Recently I sat on a panel with some of the best evangelical communicators on the planet. I didn’t deserve to be there. I know that (no need to say otherwise—I know better). I trust the Lord had me there for a reason, and I know He used relationships I have to get me there. One of the men was Pastor John Piper. I felt foolish answering any questions when his 68 years of wisdom is sitting beside me. John Piper has an uncanny ability to make very powerful statements in very few words. He coined the phrase:
“God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.”
Simple. Deep. Biblically sound. And mind-blowing.
John Piper shared the message at Watermark that Sunday. I woke up and rushed through the craziness of getting the kids ready for church. To be clear: Monica did most of that with the help of my in-laws, who were in town. We met up with more of our extended family and off we were—to church. As we got close there was a traffic jam about a mile out. I tried to weave through traffic to get my wife close, but ended up dropping her off a ways out and then parking on the top of a parking garage even farther out.
As I walked to church, I was discouraged by how crazy it felt. The whole routine just felt a little stressful. I walked throughout the lobby and got stopped a few times by folks who had questions or wanted to share some encouragement. I was encouraged, while internally frustrated that I was now missing the singing (Phil Wickham was leading us).
I met up with my brother-in-law and his wife. The children’s ministry was full, so my niece couldn’t get in. They had to go listen to the message in an overflow room, so our family was separated. Now late, my in-laws, Monica and I all went inside to find a seat. We were upstairs in the “nose bleeds” and couldn’t find 4 seats together. So we were further separated. Eventually, I found a seat just in time to sing a song or two.
Then, John Piper walked out. He was teaching on the Parable of the Prodigal Son. I always resonate with the Prodigal Son, the younger of two brothers in the story. Sin: check. Sex: check. Squandering money: check. Rebellion: check. Eating with pigs—might as well have been. But God saved me. I know my part in the story: I’m the Prodigal.
Piper wasn’t teaching about the Prodigal, though; he had zeroed in on the older brother. The one who had taken his father’s house for granted. The one left out on “The Porch,” as Piper continued to point out. The one who had been trying to earn his father’s estate through hard work, and then was left feeling sorry for himself.
Look, many people have come up and said, “JP, you were talking directly to me. Did you write that message just for me?” I am always encouraged by that, while also secretly thinking that is a little narcissistic. But this morning, it was like Pastor John was in my head, just messing with me. (The one left out on “The Porch.” Really, John?) I felt the Lord mercifully making me aware that I was the older brother in the story. How did this happen?! Have I become a grumbler? If so, it happened quickly. It just took a little discouragement, a few nights of bad sleep, a couple of busy weeks, and here I am: a grumbler. That was a powerful potion of spiritual death. And now I’ve become an older brother judging the younger brothers around me and disappointed with God. I was undone. The tears started 10 minutes in, and continued in the lobby afterwards.
Well, as Piper pointed out, I am glad that the Gospel is not a “Help Wanted” sign, with a God who needs us to do anything. Rather, it is a “Help Available” sign, with a loving Father who has done everything for us. I think I’ll apply inside and remember to trust the One who seeks to give life abundantly. He has provided our every need and is not looking to us to earn anything from Him, but to enjoy His presence in all that we do.
Praise God that our place of worship is crowded. I thank Him that I had to walk a measly couple of blocks to get inside. How awesome is that?! I am so grateful that classrooms are full of kids being discipled at early ages. Awesome! I love that His body is full of encouraging words and that His Spirit would speak through me in spite of my failures. That continues to amaze me.
I am pathetic, but I am grateful He doesn’t see me that way. That He would graciously entreat me to worship Him in a place full of people He used to radically change my life. I am committed to serving Him the rest of my days. May His Spirit produce fruit in our lives as we lean into Him.