We arrived in West Michigan in quite a snow storm two nights before Christmas. The route we took went right through the middle of the hardest hit area. Hesperia and Holton got 18-inches of snow. Driving down M-120 was like driving on a two-track with bumpy ruts plus a snow bank in the middle of the two-lane highway. We drove through Twin Lake where I spent many happy days swimming as a child, and the next day saw on the news that it was the most snow in December on record for that little town. We felt right at home coming from the U. P.
Christmas Eve we went to church with Ellen’s family and heard the pastor who married us 23-yrs-ago give the Christmas message. He is one of my favorite preachers to listen to because of his insight and eloquence. He’s had a very effective and high-profile ministry in West Michigan, but in recent years has experienced some very trying times in his ministry that have been equally high-profile. The publicity associated with what his church has gone through has been very unfortunate and very unfair.
After the service Ellen asked the pastor how he was doing. He responded, “Mostly well in a broken world.” We didn’t have to ask him what he meant by that. In the latter years of his ministry when a pastor of his giftedness usually savors the success of many years, he is enduring some of the saddest trials one could go through in the ministry.
But I can’t get away from how he responded. First, he didn’t sugarcoat things. We do live in a broken world. People disappoint us, sin against us, and fail us often in ways we can do nothing about. Charles Spurgeon once said, “Be not surprised when people fail you; it’s a failing world.” This is a consistent theme in Scripture. In his final chapter in 2 Timothy 4 Paul wrote, “Demas has forsaken me, having loved this present world.” That was unexpected of one of Paul’s close companions and it was very painful in the final months of his life and ministry. We can never insulate ourselves from being hurt in this broken world. In fact, the more we are involved with the people of this world the more vulnerable we are.
Second, the pastor said despite this he was still “mostly well.” In fact, he led with these words in his response to Ellen’s question. How could he not say this after preaching the good news of the gospel? His message was from John 3:16 and he had just spoken of God’s love, the gift of His Son as a sin offering, the opportunity for all to believe, the confidence that believers will not perish, “but have eternal life.” Anyone who has experienced these realities is still “mostly well” in spite of the trials of a broken world. The things that are permanent and will endure from time into eternity cannot be disturbed or taken from us. With our focus on them we can remain encouraged and moving forward for the Lord.
To a group of suffering believers experiencing the pain and rejection of a broken world the author to the Hebrews wrote, “Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear,” Hebrews 12:28. With that promise we can move into a new year with courage and hope.
Your friend, mostly well, Pastor Brian (:-}).
Dear Bethel Family,
Thank you again so much for the generous Christmas gift to us. We can’t thank you enough for your generosity to our family. We feel so blessed to be among such a giving congregation. Thank you for touching us with such love time and time again. Your friends, Pastor Brian, Ellen, Joy, Jay