By Shannon Baker
BALTIMORE (BP) — An overflow crowd of more than 1,200 women examined God’s sovereignty during the 60th annual Southern Baptist Convention Ministers’ Wives Luncheon, held June 10 during the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention in Baltimore.
The luncheon featured speaker Priscilla Shirer, author of several books, including “One in a Million,” “The Resolution for Women” and most recently “God is Able.”
Shirer is the daughter of Tony Evans, senior pastor of Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship Church in Dallas. Evans grew up in a row home just 10 minutes away from the Baltimore Hilton, where the luncheon took place.
In her message, Shirer shared a familiar passage about the fisherman and future apostle, Simon Peter, as detailed in Luke 5. Peter had just invested his time and energy into fishing all night but was coming up empty, Shirer said.
“A large number of you know how it feels to invest your time, … yourself … into a ministry, a marriage, … and you feel quite discouraged because you are coming up empty,” said Shirer, of Going Beyond Ministries in Cedar Hill, Texas.
And yet, even though Peter was frustrated, tired and irritated, Jesus saw him, Shirer said.
“Your God sees you,” she said. “He knows all about your fishing trip” and sees “all your tears,” “every bead of sweat,” and “every moment awake at night.”
Rather than giving up, Peter cleaned his nets, “which implies he had the intention to use them again,” Shirer said. “There is no rebuke for you to step aside and ‘wash your net.'”
But she cautioned against doing it alone. This passage talks about fishermen, plural, rather than fisherman, singular, she stressed.
In the biblical story, Jesus, pressed by the crowds, went to Peter’s boat and got in — an obvious contrast to Peter, who wanted to get out of the boat.
“The very thing that Peter was discouraged about was the perfect thing for Jesus to get involved in. He will use the part of your life that seems the most useless … it has not been a waste. Our greatest mess will be our greatest message,” she said, noting, “God makes useful what seems useless.”
Shirer went on to say the sovereignty of God means “He’s got it in His hands.” In other words, He is able. He’s got it.
She applied the concept of God’s sovereignty to the Luke 5 passage. “Peter was getting more and more discouraged … but Jesus was not,” she said. He knew he needed “a place to stand” in the water where His voice would be amplified for the pressing crowds who came to hear Him.
“God allowed the empty [boat] so there would be margin for Him,” she said, pointing out that He wouldn’t be able to use a boat “full of flipping, flopping fish.”
“God will put you in such a scenario on purpose … so you can see what it’s like to see Him plant His feet into the situation.”
Such was true for Peter, whom witnessed an overflowing amount of fish “after he went to the deep place with Jesus.” He was blown away by God’s goodness and provision, Shirer concluded, saying, “He wants you to go deep, too” — to show He is able.
Donna Avant, president of this year’s luncheon and wife of John Avant, senior pastor of First Baptist Concord in Knoxville, Tenn., said she had picked the theme long before she learned the name of Shirer’s latest book.
“As we were praying through the theme, Priscilla’s book was already at the printers!” she said. Each attendee at the conference received a copy of the book.
Officers for the 2015 luncheon in Columbus, Ohio, with the theme “Radiant,” are Mary Cox, of Lawrenceville, Ga., president; Charlotte Barbo of Columbus, Ohio, vice president; Audrey Davidson of Alexandria, Va., as recording secretary-treasurer; and Joanie Buster of Plano, Texas, correspondence secretary.
Next year’s featured speaker at the June 9 luncheon will be Angie Smith, the wife of Todd Smith, lead singer of Dove Award winning group Selah. He also is the author of “Mended,” “I Will Carry You,” and “What Women Fear.”
The SBC Ministers’ Wives Luncheon dates back to 1955 when two Georgia pastors’ wives realized the importance of that state’s ministers’ wives’ conference and decided that the national convention would benefit from such an organization. They made plans for a tea at the Muehlebach Hotel in Kansas City during the 1956 convention and were overwhelmed by the response.
Always held on Tuesday during the SBC annual meeting, the luncheon is open to wives of all ministers, including pastors, staff members, chaplains, missionaries and denominational workers.
Shannon Baker is director of communications for the Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress) and in your email (baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).