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Mike Wittmer

Mike Wittmer

Mike is Professor of Systematic Theology at Grand Rapids Theological Seminary. He has written Heaven Is a Place on Earth (Zondervan), Don’t Stop Believing (Zondervan), The Last Enemy (Discovery House Publishers), Despite Doubt (Discovery House Publishers), and Becoming Worldly Saints (Zondervan). Mike and his wife, Julie, are too busy with three school-age children to have any hobbies, but he does make time to blog on theological topics here.

Articles by Mike Wittmer

Your Eulogy

My heart is full from attending the funeral of a faithful woman. Her life wasn’t spectacular. She wasn’t known widely outside her church, neighbors, and friends. But she loved Jesus, her seven children, and twenty-five grandchildren. She laughed easily, served generously, and could hit a softball a long way.

Ecclesiastes says, “It is better to go to a house of mourning than to go to a house of feasting” (7:2). “The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning” because there we learn what matters most (7:4). New York Times columnist David Brooks says there are two kinds of virtues: those that look good on a résumé and those you want said at your funeral. Sometimes these overlap, though often they seem to compete. When in doubt, always choose the eulogy virtues.

The woman in the casket didn’t have a résumé, but her children testified that “she rocked Proverbs 31” and its description of a godly woman. She inspired them to love Jesus and care for others. As Paul said, “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1), so they challenged us to imitate their mother’s life as she imitated Jesus.

What will be said at your funeral? What do you want said? It’s not too late to develop eulogy virtues. Rest in Jesus. His salvation frees us to live for what matters most.

 

Minister of Loneliness

Since her husband died, Betsy spends most days in her flat, watching television and boiling tea for one. She is not alone in her loneliness. More than nine million Brits (15 percent of the population) say they often or always feel lonely, and Great Britain has appointed a minister of loneliness to find out why and how to help.

Some causes of loneliness are well known: We move too often to put down roots. We can take care of ourselves, and we don’t have a reason to reach out. We are separated by technology—each of us immersed in our own flickering screens.

I feel the dark edge of loneliness, and you may too. This is one reason we need fellow believers. Hebrews concludes its deep discussion of Jesus’s sacrifice by encouraging us to meet together continually (10:25). We belong to the family of God, so love “one another as brothers and sisters” and “[show] hospitality to strangers” (13:1–2). If we each made an effort, everyone would feel cared for.

Lonely people may not return our kindness, but this is no reason to give up. Jesus has promised to never leave nor forsake us (13:5), and we may use His friendship to fuel our love for others. Are you lonely? What ways can you find to serve the family of God? The friends you make in Jesus last forever, through this life and beyond.

Serving the Smallest

The video showed a man kneeling beside a busy freeway during an out of control brush fire. He was clapping his hands and pleading with something to come. What was it? A dog? Moments later a bunny hopped into the picture. The man scooped up the scared rabbit and scampered to safety.

How did the rescue of such a small thing make national news? That is why. There is something endearing about compassion shown to the least of these. It takes a big heart to make room for the smallest creature.

Jesus said the kingdom of God is like a man who gave a banquet and made room for everyone who was willing to come. Not just the movers and shakers but also “the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame” (Luke 14:21). I’m thankful that God targets the weak and the seemingly insignificant, because otherwise I’d have no shot. Paul said, “God chose the weak things of this world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things . . . so that no one may boast before him” (1 Corinthians 1:27–29).

How big must God’s heart be to save a small person like me! In response, how large has my heart grown to be? I can easily tell, not by how I please the “important people,” but by how I serve the ones society might deem the least important.

When You’re Not Chosen

My friend's Facebook post announced he had finished a project. Others congratulated him, but his post knifed my heart. That project was supposed to be mine. I had been passed over, and I wasn't sure why.

Poor Joseph. He was passed over by God, and he knew why. Joseph was one of two men in the running to replace Judas. The disciples prayed, "Lord, you know everyone's heart. Show us which of these two you have chosen" (Acts 1:24). God chose the other guy. Then He announced His decision to the group, when "the lot fell to Matthias" (v. 26).

As the disciples congratulated Matthias, I wonder about Joseph. How did he handle his rejection? Did he feel jilted, wallow in self-pity, and distance himself from the others? Or did he trust God and cheerfully remain in a supportive role?

I know which option is best. And I know which option I'd want to take. How embarrassing! If you don't want me, fine. Let's see how you do without me. That choice might feel better, but only because it's selfish.

Joseph isn't mentioned again in Scripture, so we don't know how he reacted. More relevant is how we respond when we're not chosen. May we remember that Jesus's kingdom matters more than our success, and may we joyfully serve in whatever role He selects.

Living in God’s Story

Ernest Hemingway was asked if he could write a compelling story in six words. His response: “For sale: Baby shoes. Never worn.” Hemingway’s story is powerful because it inspires us to fill in the details. Were the shoes simply not needed by a healthy child? Or was there a tragic loss—something requiring God’s deep love and comfort?

The best stories pique our imagination, so it’s no surprise that the greatest story ever told stokes the fires of our creativity. God’s story has a central plot: He created all things, we (the human race) fell into sin, Jesus came to earth and died and rose again to save us from our sins, and we now await His return and the restoration of all things.

Knowing what has come before and what lies ahead, how should we now live? If Jesus is restoring His entire creation from the clutches of evil, we must “put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light” (v. 12). This includes turning from sin by God’s power and choosing to love Him and others well (vv. 8–10).

The specific ways we fight with Jesus against evil will depend on what gifts we have and what needs we see. Let’s use our imagination and look around. Let’s seek out the wounded and weeping, and extend God’s justice, love, and comfort as He guides us.

Adopted

I’m glad when a philanthropist builds an orphanage for homeless children. I’m thrilled when that person gives even more and adopts one of them. Most orphans would be delighted merely to have a patron. But then to learn the sponsor isn’t content merely to help me but also wants me. How must that feel?

If you’re a child of God you already know, because it’s happened to you. We couldn’t complain if God had merely loved us enough to send His Son that we might “not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). It would be enough for us. But not for God. He “sent his Son . . . to redeem” us, not as an end in itself, but “that we might receive adoption to sonship” (Galatians 4:4–5).

The apostle Paul refers to us as “sons” because in his day it was common for sons to inherit their father’s wealth. His point is that now everyone who puts their faith in Jesus, whether man or woman, becomes a “son” of God with equal and full rights of inheritance (v. 7).

God does not merely want to save you. He wants you. He has adopted you into His family, given you His name (Revelation 3:12), and proudly calls you His child. You could not possibly be loved more, or by anyone more important. You aren’t merely blessed by God. You are the child of God. Your Father loves you.

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