When God works things out

Published 10:42 pm Friday, October 13, 2017

By Dr. Thurman R. Hayes Jr.

This week I’d like to introduce you to two mentors in my life. I don’t know either of them personally, but their writings have brought incredible blessings to my life for years and years.

I want you to meet them, because I believe their writings and preaching could bless you as well.

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The first is J.I. Packer, who is now 91 years old. Growing up in England, Dr. Packer was hit by a milk truck at the age of 7. It cracked his skull, and he had to wear a special metal plate to protect his head for a period of time. Of course, this limited his boyhood activities.

His parents soon gave him a typewriter, and he fell in love with writing. Indeed, “God causes all things to work together for good for those who love him and who are called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28).

Packer grew up in a churchgoing family, but not a Christian one. That is to say, his parents were religious, but lost. They were good people but lacked an authentic relationship with Jesus. Packer himself was ambivalent on the subject of Christianity until he went to college.

It was at Oxford University that he met the Savior. Friends invited him to attend a Christian meeting, and that night the Holy Spirit drew J.I. Packer to Christ.

He immediately began to plunge into the things of God, learning all he could, and soon knew that his life was going to be devoted to ministry of some sort. It became clear that God was calling him to a ministry of teaching and writing, and that is how he has impacted the world.

I would encourage you to begin discovering the God-centered writings of J.I. Packer by reading his classic book, “Knowing God.”

The second mentor I would like you to meet is John Piper. Piper was a preacher’s kid, raised in Greenville, S.C. His dad was a traveling evangelist.

Like J.I. Packer, Piper was a shy boy who did lots of reading. He was so terrified of doing any sort of public presentation at school that he would take lower grades just do avoid doing oral reports.

In 1964, he began his college studies at Wheaton. One day, the college chaplain asked him if he would pray in chapel. To his own amazement, John found himself stammering, “Yes.”

Afterward, he was petrified that he had agreed to pray publicly. Pacing back and forth on Wheaton’s campus, he said to God, “If you will get me through this prayer, I will never say ‘no’ to the opportunity to speak for you again.” God did get him through it.

During a bout with mono, while laid up in the college infirmary, Piper listened on the campus radio to the speaker, a man named Harold Okenga.

God worked through Dr. Okenga’s exposition of the Scriptures to grip John Piper with a passion to do the same. It was that week that God called him to preach.

Again, we have a God who works all things together for good.

All of Piper’s sermons are available for free at www.desiringgod.org. But his books have influenced me the most. Start with his classic, “Desiring God.”

I’m deeply grateful for both of these men. Read them. You’ll be deeply blessed, too.

Dr. Thurman R. Hayes is senior pastor of First Baptist Church of Suffolk. Follow him on Twitter at @ThurmanHayesJr.