Not Tumors, Imprisonments, or even Deaths
December 9, 2009 § 1 Comment
Recently a well known pastor in the neo-reformed movement, Matt Chandler, was found to have a tumor in his brain. The discovery occurred when Chandler suffered a seizure Thanksgiving morning while at home and was taken to a nearby hospital. A week later Matt was scheduled for brain surgery to remove the lump on his frontal lobe. Before he went into surgery, and only a week after the seizure in his home, and recorded a message for his church: Video from Matt.
What has struck me while following this situation is Matt’s view of the purposefulness his life is, but it’s not purposeful because of Matt’s aspirations, it’s purposeful because his life is being used to accomplish the work of God. He sees his life as an agent in a great mission. It is God’s story and Matt has the joy, satisfaction, and fulfillment in being part of it. In an open letter to his church he paraphrased the Apostle Paul in Acts 20, when he said, “I don’t count my life of any value or as precious to myself if only I might finish my course and complete the work that He gave me to do to testify to the Gospel of the grace of God. I’m nothing, I just have a job. God keep me faithful on the job and then let me drop and go to the reward.”
Here is a leader in one of the fastest growing churches in America, a sought after conference speaker, and a director in one of the fastest church planting movements (Acts 29), and he realizes that he has a specific role fill in a mission that is so much bigger than himself.
In Acts 12, we read of another abrupt end to another influential church planter’s life, the Apostle James, “About that time Herod the king laid violent hands on some who belonged to the church. He killed James the brother of John with the sword…” That’s all the text says, “He killed James,” there isn’t a long story to go along with, there isn’t a eulogy to accompany it. In the previous chapters things were looking great in for the church, the last three chapters had been devoted to two very significant conversions, Paul the persecutor became Paul the redeemed, and Cornelius became the first Gentile convert. There must have been a great vibe in the church right at this point, people were getting saved, churches were growing, churches were being planted and suddenly James is struck down by Herod. To add to the devastation, Herod captured the Apostle Peter and planned to kill him too after the Passover weekend. The church’s response was one of failure, they must have thought that they had given this whole Christianity thing a good run, it was fun while it lasted, but all good things come to an end…wrong.
In the next few verses we quickly see that God is still completely in control and is the one who builds his church. Peter is released by an angel and goes to the home where the disciples were and when they were told Peter was outside they said, “You are out of your mind” (Acts 12:15). The skepticism ran so deep that to even consider Peter being alive would be an insane thought, but he was alive. In the coming days the tables are dramatically turned as Herod was struck dead by God. Then comes the most important phrase, and the point, of the whole story, “But the word of God increased and multiplied,” (Acts 12:24).
The church must be utterly dependent that God will bring increase and will multiply. The word of God is the work of God (John 14:10) and it is God alone that makes anything grow. Again I am most challenged by Matt Chandler’s view of himself as a player in the story of God and that history is ultimately the Lord’s. Paul resonated this thought when he wrote to the Corinthians, “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth,” (1 Corinthians 3:6-7).
God, in his infinite wisdom, is using Matt Chandler to remind me that God alone builds his church. It is a privilege to be part of the work of God, a work that cannot be thwarted by tumors, imprisonments, or even deaths.