April 18th our Senior Pastor, Rick Smith, announced to the congregation his intention of retiring this year. The reactions are as varied as the people that comprise our congregation. If asked what is the overall, prevailing concerns and questions that are coming from the congregation, I would say that they are these: 1) What will Calvary Baptist look like in a few short months, 2) What will the leadership look like, and 3) Concern that we (CBC) will make a “wrong move” or “wrong choice” as we move forward. These concerns and questions, frankly, have been on my heart as well – since January when Rick spoke to Greg and I about his upcoming departure. It will be difficult to fill the gap of a 25+ year ministry. The purpose of this post is to encourage our congregation as I have been encouraged from a study in Psalm 105.
There are four characteristics of God in this Psalm that we can take comfort in:
- God is sovereign. Simply put, God is in charge and does as He wills & purposes with His creation. This is a resounding emphasis in Psalm 105. Over 80% of the verses are either directly relating His sovereign work or use the name of our Sovereign Lord.
- What does this mean for Calvary? This should bring tremendous peace, even in a difficult transition, because God is moving (very obviously) in our midst. We should spend time looking for His direction in our lives, recognize it and praise Him for it! Just as God remembered “His sworn promise” with Israel, so too, He will remember His promises to His church. The gates of Hell will not prevail against it.
- God is active. The Psalmist begins with stirring his readers to recall the “wondrous works, His deeds, miracles & judgments” of the Lord. As the Psalmist recounts Israel’s history, he cannot help but speak to the active God Whom we also serve.
- What does this mean for Calvary? Just as God moved actively among His chosen ones in the nation of Israel, so too, He moves among His people today. It is becoming evident that God is actively taking our congregation in a different direction than we had been going previously. Now, this does not necessitate that our previous direction was wrong. With new leadership comes new direction. What do I mean by “direction”? I am certainly not inferring doctrinal stance, fundamental beliefs, etc. I praise God for the solid foundation that has been laid in our church by the selfless sacrifice of Pastor Rick! It is now, on this foundation, that we can move forward for God’s kingdom & His glory as we step out into new endeavors and focuses. God will be active among us; directing His church as He wills.
- God is protective. The Psalmist tells of the protection for His chosen ones while they were “few in number” and “wandering from “nation to nation” before they ever reached Egypt. He speaks to the protection of Israel as they are in Egypt and coming out of Egypt. He finishes with the introduction of Israel into the Promised Land where they enjoyed God’s protection.
- What does this mean for Calvary? Simply this: God will not let His Church be destroyed. Did Israel experience hardships during these times? Yes – we’ll look at those in a moment. God brought His people to a land which He promised, just as He promised – protecting them all along the way. For us (Calvary) this means that as we submit to God, His Spirit & Word, as we move in faith, we can confidently keep ministering to one another, sharing the Gospel within our body, our community and world, knowing that God will keep His Church from destruction. Let us boldly step forward for our Savior!
- God is a provider. As the Psalmist begins with Abraham, he proceeds to walk the reader through the history of Israel until they reach the Promised Land. As he does this, he pens repeatedly about how God provided, generally & specifically, for His people.
- What does this mean for Calvary? We can rest assured that God will provide exactly what we need, at exactly the right moment for this local body. Not only have we seen God provide for us on an individual basis, a family basis, but we have seen God’s abundant provision for our church over these last 50+ years. God will provide the man to lead this local body, as He wills. I am confident and excited about that!
I am not speaking new truth to our congregation. We are confident in God’s sovereignty, His actions, protection and provision. However, I fear that as we believe these things – we only hold them high when “things are going well”. Let me remind myself, and you as well, that God is in control through difficulties, actually orchestrating and allowing the hardships to come so that He will receive glory in the end. These are difficult thoughts and we would do well to turn to Scripture to see this illustrated.
It is illustrated beautifully in Psalm 105. When the nation was but a family, the Psalmist indicates that God “summoned a famine on the land and broke all the supply of bread”. He then purposes that Joseph be sold into slavery and be transported to Egypt, “ahead of them”. What Joseph experienced was horror beyond what any of us have suffered…and this at the hand of God! Verse 18 says, “…his feet were hurt with fetters; his neck was put in a collar of iron”. These are physical discomforts at the very least, severe mistreatment at the most! What is interesting is the phrase in verse 19 that says, “the word of the LORD tested him”. God was in control the whole time, and was bringing about His glory through the testing of Joseph. The end result? (verse 24) “….and the LORD made His people very fruitful and made them stronger than their foes…”.
What does this mean for Calvary? Perhaps simply, yet deeply, we do not know what lies ahead. God does. We do not. There are a lot of questions. There are a lot of concerns. There very well may be “bumps in the road” during this transition that are totally unanticipated. It is okay. Trust God. Even when the fetters hurt your feet, the collar of iron chafes your neck and you do not see a way for God to achieve glory. Rest confidently that He is sovereign, active, protecting and providing just as He wills.
I hope, Lord willing, to continue to post from time to time the thoughts I am working through as we move forward through this transition together.
I end with a simple prayer that I always pray before I stand to preach to our congregation: “For Your glory Father“. That is all. Simple. Trusting. Enough.