The Conservative Seminarian

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Category: Thanksgiving

Strengthened: Ron Sommerdorf

This post is part of the “You Strengthened My Hand In God” series. The first post explained the series purpose.

“Who is this guy,” you ask? Other than boasting an incredible last name, which you can see, and dashing good looks, which you dear reader cannot, here’s what you need to know:

Uncle Ron is, as I explained a mere ten words ago, my uncle. He’s not an uncle in the most traditional way. You see, he was quite late to the party. He swooped in and gently, patiently unpeeled my Aunt Bonnie’s fingers, one at a time, from the life of singleness to which she clung. He won the day by wooing the maiden. What a guy.

Uncle Ron had to overcome all the typical hurdles that were laid down before a mere mortal durst enter from outside the compound and approach a Hamilton lady: the occasional veiled threat not-so-neatly hidden behind a wide, coffee-scented smile; or the “accidental” flat tire in the church parking lot; or the hand grenade (OK, two or more of those never actually happened, but we weren’t very nice to outsiders wishing to date a lady Hamilton).

But all of that is beside the point. The real question is, why is he included in this series of those I’m thankful for?

Enter pliable little Jonathan Hamilton.

Now, I knew Uncle Ron long before he was my uncle. He must have come along at some point in my preteen years, and by the time I was in high school he was teaching the boys Sunday School class. Lucky him. He happened to have this most painful of responsibilities (painful due to what comes next, not due to the responsibility itself) at a time when me and my epically disruptive compadres were “running the show” in Sunday School. Poor, poor Uncle Ron. We were not kind to him. As a matter of fact, when I realized last year that I would now be teaching a teen Sunday School class, my mind remorsefully flickered back to memories of my misbehavior and thought of what must be the coming payback, “And so it begins.”

But even though Uncle Ron surely knew that every Sunday he was in for a battle royale, he never came to Sunday School pre-angried, so to speak. No armor. No weapons. Just carefully prepared lessons from Proverbs. And boy did we need them. We also needed a sharp kick in the teeth. Thankfully, he did not see fit to provide that. With his frame, he could have done some real damage to us twits.

I’m thankful for his patience.

But even all of that is not the ultimate reason I chose to write about Uncle Ron. The main reason is rooted in something that Uncle Ron wrote to me a few years ago. Steph and I had already been living in Michigan for about six months, and my mom and dad bought me a nice study Bible for my birthday. Before shipping it to me, they each wrote a meaningful note in it, and had several other family members do the same. Uncle Ron wrote the last note in the cover of that Bible.

A few months ago, right around my birthday, I re-read these precious notes from family. I do this periodically, probably once or twice a year, often when I’m feeling discouraged in life or just plain homesick for family. As a matter of fact, the cover to that Bible already wore out (no, I’m not super spiritual, it was bonded leather). I paid what probably amounted to about three times the cost of the Bible to have it rebound last year, and insisted that those note pages be kept. You will get a chance to read portions of them in future posts, but first up are words of spiritual strengthening from Uncle Ron (copied here without permission and with my own nuanced punctuation and such for clarity, hopefully he doesn’t mind):

Jonathan

I’ll be brief – only two verses:

Proverbs 4:23 “Keep thy heart with all diligence for out of it are the issues of life.”

Proverbs 23:26 “My son, give me thine heart and let thine eyes observe my ways.”

Give God your heart, and hide His Word in your heart, and serve Him with all your heart and you won’t be ashamed or disappointed.

I know you will remember all this from the Proverbs series in Sunday School.

In Christ, Ron

Put on the spot at a family gathering, Uncle Ron was ready to strengthen my hand in God from the only Source that can actually accomplish that task – God Himself, revealed in His Word. That is an example and a testimony worth striving for.

I’m thankful for the rich heritage God has blessed me with. I’m thankful for many family members who love Him. I am so glad that His Word is central in the lives of most of those I’ve been surrounded with my entire life. I am truly blessed, and I thank God for Uncle Ron’s part in that fabric of family blessing.

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You Strengthened My Hand In God – A Series of Thanksgiving

God clearly intends the Christian path to be traversed with other believers. Hand in hand. Shoulder to shoulder. The role of the believer is not that of an isolationist. We are not given to an individualistic existence on the island of self-love.

We need our brothers and sisters around us. Some in front, some beside, some behind. There will be times for strengthening others, and time for others to strengthen us. Times to lead, and times to follow.

The New Testament is replete with commands and examples of this integral reality.

Hebrews 10:24 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. (ESV)

 

Ephesians 4:11 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, 14 so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. 15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.

 

Colossians 3:16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.

The Old Testament provides the theme verse of this series. In 1 Samuel 23, Jonathan comes to David to strengthen his hand in God while Jonathan’s father, King Saul, is searching for David to kill him. Jonathan knew that David was God’s choice to be king, and he submitted to God’s will and humbly supported David over and above his own father. As we can see from the friendship between Jonathan and David, it was far more than begrudging, reticent support. Jonathan loved David.

15 David saw that Saul had come out to seek his life. David was in the wilderness of Ziph at Horesh. 16 And Jonathan, Saul’s son, rose and went to David at Horesh, and strengthened his hand in God. 17 And he said to him, “Do not fear, for the hand of Saul my father shall not find you. You shall be king over Israel, and I shall be next to you. Saul my father also knows this.” 18a And the two of them made a covenant before the Lord

Over the course of time, there have been many who have strengthened my own hand in God. I have been blessed with men and women who have loved God, lived for God, and taught me to do the same. This series will attempt a dangerous task: to thank a handful of these folks individually. It is dangerous for multiple reasons. First, it cannot possibly be exhaustive, because I cannot think exhaustively. So the risk of leaving someone out who deserves to be thanked is not just a possibility, but a certainty. Second, there is the risk of praising men over God. Third, there is the risk of crossing the line from appropriate thankfulness into gushing sycophancy. I hope to carefully avoid these.

Some helpful information about this series:

1) It does not have a maximum number of posts in mind, or a terminus date. It is to be ongoing.

2) It can be easily tracked by hovering over the “Musings” tab at the top of my blog and clicking on “Thanksgiving.”

3) It will not be published in any particular order. Not alphabetical. Not favorite to least favorite. Not ugliest to prettiest. Just random.

It is worth noting that you cannot effectively strengthen another’s hand in God unless you are investing yourself in God’s Word and prayer. It must saturate your life. Until it does, you may be the recipient of these graces, but you will be hard-pressed to provide them to others. What blessing you forego until you desperately seek His face!

In a sermon on this 1 Samuel text, John Piper quoted from a letter written by Samuel Pearce to famous missionary William Carey. What an encouraging note!

Listen to how the promises of God saturate this letter from October 4, 1794.

Brother, I long to stand by your side, and participate in all the vicissitudes of the attack—an attack which nothing but cowardice can make unsuccessful. Yes, the Captain of our salvation marches at our head. Sometimes he may withdraw his presence (but not his power) to try our prowess with our spiritual arms and celestial armor. O, what cannot a lively faith do for the Christian soldier! It will bring the Deliverer from the skies; it will array him as with a vesture dipped in blood; it will place him in the front of the battle, and put a new song into our mouths—”These made war with the Lamb; but the Lamb shall overcome them.” Yes, he shall—the victory is sure before we enter the field; the crown is already prepared to adorn our brows, even that crown of glory which fadeth not away, and already we have resolved what to do with it—we will lay it at the conqueror’s feet, and say, “Not to us, O Lord, not unto us, but to thy name give glory,” while all heaven unites in the chorus, “Worthy is the Lamb.” (Memoir, p. 66)

Well, not all us have the gift to strengthen our comrades with words like that. But if you steep your mind in the Word of God and meditate on it day and night as Psalm 1 says, then you will be a fountain of living water and will strengthen the hands of many in God. The call of God to you this morning is: Come, let us strengthen each other’s hands in God! Amen.

To have one’s hands strengthened in God is a humbling experience that fills the heart with gratitude. To strengthen the hands of another is a noble task that brings a humbling of its own and joy unspeakable. I have often experienced the former, and I beg God to cause me to participate in the latter.

Do the same!

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