Everyday Faithfulness for Just About Anyone

Prior to the onset of the Fall 2009 semester, I had never heard – or at least never registered – the name of Scotty Smith as someone that I probably should be aware of. But in God’s great, merciful and perfect plan, He predetermined that my first semester as a master’s student at Covenant Seminary should include a one-credit-hour class entitled “Gospel-Centered Sexuality” with the esteemed Rev. Smith as its instructor.

Most of the ministry efforts that I participate in at The Crossing (to one extent or another) invariably land in or near the issue of human sexual brokenness, and so I traveled to St. Louis for the weekend, anxious to learn whatever I could so that I might, in turn, be of use in the lives of others – and perhaps better process some of my own backstory. These efforts were handsomely rewarded; the various readings, lectures and writing assignments were all immensely helpful.

But what I recall most vividly about that particular weekend class was a Saturday afternoon session in which “Scotty” asked all of the students to write down some of the questions that they most often run into as they minister to others. More than one person in attendance instead used that anonymous write-in opportunity as a means of confessing their own personal brokenness, the doubts they entertained about their “suitability” for lifelong Christian service, and so forth. The general theme underlying all of these personal confessions went something along the lines of, “Look at how badly I have blown it in my own life! How could Jesus possibly make effective use of someone like me?” Although these confessions were not exactly what he had asked for, Scotty obviously sensed the intense earnestness behind these notes and handled them with tremendous graciousness.

And then he read that note.

Written by a student who had only recently discovered infidelity in his fledgling marriage, this young man had determined that both he and his wife should abandon any hope of serving the Lord through ministry work. In his note, he was essentially asking Scotty if he agreed that he should 1) stop kidding himself, 2) quit attending seminary, 3) find a job in sales or something and 4) abandon his calling to serve God in ministry.

It was one of those tense moments when the old cliche very much applied; you probably could have heard a pin drop in that crowded classroom once Scotty finished reading this particular note out loud.

So what impressed me most about Scotty Smith over the course of that weekend – and there was indeed much to choose from – was how quick he was to recognize that all his intelligence, all his faithfulness, all his education and training had very clearly “hit the wall.” There would be no “one-size-fits-all” answer for this young man, and any attempt to offer God-honoring advice in a setting such as this could very easily steer someone onto the wrong path and/or unwittingly bring this person one step closer to making a complete shipwreck of his faith. On that particular day, Scotty chose instead to put the note down and ask the class to join him, right then and there, in fervent prayer for this young man, his spouse and their marriage. For me, his willingness to go immediately to the Lord for help and guidance – as opposed to relying on his own considerable gifts – probably taught me more than I had planned on learning that weekend. It was a lived-out commitment to Proverbs 3:5-6 that really struck a deep chord with me and has stayed with me in the intervening three years.

Having witnessed this man’s obvious commitment to running hard after Jesus and His will, I was excited to finally get my hands on a copy of his devotional, Everyday Prayers: 365 Days to a Gospel-Centered Faith. Having thumbed through a copy a few weeks earlier, I was delighted to see that this devotional was a strong, consistent reflection of my classroom experience of Scotty as a man deeply steeped in the gospel and yet able to “translate” his considerable knowledge into everyday language. Not everyone I interact with is quite ready to pick up a copy of Valley of Vision just yet, and to be honest there are times when I also feel that prayer language can become convoluted or otherwise difficult to follow.

Like most people, I really appreciate it when someone takes the time to authoritatively explain a passage of Scripture to me, and this is precisely what Scotty has done with his devotional. Anyone who can read can begin (or augment) a life of prayer with this volume, and yet the simpleness of the prayers offered is undergirded by a rock-solid commitment to faithfulness as it is reflected in the reformed tradition. Scotty Smith has done an admirable job of wrestling with deep, difficult issues that tend to crop up as we humans wrestle with God in our own lives and making a biblical response to those issues highly accessible.

My wife and I are only a couple of weeks into this devotional and already it has made its way onto my short list of recommended texts. I would confidently give this volume to a new believer or someone who has been walking with Jesus for decades; both would benefit greatly. To get some sense of format and depth, I have taken the liberty of including today’s prayer below in the hope that many would find incentive to get a copy for themselves. (And please, don’t wait until January 1 to begin reading. Dive in on whatever day you happen to get your own copy.)

September 17

A Prayer for Trusting Jesus

For in Scripture it says: “See, I lay a stone in Zion, a chosen and precious cornerstone, and the one who trusts in him [Jesus] will never be put to shame.” Now to you who believe, this stone is precious. (1 Pet. 2:6-7 NIV)

Jesus, when I hear the word precious, I immediately think about silver, gold, and platinum, all called “precious metals.” Or I think about “precious gemstones” like diamonds, sapphires, rubies, and emeralds.

But if anything or anyone deserves the appellation “precious,” it’s you, Jesus – God’s chosen cornerstone and precious capstone of our redemption. For the combined worth of all precious metals and gemstones that have ever existed does not compare with the unsearchable riches that are found in you. To trust in you, Jesus, is to be free from the burden of our guilt and the paralyzing power of our shame.

To trust in you, Jesus – to boast in the gift of your righteousness, to rest in the constancy of your love, to wake up each day to your endless mercies, to hear you sing to us in the gospel – is to feel the stranglehold of shame lose its grip over our hearts.

Jesus, I praise you for taking the guilt of our sin and the shame of our brokenness on the cross. You became sin for us that in you we might become the righteousness of God. Because of you, judgment day holds no terror. The cross was our judgment day. We no longer fear the gaze of God because of the grace of God we have in you.

May you become more and more precious to us, Jesus. May the gospel continue to change the price tags on everything in our world. May yesterday’s values be considered today’s loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing you. We pray in your glorious name. Amen.

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