(The following was my valedictory address for the graduates of Providence Theological Seminary 2012):
Graduates, faculty, administration and friends of Providence Theological Seminary, I am humbled by the opportunity to speak to you today. This has been a long endeavour and I appreciate the confidence to address this great gathering.
As I consider my time at Providence, I would like to share some reflections with you which are very dear to my heart.
It was five years ago that I set upon the Master of Divinity Honours here at Providence. This journey has offered more challenges than I had initially imagined. No one quite knows the cost of committing to such things, even as the costs are carefully laid out prior to admission.
During my time at Providence, my wife and I have suffered the loss of two unborn children and been blessed with the birth of our fourth child whose name fittingly means “life.” We have attended the funerals of nearly all of our grandparents and several uncles and aunts. But we have also welcomed nearly a dozen nephews and nieces into the world.
I have witnessed friends graduate and move into more expansive roles of ministry where it has thrilled me to see the Lord’s leading in their lives. I have also shared the burden of two dear seminary friends who went to be with our Lord, even while they committed themselves to training for such wider service. This is to say that my time in seminary has not been removed from life, but fully participating in life with all of its joys and sorrows.
This is life…lived obedience to the gracious vivifying call of the Spirit of God in Christ…participation in His life in the midst of this world. A world yet marred by sin while still reflecting (though dimly at times) the glory of its Creator and Redeemer.
What I have discovered–and rediscovered–over the course of my studies is that such a life of faithfulness to God’s gracious call demands prayerful and careful attention to the voice of the Spirit even as it is God’s Spirit which works that call in and through us. As our Lord Jesus declared through his servant John, “Anyone with ears to hear must listen to the Spirit and understand what he is saying to the churches.” These words echo in my ears again and again. These words both haunt me in my strength and enliven me in my weakness.
Am I listening? Are we listening? Do we hear what the Spirit is saying to the Church? An ever attentive ear is imperative if we are ever to love the LORD our God with our whole being.
The voice of the Spirit has much to say to us that we are not yet ready to hear and at times do not seem desirous to hear. He has words of consolation and encouragement, words of hope and joy. He also has words of rebuke and censure, of sorrow and repentance. It is the ‘Yes’ of God to us and for us, even as it must also be the ‘No’ of God to all that diminishes His glory. The Spirit is speaking, the Spirit of the Lord and Saviour…our Lord and Saviour and even this world’s. Are we listening?
He calls us from this place to a new place in the wider world where we might declare the glory of God in corners long lost and bound in darkness…places where many wait for a message of God’s radiant presence come near. Places which beg for the light of His kingdom come. Places where that same Spirit goes before us even now preparing the harvest just as the harvesters themselves are prepared.
Are we listening? Are we so shining that the goodness of our God is evident to all. Are we ready for the good works our God has prepared for us and has prepared us for? Will we step from this place in faith-filled, Spirit-empowered obedience to follow the narrow and difficult path of God which has been laid for us…where the voice of our Lord speaks and we answer simply, “Here I am” and “Where you lead, I will follow”?
Do we hear what the Spirit is saying to the Church today and will we not be content only with what has been spoken in the past as if that word is not the living and active Word of God? Will we follow when we do not see far ahead? When a faithless world and a pseudo-church reject all that the Spirit is saying? Will we still love God as at the first, when the love of most has been twisted inward or surrendered altogether? Will we remain clean and pure in a world mired in sin? Will we cling to the teaching of the Prophets and Apostles who have themselves traveled similar paths enduring to the end? Will we trust in the only sufficient provision for life…the One who Himself is Life? Will we hear what the Spirit is saying and so join the great company of those overcoming and victorious saints throughout all of the ages, as they sing, “To Him who sits on the throne and unto the Lamb, be praise and honor and glory and power forever and ever”?
I tell you today, “As for me and my house…” we will listen. And listen again.