God has promised to sustain the righteous, Luter tells EC
Using Psalm 34:19 as a text, referencing the Old Testament's Job and adding humor with the fictional James Bond, Luter said the Lord not only brings tribulation to the righteous, but successfully brings the righteous through those same troubles.
"Many are the afflictions of the righteous," the Scripture reads, "but the Lord delivers him out of them all" (NKJV).
"One of my favorite James Bond movies of all time was 'Goldfinger.' The guy had James Bond on this saw, and James Bond was about to get killed. And some way, somehow, [Bond] turned his watch, and his watch becomes a laser, and stopped the saw. And I said how does he do that?
"I finally found out how James Bond was able to get out of all that stuff," Luter said, referencing a History Channel special on the making of James Bond movies. "You know how? It was written in the script that way.
"Southern Baptist Convention, the reason we're going to make it in carrying out the Great Commission and the Great Commandment -- it's in the Script," he said. "It's in the Script."
The biblical script promises us deliverance from tribulation, Luter said.
"Your affliction is temporary. Your affliction is just for a specific time. Your affliction is just for a season. Your affliction is just for a reason. It's only a test. It's only a trial. It is the other side of ministry," Luter said. "But always remember, if God brings you to it, He will bring you through it."
In his expository sermon titled "The Other Side of Ministry," Luter referenced David's plight in Psalm 34.
"[David] is praising God. He's glorifying God. He's giving God all the glory, all the praise, all the honor. But just a few verses later, David is singing a different tune," Luter said. "David has gone from divine preservation to human persecution. Many are the afflictions of the righteous. Brothers and sisters, such is the case of many of us, whether we want to admit it or not.
"So the question I want to ask tonight as I stand before you the last time [as SBC president] here in Nashville, Tenn., 'How do we cope with that? How do we as church leaders, as pastors, as seminary professors, as entity heads, as pastors' wives, as church leaders how do we as church leaders handle the other side?'"
Luter offered answers in the life of Job found in the Bible.
"In one day Job lost his health, his wealth and his family. All of us one day, if we keep living, will face the other side of ministry. Listen, just because you're born again, you're not exempt from affliction," Luter said.
"What in the world did Job do to deserve what he got? Job had no idea that he was being picked out to be picked on. God said, 'Have you considered my servant Job?' The devil never asked for Job. God recommended Job."
Luter referenced a few saints God did not recommend, such as Moses, who committed murder; Noah, who got drunk; David, who committed adultery; and Solomon, who lived as a philanderer.
"If God suggested Job," Luter said, "God knew Job would stand the test.
"The reason you can handle the other side of ministry is because of the promise to the afflicted. The last part of verse 19 says many are the afflictions of the righteous," Luter said, "but, but, but the Lord delivers them out of them all -- but the Lord; not the pastor, but the Lord; not the deacon, but the Lord; not the trustee, but the Lord.
"Ladies and gentlemen, sometimes we go through things that don't make sense, but we've got to be able to stand. I don't know why I'm going through what I'm going through; but this one thing I know, I know that my redeemer liveth, and He shall stand at the later day," Luter said, referencing Job 19:25.
"The other side of ministry is the fact that you can do everything right. You can dot every 'i,' you can cross every 't,' you can spell the words right, you can do everything right, and still face affliction."
The sermon was Luter's last presidential address scheduled for Nashville. He thanked those present for their support during his two presidential terms.
"I've made some mistakes but I've done my best to represent you well and I just thank God for your support. It has been an honor. It has been a joy and it has been a privilege to travel across this country and to preach," Luter said. "I just want you to know that I've done all that I possibly can to represent my family, to represent my home church, to represent New Orleans, to represent the state of Louisiana, to represent the Southern Baptist Convention, but most of all to represent God."
Luter said he visited an SBC church every week of his presidency, except during his ministry visits to such places as Ethiopia, Uganda and Israel.
"I've been encouraged in visiting these churches. I've been concerned about some of the churches that I've been to and some of the things I know we can do better. But most of all I'm hopeful for all the churches in this convention," he said. "All of them have the opportunity to grow, to be the churches that God desires for us to be, the Great Commission churches that God desires and designs for us to be.
"We've got to continue to encourage them and to work with them, and to do all that we can. And particularly with the smaller churches. Many of them just need encouragement."
Luter encouraged those present to persevere in ministry.
"Ministry is not easy. Ministry is difficult sometimes, and as a result of that many people just want to throw in the towel; they want to give up," he said. "And so I just want to encourage those of you who are on the Executive Committee and staff, our entity heads, our seminary presidents, our spouses in particular, and all of those who work with ministry, just a word of encouragement to you tonight."
Luter is slated to deliver his last presidential address at the 2014 SBC annual meeting in Baltimore, June 10-11.
Diana Chandler is Baptist Press general assignment writer/editor. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress) and in your email (baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).