At the end of first term each year AIM holds their yearly conference here at RVA. It is such a privilege to host this event since we get to meet friends we have made before and make new friends of those who are new to the mission field. This year Dr. John Talley from New Hampshire came to speak during the sessions. It was so good to have a different perspective and his message was what we needed after a long, sometimes grueling, term. It was so good that we thought that we would provide a somewhat quick outline of what we learned.
The theme of the conference was “In the Hands of God”. The first day Dr. Talley compared the two stories of Jonathan and Saul. Jonathan was faced with a difficult decision and he turned to his armour bearer and said,
“Come, let’s go over to the outpost of those uncircumcised fellows. Perhaps the Lord will act on our behalf. Nothing can hinder the Lord from saving whether by many or by few.” -1 Samuel 14:6 [emphasis added]
Saul, on the other hand, was rebuked by Samuel for his actions and he replied,
“When I saw that the men were scattering, and that you did not come at the set time, and that the Philistines were assembling at Micmash, I thought, ‘Now the Philistines will come down against me at Gilgal, and I have not sought the Lord’s favor.’ So I felt compelled to offer the burnt offering.” -1 Samuel 13: 11-12 [emphasis added]
Notice the two very different responses. As Dr. Talley pointed out we live life in a messy middle. Many times we try to do things on our own. But we ought to be willing to trust that God can deliver with a few or with many. Are we willing to take that step out?
The second day Dr. Talley talked about Jeremiah and how he was called even before he was born. By the twentieth chapter though Jeremiah claims that God has deceived him. We have to recognize that we not only get to serve the people that God loves but to also suffer for the cause of Christ.
The prime example that we looked at though was the life of Joseph. Genesis 37 – 50 outlines the life of Joseph. He starts out by having this dream when he was seventeen that his brothers, mother and father would all bow down to him. Then the first step was that he was sold into slavery by his brothers and taken into Egypt and sold to Potiphar. Yet the Lord was with Joseph. He was thrown into prison and it says again that the Lord was with Joseph. He was forgotten in prison and 20 -27 years after he was sold by his brothers we start to see God’s plan for his life. During all of that time never once was it indicated that Joseph questioned God or cried out in anguish. Then there was the interpretation of the pharoahs dreams which started him to be in the position that his family ended up bowing down to him to get food during the famine. Joseph’s perspective shows a patient endurance of the “messy middle”.
Finally we looked at the story of Sennacherib and Hezekiah in Isaiah. The story has three parts. Sennacherib threatens Hezekiah; Hezekiah comes to the end of his resources; and there is a showdown between the King of the Universe and the king of Assyria – which is no match.
There is one very important word though that Dr. Talley pointed and that was the word “because”. Because Hezekiah prayed God responded. It was not anything special but it was a change in the posture of Hezekiahs heart. But the word because was not only for Hezekaih but also for Sennacherib. Because Sennacherib raged against God and was insolent in his words God dealt with him by defeating his army and turning him back to where he came.
If you read this far – congratulations. Hopefully you have been blessed by what we have learned but unltimately we are here to accomplish His plan that was laid out before the world began. We may experience pain and loss but God will accomplish what he wants. It is hard but we need to learn that we should not rest on plans and worry about what may happen but get on our knees and change the posture of our hearts.
We hope that as we look forward to the Christmas season all of us will be able to slow down and maybe have a small glimpse into what God has laid out for us before time began.