The Lord is with Us!
Photography by Don Blais
In Good Hands by Pastor Russell Barber
May 22, 2022
In August last year I announced my intention to retire as your pastor with next Sunday to be my final Sunday. Over the past several weeks I have been attempting to prepare you for the transition that will happen. One of the things you have heard me say multiple times is that God already knows who he wants to be the next pastor of Polson Community Church. I have encouraged you to be praying for your next pastor that she, or he, will clearly hear the Lord calling him or her to come here. I have also said that I believe God has been preparing your next pastor for that responsibility for her or his entire life. In addition, I have encouraged you to be praying for yourselves, that you will be ready to welcome and receive your next pastor.
In September of 1997, Richard Widerholdt was hired as your pastor following Jim Shields and others who led this congregation before him. After almost 15 years, Richard retired and I was chosen by the congregation to be your pastor. As of today, we don’t know who will be selected next. Since last fall, a committee has been at work advertising our need for a new pastor, reviewing applications, and interviewing candidates. That process isn’t finished to the point that the committee is ready to present candidates for your vote. That leaves us in a period of both uncertainty and certainty. The uncertainty, of course, is that we don’t yet know who the next pastor will be. The absolute certainty though is that God already knows and therefore, we are in his good hands.
Almost 2,000 years ago, the early church was also about to go through a tremendous transition of leadership. Jesus knew that his death and resurrection would happen soon and he would no longer be physically present with them. On multiple occasions Jesus had told the disciples what was about to happen but they were unable to accept the fact that he wouldn’t always be with them. John 16:5-7 contain his words which were intended to give them assurance that God would provide the guidance they would need. He said “Now I am going to him who sent me, yet none of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?’ Because I have said these things, you are filled with grief. But I tell you the truth: It is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you.” Taken literally, this promise was that Jesus would be sending a Counselor, the Holy Spirit, to the 12 disciples. But I see it as much more than that. I see it as a promise that the Holy Spirit would be given to every believer from that time forward. And, not only would the Holy Spirit be given to individuals, I am convinced that the promise of the gift of the Holy Spirit is for entire churches including this one. I will no longer be your pastor after next Sunday but you can rest assured that you will not be alone. That same Counselor which has guided and empowered Christians for the past two millennia, will continue to be powerfully present in this church. In verses 12-13 of John 16 Jesus continued. “I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come.” This Spirit of truth will speak the words God wants you to hear. It will be up to you to listen. To the extent that you do those words will help you know what is to come. Just as it was necessary for Jesus to leave so the Holy Spirit could come to the disciples, it is now necessary for me to make room so you can receive your new pastor who will bring wisdom and talents that I don’t have. Because of that, I expect exciting things to be happening in this church in the months and years to come, and I also believe that this church’s impact on the people of this community will be greater than it has ever been.
As I was preparing this message, I was reminded of the Lord’s promise in Jeremiah 29:11. I believe it is a promise you can count on now. It says, “‘For I know the plans I have for you’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’” You are in good hands because God has wonderful plans for this congregation.
The pastors and teachers you have had in this church and elsewhere have taught you many things about faith, the Lord, and your relationship with the Lord and you will continue to have an even greater teacher for the future. As Jesus said in John 14:25-26 “All this I have spoken while still with you. But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.” Not only for the months to come, but for the remainder of your life, the Holy Spirit will be teaching you new things and also reminding you of the things you have already learned. As you face the uncertain elements of the future, seek Jesus regularly. If you do, Jesus’ words in John 14:27 will be true for you. He said, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” You can make the choice to trust in God, Jesus, and in the Holy Spirit and not let your hearts be troubled and to not be afraid.
Thirty-five hundred years ago God’s people were going through another significant period of uncertainty. They were about to enter the promised land under Joshua’s leadership. God’s word to them is also appropriate for us today. Joshua 1:7-9 contains God’s message. It says, “Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go. Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”
I don’t know how long it might be before you vote on and hire a new pastor. I do know that God wants you to continue trusting the words of the Bible, and to remain strong in your faith in him. Just as he encouraged his people who were following Joshua, he does not want you to become discouraged, because he has promised to be with you no matter how long it might take. Always remember, as long as you continue to trust in the Lord, you are in good hands.
Psalm 8 reminds us of the attributes of the God in whom we trust. Verse 1 says, “O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens.” The one we trust in is the same one who created everything that is.
In verses 3-8 David continued. He wrote, “When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him? You made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor.
You made him ruler over the works of your hands; you put everything under his feet: all flocks and herds, and the beasts of the field, the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea, all that swim the paths of the seas.” David was humbly considering the love and attention God showers on all of us. Not only that, David wrote that God has made humans responsible to care for his creation. That includes this church. That is why I encourage you to pray for your pastor and for this congregation and to listen for the guidance of the Holy Spirit that Jesus promised he would send. Caring for this congregation, and one another, needs to be based on God’s will, not the interests or preferences of individuals if they are not in line with God’s will.
As I said before, you had a number of spiritual leaders in the early years of the church, then Jim Shields, Richard, and then me. Each one planted seeds and built upon the foundation already laid by your previous leaders. That was also true of the early church. In 1 Corinthians 3:5-9 Paul clarified their situation. He wrote, “What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe — as the Lord has assigned to each his task. I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. The man who plants and the man who waters have one purpose, and each will be rewarded according to his own labor. For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, God’s building.” Each pastor, and each Bible study leader, built on the lessons you had already learned. Each one planned seeds of faith and nurtured the seeds planted by others but it is God who has given the growth. Now it is time for someone new to help you move forward in your faith journey. Like I said earlier you, and they, will be aided by the Holy Spirit. As Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 3:16 “Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you?”
In conclusion I offer Jesus’ words from John 14:27. He said, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” After all, you are in good hands. Amen.