Addie Phillips pulled her old Toyota into the parking lot at Coldwater Christian Center, prepared for another glum day. She had the utmost respect for Pastor Rich, but for a professing man of faith, he sure could get down!
She rested her forehead on the steering wheel, and sent a silent prayer heavenward for patience and longsuffering—if that word meant what she thought it did: putting up with others’ weaknesses for a long time. Lord knows, she thought, it has been long enough now!
The whole church knew, of course, why Pastor Rich was depressed. Why, the whole country was depressed, what with this horrible economy, huge unemployment numbers, and who knew what our politicians were going to do to us next.
Just a month ago, Pastor Rich actually told the congregation the state of the church’s economy—which seemed to be bleaker than the country’s. The mortgage was overdue and salaries had not been paid for two months, not to mention the decrepit state of the church building itself, which would take tens of thousands to repair. What they were to do about this sad state of affairs, he couldn’t say.
Odd thing for a pastor to admit, but there you are: hard even for a spiritual leader to remain upbeat in the face of such dire circumstances.
“Morning, Addie,” Pastor Rich greeted her as she entered the church office. But he hadn’t lifted his eyes from the desk.
Uh oh, not good.
“Know any rich people?” Pastor Rich attempted the joke with a shaky smile.
Addie was ready for this. She had spent half the night searching for scriptures that addressed this situation. She pulled the sheet of paper out of her bag and put it in front of her pastor.
“I know you know all this,” she began. But Pastor Rich cut her off.
“I appreciate all the time and trouble you took to prepare this, Addie, really I do. But you’re right, I do know all this.”
“And I’m not sure I’m finding anything personally constructive in all that scripture. It doesn’t seem to be providing any instruction in what to do, only in how to think about the situation. Know what I mean?”
Oh, wow—this is awkward! Take a deep breath, Addie!
“Pastor,” she began, “tell me what that paper says.”
“’And my God will supply all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus’*,” he read.
“’No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it’**. What do you mean by putting this one in there? I’m not having a ‘temptation,’ I’m leading a congregation that’s broke and may have to close up!”
Addie felt tears coursing down her cheeks. She couldn’t stop them.
“Your temptation is to not believe,” she said softly. “And lack of faith is a sin.” Her voice was now a whisper, and she didn’t want to look at him.
The silence was deafening.
When at last she looked up, she saw that her pastor had his head down on the desk, and his shoulders shook with sobs.
She let the time pass, her eyes closed in silent prayer, until she heard him blow his nose.
Pastor Rich came around the desk took Addie’s hands in his.
“You don’t know, my sister, how much your words have meant to me. You are absolutely right in your diagnosis and your prescription. My eyes have been on the wrong thing: what we’re lacking, not what we have. And as a congregation, we have each other, and we have the Lord. That makes us rich.”
He turned and reached for the phone on his desk, and punched in a number. Holding his finger up to Addie to indicate just one moment, he said into the phone, “Honey, I’d like you to come down here. There’s someone here who wants to share her faith with us.”
He paused a moment, then, “It’s alright now, sweetheart. God has provided the right answer—just not the one I expected. I’ll see you in a few minutes, and Addie and I will explain.”
“After all, Addie,” his eyes were twinkling, “even my name is ‘Rich’.”
**I Corinthians 10:13
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