It was one of the hardest decisions I ever made.
I loved my work at The Christian Counseling and Educational Foundation (CCEF). I deeply respected the people who worked with me. Many of them had made an indelible impact on my heart and life. But God was producing a restlessness in my heart, and it became clear that He was calling me to a wider ministry to the Body of Christ.
So in June of 2006, we launched Paul Tripp Ministries, Inc. (In case you’re wondering, we chose that name not because I’m full of myself, but because we live and minister in the age of the internet, and I wanted people to be able to Google my name and get my ministry website.)
I will confess that I launched into this new endeavor with lots of fear. There were times when I felt that I was crazy to leave a stable ministry life where I was well taken care of. But whatever fears I have had in the last ten years have been overwhelmed by the many blessings that have been showered down on me by One who is amazing in grace, who is boundless in love, and who is the definition of what is wise.
Have there been hardships? Of course there have! We live and minister in a dramatically broken world populated with flawed people (including myself). But, we haven’t been left alone in those hardships, because the Savior is with us, in us, and for us.
As I reflect on the last ten years, I want to share with you ten of the many blessings I have experienced. Why? Not so that you would celebrate Paul Tripp or Paul Tripp Ministries, but rather celebrate the glorious One who is the giver of every good and perfect gift (James 1:17).
I pray that this list will open your eyes in new ways to the many gifts of grace that you are given daily that you may not notice or may take for granted. And I pray that the opening of your eyes will silence complaint and stimulate praise.
Take the time to meditate on these blessings. Take the time to look for them in your own life. And then, take the time to thank the Giver.
1. When God sends us, He goes with us.
Again and again, whether in Philadelphia, Los Angeles, Singapore, Belfast, Berlin, Sydney, New Delhi or New York City, I have experienced what Jesus promised his disciple as he commissioned them to ministry: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20, ESV)
Jesus didn’t promise his disciples that ministry would be easy. He didn’t promise them that people would always like them. He didn’t promise them success in everything they attempted. He didn’t promise them a life free from difficulty. He promised them something better - in fact, the best thing ever.
What did Jesus promise? He promised himself!
If the disciples were ever going to be able to be who they were called to be and do what they were called to do, it would only ever be the presence and power of the Christ that would make it happen.
No Christian called to reach the lost in their neighborhood and throughout the nations has ever been independently capable. No Christian called to make disciples has what it takes to bear the burdens of ministry alone. Everyone sent to proclaim the Savior desperately needs the Savior!
With this promise, Jesus guarantees that it’s impossible for you and me to ever be in any ministry situation, location or relationship by ourselves and left to our limited resources.
I have been blessed with this truth over the past ten years: I can move forward in faith and with confidence because the One who is sending me goes with me as well.
2. No one is more committed to the use of our gifts than the Giver.
It’s natural for me to fret about the use of my gifts. I would expect the same is true of you. From the moment you begin to recognize that you’ve been given gifts for ministry, it’s very tempting to begin to be captured by the fears of where, when and how those gifts will be used. As I stepped away from CCEF into a wider ministry, I was not free from the burden of those fears.
The reason those fears plague us is because we’re not sovereign. I don’t know what’s going to happen this afternoon, let alone next month or next year. So as I stepped in the unknown future of Paul Tripp Ministries, I couldn’t predict how God would make use of the gifts that he had given me. That scared me.
In these moments, there are two things you must preach to yourself again and again:
1. Security in ministry is found not when you know the future, but when you trust the One who holds our future ministries in His hands.
2. God, being perfect in every way, is never a poor steward of the gifts that He blesses us with.
The Giver is way more concerned about, and committed to, the use of our gifts than we will ever be. So He doesn’t just bless us with gifts, but He also blesses us with specific situations, locations and relationships where those gifts can be used.
I have been blessed with this truth over the past ten years: I could never have written my story and how my gifts would be used, but that story was already written in God’s book because the Giver is always a good steward of what He has given.
3. God accompanies His call with His provision.
The Bible, through narrative, declarations and promises, makes it very clear that God will never call us to a task without enabling us to do it.
I’ve said this many times: If God puts a Red Sea in front of you and He means you to cross it, He’ll build a bridge, send a boat, give you the ability to swim, or part the waters himself. If He calls you to the other side, He’ll make a way for you to get there!
Here’s why you can be assured of the delivery of all of His promises: a person’s promises are only as good as the extent of their power.
Think about it. I can only guarantee my promises in the places over which I have control. I can promise to arrive somewhere at a designated time, or I can promise to make you a certain meal, because those are places where I have control. But as I’m sure you have experienced, we don’t even have control over those little things!
So it is with God’s provision - His promises are only as good as the extent of His sovereignty. But unlike us, He is sovereign over every situation, location and relationship where those promises need to be delivered, so He is able to deliver what He has promised in every location, every time.
I have experienced it over the last ten years and know it to be true: I can rest in the blessing of God’s provision even though I continue to be surprised by how God provides.
4. God redeems, even our failures.
I wish I could honestly say that the last ten years have been free from personal, relational or ministry failures, but I can’t. Everyone who works with me knows that I am a less than perfect man in constant need of rescuing and redeeming grace.
I have thought, said and done things I regret. I regularly need to be forgiven by God and by the people He has placed in my life. I have been required to abandon the delusion of my righteousness so I can bask in the righteousness of Jesus.
In all of this, I have savored a sweet blessing: God not only tolerates our failures; He redeems them.
Some of the most precious moments of my ministry have been experienced in the context of the clearest of my failures. My failures are not the dark closet that God shuts the door on and begrudgingly ignores, but rather a new door He opens that leads to transformation.
I love what the Apostle Paul wrote: “But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:9-10)
I have experienced it over the last ten years and know it to be true: my failures are in fact God’s workroom of forgiving, restoring and transforming grace.
5. God keeps working on those He’s working through.
I say this almost every time I speak, or write it in nearly every book: God has not chosen you to simply be a recipient of forgiving, restoring and transforming grace. No, God calls all of His children to be instruments of that same grace in the lives of others.
Ironically, one of the temptations of being in ministry for many years is to believe that I personally don’t need the grace that I’m preaching or teaching to others. Over the past ten years, my Savior has made it very clear to me that He’s not just after the success of my ministry, but that He’s also after my heart.
This means I have to confess that, because I’m a person in the middle of my own sanctification, there’s no truth that I could ever teach, preach or counsel that I don’t desperately need myself. I must daily confess that I’m more like than unlike the people to whom I am called to minister. Everyone called to be a voice of redeeming grace is at the same time of recipient of the very same grace.
But God is after my heart for another reason; not just because He has promised to complete the work that He has begun in me (Philippians 1:6). God is after my heart because He knows that my ministry will never be shaped by just my knowledge, experience and skill.
God knows that my ministry is fundamentally shaped by the true condition of my heart. So He constantly works to transform my heart so that I would be a sharper, more usable instrument in His powerful redeeming hands. How’s that for a plan!
I have been blessed with this truth over the past ten years: God’s blessings on my ministry don’t signify for a moment that I have graduated from being a recipient of God’s grace.
6. God makes His invisible grace visible by sending people of grace to give grace to people who need grace.
No person’s life, and no person’s ministry (including mine), is an individual enterprise. It’s all one big a community project.
I couldn’t have made it through the last ten years had I not been blessed with the love, concern, comfort, counsel, prayer and support of the Body of Christ around the world.
There have been multiple mornings when I, feeling a bit down, inadequate, alone, overwhelmed or fearful, received an unexpected text, tweet or email brimming with gospel encouragement. It has happened too many times and in too many important situations to be rightfully viewed as an accident.
Let me tell you why this blessing has been so encouraging and motivating for me: I have realized in those moments that I’m not just being loved by the body of Christ; I’m being loved by Christ himself.
If I’m being given grace by a person, it’s Christ who is extending His arms of grace to me, through them. Our Savior doesn’t leave His grace invisible, but rather raises up people of grace who makes His grace visible to people who need grace.
Again and again, God has extended His grace to me through people who had no idea what I was going through and how much I needed the comfort of the grace they were giving me.
Hebrews 4:16 promises us “mercy to help us in time of need.” This is a promise of just the right mercy for the need of the moment. I have been blessed by many, many people who have functioned as God’s delivery system for those mercies.
I have been blessed with this truth over the past ten years: our invisible God showers us with tangible grace, mercy and blessing through the people of His Church.
7. There is no hunger in the human heart that grace cannot satisfy.
In His divine wisdom, God built spiritual hunger and spiritual thirst into the heart of every human being (see Isaiah 55). Everyone is seeking fulfillment, hope, meaning and purpose. Whether we know it or not, there’s a void in our soul that can only be satisfied when it’s satisfied in the Savior.
We like to point to those who spend money on fast cars or big houses or fancy wardrobes and judge them for trying to satisfy their souls with creation. But I’ve discovered that it’s tempting for me to satisfy my soul with my ministry. It’s tempting to seek from my ministry what it was never meant, or will ever be able, to give.
I want to influence others with the gospel. I want my ministry to bear much fruit. Over the past ten years, it’s comforting and humbling to know that my work has helped people, and because it has, they appreciate me.
But I have been blessed to learn that I cannot let my heart drink at the fountain of these things. I have learned to get up every morning with a perseverant commitment to the ministry to which God has called me, but I drink from the one fountain that will satisfy the thirst of my heart. That fountain is Jesus.
I have been blessed with this truth over the past ten years: no influence, success, appreciation or respect has any power whatsoever to satisfy the hunger in my heart; only Jesus can.
8. God doesn’t punish us with hardship; He blesses us with it.
My life and ministry have not been free from hardship in the last ten years. I’m sure you have experienced hardships in the past decade, too.
I’m also sure that, like me, you have not always viewed these hardships as blessings in your life. There are moments when I’m tempted to believe that the hardships in my path are obstacles in the way of what God intends to do in me and through me.
This is a theologically inaccurate and spiritually dangerous perspective. Personal or ministry hardships are not an indication of God’s unfaithfulness or inattention.
James wrote, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” (James 1:2-4, ESV)
We can find joy in the storms of life because our Savior wants them to come our way. Why does He want them to come our way? Because He knows that sometimes we need the storm in order to see and celebrate His glory and the glory of His grace.
I have been blessed with this truth over the past ten years: hardships in life are a tool of God’s loving and refining grace.
9. Our potential for ministry is not limited by the diagnosis of a physician.
Most of you reading this probably know that the past 18 months have been very difficult for me. I was in acute renal failure and didn’t know it. I lost 65% of my kidney function. I’ve had six hospital stays, accompanied by five surgeries. It seems that every time I get my strength back, I require another surgery, robbing me again of my strength.
But in a beautiful divine contrast, this year of suffering has been the most productive year of ministry ever for me! I have been faced with the reality that God simply doesn’t need me to be healthy to use me.
There’s something even more significant that I’ve learned. I’ve been confronted with the humbling realization that much of what I thought was confidence in Jesus was actually not confidence in Him at all.
I was confident because I was fit, healthy, and had the ability to work hard and produce much. So God, in grace, kindly but firmly removed a false savior from me so that I would find my security and confidence in Him alone.
I’ll be honest with you: I still wish that I could regain the physical strength that I once had and that I’ll never again have. But, I can also honestly say that I’m very thankful for what this weakness has produced in my heart.
I have been blessed with this truth over the past 18 months: my confidence for life and ministry is not found in my own strength, but in a renewed security in His.
10. All that God is, He is for us by grace.
In this list of blessings, I have not attempted to recount the specific ways in which God has blessed me over the last ten years. There’s simply no way to recount them all, and I’m sure that there are many blessings that my eyes are still too blind to see.
Rather, these last ten years have brought me a new understanding of God’s glory. I have been blessed to understand, both theologically and by experience, that God’s glory doesn’t just define who He is, but redefines who I am as His child.
By favor that we could have never achieved, earned or deserved, God has unleashed His awesome glory on us. I like to say it this way: all that God is, He is for me by grace.
God doesn’t simply rule; He rules over all things for our sake. God isn’t simply merciful; He blesses us with new mercies every morning. God isn’t simply just; His final victory of justice is a gift of grace to us. God isn’t simply holy; His holiness assures us that everything He does toward us and through us is always right. God isn’t simply wise; He daily blesses redeemed fools with His transforming wisdom. God isn’t simply love; He faithfully extends His love to us even when we don’t esteem it or love Him in return.
I have been blessed to learn that it’s not enough to say that God is glorious. Rather, we must also comfort ourselves with the truth that He is glorious to us and for us by grace. His glory is our present hope and eternal salvation.
I have been blessed with this truth over the past ten years: how could we be possibly more blessed than to have God’s glory given to us personally by grace?
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My prayer is that God would use the blessings of my last ten years to open the eyes of your heart to the ways He has and is blessing you. It’s my hope that the grumbling that still exists in your heart, because of tough people and hard circumstances, will be transformed into praise as you begin to be blown away by the reality that every day of your life is marked by the blessings of grace too many to count.