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The Ministry of Presence

Wisdom for the Heart / Dr. Stephen Davey
The Truth Network Radio
March 22, 2023 12:00 am

The Ministry of Presence

Wisdom for the Heart / Dr. Stephen Davey

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March 22, 2023 12:00 am

When a person is suffering, they sometimes need a pat on the back or a get well card. They also sometimes need an encouraging verse of Scripture. But one thing that suffering Saints always need is presence. When you don't know what to say or write to that suffering friend, then don't say anything. Just be there. It will make all the difference.


Sometimes people have an improper perspective regarding what the Word of God can accomplish in the midst of suffering. The Bible isn't a band-aid. You don't go around sticking that favorite verse of yours on some sufferer believing it will somehow eliminate their pain and make the sore go away.

The Bible is an aspirant. Now here, take two of these verses, cup of tea out of your smiley mug and call me in the morning. What the sufferer needs is the truth of Scripture demonstrated in and through your life as you minister to them with your presence. Have you ever been tempted to think that a few relevant Bible verses would take away the hurt and pain that someone was experiencing? You felt that if you could just say the right thing, it would make everything better.

Well, it doesn't work that way. Sometimes suffering is God's plan. There may be nothing you could say or do to solve your friend's grief. Very often, the best comfort you can bring someone is just to be there for them.

Stephen calls that the ministry of presence, simply showing up and showing that you care, even if you don't know what to say. If you're at least 35 years of age, you probably remember a lady by the name of Irma Bombeck. She was a successful columnist from the 50s to the 90s. I can remember reading her column. I enjoyed her humor. She would write about the normal affairs of life, primarily being a mother and a housewife. She used her sense of realism and humor to encourage women. Although she was committed to her husband and children, her sense of humor and realism often raised a few eyebrows, especially when she wrote a book entitled, Families Who Play Together Get Irritated With Each Other. And her book entitled, The Grass Is Always Greener Over the Septic Tank. That was a rather famous work. She was also the one who once wrote, if a man watches three football games in a row, he should be declared legally dead.

Irma Bombeck died in 1996 of cancer, and when she found out she was dying, she wrote a column. The column is entitled, If I Had to Live My Life Over. She wrote, I would have listened more and talked less. I would have burned that pink candle sculpted like a rose before it melted in storage. I would have taken the time to listen to my grandfather ramble on about his youth. I would have shared more of the responsibility carried by my husband. I would never have insisted the car windows be rolled up on a summer day just because my hair was fixed. I would have sat on the lawn with my children and not worried about grass stains. When my kids kissed me impetuously, I would not have said later, now go wash up for dinner. There would have been more I love yous and I'm sorrys. But mostly given another shot at life, I would seize every minute. We only have one shot and then it's gone.

I would spend more time thinking about what God had given me than what I didn't have. Isn't it interesting that some of the best lessons about life are learned in the face of death? One young man in our flock emailed me. He had learned some profound lessons that led to rather profound questions. He and his friend had been dropped off by a single engine Super Cub airplane in the wilderness of Alaska not too long ago and they were going to hunt moose. They were experienced hunters.

They had all the gear they needed, including a satellite phone, which they decided to rent at the last minute and bring along with them even though it was expensive, about $200 it would cost them for the trip. On the last day of the hunt, he was fishing on a gravel bar and heard a sound behind him and there was a bull moose eyeing him. He grabbed his shotgun and fired off a round. The moose didn't go down but instead started to warn him. He reloaded his shotgun and fired and then felt, he wrote, immense pain. He looked down and noticed the gun stock had literally broken in half.

One half had crashed back into his face, severely lacerating his face and crushing one of his eyes, which he still cannot see from. After the accident and rather amazing story he wrote about my army soldiers and an army helicopter thanks to that satellite telephone they just happened to have brought along, he wrote these questions, questions that would produce life lessons in the face of suffering. What am I doing? He asks. Where am I going? What does God want me to do? What does God have in store for me? What should I do with God's blessings? What should I do with God's trials?

Will I become resentful? Then he adds near the end, my only hope is the righteousness of Jesus Christ. I am of little strength. Lord, please help me. How do you answer someone with such profound questions?

In fact, how do you begin to be a part of the solution, God's solution in the life of somebody surrounded by these kinds of questions? Well, I want to encourage you at the very outset of this study today that everyone here in this auditorium qualifies to be an expert assistant to the suffering. You don't have to be brilliant. You don't have to be persuasive. You don't have to be articulate. In fact, we don't even have to be experienced to do it. Well, you can be involved in what I want to call the ministry of presence through the ministry of presence. You have a ministry to the hurting without ever being ordained or certified. You don't have to be anything really to be a wonderful tool and exercising this ministry in the hand of God, but available. Maybe you're familiar with the saying that I had drilled into my young heart as I grew up along with my three brothers by our parents when they would often say the greatest ability is availability.

Let's watch it happen, shall we? In the life of Job, when he was surrounded by sorrow. The last few verses of Job chapter two show us an interesting incident that for the most part we skip over. In fact, when we think of Job's counselors, we often think of what they did wrong and they really did a lot of things wrong. We think of what they said that was inappropriate and they did say inappropriate things.

But we often overlook what they did right. And it's here in this paragraph that completes chapter two. Let's take a look at who they were first. Look at verse 11 of Job chapter two. Now, when Job's three friends heard all this adversity had come upon him, they came each one from his own place. Eliphaz, the Temanite, Bildad, the Shuhite, and Zophar, the Naamathite. And they made an appointment together to come to sympathize with him and comfort him.

That's a wonderful example, by the way, all of itself. They dropped everything and they said, look, let's make a pact. Let's agree on a certain day to ride over to Job's. No telling how far they would have to travel to get there.

Let's give him what he needs and comfort him. There are three friends mentioned. A fourth will show up a little later. Eliphaz, the Temanite, is the first one. He's mentioned first, probably because he was the oldest. In each of the cycles of speeches delivered by these men, it is Eliphaz who speaks first. He alludes to himself later on in the book around chapter 15 as a gray haired old man. And then he says, alluding to himself, older Job than your father. Now, if Job, having 10 grown children, was somewhere around 40 or 50, maybe a little older, years of age, Eliphaz may very well have been anywhere from 70 to 80 years of age. Add to that the fact that verse 11 of chapter 2 informs us that Eliphaz was a Temanite.

That is telling. Teman was famous for its wise men. It was renowned for its profound sayings. We know of one man from the east, the region who was called the wisest man. His name was Solomon. Jeremiah in chapter 49 said, is there no longer any wisdom in Teman? Has good counsel been lost to the prudent?

Has all their wisdom vanished? Obadiah verse 8 refers to the wise men of Teman. Eliphaz's name means God is fine gold.

Eliphaz more than likely was a powerful chieftain from this area of what may have been southern Arabia, wealthy enough to travel, revered and respected in his own right. He is one of Job's friends. He will always speak first.

His speeches are longer than any of the other men. And in Chapter 42, God will eventually refer to him as a representative of the other men. I want you to picture in your mind when you see this man appear, when you hear his name, picture a gray haired man of wealth and dignity arriving on the scene of his friend's despair. The next man in the text is Bildad. He doesn't show up anywhere else in the Bible.

We are told here he's a Shuite, Tzuhu, probably that region located around the middle Euphrates River, probably named after Abraham's youngest son, Shuah. The third and final friend mentioned in Chapter 2 is Zophar. And he was the youngest, more than likely, in this trio of friends since he was mentioned last.

He came from Nahoma, a region probably named after the great, great, great, great, great granddaughter of Cain. Well, these three friends hear the news, and it took some time for the news to reach them. And then they contacted one another, which would have taken even more time. And then they decided that they would travel together and arrive from differing regions to the home of their friend who is in great desperate straits.

We have a wonderful picture here of friendship. One author said that if you had one friend who would drop everything and come running, you would be blessed. Job had three, which is remarkable. We have no idea how long it took to find Job. Perhaps they first went to his estate. If they did, they would have noticed that it was, for the most part, void of people, family, perhaps windswept and even already beginning to crumble a bit. Maybe it was one of the remaining servants of that estate who pointed the way to the city dump and said, if you're looking for Job, he's at the town garbage heap. It's where he lives now. The text indicates that someone perhaps pointed him out. He was unrecognizable. Look, there is the man. You see him sitting off in the distance.

I know you don't recognize him, but take my word for it. That's Job, your friend. And they responded five ways. First, the text says they raised their voices and wept. They literally wailed in grief. Secondly, they tore their robes as if to say, our hearts, Job, are broken with yours. Thirdly, verse 12 said they threw dust into the air over their heads. This custom identified with Job and his great sorrow.

They would join him in dirtying their heads and their beards and their clothing. Fourthly, verse 13 informs us that they sat down on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights. Why that period of time? I believe it's probably because this is the customary period for mourning the dead. You need to understand that even though the seven days of mourning have long since passed, their respect for Job, for this man, their friend, they sort of hold another private funeral service out of respect for his great sorrow. Their fifth response is remarkable.

They remain silent. Notice verse 13, and no one spoke a word to him for they saw that his pain was very great. What is it in this text then that these men did right? They did a lot. And if we want to develop the ministry potential of presence, let's learn from them.

Let me break it down into several observations of when Job's counselors were correct. Number one, they identified with his sorrow. If Job's hair and clothing is dirty, we'll get ours dirty too. If he's sitting on the ash heap in the town dump, we'll sit there with him.

We won't worry about the stares of those who come to dump their trash. They joined him then in his grief, number two. Earlier in verse 11, we're told these friends came and they had motive that was two-pronged. One, you ought to circle these words to sympathize.

That's the first key word. The Hebrew word means much more than a quick hug. It wasn't Job crying alone.

It's now four men crying together at the city dump. Another key word in verse 11 is the word comfort. Someone who comforts someone is someone who seeks to share the pain and literally give a hand to aid the sufferer. Isaiah used the word to refer to a mother tending to the needs of her helpless child, her sick child, and thus comforting him. In other words, you're there.

You're doing something. This is the person who will tenderly care for the needs of the grieving, whether it's tending to literal wounds or cooking a meal or cleaning a house or caring for another child or cutting the grass or paying the rent. This is the biblical idea of giving comfort.

It's thrilling to hear nearly every week of someone who has helped in a tangible way by you, this body, whether through random acts of kindness or through I Serve, a ministry our teenagers have been involved in or through carpenters for Christ who build and repair for Christians in need. This is true religion. False religion says be warmed and what? Filled. I know you're hungry and you're cold and I just want you to be warmed and filled.

I'm not going to do anything about it, but you just try to get a meal somewhere. No, true comfort in the biblical sense puts on overalls. It might swing a hammer, might push a lawnmower. It might write a check or a note.

It might carry over a meal. So true comfort in this text is demonstrated by three friends sitting down in the dump in the ashes of burned garbage with their friend Joe. Have you ever been to a dump?

I have backed my truck up, ripped off some stuff. The smell alone makes me ready to leave in about seven seconds. Certainly seven minutes. I can't imagine seven hours.

I can't imagine seven days. And nights, the text said, I've never slept at the dump. They are curled up at night with their friend Joe. They identified with his sorrow. They joined him in his grief. They showed respect for his grief. They've mourned with Joe and now they are with him for his servants, his children.

They're a mark of friendship. Those who exercise the ministry of presence do that. They show up. Have you ever noticed that no one is ever invited to a funeral? You don't mail out invitations to funerals. Friends just show up.

They do what they can. And if they can't come, they'll send flowers or a note to communicate to the sufferer. Listen, count me in. Count me in there, though I can't be there.

I want to show my respect and awareness of your great grief. The fourth thing is probably the hardest thing that they did right for us to emulate. But they allowed him to speak first. If you're like me, this is really the hard one. But don't miss it. Underline it in your mind. Job will speak first. Warren Wiersbe applied this passage to Joe by writing, The best way to help people who are hurting is just show up, say little or nothing at all. Then he says these insightful words, Don't try to explain everything.

Explanations never heal a broken heart. By doing all of these things, these four things, number five, they will earn the right to speak. But don't miss it here. The ministry of presence is a ministry that you don't have to figure out. You can be positively inspiring in your silence.

Isn't that great to know? You might err when you speak, but you won't in your silence. Abraham Lincoln, I believe it was, who once said, I have often regretted my speech, never my silence. Before we leave this profound scene with three eminent, dignified, wealthy men who were at the top of their world, now sitting in the dust with their despairing, beaten down, suffering friend. Let's make sure we glean as much as we can from the practical application of their ministry to him. One author called it a ministry without a word. Ministering without a word. Another author called it sacred silence.

Let me make some observations. Number one, reject the view that quoting scripture will eliminate sorrow. This is the thought that we all have that you haven't represented truth if you haven't quoted scripture.

Now, don't misunderstand me. The Bible is sufficient. Ultimately, Proverbs talks about the use of it. Solomon recorded like apples of gold in settings of silver is a word spoken in timely circumstances. In Chapter 15, he wrote, verse 23, a man has joy in an appropriate answer.

And how delightful is a well timed word. You may speak eventually and you may share the truth. The exhortation here is to be well timed and understand that you don't just barge into the life of a job like this and say, hey, guess what I read in my quiet time this morning, man, I thought this is just for you. Let me read it.

I don't think so. The Bible isn't a Band-Aid. You don't go around sticking that favorite verse of yours on some suffer believing it will somehow eliminate their pain and make the sore go away. The Bible is an aspirin. Here, take two of these verses.

Cup of tea out of your smiley mug and call me in the morning. Physical injuries take time to heal, don't they? So do internal injuries of the heart. What the sufferer needs is the truth of scripture demonstrated in and through your life as you minister to them with your presence. So reject the view that quoting scripture or poetry or anything else, him, whatever will eliminate sorrow. There's a time for that refrain. Number two, from the temptation to say something profound. You might think you've got to come up with that nugget. You know, if you can just summarize what God is doing in a sentence, you're just going to see their pain, take wings and fly away.

And so you're wondering what nugget can I give? What can I say? The truth is suffering often exposes us to the mysteries of God, not explanations about God. In Romans 11, verse 33, Paul wrote, How unsearchable are God's judgments and unfathomable his ways. That means we don't ever really figure it out. In First Corinthians 2 16, he says, For who has known the mind of the Lord that he will instruct him?

We don't know all that he's doing, if anything. Proverbs 25, verse two. This is one that really is troubling. It is the glory of God to conceal a matter. And here we are running around trying to glorify God by explaining the matter. And God wants to be glorified by concealing the matter.

We end up competing with God. This is hard. It's hard for me. Imagine somebody calling me on the phone and telling me what's going on in their life and then asking me for an explanation. And I have to say to them, I don't have a clue. I am absolutely, completely, totally stumped. They're probably going, what are we paying you for?

You can do better than that. What if it was it seems that at this moment, it is the glory of God and the mystery of God's ways that you don't know. And neither do I. What is up to most of you know the end of this book and you already know it. But while Job will demand an answer, God will respond not with an answer, but with a declaration of his attributes. Job wanted an explanation. God will reveal to him his reputation. Job would like some premise behind God's actions. God will reveal his power behind those actions. Let me add to that thought by saying it a little differently. Number three, refuse any expectation of eliminating grief by your insight or wisdom.

If you haven't learned it by now, learn it here in this scene. You do not ever eliminate sorrow. You share sorrow and by sharing it, you lighten the load. Get rid of the idea that mature believers never grieve. That really deep Christians never cry. Well, in that case, Jesus Christ was shallow. For when he showed up at the tomb of Lazarus, Jesus what? He wept. John 11, 36. Number four, resist the perspective that you must speak in order to express love.

There is a misunderstanding along that line as well. In fact, it's interesting to me as I went back to John 11 and looked at our Lord and his actions, that when he showed up at Lazarus's grave, he could have easily preached a sermon on his love for his friend. He could have declared to that crowd how he really felt for him. Yet when all he did was weep before he did speak, in the weeping after only seeing him weep, the Jews concluded, see how he loved him. He didn't say a word. He just wept.

You don't have to say something either. You just drove two hours to get there to be with your friend or you called and you wept with them. In one commentary I have on Job, Joseph Bailey's book is quoted. Bailey's book is entitled The Last Thing We Talk About. Her second son died at age five from leukemia.

Their third son at age 18 after a sledding accident. Here he is surrounded by grief that never seemed to abate but only grow greater. Bailey writes, I was sitting torn by grief. Someone came and talked to me of God's dealings, of why it happened, of hope beyond the grave. He talked constantly and he said things I knew were true. I was unmoved, except I wished he'd go away.

He finally did. Another came and sat beside me for an hour and more. Listened when I said something, answered briefly, prayed simply and left. I was moved. I was comforted.

I hated to see him go. That person had demonstrated the power of presence. And let me say it again. We do not have to be brilliant. We do not have to be articulate. We don't have to be Bible scholars. It's true, the greatest ability as it relates to this ministry is availability. You just show up and you exercise the ministry of Job's three friends when they got it right. It was the ministry of presence. With today's lesson, Stephen began a series called The Hush of Heaven. In the days ahead, we'll continue through a portion of the book of Job.

You're going to discover that in many ways, Job's counselors were not very helpful. But this is one thing they got right. They showed up.

They participated in the ministry of presence. You're listening to Wisdom for the Heart with Stephen Davey. If you know someone hurting or who's trying to help someone who's hurting, please tell them about this program and encourage them to tune in and listen along with you. We'll be back again at this same time, so join us for more Wisdom for the Heart. .
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-03-22 00:40:53 / 2023-03-22 00:50:55 / 10

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