December 18, 2017

What a God!

Matthew Johnson

A personal testimony in honor of our all-sufficient God.

A throw-back post… I wrote this poem back in 2009. That was a tough year for me, mostly because as immature as I am now, I was far more immature then. By August of 2009, it had been two years since I had been called as lead pastor of GBC – our membership had shrunk, church debt seemed insurmountable, even division and perhaps even a church split seemed looming. I felt that in the two years since becoming lead pastor I had ruined the church and was in the throes of despair.

Of course God’s church cannot be ultimately “ruined,” indeed God was holding it together in spite of me, not because of me. Yet personally with these feelings, I was struggling with severe depression, so much that I despaired of life. Furthermore, our family financial situation was frightening, and I had begun to look for another job, something as far away from pastoring as possible (as if this had worked for Jonah).

When I wrote this poem, I was reading through Amos and became amazed at the grace and mercy of God; that God would love a wretch like me. Last night I was going through some old things I had written and having been reminded of this poem, I stopped to praise God that he does not stop maturing me and his church. What a God!

What a God, that he would give
His only son that we might live.
What tender mercy, unending love;
Amazing grace from heaven above.

What a Man, that he should be
Perfect, sinless, united Deity.
What life he lived and death he gave
To ransom souls, from sin to save.

What a Savior pure and blessed;
Died the death, secured our rest.
Now dwells above to intercede
Before the throne his righteous plea.

What a Lamb, born to die,
“Finished” is his Mercy cry.
Justice met for our crimes he paid,
Grace abounding will never fade.

Now it is 2016, seven years since I wrote this poem. By God’s grace alone, the church has grown numerically, but most importantly, we have all grown spiritually and emotionally. We are still an average church with all the normal (sometimes paralyzing) problems. The church split did not take place, though not for Satan’s lack of trying, and I still struggle with bouts of deep depression.

Thankfully, God brought some young families to know him and to become a part of the church over the next few years. The passion and devotion of these young families has sparked spiritual desire in all of us at Grace and we are optimistic about the rising generation in the church. God provided for us financially both as a church and personally and in the next two years, we expect to pay off the church debt we owe. When I became lead pastor, our debt was over 1.2 million dollars. God has been faithful indeed.

This year I mark ten years since being ordained to gospel ministry, as I look out over the church today, I can say that trials, discouragements, and church problems have not gone away. Instead, the many negative circumstances have been resolved and in their place new ones have risen. But what has changed is my perspective of God’s church.

God has used difficult years to change me in ways I had not imagined. I love God’s church. I love God’s people. To my shame, that is something I could not honestly say in those first years of ministry. As I have continued to mediate on God’s glorious goodness and grace and love, He has been creating within me a love for his people. I would encourage pastors who are feeling as if there is no hope, and no strength left within them to wait on the Lord, he may not change the discouraging situations, but he will doubtless change you.

Editor’s note: When I saw this post at Matt’s blog, I asked if he would allow us to use it at Proclaim & Defend. Matt’s testimony reflects the kinds of struggles faced in every ministry and in particular those faced by pastors and believers who are in small churches. The answer to our struggles is in the Lord, no matter how much we try to find the answers in ourselves. I thought Matt reflected that truth in his poem and in the testimony of God’s work in his life through the ministration of the Word. If you are facing struggles in your ministry, whether pastor or layman, I join with Matt in pointing you to the solution, Jesus Christ, our Great God.

Matt Johnson is the pastor of Grace Baptist Church of West Valley City, Utah. He blogs at Christian Joe, where this article first appeared. It is used here by permission.

Although Proclaim & Defend is the blog of the FBFI, the articles we post are not an expression of the views of the FBFI as a whole, they are the views of the author under whose name they are published. The FBFI speaks either through position statements by its board or through its president. Here at Proclaim & Defend, we publish articles as matters of interest or edification to the wider world of fundamentalist Baptists and any others who might be interested.

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