Using truth about God to pastor others – extract from ‘God, Humanity and Christ’ Seminary module


The following is an extract from our Seminary Course module ‘God, Humanity and Christ’.

To pastor our own hearts and to pastor other people, let us focus on four liberating truths about God. Most of our sinful behaviour and negative emotions arise because we are not believing one of these four truths as we should. The four truths are:

God is great – so we do not have to be in control
God is glorious – so we do not have to fear others
God is good – so we do not have to look elsewhere
God is gracious – so we do not have to prove ourselves

Suppose you have someone who is angry.

They might be angry because they don’t believe that God is great, that he is sovereign, that he is in control. Of course, I don’t mean here that they are a heretic or untaught. We’re not talking about their confessional belief, but their functional belief. In theory, they believe God is in control. But in practice, they’re not trusting God to provide for their needs. And so when things go wrong, they get angry. They feel the need to be in control, and when life is not under their control (as it will be sooner or later) they get angry.

Or they may be angry because they don’t believe that God is glorious. Of course, on Sunday they sing that he is robed in majesty. But on Monday morning, their boss is the one they fear. Their boss looms large in their mind, eclipsing God. The Bible calls this the fear of man. It makes them fearful, desperate for the approval of their boss. So when they have a bad day or a colleague lets them down, they become angry. The anger is an expression of their fear. The biblical answer is not to try to fear their boss less, but to fear God more. To see God in his glory, majesty, holiness, love and beauty so that God eclipses their boss. That’s the word we need to speak to them. 

Of course, by speaking truth to them we do not mean simply saying something like, ‘You just need to fear God more.’ That is not good news. We mean portraying God in his glory and beauty and majesty. We need to present the truth in a way that captures the imagination.

Or they may be angry because they don’t believe God is good. They are not looking to God for satisfaction, and so they look elsewhere: to their work, their leisure, their family, their possessions, their girlfriend or perhaps the girlfriend they wish they had. And if any of those things are threatened, they become angry.

Or they may be angry because they don’t believe God is gracious. Maybe they have a contractual view of their relationship with God. They live an obedient life and God blesses them. They give up things for God and God owes them in return. They may have a particular blessing in mind. They long for a husband and think God will provide one if they live a good life. When God doesn’t provide the blessings they want then they become embittered. They may not articulate that anger as anger against God. It may be an ill-defined resentment or they may lash out randomly at people. But underneath it all is an anger against God.

They need to rediscover the grace of God. God does not treat us on a contractual basis. Or rather he does, but that contract is the new covenant under which he forgives our sins on the basis of the blood of his Son. We don’t get what we deserve – what we deserve is hell – but what we get instead is God himself.

But here’s the good news. Speaking the truth about God will do no harm. No-one will be damaged by being reminded that God is their heavenly Father or that he is gracious. You may not precisely identify what’s going on in a person’s heart. The heart is, after all, deceitful above all things. Often there is a process of discovery. But if you graciously speak the truth about God then you may not get it exactly right but you won’t get it wrong!

The Crosslands seminary-level module Dynamics of Pastoral Care explores in more depth the way in which the character of God influences and shapes approaches to pastoral care.

Tom Olyott