Satan hates faithful pastors. He abhors gospel ministry and those who seek to labor at it. The idea a pastor humbly loving and serving a church, faithfully exposing to them the truth of God’s Word, patiently urging them toward personal holiness, confidence in the Lord’s promises, and faithfulness in evangelism and ministry…these things make his skin crawl.
All this, of course, means that Satan hates pastoral search teams, too. Or, at the very least, he loves to undermine their work, their unity, and their love for one another and the church, all with the hope of undermining, in the end, the decisions they make about the kind of pastor that they will call. Because Satan hates pastors, he loves to mess with pastoral search teams.
The story of 1 Samuel begins with a barren woman, a woman named Hannah. She has no children, and she is miserable. But she prays to God, pleading with him for a child, only to rejoice when God answers her prayer. Hannah conceives Samuel, and when Samuel is born, Hannah prays again. Her prayer is a great prayer of reversal, one that actually anticipates the themes of all of 1-2 Samuel. Hannah prays: The LORD kills and brings to life…The LORD makes poor and makes rich; he brings low and he exalts (1 Sam 2:6a, 7). And then she adds: He will guard the feet of his faithful ones, but the wicked shall be cut off in darkness, for not by might shall a man prevail (1 Sam 2:9).
God’s Word is a precious gift, one that he is not obligated to give. No external force or obligation compelled God to reveal himself, his purposes, or his ways to people like us. Yet God did just that, clearly, sufficiently, and truthfully, through his Word. If you were lost in a trackless jungle, without map, guide, or GPS, and someone came to you and showed you the way home, you would recognize their guidance as a blessing, as a gift. That is what God’s Word is like. We were lost, apart from it, yet through it God has graciously shown us the way home. God’s Word is an expression of his grace for people like us.
Yet so often we view reading Scripture as a chore. We approach it as if God’s Word is boring, or reading it an obligation we must fulfill. Why does the reality that Scripture is a precious gift so often fail to shape our habits and attitudes about the Bible?
Like most of you, I went to bed on Saturday night knowing of and grieving over that day’s tragic events in El Paso. Like most of you, I woke up on Sunday morning to learn of the previous night’s tragic events in Dayton. Like most of you, I’ve spent the last few days trying to discern how I should think, pray, and feel about this…I’ve been trying to discern what I should do.
The issues before us are not simple, nor will their solutions be. The debate over gun control in our country illustrates a deeper conflict between competing worldviews that now defines life in our public square. The prevalence of hatred in our rhetoric, and the real problem of hate-inspired violence, leaves observers feeling more hopeless than hopeful. Finally, the politicization of everything means that these issues are debated in a place and with a posture that seems more focused on scoring political points than actually solving anything.
We need real wisdom from God to know how best to pray and respond to events like these, and to the broader cultural moment we find ourselves in. Yet there are key truths, revealed in Scripture, that we can and should come back to on weeks like this one. These truths, apart from the actions they can inspire and fuel, don’t change everything. But if we are to change anything, we must remember them and live in light of them:
This is my prayer for the people of Capitol City, as we prepare to sit under 1 Samuel 23:1-29 together this morning.
On Sunday at Capitol City, we unpacked the narrative of 1 Samuel 22:6-23. For the sake of time, I didn’t make these comments – though they are pertinent to the text and, in the end, precious to the Christian faith.
In 1 Samuel 22, King Saul – clearly descending into a narcissistic madness that will soon end his life – takes a giant leap down his path of self-destruction. Enraged at the fact that Ahimelech, a priest, offered David aid in a moment of need (see 1 Sam 21:1-9), he orders the brutal murder of Ahimelech, Ahimelech’s entire family, and every resident of Ahimelech’s city. It’s an unholy war, pitting God’s rejected king against God’s holy priests. Every priest in Israel, save one – Abiathar, Ahimelech’s son (see 1 Sam 22:20-23) – perishes as a result.
Saul’s evil attack against these helpless and innocent priests is just that – evil. But it reveals something profoundly encouraging and hopeful for Christians today: even God’s enemies prove the truthfulness of God’s Word.
The presence of pain and trial in our lives is a matter of when not if. James tells us: Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds (James 1:2). Pain and trial are not mere possibilities on the landscape of the Christian life. They are certainties.
Given the certainty with which we should expect pain in our lives, what truths should we set our minds and hearts upon before and as we endure trial? I can think of at least five things we should remember as we consider how the Lord uses pain in our lives.