FROM THE SEMINARIES: Juan Sanchez, at SBTS, notes God's faithfulness; SWBTS staffer & Kenyan believer connect in half-marathon

by SBC Seminary Staff, posted Monday, March 12, 2018 (2 months ago)

In today's From the Seminaries: Southern Baptist Theological Seminary; Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.

Juan Sanchez, at SBTS, underscores God's faithfulness

By Andrew J.W. Smith

Juan Sanchez, president of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention, speaks on "God’s covenant faithfulness" in chapel at Southern Seminary.
Photo by Emil Handke
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP) -- Christians can be confident in God's purposes for their lives because He has demonstrated His covenant faithfulness to His people, Juan Sanchez, president of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention, said in a chapel message at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

"Remember God's covenant faithfulness, and on the basis of His covenant faithfulness, you can look to the future and trust Him for His future faithfulness," said Sanchez, pastor of High Pointe Baptist Church in Austin who also serves as assistant professor of Christian theology at Southern Seminary, where he is a three-time graduate.

Life as a believer in a sinful, fallen world remains as difficult as ever, Sanchez said in his March 1 message. For seminary students, overwhelming coursework or few options for ministry, as well as illness and marital strife, can be a distraction or cause them to despair. Christians who are called to the proclamation and ministry of the Gospel, he noted, are not spared the pain of sin, suffering or confusion.

Citing God's promise to deliver His people from Egypt in Exodus 6, Sanchez reminded chapel attendees that just as He did not forsake His people when they were enslaved, He does not forsake His people today. Recounting the history of Israel, Sanchez demonstrated that God was repeatedly faithful to His promises despite Israel's repeated unfaithfulness, ultimately bringing them to a new and better covenant through a new and better king, Jesus Christ.

Sanchez said believers who feel alone and tempted to despair can look back not only on God's faithfulness to Israel, but to His faithfulness to them through Jesus, and their special relationship with their heavenly Father who invites them to seek Him in their distress and promises to listen.

"When you feel forsaken, when you feel forgotten by God and are tempted to discouragement and despair, cry out to God," Sanchez said. "Cry out in prayer. In Christ, you have access to the very throne room of God, and He invites you to draw near to Him. You don't have to find some kind of special language, you don't have to have some kind of special knowledge to come to the Lord in prayer. He is our Father and we are His children, and we come to Him as children using children's words -- just asking God to help us."

God uses the present suffering of believers as a means of their perseverance through life's challenges, Sanchez said. Although there is no guarantee that God will decisively relieve one's suffering quickly, He does promise to be faithful to His covenant and enable the faith necessary to endure difficult circumstances. The realization of God's promises may not come during the time Christians desire, he said, but they can overcome despair by remembering the Father's past and future provisions.

"We are marching to Zion -- that's where we're going," Sanchez said. "Based upon God's covenant faithfulness, we can trust God to bring us to these future promises in Christ."

Sanchez became assistant professor of Christian theology at Southern in 2016 as part of its Hispanic Initiatives to help the seminary serve more effectively those called to ministry in the Spanish-speaking world. Sanchez earned his master of divinity degree from Southern in 1999, his Th.M. in 2002 and his Ph.D. in systematic theology in 2015.

Audio and video of the chapel message are available at equip.sbts.edu at the chapel tab.

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SWBTS staffer, in Cowtown marathon, connects with Kenyan believer

By Alex Sibley

FORT WORTH, Texas (BP) -- Many thoughts pass through runners' minds during 13-mile half-marathons, such as "You can do it" and "Just put one foot in front of the other." Trey Holmes, meanwhile, prayed for an opportunity to share the Gospel with his fellow runners during the Cowtown 40th Anniversary in Fort Worth.

Before Holmes reached mile 12, God did.

Holmes, associate director of recruiting at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, was one of a number of Southwestern students, faculty and staff who participated in the runners' events during the Feb. 24-25 activities. Clad in "Preach the Word, Reach the World" T-shirts, the Southwesterners strived to represent not only the seminary, but also Christ during the Sunday morning half-marathon.

Holmes said he was there "to rub shoulders with people and try to be salt and light even just with logos on my back and a verse on my cap." (In addition to his Southwestern shirt, Holmes wore a cap with John 3:16 printed on the back.)

Around mile 8, Holmes realized he and a fellow runner were "leapfrogging" each other. As one would get tired and need to walk, the other would run by. This went on for several miles, and by mile 12, Holmes decided to strike up a conversation.

Holmes learned that the runner, though living in Dallas, was originally from Kenya. Holmes shared that he had previously visited Kenya, teaching at a Bible college there and preaching at a youth camp.

The two proceeded to talk about Holmes' activities and the places in Kenya where he had been. Eventually, Holmes said to the runner, "You sound like you're familiar with this. Are you a believer?" The runner answered affirmatively.

Acknowledging the ambiguity of the term "believer," Holmes clarified his meaning that Jesus Christ "died for our sins, was resurrected and He's coming again."

Holmes recounted the runner's response: "Absolutely, man. I believe Jesus is the only way." Holmes then realized that the witnessing opportunity God had granted him was not with an unbeliever in need of salvation but with a fellow believer whom he could help in living out Proverbs 27:17 -- "As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another."

As they finished the last mile of the run, the two spoke about the differences between being a believer in Kenya and being one in the United States. In Kenya, the runner explained to Holmes, when people come to faith in Christ, they trust God for daily needs such as food, clothing and work. "Here in America," he said, "I don't worry about where my next meal is coming from. I make enough money that I can pay my rent, I can get my food.

"So now my faith is different. I have to be reminded to spend time with God daily and trust Him for larger things."

At that point, the two runners agreed that believers everywhere share the same faith in the same Savior despite their circumstantial differences.

Reflecting on the experience, Holmes said he is grateful that Southwestern provides opportunities to be out in the community and share the Gospel in unconventional ways -- "Like, to live it out and to communicate it."

Garrison Griffith, community brand ambassador at Southwestern and coordinator for Southwestern's involvement in the Cowtown marathon, said conversations like these are the reason Southwestern involves itself with the Fort Worth community.

"Whether it be over lunch at the Chamber of Commerce or during a run through the cultural district," Griffith said, "we hope that our Southwestern family is actively proclaiming the Gospel to all whom they encounter. When we meet fellow believers, we hope to encourage them in their ongoing relationships with Christ. And when we meet those who do not know Jesus personally, we share with them about the unwavering hope we have in Christ Jesus."

Andrew J.W. Smith is the lead newswriter for Southern Baptist Theological Seminary; Alex Sibley is associate news director for Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.
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