Several people have sent me audio files from various meetings since I started this blog, and I just happened to browse some of them recently. One caught my eye called “Standing in the Gap” from November 2013. It sounded inspiring enough, so I imported it into my iTunes and started listening.
It was rather lengthy, and I recalled having started listening to it before, but never made it to the end. After awhile, I remembered why. It took some time to get up to speed, wandering a bit aimlessly for the first 40 minutes. Eventually, though, there were some valuable points made.
Most it was charming prose, though maybe a bit too self-conscious. From one story to another, the first 40 minutes of the talk were about the speaker’s ailments, how rough it is to be a preacher, how important his work is, how much influence he’s had on younger preachers, and how difficult it is to give a 4 hour lesson.
Jesus Take The Wheel
What really stuck out to me, though, was when he launched into a piece about his doctor’s “Jesus Take The Wheel” kind of faith, and how laughable it was that his doctor admonished him to trust God as a way to deal with his stress before standing up behind the pulpit. I guess we can’t have someone who’s not a member of “The Church” giving meaningful spiritual advice to a preacher.
You can listen to this 5 minute segment I’ll call “The Preacher and the Doctor” that starts at about 29:45 in the full audio version. In it, he mocked the doctor’s Biblical advice to trust God (to the chuckles of the audience). A perusal of scripture suggest that we go with the good doctor on this one:
Psalm 37:5 – Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him and he will do this:
Psalm 55:22 – Cast your cares on the LORD and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous fall.
Psalm 56:3-4 – When I am afraid, I will trust in you. In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I will not be afraid. What can mortal man do to me?
Psalm 94:19 – When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought joy to my soul.
Proverbs 16:3 – Commit to the LORD whatever you do, and your plans will succeed.
Isaiah 40:31 – But those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.
John 14:27 – Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.
Philippians 4:6-7 – Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
To me, the doctor’s advice actually displays a genuine, real-world kind of faith–a faith that is not ivory tower kind of stuff, but practical, where the rubber meets the road of our Christian walk. Let go and let God. Jesus, take the wheel.
I know, this is just bumper sticker theology, you say–a trite saying finessed by Nashville into a recording contract. Perhaps, but there’s some powerful, life-changing, Biblical admonition in there. I’d be careful about mocking it just because you first heard it on a country station.
He acknowledges that the doctor has a deep faith (with the obligatory “of sorts” caveat), but it struck me that the doctor’s faith was perhaps deeper and more practical than his own. In fact, I’d say the doctor’s “Jesus Take The Wheel” kind of faith was the same kind that caused Paul to go into the tent-making business to support his ministry to convert the Roman Empire. Kind of a crazy plan, but he entrusted his plans to the Lord, and guess what? They succeeded, just as the scriptures promise. It’s the same kind of faith that prompted Paul to criss-cross the known world without fear, go to Macedonia despite warnings of impending imprisonment, and eventually die in Rome for the cause of Christ. Yet the doctor’s Paul-style faith was played up for laughs.
I mean no disrespect by pointing this out. This analysis is not about the preacher. I don’t know him at all, but I honestly think I’d like him if I met him. So as far as the person goes, I will chalk this up to an off-day behind the podium.
For that reason, I’d prefer that names be kept out of this, simply because it’s not about him, or questioning his motives, which I assume are wonderful, but about underscoring a dangerous theology that seeks to cheapen the value of trust in God in everyday life.
I’m here to say loudly and clearly that our God who made the universe, and who made you and me, can and does help those who trust in Him in everyday life–whether that is preaching an effective sermon, overcoming stress and physical ailments, or guiding the hands of a surgeon. We have an all-powerful God who cares deeply about our everyday lives.
After listening to this talk, I was honestly left a little confused. On one hand, he acknowledged the importance of faith, and that it provides victory over the weakness of the flesh, but on the other, appears to mock this whole idea that we can actually cast our burdens on Him. There is a disconnect here that’s hard to put my finger on, but it’s as if he’s saying the idea of absolutely trusting in God is too good to be true. This is accentuated by the doubts he expresses in the face of his struggles, thinking that maybe God has left him somehow. This reminds me of Peter’s lack of faith walking on the sea. It was not that Jesus left Peter to sink, it was that Peter’s faith wavered when the going got tough. He didn’t fully “let Jesus take the wheel.”
This disconnect seems to turn all that Christian talk of the importance of faith into a sort of lip service–something that may sound good in theory, but in real life, when you actually get up to give a sermon–you just can’t put your stress about that into God’s hands. We, after all, are the tip of the spear, God’s partner to get this done.
It also struck me as odd that he is glad to not have to rely on a surgeon who prays for God’s guidance for his hands. I, for one, would happily put myself into the care of a surgeon who commits his work to the Lord in prayer, believing in faith that God will help him accomplish his task successfully. Do I want him to have some great surgery experience under his belt, too? Yeah, there is that. 🙂
I don’t want to be too negative, and I don’t want to be flippant about this man’s ailments or the contradictions of faith I heard. In fairness, I did find some sound exhortation in the latter half of the talk. There was some good encouragement about avoiding fearfulness, avoiding excessive negativity, and being committed to the cause of Christ to the death. All good stuff, and delivered charmingly.
Overall, there was some worthwhile exhortation. But that “Jesus Take The Wheel” segment…yikes!
Note: A part of me is really hesitant to post this, because I don’t want anyone to think this blog is about tearing down people. I hope you can see that that’s not what this is about. I’ve been behind the podium before, and I’ve not always been happy with myself afterward. In fact, sometimes embarrassingly so. The golden rule applies here, and while I wouldn’t necessarily like someone dissecting my sermon on a blog, if I was speaking unbiblically, I would honestly want someone to correct me so I could deepen my faith. I hope that my analysis here can be received in that light.