Monday, January 30, 2012

7 Lessons on Conquering Adversity

       I have always been intrigued by the Biblical story of David and Goliath.  Most people, whether religious or not, are familiar with the metaphor if not the story itself which is found in I Samuel 17 in the Bible’s Old Testament.

       The abbreviated story line is essentially this: young shepherd brother takes food to older brothers who are fighting in Saul’s army; youth shepherd boy sees nasty giant who no one else will fight; young shepherd boy volunteers, goes to battle and wins; young shepherd boy becomes an overnight hero. Of course, the story is more complicated and, in fact is pregnant with insight on how to live life from a faith perspective.
       Most of us will never fight a real life giant; most of us, however, will face adversity. So, perhaps we could rename Goliath, the giant, Adversity and look closely at the text to discover lessons that will assist us in facing our Adversity. So, how do I face adversity and overcome? How do I face adversity and win? Here are seven principles that surface from the text. 

  1. Keep your eyes on God and only glance at your circumstances. In the story of David and Goliath, David was the only one who maintained a vertical vision. Everyone else perceived reality from a strictly horizontal perspective.  Only David cultivated and lived with an awareness of the reality of the presence of God (Compare vv 26, 36-37, 45-46 with vv 10 and 24-25). 
  2. More specifically, notice how faith can overcome and dissipate fear.  We tend to walk in fear when our perception of God is that He is small, or distant, or disinterested. In contrast, the more time we spend with God, the more realistic our perception of Him is. Our fear can be displaced by giving attention to God and His self-revelation in Scripture and in His Son. Consider verses 11, 24, 32, and 37 as a study of the relation between faith and fear. 
  3. Notice that being a champion has its rewards (vs. 25-27). When the story opens, Goliath is a champion and David is a nobody. By the day's end David is the champion and Goliath is history. Is it worth it to pay the price to be a champion? Absolutely! I repeatedly tell students that "champions are made in the off-season." 
  4. When criticized ask, “Is it true?” and deal with it; if it is not true just ignore it (see vs. 28-30). I love the response Eliab (the older brother) severely criticizes David. It says simply that David “turned away from him…” (v30) Criticism rooted in impure motives doesn't deserve our time! 
  5. The battles of yesterday prepare us for victories tomorrow (vs. 34-37). Paraphrased, Saul asked David, “How can you fight that giant?” David’s response is, “I have fought and killed lions and bears; I can take the giant…this is nothing new.” Should we not be grateful for past and present battles? No doubt, they do prepare us for what we face in the future. 
  6. When the chips are down, play your strengths (vs. 38-40). When Saul had David try on his armor, David simply responded, “I can’t use these, they are untested. I will use what I know.” In short, we must learn to use our own gifts, abilities and unique skills. The wise learn to play to their strengths. 
  7. Live in such a way that the world knows God is real (vs. 41-51). In the whole story, David is the only one who acts as if God is real. When people watch us, do they conclude by our attitudes and actions that at least we live as if God is real?
So, here are some observations. I hope they help you overcome the adversity that you face! 

Thursday, January 12, 2012

"Baptist World"

For those of you who know me, you are aware that I was born, raised as, and have invested my life as a servant of Jesus Christ among Southern Baptists. With all of its multiple flaws, I am still hopeful that the Lord will use the Southern Baptist Convention.

After 32 years as a senior pastor, I transitioned to the wonderful world of academia. For two years I taught homiletics (preaching) and church history  at Liberty's Seminary. I had a gratifying experience and made some lifelong friends. It was a joy to be a member of Thomas Road Baptist Church. I enjoyed my stint as interim pastor at North Main Baptist Church in Danville, VA. In Virginia, we had a wonderful experience with wonderful people. 

Then suddenly and unexpectedly, I was invited to come to Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City, MO where I presently serve as Dean of the Faculty, Vice President of Academic Development and Professor of Preaching and Church History. Yes, I stay busy. And I love it. I have grown to love the administration, the faculty, staff, students and their families here at Midwestern. We love our new church family at Lenexa Baptist Church. To say the least, I have been in and around "Baptist World" most of my life.

Presently, "Baptist World" is going through a transition. The Cooperative Program (CP), which is our cooperative method of raising and allocating funds to support our many ministries is in the process of being redefined. Whether it is the redefining of CP or simply the economic downturn, the amount of dollars going to CP has significantly decreased. 

I know that where I teach and lead the faculty, gifts from CP for the year are off about $300,000 to us this fiscal year. What does this mean? It means five less faculty, or a reduction of salary to already under paid professors, or ten less support staff; or perhaps it means less mission trips, or less of an ability to recruit students, or less of an ability to minister to students. You get the point. 

One unique agreement among Southern Baptists is that the institutions and agencies which receive CP funds are not permitted to ask the churches specifically for help. Our school, for example, is not permitted to solicit churches or to request extra offerings to help us even in times of need. If 500 of our churches decided to put us into our budget for just $100 a month it would really help make up our short fall. 

If individuals want to help us, they certainly may. We pray they will. In trying to maintain our integrity and strictly adhering to guidelines we find ourselves in need. I am actually looking forward to seeing how God will provide. We covet your prayers and trust in the Lord.

From this little corner of "Baptist World", I will keep you posted on how things are going.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

2011 Reflections

To say the least, this past year has been momentous in my life.

In January, I was hired to serve as Vice-President of Academic Development and Dean of the Faculty at Midwestern Seminary. So after putting down two years of roots in Lynchburg and Liberty, Fern and I sold our home and relocated to Kansas City, Missouri.

In February, my father passed away from Leukemia. From diagnosis to death was only five and a half weeks. Never is a man more conscious of his own mortality than when his own father passes away.

Later in the Spring, I had the privilege of delivering the H. I. Hester Lectures on Preaching at Midwestern Seminary. 

About the same time, my newest book, A Primer on Biblical Preaching, was released by CrossBooks Publishers.

In the fall, I presented my first paper to The Evangelical Theological Society meeting in San Francisco. My title was "Seeing the Father in the Face of the Son." It was the results of an inductive study of the Gospels asking and attempting to answer the question, "if the Father relates to humanity the identical way that Jesus related to humanity, what patterns and principles can we discern?"

At the conclusion of this past year, I reworked and updated a paper I wrote for Reformation scholar William Estep on "James Arminius and the Dutch Reformation." It is included in the fall edition of the Midwestern Journal of Theology.

2011 was an eventful year. I can hardly wait to see what will happen in 2012. Did you learn any life-changing lessons this past year? Please share!