“Encouragement From a Life Well Lived”
Dr. J. I. Packer went to be with the Lord on July 17, 2020. He was 93 years old. Throughout nearly 70 years of ministry Dr. Packer was widely recognized as one of the most influential theological thinkers, teachers, writers and preachers of the twentieth century. He stressed the importance of knowing and praying to and communing with the triune God. His goal of pleasing his Savior and one day meeting Him face to face has now been achieved. I would like to share some quotations from Dr. Packer today that I hope will encourage you as they have me.
To our impatience in dealing with current circumstances and just wanting them over and done with, Dr. Packer has well said, “‘Wait on the Lord’ is a constant refrain in the Psalms, and it is a necessary word, for God often keeps us waiting. He is not in such a hurry as we are, and it is not his way to give more light on the future than we need for action in the present, or to guide us more than one step at a time. When in doubt, do nothing, but continue to wait on God. When action is needed, light will come.” Is this not also the encouragement of the prophet Isaiah? “But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not get weary; they shall walk, and not faint.” (Isaiah 40:31) In our impatience, we must learn to wait upon the Lord.
It is tough for us today to deal with all the uncertainties and difficulties we are currently experiencing. Our world has been radically changed. Normal isn’t normal anymore. Many of us are feeling weak and are questioning, “Why?” and it seems there is no answer to all the pain and distress in our nation. Hear Dr. Packer’s encouragement: “God uses chronic pain and weakness, along with other afflictions, as his chisel for sculpting our lives. Felt weakness deepens dependence on Christ for strength each day. The weaker we feel, the harder we lean. And the harder we lean, the stronger we grow spiritually, even while our bodies waste away. To live with your ‘thorn’ uncomplainingly — that is, sweet, patient, and free in heart to love and help others, even though every day you feel weak — is true sanctification. It is true healing for the spirit. It is a supreme victory of grace.” Doesn’t this sound like the biblical advice given by the Apostle Paul in 2 Cor. 12:9-10 “And he said unto me, ‘My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness.’ Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me . . . Therefore I take pleasure in my infirmities . . . for when I am weak, then I am strong.”
We must be optimistic in our current circumstances, but our optimism must rest in our relationship with Jesus Christ. We must press on through our difficulties because we have a Christian hope knowing this too shall pass and that God is on the throne and He will take care of us through whatever we face. Again quoting Dr. Packer: “Optimism hopes for the best without any guarantee of its arriving and is often no more than whistling in the dark. Christian hope, by contrast, is faith looking ahead to the fulfillment of the promises of God. . . . Optimism is a wish without warrant; Christian hope is a certainty, guaranteed by God himself. Optimism reflects ignorance as to whether good things will ever actually come. Christian hope expresses knowledge that every day of his life, and every moment beyond it, the believer can say with truth, on the basis of God’s own commitment, that the best is yet to come.” Paul perhaps had this in mind when he said, “. . . forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:13-14) He also alluded to our hope when he said, I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing.” 2 Timothy 4:7-8
Our challenge today is to wait upon the Lord and to patiently endure what we are going through. Draw upon God’s strength because His grace is sufficient for all we go through. Rest in the Christian hope we have that Christ will see us through and that the best is yet to come. Look for opportunities to share your reason for hope with others who are struggling and point them to the Savior. He is their only hope and the only future worth looking forward to.
Justin Taylor in an interview with Dr. Packer in 2015 asked him, “How would you like to be remembered?” Dr. Packer replied: “As I look back on the life that I have lived, I would like to be remembered as a voice — a voice that focused on the authority of the Bible, the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the wonder of his substitutionary sacrifice and atonement for our sins. I would like to be remembered as a voice calling Christian people to holiness and challenging lapses in Christian moral standards. I should like to be remembered as someone who was always courteous in controversy, but without compromise.”
How would you like to be remembered, especially in light of the days we are going through?
Working Together in His Service,
Roy Pr. 3:5-6