I found out earlier today that R.C. Sproul is now with the Lord. I was getting ready to post something on twitter and that’s when I saw the many tributes and tweets about the news of his passing. I stopped and went to the couch in my living room and read more of the tributes. I’m sure he wouldn’t have wanted me to tear up, but I did momentarily. Not uncontrollably and certainly not without hope. But with a mix of emotions, with sadness and joy. I am particularly grateful for his ministry and how God has used him to shape me over the years.
I never personally met R.C. Sproul. But I did get to talk to him once on twitter. Ligonier Ministries held a Q&A on twitter and gave opportunities for ordinary folk like me to connect with Sproul. So, I decided to chime in and ask a question.
In light of his massively fruitful ministry, I wanted to know this:
@rcsproul How do you stay humble in light of the very fruitful ministry God has entrusted you with? #AskRC
— David Qaoud (@DavidQaoud) March 25, 2015
As I’ve written before, I want an answer to this question: Is it harder to stay humble when you experience more success? I genuinely want to know if famous Christians have a harder time with humility.
I thought he would say what Christians usually say:
“Read more books.”
“Devote yourself to the spiritual disciplines.”
All of these are good answers, to be sure, and things we can and should pursue. But Sproul had something else in mind. And like a good teacher, Sproul answered my question with, well, a question. Indeed, a question I’ll never forget:
.@DavidQaoud What could make us more humble than to be a recipient of such grace?
— R.C. Sproul (@rcsproul) March 25, 2015
This is something that I think about often. In a day where many celebrity pastors fall because of pride, I’m grateful that Sproul practiced what he preached and was faithful until the end.
The Holiness of God
One of the best books I’ve ever read is Sproul’s classic book, The Holiness of God. I got a free copy from Ligonier Ministries. I was a broke college student at the time so anything that was free sounded good. I got a copy and told a friend about it. He got one too. We both read the book around the same time.
I texted my friend and asked what he thought of the book. He said something like, “I read the first few chapters and then sat in silence in my living room for 45 minutes.”
He was stunned by God’s holiness.
I read the book, and it, too, rocked my world. I can’t believe I had been a Christian for so long and had not known about God’s holiness. It is not an exaggeration to say that it is one of the best books I’ve ever read. Whenever I’m asked about some of the books that have most shaped me, I always mention Sproul’s book.
Another book that he wrote that greatly influenced me was his book The Invisible Hand. I think this is one of his more underrated books — It doesn’t get the love that it deserves. A few years ago, I was going through a tough time and had difficulty reconciling God’s sovereignty and goodness in my life. Nothing seemed to be going my way and I looked to Sproul for guidance. The book is all about the Providence of God, a doctrine that we need to talk about more in church. As I read the book, I was convicted for my lack of trust of God’s hand in my life. And even more, I was comforted to know this: God is sovereign and predestines all things that come to pass. And because he is good, I can trust him at all times, even the difficult seasons of life. Sproul helped me better understand the doctrine of God’s providence.
When I think of R.C. Sproul, one of the first things that comes to mind was his impact on Reformed theology. “Sproul” and “Reformed” just kinda go together, ya know. He was an unashamed Calvinist and so am I. But when you followed Sproul’s life, you get a sense that, while he is indeed Reformed, he is not so because of a label or a subgroup or whatever. R.C. Sproul was a Calvinist before it was cool to be a Calvinist. Instead, when you followed R.C. Sproul’s life and ministry, you get the sense that he was totally, unapologetically, and unwaveringly dedicated to the living word of God. He developed his convictions from the Word. As a Christian, I want to mimic his example: even if others disagree with me, and even if it costs me, like Sproul, I want all of my theological convictions to be from the Word of God.
I can go on and on. I’m still young, but when I look back on the Christians who have most impacted my life, R.C. Sproul makes the list.
When I sat to write this tribute, my wife asked me a question from the other room. I didn’t originally answer because I didn’t really know what to say. She entered the kitchen where I was typing. “R.C. Sproul died,” I said, as we looked at one another. She approached me and I stood from my chair as we hugged and had a moment. “You will see him in paradise one day,” she said. She’s right. This is true because, as Jesus says, “ . . . Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live” (John 11:25).
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