(Photo: Paul Tripp)
As a pastor, I learned the hard way that my ministry was either propelled by hope-motivating rest in God's sovereignty or fear-inducing belief that success would be the result of me controlling everything. In my early morning waking moments, in those quiet moments in the car or as my body gave way to sleep, I would pepper myself with a long list of "what ifs" and "if onlys." This habit never produced greater courage or rest. It only tempted me to wonder if I had what it takes and pushed me to try to control things that I could not control. But over and over again in grace my heavenly Father came to me through his Word and the ministry of others and remind me of the only place rest could be found.
I did the same thing again and again when our children resisted our instruction and correction. I did it again and again when they debated a command or questioned our plans. I did it again and again when they opposed our authority and quested for self-rule. I did it again and again for two good reasons.
To begin with, my wife and I brought children into this world who thought they didn't need us! Each of them at some point fell into believing they were far more knowledgeable and capable than they really were. They all assumed that their intentions were noble and their plans sound. They all thought they were capable of determining what was best, even when they lacked important information and experience. They simply felt they were in possession of a better way.
But there was a second reason I did it again and again. Our children were too young to grasp the abstract, strategic, and often theological purposes underlying my instruction. Even if I explained everything in as age-appropriate a way as I could, they would still have no actual understanding. They just did not yet have the categories or the capacity to grasp the parental logic behind the plan or command.
So I did the same thing again and again. I would kneel down in front of them at eye level and say, "Please look at Daddy's face. Do you know how much I love you? Do you know that your Daddy is not a mean, bad man? Do you know that I would never ask you to do anything that would hurt you or make you sick? I am sorry that you can't understand why Daddy is asking you to do this. I wish I could explain it to you, but you are too young to understand. So I am going to ask you to do something – trust Daddy. When you walk down the hallway to do what Daddy has asked you to do, say to yourself, 'My Daddy loves me. My Daddy would never ask me to do something bad. I am going to trust my Daddy and stop trying to be the Daddy of my Daddy.'"
Pastor, God does the same thing with you, over and over again. He meets you in one of the difficult hallways of your life, kneels down before you in condescending love, and asks you to trust his loving and wise rule, even though you don't have a clue what he is doing. He knows there are many times when your life and ministry don't look like there is anyone ruling them, let alone someone wise and good. He knows there will be times when you will wish you could write your own story. He knows that at times you will be overwhelmed by what is on your plate. He knows that his plan will confuse and confound you. And he knows that real rest cannot be found in understanding. Real rest is found in trust. So he is willing to have the conversation with you again and again, and he has made sure that his Word assures you of his rule again and again. (For just a few examples, see 1 Chronicles 29:11-12, Psalm 103:19, Psalm 115:3, Proverbs 21:1, Isaiah 46:9-10, Daniel 4:35, and Ephesians 1:11.)
Is your ministry a place of rest? Are you propelled by the security of your Father's sovereign care? In condescending love, he kneels before you once again today, face to face, and invites you to find rest where it only can be found – in trusting him. You can rest in the knowledge that your Father is wise, powerful, gracious, holy and faithful and his rule is bigger than all the responsibilities, opportunities, and obstacles that you could ever face.