MURFREESBORO, Tenn. – April 18, 2008 – Christians can have hope under even the most difficult circumstances because of a providential God, Union University President David S. Dockery said April 13 at Northside Baptist Church in Murfreesboro, Tenn.
In his first public speaking engagement beyond the Jackson, Tenn., campus since a tornado caused more than $40 million in damages 68 days earlier, Dockery told the congregation, "Our world at Union changed at 7:02 p.m. on Feb. 5. ... [W]e live each day with gratitude to God for His amazing providence that spared the lives of students that night."
Dockery also voiced appreciation for all the prayers that have been lifted up for Union.
About 1,200 students were on campus when the tornado struck. Of 51 students who were injured, only nine spent time in the hospital. Now, only one student, Matt Kelley, remains hospitalized, Dockery said.
"Everyone who saw [the destruction] within the first 36 hours said, 'It is impossible to believe that you do not have over 100 deaths,'" Dockery told the Northside congregation.
"We are indeed a grateful people. Today we are a hopeful people," he said.
Speaking from 2 Corinthians 1:3-11, Dockery noted that "God always comforts us in all of our troubles."
He acknowledged that at times "we don't always understand the events that come into our lives. I have a lot of questions about Feb. 5 and why it happened."
But as time has passed, Dockery said, "I can see things I couldn't see 10, 20 or 68 days ago." He said his experiences have helped him identify with the challenges of others. "We can empathize and sympathize. We can say, 'I understand. I've been where you've been.'
"We can be God's instruments of grace and mercy in their lives."
Dockery also observed that trials "energize us and prepare us because they provide hope that the God who has come to help us in the past will be the same God who will come to help us in the present and in the future."
Dockery cited the many challenges the Apostle Paul faced in his ministry and how he persevered because of his faith and hope in Jesus.
"When we have hope in life, we can make it through the difficult challenges we face," Dockery said.
Another thing he has discovered, Dockery said, is "that this happened that we might learn not to rely on ourselves but to rely on the God who raised the dead."
People today live in a culture "blinded by technology and our own sense of self-sufficiency," Dockery said. "We turn to prayer when it is the last place to turn. It should be the first place we go."
Dockery challenged the congregation to "put your hope in a providential God. He will carry us through and help us endure to the end."
By Lonnie Wilkey, Editor
Baptist and Reflector