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The Crook in the Lot

Trusting in the sovereign will of God
This sermon is part of the sermon series "Ecclesiastes". See series.


One of the first people that I hope to meet in heaven is the Scottish theologian Thomas Boston, who was the subject of my doctoral research in church history. I admire the man for the depth of his theology. Jonathan Edwards said that Boston's work on the covenants distinguished him as a "truly great divine." I also admire for the breadth of his writing: twelve thick volumes on almost every doctrine of the Christian faith, taught from every book of the Bible. I admire Thomas Boston even more for his faithfulness as a pastor over twenty-five years in the same rural parish. But I admire him most of all for his perseverance through suffering.

Thomas Boston was a melancholy man, prone to seasons of discouragement in the Christian life. He was often in poor health, even though he never missed his turn in the pulpit. His wife suffered from chronic illness of the body, and most likely the mind. But perhaps the couple's greatest trial was the death of their children: they lost six of their ten babies.

One loss was especially tragic. Boston had already lost a son named Ebenezer, which in the Bible means "Hitherto hath the Lord helped us" (1 Samuel 7:12). When his wife gave birth to another son, he considered naming the new child Ebenezer as well. Yet the minister hesitated. Naming the boy Ebenezer would be a testimony of hope in the faithfulness of God. But what if this child died, too, and the family had to bury another Ebenezer? That would be a loss too bitter to bear. By faith Boston decided to name his son Ebenezer. Yet the child was sickly, and despite the urgent prayers of his parents, he never recovered. As the grieving father wrote in his Memoirs, "It pleased the Lord that he also was removed from me."

After suffering ...

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Philip Ryken is president of Wheaton College in Wheaton, Illinois.

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Sermon Outline:


I. Good days, bad days

II. Two dangers that lead to destruction

III. Why God allows suffering

IV. The Shepherd's crook