2008-08-16 - Ivory Coast Detour
1 Timothy 4:12, Let no man despise thy youth; but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity.
In early 2007, I was at a conference in South Carolina, and while I was speaking with another pastor, he blurted out how amazed he was with the godliness and depth of many of the young people he knew. He expressed great hope that the Lord was about to do a work in our land. I have always considered his words, and from time to time run upon a group of young people who seem exceptional, and this past week was another encounter with a group of ten college students from Pensacola Christian College, who - while heading for a mission trip to the Ivory Coast of Africa - were detoured and ended up spending a couple days at our church.
Every individual in the group qualifies as being exceptional, and rather than highlight individual characteristics that stood out, I would like to make a general observation and seek to draw a lesson from it. The group is going to work at a medical clinic in Africa. Most of them are training for the medical field in some way or another. We can assume that they have been looking forward to this trip for a long time. They are also bringing some supplies, and will seek to be an encouragement to those who work at the clinic full-time. Here they are stuck sleeping in pews for three nights, at a small church on Long Island, just four blocks outside of NYC proper. It is not a small leap to figure out that when they flew into JFK on Sunday evening, they did not expect to be in the area until Wednesday evening.
Here is my observation: They smile. They are friendly. They are looking to use their opportunity to witness in the area that the Lord has placed them. They are thankful. They have personal devotions and private times of prayer with the Lord - a personal relationship with Jesus Christ - living and active. I have never heard a discouraging word, a hint of frustration, or a question of why? They are living out trust in the sovereignty of God, and trusting His perfect providence in their lives, and that is the true overarching observation: They are trusting God's providence in their lives, even when things do not seem to be going well, or as planned. This is what a Christian does. This group happens to stand out in doing it well, faithfully, and to God's glory. They are young, and if, by God's grace there are more like these, Christ's cause is alive and well, and advancing in America.
The providence of God is His wise, and powerful preserving, governing, and ruling of all His creatures and all their actions. It is easy to believe in God's providence when everything is going well. It is harder when things seem to be set against our plans, or even against us personally, but even in these times, God's perfect providence is still in total control. This is the meaning of Romans 11:36. For of Him, and through Him, and to Him, are all things: to Whom be the glory for ever. God's loving ordering of all things, according to His perfect plan is the heart of Daniel's thoughts in Daniel 4:34, 35, where he speaks of God's dominion as everlasting, and reminds himself, and all of us, that we can never say, unapprovingly, to the Lord, What doest Thou? It is not our place to even think in such a manner.
We have a tendency to look at secondary causes, while forgetting the First Cause of everything. God is not without design in His ways. To consider that God is obliged to do the best He can with this messed-up world, and unable to do as He would with His creation, borders on blaspheming. His perfections include His ability to direct secondary causes in ordinary ways, to achieve His perfect, never-altering will. Sometimes the Lord intervenes in miraculous ways, and we are wise to pray for His intervention.
Let us never forget that the heart of all God's providential dealings respect Christ and His Church. The Father is bringing all things to completeness in His perfect timing. It is one reason why we humbly submit to His providential dealings with us, even when things don't go as planned. We know that His plan is perfect. He loves His children, and He is bringing them, and all of history, to consummation in Christ.
This is something that this group we have been blessed to host at our church seems to know. They know the providence of God, and they trust the providence of God in their lives. They are content with their various surroundings, trusting the Lord, even when things don't go as planned or desired. I suspect we all can learn a lesson today from some college students on summer break from Pensacola Christian College. Let us trust the Lord; ever, always, and even more when providences that appear dark come across our path. He is worthy of our trust, and He ever works all things, together for good to them that love God, to them who are called according to His purpose. Romans 8:28.
Soli Deo Gloria,
Editor's Note: The questions in this series are stated in the exact form sent by the readers - unedited, unproofed, in order to remain true to the reader's original wording.