For some time now, I’ve had the position of Elder at St. John’s Lutheran Church, Hastings, MN, (WELS). Besides being humbling, this brought back a lot of memories to when I first joined St. John’s in 1996.
Shortly after I joined in September, I was asked by the nominating committee to consider having my name placed on the ballot for this same position. At the time, knowing what scripture has to say about Elders and their qualifications I felt strongly that my life was in no way representative of what God would have an Elder to be.
1st Timothy 3:1-13 tells us – This saying is trustworthy: “If someone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a good work.” 2 The overseer then must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, an able teacher, 3 not a drunkard, not violent, but gentle, not contentious, free from the love of money. 4 He must manage his own household well and keep his children in control without losing his dignity. 5 But if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for the church of God?
6 He must not be a recent convert or he may become arrogant and fall into the punishment that the devil will exact. 7 And he must be well thought of by those outside the faith, so that he may not fall into disgrace and be caught by the devil’s trap. 8 Deacons likewise must be dignified, not two-faced, not given to excessive drinking, not greedy for gain, 9 holding to the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience. 10 And these also must be tested first and then let them serve as deacons if they are found blameless.
11 Likewise also their wives must be dignified, not slanderous, temperate, faithful in every respect. 12 Deacons must be husbands of one wife and good managers of their children and their own households. 13 For those who have served well as deacons gain a good standing for themselves and great boldness in the faith that is in Christ.
Understanding all of this, I had to decline the request. At the time, I wasn’t at all sure about anything in my spiritual life, how could I possibly think I was in a position to lead anyone else spiritually. My faith, at that time, was so very fragile. I was still arguing with myself about whether or not God really cared about me.
I had spent the previous ten years of my life angry with God; angry with a God who I believed didn’t answer prayer – or at least, never heard my prayers. That was a huge stumbling block for me. I prayed for everything I thought I needed or wanted and it didn’t materialize. So, where was the proof that God answers prayer?
I’d read my Bible, and I carefully chose those bits and pieces of scripture that told me to ask God for anything – “ask and you shall receive” – “and all things you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive” – and just like Santa Claus, God would deliver. And, when he didn’t, well then I could be angry with God for not listening to my prayers.
My faith had a long way to go before I could expect to lead others.
And so, how about now? Well, I’ve learned a few things since then; most importantly, I now know that God does love me and cares for me and that yes, He does answer prayer. God loves me so much that he sacrificed his only Son to be my savior and the atoning sacrifice for all of my sins. God loves me so much that He sent his Holy Spirit to open my eyes to understand His Word.
Yes, I’ve learned a few things about faith and especially about my faith.
So, what do we do when God has gone silent in our lives? I have found, that during these times is when God is doing the most work in my life of faith. It’s during these times that he’s forging and refining that faith so that it always and ever puts its trust in Him. He is in fact, preparing me to receive all of the good things he has in store for me when I trust him.
I believe that, I have faith in that.
May God keep me strong in my faith and may I humbly serve him always – Amen and Amen.