Patience in Adversity

Exemple

Patience in Adversity

The Press Report of Consistory meeting of June 14 mentioned that the elders had given some thought to what the theme of the upcoming home visit season ought to be, and “decided to go with a theme of Patience in Adversity”. 

As is customary, last week a sermon was delivered that was intended to focus the congregation’s thinking on the theme for the coming season.  In the coming weeks and months your elders will pick up on this sermon as they seek to lead a discussion on the topic of patience in adversity with you and your family.

With this Bit to Read I’d like to introduce this topic further to the congregation and suggest some questions that could serve for preparing oneself and one’s family for the visit from the elders.

Theme

Beginning last March, restrictions were imposed on us on account of COVID-19.  We had to adjust our patterns of living to being much more homebound than we were accustomed to.  That’s true in relation to attending church on Sunday (we had to make do with livestreaming) as well as the mid-week church activities, true too in relation to school (parents, students and teachers needed to adapt to schooling at home), and work (be it businesses closed, employees laid off, or working from home) – with all the stresses, financial, social, psychological and more that followed.  I think it’s fair to say that for most of us this was the most serious crisis we ever faced. 

So the question that invariably and necessarily arises is this: how did we handle this adversity?  No, at the time of this writing we’re not quite on the other side of this crisis; on the contrary it looks like it will be a while before we get there.  But as the elders step into the homes of the sheep of the flock entrusted to their care this fall, it’s certainly right to ask each address to reflect on what effect this pandemic had on our walk with God. 

To help us reflect on the question, we do well to remember that this corona virus did not come upon us by chance, nor by the will of persons in China, nor even by Satan’s scheming, but came upon us from God’s Fatherly hand.  Think of your confession in LD 10: the Lord God so controls all things that “leaf and blade, rain and drought, fruitful years and barren, food and drink, health and sickness, riches and poverty, indeed all things, come to us not by chance but by his fatherly hand.”  The temptation is to jump right away to the Why? question.  A far better question, though, on which to busy our minds is this: How would God have us respond?  The why question gets us speculating on God’s motives – and that’s really not our business.  The how do I respond question puts us squarely in the realm of where our thoughts are meant to be.  God would expose what’s in our hearts, whether there be fruit of the Spirit as patience, kindness, joy or whether there be works of the flesh as anger, bitterness, and impatience characterizing our inner being.

As the Lord has mandated elders to watch over our souls and as these men will have to give account of how they’ve done their task(Heb 13:17), it can only be beneficial that we speak openly with them about how we’ve actually handled the hardships of the last months.

Some questions to help prepare for the visit

As you prepare for the elders to visit with you in the coming weeks, here are some questions to which you could perhaps give thought and even discuss within your family:

  1. Did the hardships associated with COVID prompt growth in the Lord in yourself (and in those entrusted to your care)?  Explain why you answer as you do.
  2. Do you find yourself fretting about the restrictions that followed from COVID or are you at peace in your heart in the midst of the circumstances as they were – or are?  Note: please do not use this as a springboard to talk about whether government overreach is real or whether it is beneficial to wear masks, etc.  The elders do not come to talk politics or the rights or wrongs of government decisions.   The elders’ task is to gauge whether we’re responding to what the Lord has put on our path in a fashion pleasing to the Lord.  During a home visit the discussion needs to stay focused on that point.
  3. Has the COVID crisis taken away from your joy in the Lord?  Remember: joy in the Lord (as opposed to finding joy in the world) was last year’s theme.  What have you done in the last months to retain a sense of joy (and contentment) in the Lord?
  4. The text of the sermon preached on September 13 in preparation for the home visit season included these words, “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God…” (1 Peter 5:6).  What is the evidence that you have taken this instruction of the Lord to heart?  (You may want to read the chapter again to assist yourself in finding a responsible answer.)
  5. For three months we were not able to go to church at all but had to be satisfied with livestreaming.  In the last little while we’ve been able to go to church once per Sunday.  What consequence(s) did being unable to go to church have on yourself (and on those entrusted to you)?  Explain why you answer as you do.  Heads of households: what have you done to maximize the opportunities available to you and your family through livestreaming?
  6. The church of Jesus Christ in a given community is one complete body, with each member needing the other (see 1 Cor 12).  The restrictions we’ve experienced have hindered the healthy functioning of the communion of saints. 
    1. How have you been a blessing to other members of this body in the last number of months?  How do you propose to be a blessing to others in the coming months?
    1. Do you have any unmet needs for which you would welcome assistance from other members of the body?
    1. What suggestions do you have for the Consistory as the elders and deacons seek to improve the functioning of the communion of saints while the current restrictions last?
  7. Before COVID arrived on the scene, our lives raced along at a consistently busy pace.  With school closures, socializing restrictions, work limitations, etc, our busy pace slowed to a crawl.  Was that advantageous or disadvantageous to your marriage and/or your family life?  Explain your answer.  Now that school is on again, and so many other activities too, life has picked up its pace.  What dangers do you see to your family and/or marriage life under the increased pace? 

Questions as these encroach on very personal ground.  It raises another pressing question: why would I want to welcome elders to my home if that’s what they want to talk about?  Have they any business to poke around in our homes and hearts?  The answer is absolutely Yes. 

Why home visits?

From his glorious throne in heaven, our ascended Savior gave elders to his church on earth.  He gave those elders, says Paul, “to equip the saints for the work of ministry” (Eph. 4:12).  Those “saints”, of course, is you and me – every person washed in Jesus’ blood and renewed by his Holy Spirit, regardless of age, gender, or position in life.  With each saint doing “the work of ministry”, the church as a whole is built up to maturity so that together we can handle the storms of life (see Eph. 4:13-16).  

How, though, ought elders “to equip the saints for the work of ministry”?  Obviously not by staying at arm’s length from the saints.  Paul answered the question for the elders of Ephesus in another place: “Pay careful attention to … all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood” (Acts 20:28). 

Paying “careful attention” involves stepping into the lives of each of the congregation members.  The best place to step into their lives is surely the home.  In their visit to the home the elders seek to get a sense of how each person is doing the work of ministry to those in his circle – be it the smallest circle of marriage, the larger circle of family (children and parents), the bigger circle of school buddies, work mates, neighbors, etc.

To get a sense of how each member is doing, the elders try to initiate an open conversation with those visited.  The topic of conversation is obviously not simply the highlights of the holiday season; the elders instead want to hear about your walk with the Lord in the actual circumstances in which you live.  The precise focus of the conversations intended for this year – well, that’s what the theme is for.

To promote openness, I want to state emphatically that what you say to your elders at a home visit does not get shared with anybody else, not in consistory meetings either.  At the consistory meeting the elders will share the fact that they’ve visited with you (and the date), plus a qualification whether the members’ relation with God is healthy or not.  In the event that the elders feel the need to relate more to the Consistory, they will discuss that need with you beforehand.  So: please don’t hesitate to speak candidly with your elders.

Who takes part in the visit?

The elders

Obviously, the elders do.  These elders are two normal people, men who struggle with the same sort of questions and injustices and impatience as anybody else.  Perhaps these two men are well known to you; perhaps they are not.  The important thing to remember, though, is that they do not come to your home on their own authority.  They will ask some very personal questions, and you may be much inclined to reply that the answer to those questions is simply not their business.  Please be aware, then, that your elders come to you because none less than Jesus Christ cares about you, and so he has sent his ambassadors – and that happens to be these particular elders. 

The comforting thing is that Christ Jesus already knows what is going on in the hearts and lives of each one of us.  To guide and encourage and correct us (as the case might be) he sends specific men whom he has called to this task.  In real terms this means that one needs to prepare for the home visit genuinely, welcome the brothers warmly, and be determined to be open and frank with them as to the Lord who already knows you.  Remember that the brothers have done a full day’s work, have left their family (again) to visit you, and are no doubt somewhat nervous as they step inside your home.  Treat them as honored ambassadors of Christ, and so conduct yourself during the visit as if Jesus Christ himself were present in your home.

The family

Equally obvious is that the entire family ought to be present for the visit.  Each member of the family, after all, belongs to Jesus Christ, and he is interested in adults and children alike.  As a rule of thumb, anyone old enough to go to school should be present for the visit.  Parents do well to explain to the children ahead of time what the visit is about, what the children should expect, and also what attitude they ought to have towards the elders, namely, receive them as Christ’s ambassadors, and so be open and honest.  Parents should also ensure that each family member is dressed appropriately for Christ’s visit, have his or her own Bible and Book of Praise at hand, and is ready and waiting when the elders arrive.  Of course, at the kitchen table God’s blessing should be sought upon the visit beforehand.

The whole family need not be present for the entire evening.  In fact, the elders will want to engage the parents in discussions that best happen when the children are not within earshot.  The elders will typically close the children’s portion of the home visit with prayer, commending each child’s circumstances to the Lord’s care.  Parents would do well at that point to send their children to their rooms (and perhaps tuck them in) – and then give the elders opportunity to speak more personally with the parents about the issues of their lives.  Once that part of the visit is complete, the elders will again lead in prayer, with both thanksgiving and petition for what they’ve heard.

What sort of things will be discussed?

Obviously, the theme outlined above will be discussed.  But wise elders will also range beyond the them to touch upon other areas of life.  Below is a random list of the sorts of topics or questions that may come up for discussion.  And elders, of course, are free to raise other areas of life also. 

Personal and Family Matters

  • What effect has the preaching of the Word had in your life in the past year?  In other words, what changes and/or growth have you seen in yourself and/or your family?  Are you satisfied with that effect?  If not, how could you ensure a better result this year?
  • What are your personal prayer habits?  How honest are you with God about the actual stresses you experience day by day?
  • What are your family Bible reading habits and prayer habits?  How do you as father use the Bible reading as an opportunity to teach the family further in the Lord’s way?  Do you pray for your children’s individual needs in your family worship?  What role does mother play in the family worship?
  • Where do your thoughts go when you have nothing else to think about?  What pressures, struggles or joys, dominate your mood?  With whom do you share these thoughts?
  • Do you as husband and wife know what goes on in each other’s hearts?  How do you lead and support the other in the burdens and trials the other carries?
  • Do you as father and mother know what goes on in the hearts of your children?  How do you guide them further in the midst of the questions buzzing through their minds?
  • Are there any matters in your personal or family life that would require the elders’ (or deacons’) special attention?  If the elders don’t provide an opening to raise the matter, please muster the courage to raise the matter in the course of the visit.

Church Matters

  • How are you involved in congregational life?  Would you describe yourself as a living member or a sideline member?  Explain why you answer as you do.
  • In your opinion, what strengths and/or weaknesses characterize the congregation?  What thoughts do you have about maximizing the strengths you see for God’s greater glory?  What thoughts do you have about correcting the weaknesses?  What contribution could you make to encourage healthier church life?
  • Do you follow the work done on the mission field, and support it in prayer?  Why or why not?  What are your thoughts about Smithville being involved in local mission work?  Why do you answer as you do?
  • How do you support the needs of other congregation members to obtain a solidly God-focused education for the children?  Explain why your support is as it is.
  • Do you willingly give your first fruits to the Lord, or do you do it grudgingly?  How often do you revisit how much you give?  Explain why you feel and act as you do.

Finally

The theme chosen for the upcoming home visit season requires us to engage in serious self-examination.  That’s not easy, but I’m convinced it can be beneficial.  It is my prayer that the Lord will graciously bless this effort to pay some attention to how we’ve responded (and continue to respond) to what the Lord has put on our path.  May he also give the elders much wisdom as they guide discussions on this topic in the homes of the congregation.  We seek the glory of the Lord’s name, and more awareness of our motives certainly enhances our ability to glorify him. 

2020-2021 Home Visit Season
The Press Report of Consistory meeting of June 14 mentioned that the elders had given
some thought to what the theme of the upcoming home visit season ought to be, and
“decided to go with a theme of Patience in Adversity”.
As is customary, last week a sermon was delivered that was intended to focus the
congregation’s thinking on the theme for the coming season. In the coming weeks and
months your elders will pick up on this sermon as they seek to lead a discussion on the
topic of patience in adversity with you and your family.
With this Bit to Read I’d like to introduce this topic further to the congregation and suggest
some questions that could serve for preparing oneself and one’s family for the visit from the
elders.
Theme
Beginning last March, restrictions were imposed on us on account of COVID-19. We had to
adjust our patterns of living to being much more homebound than we were accustomed to.
That’s true in relation to attending church on Sunday (we had to make do with
livestreaming) as well as the mid-week church activities, true too in relation to school
(parents, students and teachers needed to adapt to schooling at home), and work (be it
businesses closed, employees laid off, or working from home) – with all the stresses,
financial, social, psychological and more that followed. I think it’s fair to say that for most of
us this was the most serious crisis we ever faced.
So the question that invariably and necessarily arises is this: how did we handle this
adversity? No, at the time of this writing we’re not quite on the other side of this crisis; on
the contrary it looks like it will be a while before we get there. But as the elders step into
the homes of the sheep of the flock entrusted to their care this fall, it’s certainly right to ask
each address to reflect on what effect this pandemic had on our walk with God.
To help us reflect on the question, we do well to remember that this corona virus did not
come upon us by chance, nor by the will of persons in China, nor even by Satan’s scheming,
but came upon us from God’s Fatherly hand. Think of your confession in LD 10: the Lord
God so controls all things that “leaf and blade, rain and drought, fruitful years and barren,
food and drink, health and sickness, riches and poverty, indeed all things, come to us not by
chance but by his fatherly hand.” The temptation is to jump right away to the Why?
question. A far better question, though, on which to busy our minds is this: How would God
have us respond? The why question gets us speculating on God’s motives – and that’s really
not our business. The how do I respond question puts us squarely in the realm of where our
thoughts are meant to be. God would expose what’s in our hearts, whether there be fruit of
the Spirit as patience, kindness, joy or whether there be works of the flesh as anger,
bitterness, and impatience characterizing our inner being.
As the Lord has mandated elders to watch over our souls and as these men will have to give
account of how they’ve done their task(Heb 13:17), it can only be beneficial that we speak
openly with them about how we’ve actually handled the hardships of the last months.
Some questions to help prepare for the visit
As you prepare for the elders to visit with you in the coming weeks, here are some
questions to which you could perhaps give thought and even discuss within your family:

  1. Did the hardships associated with COVID prompt growth in the Lord in yourself
    (and in those entrusted to your care)? Explain why you answer as you do.
  2. Do you find yourself fretting about the restrictions that followed from COVID or are
    you at peace in your heart in the midst of the circumstances as they were – or are?
    Note: please do not use this as a springboard to talk about whether government
    overreach is real or whether it is beneficial to wear masks, etc. The elders do not
    come to talk politics or the rights or wrongs of government decisions. The elders’
    task is to gauge whether we’re responding to what the Lord has put on our path in a
    fashion pleasing to the Lord. During a home visit the discussion needs to stay
    focused on that point.
  3. Has the COVID crisis taken away from your joy in the Lord? Remember: joy in the
    Lord (as opposed to finding joy in the world) was last year’s theme. What have you
    done in the last months to retain a sense of joy (and contentment) in the Lord?
  4. The text of the sermon preached on September 13 in preparation for the home visit
    season included these words, “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand
    of God…” (1 Peter 5:6). What is the evidence that you have taken this instruction of
    the Lord to heart? (You may want to read the chapter again to assist yourself in
    finding a responsible answer.)
  5. For three months we were not able to go to church at all but had to be satisfied with
    livestreaming. In the last little while we’ve been able to go to church once per
    Sunday. What consequence(s) did being unable to go to church have on yourself
    (and on those entrusted to you)? Explain why you answer as you do. Heads of
    households: what have you done to maximize the opportunities available to you and
    your family through livestreaming?
  6. The church of Jesus Christ in a given community is one complete body, with each
    member needing the other (see 1 Cor 12). The restrictions we’ve experienced have
    hindered the healthy functioning of the communion of saints.
    a. How have you been a blessing to other members of this body in the last
    number of months? How do you propose to be a blessing to others in the
    coming months?
    b. Do you have any unmet needs for which you would welcome assistance from
    other members of the body?
    c. What suggestions do you have for the Consistory as the elders and deacons
    seek to improve the functioning of the communion of saints while the
    current restrictions last?
  7. Before COVID arrived on the scene, our lives raced along at a consistently busy pace.
    With school closures, socializing restrictions, work limitations, etc, our busy pace
    slowed to a crawl. Was that advantageous or disadvantageous to your marriage
    and/or your family life? Explain your answer. Now that school is on again, and so
    many other activities too, life has picked up its pace. What dangers do you see to
    your family and/or marriage life under the increased pace?
    Questions as these encroach on very personal ground. It raises another pressing question:
    why would I want to welcome elders to my home if that’s what they want to talk about?
    Have they any business to poke around in our homes and hearts? The answer is absolutely
    Yes.
    Why home visits?
    From his glorious throne in heaven, our ascended Savior gave elders to his church on earth.
    He gave those elders, says Paul, “to equip the saints for the work of ministry” (Eph. 4:12).

Those “saints”, of course, is you and me – every person washed in Jesus’ blood and renewed
by his Holy Spirit, regardless of age, gender, or position in life. With each saint doing “the
work of ministry”, the church as a whole is built up to maturity so that together we can
handle the storms of life (see Eph. 4:13-16).
How, though, ought elders “to equip the saints for the work of ministry”? Obviously not by
staying at arm’s length from the saints. Paul answered the question for the elders of
Ephesus in another place: “Pay careful attention to … all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit
has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own
blood” (Acts 20:28).
Paying “careful attention” involves stepping into the lives of each of the congregation
members. The best place to step into their lives is surely the home. In their visit to the
home the elders seek to get a sense of how each person is doing the work of ministry to
those in his circle – be it the smallest circle of marriage, the larger circle of family (children
and parents), the bigger circle of school buddies, work mates, neighbors, etc.
To get a sense of how each member is doing, the elders try to initiate an open conversation
with those visited. The topic of conversation is obviously not simply the highlights of the
holiday season; the elders instead want to hear about your walk with the Lord in the actual
circumstances in which you live. The precise focus of the conversations intended for this
year – well, that’s what the theme is for.
To promote openness, I want to state emphatically that what you say to your elders at a
home visit does not get shared with anybody else, not in consistory meetings either. At the
consistory meeting the elders will share the fact that they’ve visited with you (and the date),
plus a qualification whether the members’ relation with God is healthy or not. In the event
that the elders feel the need to relate more to the Consistory, they will discuss that need
with you beforehand. So: please don’t hesitate to speak candidly with your elders.
Who takes part in the visit?
The elders
Obviously, the elders do. These elders are two normal people, men who struggle with the
same sort of questions and injustices and impatience as anybody else. Perhaps these two
men are well known to you; perhaps they are not. The important thing to remember,
though, is that they do not come to your home on their own authority. They will ask some
very personal questions, and you may be much inclined to reply that the answer to those
questions is simply not their business. Please be aware, then, that your elders come to you
because none less than Jesus Christ cares about you, and so he has sent his ambassadors –
and that happens to be these particular elders.
The comforting thing is that Christ Jesus already knows what is going on in the hearts and
lives of each one of us. To guide and encourage and correct us (as the case might be) he
sends specific men whom he has called to this task. In real terms this means that one needs
to prepare for the home visit genuinely, welcome the brothers warmly, and be determined
to be open and frank with them as to the Lord who already knows you. Remember that the
brothers have done a full day’s work, have left their family (again) to visit you, and are no
doubt somewhat nervous as they step inside your home. Treat them as honored
ambassadors of Christ, and so conduct yourself during the visit as if Jesus Christ himself
were present in your home.
The family
Equally obvious is that the entire family ought to be present for the visit. Each member of
the family, after all, belongs to Jesus Christ, and he is interested in adults and children alike.

As a rule of thumb, anyone old enough to go to school should be present for the visit.
Parents do well to explain to the children ahead of time what the visit is about, what the
children should expect, and also what attitude they ought to have towards the elders,
namely, receive them as Christ’s ambassadors, and so be open and honest. Parents should
also ensure that each family member is dressed appropriately for Christ’s visit, have his or
her own Bible and Book of Praise at hand, and is ready and waiting when the elders arrive.
Of course, at the kitchen table God’s blessing should be sought upon the visit beforehand.
The whole family need not be present for the entire evening. In fact, the elders will want to
engage the parents in discussions that best happen when the children are not within
earshot. The elders will typically close the children’s portion of the home visit with prayer,
commending each child’s circumstances to the Lord’s care. Parents would do well at that
point to send their children to their rooms (and perhaps tuck them in) – and then give the
elders opportunity to speak more personally with the parents about the issues of their lives.
Once that part of the visit is complete, the elders will again lead in prayer, with both
thanksgiving and petition for what they’ve heard.
What sort of things will be discussed?
Obviously, the theme outlined above will be discussed. But wise elders will also range
beyond the them to touch upon other areas of life. Below is a random list of the sorts of
topics or questions that may come up for discussion. And elders, of course, are free to raise
other areas of life also.
Personal and Family Matters
 What effect has the preaching of the Word had in your life in the past year? In other
words, what changes and/or growth have you seen in yourself and/or your family?
Are you satisfied with that effect? If not, how could you ensure a better result this
year?
 What are your personal prayer habits? How honest are you with God about the
actual stresses you experience day by day?
 What are your family Bible reading habits and prayer habits? How do you as father
use the Bible reading as an opportunity to teach the family further in the Lord’s
way? Do you pray for your children’s individual needs in your family worship?
What role does mother play in the family worship?
 Where do your thoughts go when you have nothing else to think about? What
pressures, struggles or joys, dominate your mood? With whom do you share these
thoughts?
 Do you as husband and wife know what goes on in each other’s hearts? How do you
lead and support the other in the burdens and trials the other carries?
 Do you as father and mother know what goes on in the hearts of your children?
How do you guide them further in the midst of the questions buzzing through their
minds?
 Are there any matters in your personal or family life that would require the elders’
(or deacons’) special attention? If the elders don’t provide an opening to raise the
matter, please muster the courage to raise the matter in the course of the visit.
Church Matters
 How are you involved in congregational life? Would you describe yourself as a
living member or a sideline member? Explain why you answer as you do.
 In your opinion, what strengths and/or weaknesses characterize the congregation?
What thoughts do you have about maximizing the strengths you see for God’s

greater glory? What thoughts do you have about correcting the weaknesses? What
contribution could you make to encourage healthier church life?
– Do you follow the work done on the mission field, and support it in prayer? Why or
why not? What are your thoughts about Smithville being involved in local mission
work? Why do you answer as you do?
– How do you support the needs of other congregation members to obtain a solidly
God-focused education for the children? Explain why your support is as it is.
– Do you willingly give your first fruits to the Lord, or do you do it grudgingly? How
often do you revisit how much you give? Explain why you feel and act as you do.

Finally
The theme chosen for the upcoming home visit season requires us to engage in serious self-
examination. That’s not easy, but I’m convinced it can be beneficial. It is my prayer that the
Lord will graciously bless this effort to pay some attention to how we’ve responded (and
continue to respond) to what the Lord has put on our path. May he also give the elders
much wisdom as they guide discussions on this topic in the homes of the congregation. We
seek the glory of the Lord’s name, and more awareness of our motives certainly enhances
our ability to glorify him.

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