'Impossible situations' await grads, Patterson says
Impossible situations stem from following "the bidding of God to give your life to ministry," the seminary president told bachelor's, master's and doctoral graduates in preaching from Luke 1, wherein Zechariah is told that his wife Elizabeth will bear a child in their old age.
Applying Zechariah and Elizabeth's "impossible" situation, Patterson told Southwestern's graduates, "Just about everyone you go to [in ministry] will be impossible; what you will be asked to do is far beyond the realm of possibility; and you're going to be faced every day with the fear and the terror, 'What is going to come of this situation?'"
Despite such apparent hopelessness, Patterson said ministers are accorded a privilege -- for when they are faced with a situation that demands a solution for which they have none, God provides.
"Almost every week of your life, you are going to see the intervention of the mighty hand of God," Patterson said. "You're going to see Him change lives that could not be changed. You're going to watch Him, through your feeble efforts in ministry, alter the course of how men and women live, how they die, and where they spend eternity. Oh my goodness, what an opportunity God has given to you!
"So don't ever say like Zechariah, 'How can this be?'" Patterson said. "Say rather, 'Lord, I can't figure out how it can be, but I trust You in it.'"
Patterson set forth how the Gospel can be seen in the story of Elizabeth's miraculous pregnancy, which ultimately yielded John the Baptist. Pointing specifically to verse 25 in Luke 1, in which Elizabeth says God has taken away her reproach among people, Patterson noted, "Did you know that's what Christ is all about? Jesus' birth was to take away the reproach of all men and women on the face of the globe."
He continued, "Outside of Christ, there is nothing but reproach; in Christ, there is nothing but glory. Outside of Christ, there is nothing but condemnation; inside Christ, there is nothing but future eternal life. Outside of Christ, there is nothing but one sorrow after another, but in Christ, there is nothing but one happiness after another.
"So, young people, I want to challenge you today. If you do nothing else, whatever your ministry may be, always, always, always introduce people everywhere to the one who takes away their reproach and gives eternal life."
Among the recipients of Patterson's exhortation was Dale Allen, who graduated with a master of arts degree in biblical counseling. Initially enrolling in the master of divinity program, Allen transferred to the MABC program because of Southwestern's stance on the sufficiency of Scripture for counseling.
"I'm grateful for Dr. Patterson and the leadership here for making the decision that we're going to acknowledge that Scripture is sufficient, because it truly is," Allen said. "It's the light that sheds on darkness, so I really am grateful … to have gone through the program and I'm excited about what the future has for me."
Allen is open to a church's call as a pastor and is praying about enrolling in Southwestern's Ph.D. program. Regarding how the seminary has equipped him for local church ministry, he said, "Southwestern has prepared me to lead the church according to what the first-century church did," to be able to say, "This is what God intended, and we can actually live this way and be effective in sharing the Gospel so that others will know that this is God's intent for humanity."