This will be my last entry as a pastor in Sheridan. My family will very soon be heading to Lithuania (where I will teach), bringing to a close five very good years in a great community. I have been blessed with many relationships in town, both inside and outside of St. Peter’s; I will miss you all.
As I reflected on my last few weeks at St. Peter’s, I decided that I would like to share during Sunday school three foundation stones for the Christian life that have been most significant for me. My hope was to encourage others and perhaps pass on a bit of what God has given to me. I wanted to share those same things here (more briefly, of course) and in the same spirit.
Hunger. There are many things in life we think it would be a good idea to do. We know we should exercise, get proper sleep, make a budget and stick to it, simplify, etc. And yet how often do we actually follow through? It is often hunger that makes the difference between what we think we should do and what we actually do. We have to really want it. It is no different in deepening our lives with God. Growth with God springs from hunger for God. Hunger for God, in turns, springs from being convinced that in him really is the life we most deeply desire. (John 10:10)
Trust. We are vulnerable creatures, dependent upon many things outside of our control. As a result, we are going to look somewhere for a sense of safety and security. The question is, where? There are the popular options: we can trust in our bank accounts, our insurance policies, our competence, our healthy habits, our friends, etc. Or we can trust in God. Only God, however, is ultimately trustworthy. As we grasp his goodness, his power, his presence with us and his faithfulness, we are able to place our trust in him and open the door to greater intimacy and blessing.
Obedience. Ultimately, the test of trust is obedience. Are we willing to believe what God says and do what he commands? I believe it is a lack of trust that so often makes us stumble here. We have the feeling that if we wholly give ourselves over to obedience to God we will miss out on something good. This was, of course, the line the serpent fed to Eve in the garden. Moreover, our culture worships autonomy; we resist anything that threatens to limit it. Here’s the truth: the path of obedience to God is always the path to his best for us and in submission we find our true freedom. (See Psalm 84:11 and Mark 8:34-36.)
May you grow in your hunger for God in your life. May you be strengthened in your trust in his wisdom and goodness. Finally, may you step obediently into all that God asks of you and on that path find life abundant.
John Milliken is a pastor with St. Peter’s Episcopal Church.