I will spend our time on today.
It has been a long while since I’ve posted anything. Presently, our family has found ourselves in the middle of perhaps the most trying season we have ever known and, frankly, I just haven’t felt like writing anything. I now feel compelled, however, to share a lesson that God is teaching us through our season that I hope will edify and benefit you. So often, when a hard season comes to our lives, we ask, “What is God teaching me?” God speaks and teaches us through circumstances to be sure, the problem I’m finding with this thinking is that it shrinks our view and scope of who God is, what he is doing, and how we ought to respond. It limits how we experience God and it puts the focus on self. God does not simply want to impart knowledge, he is working to effect transformation and redemption. This work goes beyond the scope of your own life.
In our season, God is teaching me. He is also drawing members of my family closer to him — which is a miracle because the natural inclination of some is to push away, issue blame, and turn inward. God is connecting us with other people whom we would never meet otherwise and showing us how (in the midst of our own suffering) we can minister to them with the love and truth of Christ. We are experiencing the comfort of God. We are seeing the impact of the situation in the lives of those around who are loving and supporting us through it, how it enriches their lives to minister to us. The list goes on and on. It’s like those commercials that go through an extensive list of all their product can do, and all you get when you “order now” and keep following it up with “and that’s not all!” With God, that’s never all there is!
“But seek first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you as well” (Matthew 6:33). In the gospel of Matthew, the term “Kingdom of God” or “Kingdom of Heaven” is his way of saying Yahweh without offending his Hebrew audience by casually using the Lord’s name. In other words, “Seek first God himself and his righteousness.” Too often it seems to me that we look for the lesson in our suffering, we hold out for the blessing to follow — we look for the hand of God and fail to seek the face of God and so we miss so much of what God is doing in and through our circumstances. God is doing and will do “immeasurably more than all we can ask or even imagine” (Ephesians 3:20). As we see him working in our trial in so many different ways — ways we couldn’t have possibly imagined — we see the truth of this passage and have no choice but to rejoice in our suffering because of God’s goodness.
To be sure, we wrestle with worry, fear, resentment, anger, and sadness. First, we need to confess (say the same as God) our feelings and weakness, and second, know to Whom we must bring them. The psalmist poured out his heart before God, the good, the bad, and ugly. So must we. This is part of the transformation process, when we can be honest with ourselves and with God, and listen for him to speak into the darkest corners of our heart and minds, shedding his light and bringing new life.
There is much we don’t know. We still have many questions and few answers, but with all God has already done and is now doing, we wait with hopeful expectation to what he will do with this. We want and pray to see His glory, and we trust that we will again, and again, and again. Amen!