Results tagged “Trials” from Reformation21 Blog

The Good, the Bad and the Providence of God

|

Johannes Maccovius, in his Theological Distinctions, treated the subject of the Divine providence toward the righteous and toward the wicked with the maxim, "In this life, what happens to good people is never bad and what happens to bad people is never good." He then appealed to the 14th Century theologian, Thomas Bradwardine--who, in his De Causa Dei Contra Pelagium, told the following story:

"Once upon a time, he says, there was a hermit who was thinking that the wicked received the good and the righteous received evil. Therefore, he began to doubt the existence of God and whether He, should He exist, was a righteous God, because human affairs continued to be in a completely perverse order. He gave up his solitary life and wandered through the world. While he was doing this, an angel in the shape of a man joined him in traveling through the country. Together they met somebody who received them politely and treated them very well. Rising at midnight, the angel took a golden cup from him and went away with the hermit. Next, they met and stayed with someone else who, equally polite, received and treated them. Rising at midnight together with the hermit, the angel went to the cradle and strangled the baby lying in it. For the third time they went and met somebody who was not willing to receive them in his house, but let them pass the night in the open air. Early in the morning, the angel knocked on the door and presented to the wicked man the golden cup which he had stolen from the good man, and said to him: I give you this cup for the kind hospitality with which you received us. Finally, they came to a man who treated them most kindly. When the angel was about to leave, he asked him to send his servant in order to show them the way to go. So it happened. When they reached a bridge over rapid waters the angel threw the servant into the river. 

The hermit, seeing all this and thinking about it, said: now I want to leave you, because you are a villainous man. But the angel said to him: wait a moment. I will tell you who I am and teach you that everything that has been done, has happened justly by virtue of God's order. He said: I am an angel of God and I am sent to teach you that many things that seem unjust to human kind, are very just and good.The first man we met and from whom I took away the golden cup profited from this, because, before possessing this cup, he feared God. But after having received the cup he was drunk every day. Thus God sent me in order to remove this incentive to drunkenness, so that this good man would no longer endanger his eternal salvation. To the other inhumane man to whom I gave the cup I was not good but I did much harm to him. For through this cup he was induced to the same fault committed before by the other man, i.e. drinking. Therefore, God decided to give him something else in this life, because after this life he will have nothing at all. Before he was blessed with offspring the man whose child I killed was generous to the poor. But after the child was born, he washed his hands off the poor. Therefore, by order of God, I killed his child, so that this man would no longer endanger his eternal salvation, but, in fact, would return to his previous generosity. Regarding the servant sent to us by the landlord in order to show us the way: that night he was about to murder the lord, the landlady and their children. But because God loved this family, He sent me to prevent this evil. Then the angel said: 'Off you go and stop judging divine providence in the wrong way, because you see bad things happen to good people and good things to bad people.'"1


1. Johannes Maccovius Scholastic Discourse: Johannes Maccovius (1588-1644) on Theological and Philosophical Distinctions and Rules (Apeldoorn: Instituut voor Reformatieonderzoek, 2009) pp. 173-175.

All the Hell You Shall Ever Have

|

For the better part of my Christian life, I've had a visceral reaction--driven by internal disapproval--whenever I've heard someone describe the hardships he or she experienced in life in the following ways: "It was like hell on earth," or "I feel like I've been through hell." I am sure that part of this reaction is due, in large part, to the fact I was raised in a home in which the awful reality of eternal destruction was not joked about or diminished (as it ought not be!). Therefore, in my mind, to correlate the miseries of this life with eternal punishment always struck me as a trivializing of the worst kind. Then, I read the following in Thomas Brooks' The Mute Christian Under the Smarting Rod:

"Consider, that the trials and troubles, the calamities and miseries, the crosses and losses that you meet with in this world, are all the hell that you shall ever have: here you have your hell, hereafter you shall have your heaven; this is the worst of your condition, the best is to come. Lazarus had his hell first, his heaven last; but Dives (the rich man) had his heaven first, and his hell at last (Luke 16:19-31): you have all your pangs, and pains, and throes here that you shall ever have; your ease, and rest, and pleasure is to come: here you have all your bitter, your sweet is to come: here you have your sorrows, your joys are to come: here you have all your winter-nights, your summer-days are to come; here you have your passion-week, your ascension day is to come: here you have your evil things, your good things are to come: death will put a period to all your sins, and to all thy sufferings, and it will be an inlet to those joys, delights, and contents that shall never have an end; and therefore hold thy peace, and be silent before the Lord."1

There is a sense in which it is right and good for us to speak of the miseries of life as a "the only hell" a true Christian will ever have. Consider what the Westminster Shorter Catechism has to say about the miseries Adam brought into the world on account of his disobedience,

"Q. 19. What is the misery of that estate whereinto man fell? 

A. All mankind by their fall lost communion with God, are under his wrath and curse, and so made liable to all the miseries of this life, to death itself, and to the pains of hell forever."

On one hand, everything we experience in this life, short of hell, is a mercy from God. Since the ultimate misery that we all deserve is "the pains of hell forever," we must conclude that we are the just recipients of every misery we experience, short of hell, in this life. This is not to say that ever trial, pain, hardship or affliction that we experience in this life is due to some particular personal sin. The Scriptures are clear that personal suffering is not necessarily correlated to any personal sin (Job 1; John 9:1-4). Some of the misery that we experience in this life is due to our personal sin (2 Samuel 12:10, 14; Psalm 119:71; James 5:14). However, all of the misery that we experience in this life is due to Adam's sin. Adam brought all men into a state of sin and misery. All mankind receives, by imputation, the guilt and the corruption of Adam's sin, as well as the experience of misery in this fallen world. All of us deserve, by nature, death and judgment because of Adam's sin. The good news for believers is that what Jesus did, as the last Adam, alters even the impact of the misery of Adam's sin for the true believer. 

On the other hand, the Scriptures make clear that the Lord does not deal with believers "according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities" (Psalm 103:10). The Psalmist could say this because he prospectively anticipated that the Christ would come and that the Lord would deal with Him according to our sins and punish Him for our iniquities (Isaiah 53). Jesus takes away all of the sin of His people. He clothes us with His righteousness. He breaks the power of sin in the believer's life. He raises us up to newness of life in Him (Rom. 6:1-14). He endures hell on the cross for His people so that we, who are united to Him by faith, have already "passed from death into life and shall not enter into judgment" (John 5:25). There is no hell for believers--no judgment awaiting us on account of our sins since they have been atoned for by the death of Jesus. God' wrath has been fully propitiated when it fell on the Son at Calvary. 

There is even a sense in which many of the sufferings of this life are suspended on account of the atoning sacrifice of Jesus. The Psalmist declared, "Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me...Who forgives all your iniquities, who heals all your diseases (Psalm 103:1, 3). This doesn't mean that Jesus purchased complete physical healing for all his people in this life on the cross. The Apostle Paul suffered from irremediable physical pain (Gal. 4:15). Paul then told Timothy drink a little wine for his infirmities (1 Tim. 5:23). What it does mean is that He often heals us of our diseases in this life and will most certainly heal us of all our diseases in the resurrection on the last day. 

All the miseries that believers are called by God to endure in this life are the only hell that they will ever endure because of the saving work of Jesus in his death and resurrection. This is one of the most comforting and soul strengthening thoughts upon which a believer may set his heart or mind in this life. The Lord may severely afflict, Satan may relentlessly attack, believers may  incessantly hurt, the world may violently persecute, but it will all ultimately come to an end when the believer dies or when Christ comes again in glory. Then there will only be peace, rest, consolation, ecstasy and wholeness forever in the presence of the Lamb who was slain for his suffering people. Because of the death and resurrection of Jesus, whatever fiery trials you are called by God to endure in this life you can be assured that they are "all the hell you shall ever have."

Why Ask Why?

|

One of the most difficult things for a Christian worker to do is to wade into the midst of grief with a congregant. There we sit, feeling helpless and disarmed, watching the person across the table from us fall into pieces over their loss. When they gain the composure to speak, almost certainly they will ask:

"Why did God let this happen?"

If you catch a counselor in a more candid moment, we will admit that this is the kind of question we dread the most in the wake of a tragedy. It's not that the question lacks a straightforward Biblical answer (Cf. Rom. 8.28 or Gen. 50.20). Nor is it that we lack the courage to speak hard truths about God's sovereignty in a crisis. Rather, it is that the question "Why?" has a more nuanced Biblical pedigree than meets the eye, and answering without care to this can have devastating effects on the person sitting across from us.

To put it another way, there are more unhelpful answers to the "Why?" question than there are helpful ones. In fact, the question often presents a kind of Scylla and Charybdis to the Christian worker, with danger on either side. On one side, we might be tempted to think that our calling in the aftermath of heartbreak is to see it as an apologetic teaching moment. Proof texting, simplistic answers, recommending sermons or books, and waxing eloquent about the hidden counsels of God can be helpful but often run the risk of putting us in cahoots with Job's companions. On the other side, we can be shipwrecked by the much more dangerous temptation to actually answer the question. This kind of response can range from the sophomoric to the tragically comic. Either way, such a response exceeds human knowledge and numbers us among those who darken counsel without understanding.

Scripture guides our response to this question in a more Godward way. In fact, our Lord famously takes an interest in theodicy on the cross. Face to face with the judgment of God on the sin of the world, Jesus "cried out with a loud voice, saying, 'Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?' that is, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" (Mt. 27.46, ESV).

This of course is a quote from David in Psalm 22. Here we are offered a rare glimpse into the agony of Jesus, the cosmic weight of sin, the inter-Trinitarian dynamics of salvation, and the love of the Godhead. And if this weren't enough to captivate our minds for a millennia, we are also given insight into why we ask "Why?" in times of loss and how to biblically respond to this question. Let me suggest that these two passages teach us at least four things about why we ask "Why?"

First, and perhaps most simply, Jesus here validates this question for His people. By asking this question, He gives us permission to ask it. Perhaps it can be said that He models it for us, for if the Son of God can ask the Father why evil befalls Him, then so can we. And this reality is bolstered by other passages that reveal God's faithful servants doing just the same--consider David in Psalm 22, Jeremiah in Jer. 22, or Job in chapter 7. And while not all of these questions were uttered from a pure heart, they nonetheless suggest that God does hear them.

Second, Christ's cry from the cross teaches us that, ironically, knowing the actual reason why God allows something to occur is often not as satisfying as it seems. Aristotle famously spoke of four differing causes of events in the world--the material, the formal, the efficient, and the final. It is often the case that we can piece together some explanation regarding the first three--i.e. a low pressure system caused the hurricane. But what usually dogs us are questions regarding the final cause (ultimate purpose) of a tragedy. And so often it is impossible to specifically know this in relation to a certain event, although we always generally know this in relation to God's providence.

Yet in this case, Christ actually knew the final cause of His death. Although in the emptying of Himself into His human nature he voluntarily gave up some kinds of knowledge (Mk 13.32), He at least knew why He had to die (Jn. 18.4). In fact, He had practically been preaching this truth ad nauseam to the disciples (Lk. 18.31-34), and so it is evident that Jesus already knew the answer to His question before He asked it! And this means that being able to propositionally explain why God does something, although helpful, does not always take away our pain and hurt. The question "Why?" therefore actually yearns toward something much deeper than a straightforward answer.

Third, given this, Jesus' cry transforms our understanding of the question in the first place. For if He is not looking for answers here, what is He doing? Calvin, as always, is instructive:

Though in the cry which Christ uttered a power more than human was manifested, yet it was unquestionably drawn from him by intensity of sorrow. And certainly this was his chief conflict, and harder than all the other tortures, that in his anguish he was so far from being soothed by the assistance or favor of his Father, that he felt himself to be in some measure estranged from him....Though the perception of the flesh would have led him to dread destruction, still in his heart faith remained firm, by which he beheld the presence of God, of whose absence he complains. We have explained elsewhere how the Divine nature gave way to the weakness of the flesh, so far as was necessary for our salvation, that Christ might accomplish all that was required of the Redeemer.

Although Jesus is legitimately asking a real question of the Father, His cry also serves as a kind of guttural lament expressing the "intensity of sorrow" He faces. As such, it is perhaps the best human language can do in terms of naming horrors that the Lord faced, both physical and spiritual. Note too that Calvin highlights the strain that the cross brought upon Jesus' human nature. It is through the "perception of the flesh" and the in "weakness of the flesh" that Jesus feels the "dread" of death and therefore cries out to God. While there will be some aspects of Christ's death with which we cannot relate, we can relate to Him in his general physical and spiritual agony. Seen in this light, Christ's cry (and ours) is not just a question but a verbalized expression of the agony of suffering. It is truly a lament.

Fourth, Jesus' cry instructs our pastoral response to those who likewise ask the same question. It does so in two ways. First, if "Why?' isn't always a straightforward question, then it often does not require a straightforward answer. This is why attempts to answer such a question fall flat. When our child falls and scrapes her knee, we don't give her a lecture on physics but a kiss and a bandage. Similarly, what the faithful believer often needs from us in these moments is simply for their cry to be heard. And perhaps for us to cry with them.

Secondly, when the believer is ready--and the timing of this is crucial--we can help lead them through the logic of lament. The interesting thing about Psalm 22 is the inner struggle it reveals in the life of the believer. The first stanza (v. 1-2) comprises the cry of the believer. The second stanza (v. 3-5) marks a sudden shift to a remembrance of God's prior goodness. The third stanza (v. 6-8) sees a shift back to lament, while the fourth (v.9-11) revisits God's covenant faithfulness. The psalm continues on in this pattern for some time, and then something wonderful happens. After verse upon verse of wrestling with providence, the psalm snowballs into sustained doxology glorifying God's goodness (v. 19-31). Somewhere in the process of wrestling with the competing realities of evil and God's faithfulness, integration occurs. Through a combination of expressing and naming one's pain, crying out to God, and being gently reminded of God's covenant love, David is healed. We who are charged with the care of souls might do well to remember this pattern and all of its components--lament, prayer, and gentle instruction.

Psalm 22 can be read in three minutes; but, no one should expect that a believer will make it through the process modeled here in the same amount of time. Rather, these sorts of psalms are meant to be lived; and, it should not surprise us if our brothers or sisters take three years to get to verse 4 in real time. We must be patient when wading into suffering with others, as our God is patient with us.

Brian Mesimer lives in Columbia, SC, with his wife, where he works as a counselor at the counseling center of First Presbyterian Church (ARP).

   

Whate're My God Ordains is Right

|

May 10, 2018 was the most beautiful yet painful day of our lives. Our long-awaited daughter, Dayna Euphemia, safely entered into the world and became part of our family. This is our family's story about the pain, hope, sorrow and joy that have come with the twists and turns in the adventure that is our life - an adventure we've learned can't be scripted.

Even though we had close family experience with infertility, we never thought it would be something we would personally experience when we got married in 2009. It's so natural that you fall in love, get married, establish a household and then have children. For us, this plan was falling in place perfectly until 2013. Infertility creeps up on you slowly but arrives with ferocity. The progression from wondering if it's going to take some extra time to conceive to doubting that you will ever have your own children consumes your life in the space of a year. Four and a half years, countless medical appointments, numerous procedures, thousands of dollars and one confirmed miscarriage left us feeling hopeless with the situation last summer.

We got used to pain every month - but just because it was expected didn't make it hurt any less. Infertility was a burden that was intimately woven into the fabric of our daily life. Our relationship as husband and wife grew so much deeper and stronger as a result of the pain.

Graciously, the last five years were not a negative black hole for our lives, on the contrary - when we weren't grieving we were living a great life. We have a passion for traveling and we have had the opportunity to go lots of places, including Italy, Greece, Portugal, Germany, France, Iceland, Slovenia and Croatia during our season of waiting. I'm sure many of our friends with small children looked at our social media posts with a tinge of jealousy! On many of those days life felt perfect and we felt that things would turn out alright in the end. Our desire to become parents never diminished and we knew God would fulfill that calling in His own way. As Jenn once put it, we were living in half agony and half hope.

We always seemed to have our most important conversations when we were traveling. On August 19, 2017, we had one of those conversations walking along the beach in Grado, Italy. Earlier that evening we had eaten some remarkable pizza and later than night we dodged a prodigious downpour from a thunderstorm to get back to our car. But our conversation was about neither of these things - it was an agreement that we were near the end of our journey with medical intervention for our infertility. Flying back home the following day, we could not have imagined that our prayer for a child had already been answered!

That evening was the finale to perhaps our best trip ever. During the previous week, we had road tripped through portions of Slovenia, Croatia and Italy and had a sense we were fully living life each day. In Croatia, we stayed in the gorgeous coastal town of Rovinj, where the main church was dedicated to Euphemia. Inside the church, through both our guidebook and artwork, we were drawn in by the story of Euphemia, a teenage Christian who was martyred for her faithful witness during the reign of the Roman Emperor Diocletian. Her story reminded us of Stephen in Acts 7. The name Euphemia became special to us not only because of where God answered our prayers but also because it was a name to live by.

Pregnancy after infertility and miscarriage can leave you in a constant fear of what could go wrong. During the next nine months, we cautiously yet with great expectation checked off exciting milestone after milestone while all the scans showed a strong and healthy baby girl was safely developing. The pregnancy culminated in the greatest moment of our lives at 11:42 a.m. on May 10, 2018, when Dayna arrived! Her arrival wasn't without a little bit of drama when it became apparent that she had the umbilical cord doubly wrapped around her neck. It was a scary moment as she was whisked away and took longer than normal to breathe. But the medical professionals were skillful and we soon heard Dayna's little cries - the moment we had waited so long for was finally here - we were overwhelmed with joy!

After Dayna had stabilized and been given back to us, the neonatologist came in to speak with us. We expected he would simply tell us how Dayna was doing and what work had been done on her following her birth. Instead we heard phrases such as 'features of Down syndrome' and 'I'm very concerned' and that we needed to do a blood chromosome test. It was the most shocking moment of our lives. It all felt surreal, like we were watching a movie and that this wasn't actually our life.

It is impossible put into words the rollercoaster of emotions that come with shedding tears of euphoria and tears of gut-wrenching sorrow within the space of hours. During the years of infertility one of the things you dream about is that first meeting of your child; what they will look like, will they have your eyes, nose, mouth, etc - that feeling of their skin on yours for the first time. While we held Dayna's perfect form on our chest, the endorphins pumping through our body, it seemed impossible that what this man was saying could be true.

Over the past several weeks we have learned that joy and sorrow are not mutually exclusive emotions. We are thrilled at the arrival of our baby girl yet look towards the future with trepidation knowing that during her life our daughter will be challenged with disability. We are grieving for our set of dreams and expectations for her life and it is still an active process. There is no quick fix to this emotional pain, though every word of encouragement we have received has slowly soothed the hurt.

Tears have been shed so many times over the past two weeks. Tears worrying about Dayna's future. Tears in coming to grips with a different set of expectations for her life. Tears at having to schedule seemingly endless medical appointments. Even more tears when the Down syndrome diagnosis was confirmed.

But there have also been tears of joy and so many wonderful moments. Tears seeing her cousins fight over who gets to hold her, be close to her and touch her. Tears in seeing her snuggle up in a perfectly peaceful way with her parents. Tears in seeing the joy in family members' eyes when meeting her. Tears in seeing each other being able to finally live out the role of mother and father. Tears in knowing that this is the child that so many prayed for so long.

During the past week we have felt our relationship grow even closer through this experience. Meanwhile Dayna is completely unfazed by any of these developments. She is a happy, content and lovely baby girl who is already exhibiting so many strong characteristics. We are filled with love for our daughter and recognize that she is the absolutely beautiful gift from God that will bring so much richness to our lives. It is touching to see the love grandparents, uncles, aunts, cousins and friends have for her - she will have an amazing support network of family and friends. She is fortunate to live in a community where there are so many excellent resources for people with disabilities that will give her great opportunities for success and happiness in her life.

This is our family, this is our story, this is our call to live in obedience to His plan. The page has turned to a new chapter in our lives and we can't wait to see what will be written - and we certainly cannot imagine turning back.

Whate'er my God ordains is right, though now this cup in drinking
May bitter seem to my faint heart, I take it all unshrinking
My God is true, each morn anew
Sweet comfort yet shall fill my heart
And pain and sorrow shall depart - Samuel Rodigast


Jennifer Weitz blogs at Unexpected Realities. She is a member of Potomac Hills Presbyterian Church (PCA) in Leesburg, VA. 

Ministry is Discouragement

|
I oftentimes tell people that ministry is discouragement. My point, in saying this, is not to suggest that ministry is only and always discouraging. There are, to be sure, times of great encouragement and blessing in ministry. Praise God that it is so! There are times when we know that God is evidently using us, when we see Him visibly blessing our labors or when we see people growing in their faith like never before. There are times when we serve and see a great deal of visible fruit. My point is not to deny or make light of any of these things. My point is simply to say that ministry forces us to face discouragement, to learn to minister through it and even to rejoice in it--and not just once or twice but continually over the course of our lives. Whatever else we may face in ministry, we can be assured that we will face discouragement. It is a constant. And that is why I oftentimes say that ministry is discouragement.

Sometimes discouragement in ministry comes from outward opposition. Trials and tribulations, losses and crosses, and mistreatment and persecution can definitely catch us by surprise and wear us down, to be sure. But I have found that the far greater problem comes not from the outward opposition but from one of two kinds of inward opposition. On the one hand, many of us--probably all of us--struggle with being content with the person God has made us to be. We don't like ourselves or our gifts and abilities. We want a different set of gifts than the one God has given us, or we want the gifts that we have in greater quantities and proportions than God has given us. If we are a 1-talent preacher (à la Matthew 25:14-30), for example, we want to be a 2-talent preacher instead; and if we are a 2-talent preacher, we want to be a 5-talent preacher instead. And so it goes. We struggle with ourselves, with being the people God has made us to be.

I once heard John Piper say in one of his biographical studies that we are all our own greatest trials; and, I think that is unquestionably true. Paul's words in 1 Corinthians 15:10 just may be the most difficult words to say about ourselves in the whole of the Bible: "By the grace of God I am what I am." Far too often we want someone else's gifts and someone else's life and ministry. We struggle believing 1 Corinthians 15:10, and, as a result, we struggle with discouragement in our ministries.

On the other hand, many of us--again, probably all of us--also struggle with our own perceptions of our usefulness in ministry. No matter how gifted we are, we tend to lose sight of the big picture of what God is doing in and through us. We lose sight of it in the messy details of every day ministry--the marriage breakups, the family dysfunction, the destructive consequences of addiction and abuse, and the difficulties of ongoing conflict and strife. This leads inevitably to discouragement. We do not see what the Lord is doing through the mess of life and ministry. We do not perceive that He is doing much of anything with all our sacrifices and investments of energy and time.

Sometimes this struggle is the greatest for those who are the most gifted among us. Sometimes less gifted men receive more encouragement because we sense that they need it more, and so less gifted men may labor with a clearer perception of their usefulness in ministry. More gifted ministers, however, sometimes receive little or no encouragement, simply because we think that they hear it from everyone and that it wouldn't mean anything to them to hear it from us as well. So they frequently go through their ministries with less encouragement and, consequently, less of a sense that God is using them and blessing their ministries when He actually is using them and blessing them quite significantly.

It certainly was that way for the great Scottish preacher Samuel Rutherford. A great preacher in an age known for great preachers, Rutherford struggled mightily with discouragement throughout his ministry. He regularly complained of having little or no sense of God's blessing upon him and his labors. At one point, he believed that the church was about to close down on account of all the resistance he was experiencing. Even after almost a decade of what was actually a very successful ministry, he looked back in discouragement and bemoaned the fact that he "had done little good." He couldn't see the big picture of what God was doing in and through him; the daily difficulties of ministry got in the way, and he struggled with discouragement because of it.

So what do we do with this kind of discouragement? How do we keep on ministering through it? And how do we rejoice in the midst of it, as Paul calls us to do in passages like 1 Thessalonians 5:16? In answering these questions and dealing with my own discouragements, I have found help from several passages that remind me of the tremendous privileges that God has given me. He has not given me (or you either) the basically fruitless ministry that He gave to the prophet Isaiah, whose ministry was to be characterized by hardening the hearts of the people and blinding their eyes so that they would not turn to the Lord (Isaiah 6:9-10). Praise God that He has given us some visible fruit to encourage us in our labors. Even if it is less than others see, it is still more than Isaiah saw in his lifetime.

I also strive to remind myself that everything I am and have has been given to me by the Lord (1 Corinthians 4:7; 15:10). He has given me the parents that I have; the personality, drive, and abilities; the education and experiences; the health and the wealth; the opportunities and audiences; everything. He has made me for a specific sphere of ministry, and He has equipped me for it. And He does all things very well.

But, most especially, I strive to remind myself continually that my joy is found in Jesus and not in the things of this world--not in my health or wealth, not in my accomplishments or successes, not in my gifts and abilities, not in what people think of me, or how many people read or listen to me. My joy is in Jesus, because God made Him who knew no sin to be sin for me so that I might become the righteousness of God in Him (2 Corinthians 5:21). My joy is in Jesus, because there is no condemnation for all those who are in Christ (Romans 8:1). My joy is in Jesus, because God is for me in Christ; and if God is for me forevermore, then no one and no thing can ever really be against me (Romans 8:31ff).


Guy M. Richard is the Senior Minister of First Presbyterian Church (PCA) in Gulfport, MS. He is a graduate of Auburn University (B.I.E.), Reformed Theological Seminary (M.Div.), and the University of Edinburgh (Ph.D.). He has published two books, What is Faith? (2012) and The Supremacy of God in the Theology of Samuel Rutherford (2009), in addition to several other articles in various books and journals. You can follow Guy on Twitter at @GuyMRicchard.