I am very thankful to this day for my seminary training, but the one primary deficiency was that it was almost exclusively focused on the public teaching and preaching aspect of the Word of God. As a result, I entered the pastorate unprepared to apply the Bible in the context of personal ministry situations, locations, and relationships.
I will never forget my first call for help as a new pastor in Scranton, Pennsylvania. The husband was addicted to both drugs and alcohol, and his wife was severely depressed. They had four children who suffered from the results of all the above. I was 26 years old and felt like I was jumping into the deep end of a pool, having never taken a swimming lesson.
Their house was only a few blocks away from where Luella and I lived, so I walked over. My hands were clammy, my heart was racing, and the journey felt like miles. Finally, I arrived, and the husband was upstairs vomiting - the results of the addiction that so enslaved him. To be completely honest, I was terrified, and I wanted to say a few words and get out as quickly as I could.
But the Lord, in his power and mercy, met all of us. For the first time that night, only explained by the presence of the Holy Spirit, I did something that would become the theme of my life and ministry: I connected the transforming power of Jesus Christ to everyday life. I helped this family see their living, active Redeemer and how his power was at work right here, right now.
I love the story of Elisha and the chariots of fire (see 2 Kings 6:8-23). Surrounded by a terrifying Syrian army, Elisha’s servant says in great fear, “Alas, my master! What shall we do?” Elisha replies, “Do not be afraid, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.”
Then Elisha prays. “O Lord, please open his eyes that he may see.” When the servant looks again, he sees the mountain full of horses and chariots of fire of the Lord! Yes, Elisha and his servant were surrounded, but not just by trouble – they were surrounded and protected by the Lord and his mighty power!
In the middle of our broken world, this is what we all need: eyes that see Christ, and see him as bigger and more powerful than the troubles that surround us.
And as we minister to others, we are called to pray for them and help them see Christ.
We must function like tour guides, saying, “Look here. Oh, look over there! Stop and notice this. Have you ever seen this before?” We need to help people see the power and presence of Christ applied to their specific situations, locations, and relationships.
Underneath all of the outside trouble surrounding us is a more significant, more fundamental form of crisis: we do not see God or forget to look for him.
In your disorientation and distress, remember and see. Remember that your Lord really does understand, with amazing detail, everything you face. Remember that he really is with you in every place of life in which you find yourself.
Look again, keep looking, and help others look until you see the One who can give you a reason to continue: Christ.
Paul David Tripp
1. What has God called you to in life or ministry that feels overwhelming? How are you responding when that fear sets in?
2. How can fear be a healthy spiritual posture? What are the dangers that accompany overconfidence in your previous accomplishments, abilities, and gifts?
3. What difficulty, suffering, or evil is surrounding you today?
4. What does it practically mean for you to declare, “For those who are with us are more than those who are with them”? How, specifically, is Christ more powerful than anything you are facing?
5. Who has God placed in your life who is currently surrounded by trouble? Are they unable to see God or forgetting to look for him? How can you be a tour guide and help them see Christ amid their circumstances?
6. How can you better equip yourself to apply the truth of God’s Word to other people’s lives? What can you read, watch, listen to, or study that will prepare you for the ministry opportunities God sends your way?