Trophies of Grace
by Chris Phillips
May 11, 2024
Categories - Timeless Truths
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Mother’s Day is a holiday like no other. Beautiful flowers, cards, and gifts seem like such small rewards for the eternal impact that these women have. Yet smiles and laughter fill the room as mothers are honored and praised. This is as it should be, for as Elizabeth Eliot once said, “There is no nobler career than that of motherhood at its best”.

For Dawn and I, this holiday has stirred up a mixture of grief and hope.  This is the first year that both of our mothers are in heaven. April Kelley, affectionately known as Nana, has been in heaven for eight years. Our sweet Mimi, Pat Phillips, joined her this past November. It is amazing how much they had in common. They were pastor’s wives and talented musicians. They were loving mothers and faithful companions. They both experienced deep suffering and pain. But, above all, Nana and Mimi were known for their rare and precious quality of submission. They embraced God’s will for their lives and this internal surrender molded in them a heart that was gentle and quiet. It was a choice they had to make repeatedly.

Every mother has experienced anxiety and frustration. The children are needy and looking to mom to “fix” everything. Tension rises when the marriage is going through a rough patch or when the responsibilities at home and at work are overwhelming. And then, difficult circumstances come or something unexpected happens.

Being a pastor’s wife brings an additional level of sacrifice. She fulfills a unique call, carries many burdens, and is often overlooked. How often has the rare vacation been cut short because of a need in the church? How often does she have to clean up dinner and put the kids to bed alone while her husband is in another meeting or at the hospital caring for a hurting family? How many times has she had to work in nursery or teach children’s church because a volunteer didn’t show up? 

Most women in ministry would declare that the sacrifices are worth it because the gospel is being preached. Nana and Mimi were happy to be in ministry, but that does not mean that their lives were easy. There are many things that a pastor’s wife and other ministry leader’s wives do that are thankless and unseen.

We knew that our moms were not perfect. There were days when they could no longer hide the disappointment and loneliness, even from their own children. But this sadness eventually gave way to thankfulness, contentment, and joy. How were they able to live this way? How can you and I follow the example of these faithful women? Peter shows us the key to lifelong growth in contentment.

…Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble. Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time: Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you. Be sober, be vigilant…But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you.” (1 Peter 5:5–10)

  1. Humble Yourself.

Literally this means to “allow yourself to be humbled.” The “mighty hand of God” speaks of His sovereign control over our lives. We can choose to submit ourselves to what He has providentially allowed, or we can resist. We can be in direct opposition to God. This pride is then in turn what God resists and opposes. When we refuse to accept God’s plan for our life, we are in reality depriving ourselves. His will is always for our ultimate good.

But he knoweth the way that I take: when he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold.” (Job 23:10)

Our moms were not just faithful in the day-to-day struggles. They were resilient when their greatest fears became realities. Nana accepted multiple sclerosis from the “mighty hand of God”. Mimi accepted ovarian cancer as part of God’s will for her life.

  1. Cast your anxieties upon Christ.

The word “care” means “anxiety that draws you in different directions.” When I don’t take time to intentionally cast away and reject anxious thoughts, I am exalting my own ability instead of trusting God. He cares. We are His concern. God is more attentive to your heart and your well-being than you could ever be.

Loving wife and mother, God sees you. Thrust onto Christ the anxious cares that are pulling you in so many different directions. Follow the example of the godly women that have come before you. They had every excuse to be anxious and cumbered about, yet they chose to surrender their burdens to the Lord.

Cast thy burden upon the LORD, and he shall sustain thee: he shall never suffer the righteous to be moved.” (Psalm 55:22)

  1. Choose to dwell on the right things.

To be sober means to be mentally self-controlled. Scripture teaches us that we can choose what we dwell on. There are always true, honest, just, pure, and lovely things that we can call to mind. When anxiety or fears threaten to hold you captive, allow the truth to set you free by thinking on these things.

Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.” (Philippians 4:8)

April Kelley and Pat Phillips loved the Word of God! They spent consistent time in Scripture, and it was their source of strength and stability as they served alongside their husbands. Inevitably that would blossom into praise through their music which resulted in a harvest of joy. Nana’s last days on earth were filled with singing and laughter. The peace and joy that filled her room surpassed all understanding. I had the privilege of reading Scripture to Mimi several times in the days and hours leading up to her death. Hearing the reading of the Word that she loved immediately calmed her body and spirit. This was not a new occurrence. It was a natural response since she had treasured God’s Word her entire life.

  1. Constantly be receiving God’s grace.

Dawn and I saw sincere joy on each of our mother’s countenances throughout the most difficult of circumstances. We heard it in their responses to the people that they loved and served. We felt it in the songs that they sang. These memories are constant reminders that, no matter how perplexing our circumstances may become, God’s grace is real. We saw it in Mimi and in Nana. Their legacy should be celebrated and honored.

And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” (2 Corinthians 12:9)

“The most liberating act of free, unconditional grace demands that the recipient give up control of his or her life.” – Tim Keller

What is God calling you to do today? Will you trust God and humble yourself under His Almighty Hand? What anxieties can you thrust onto Christ? How can you draw deeply from the grace of God?

Only the humble heart embraces all of God’s plans.

Only the humble heart can experience the all-sufficient grace of God.

Mrs. April and Mrs. Pat carried music with them wherever they went and there was always a song on their lips. The hymn, “He Giveth More Grace” was one of their favorites. Someday, we will sing praises to God with our mothers for eternity. But for now, we will hold this melody in our hearts and cling to God’s grace no matter what comes our way.

He giveth more grace when the burdens grow greater,
He sendeth more strength when the labors increase;
To added afflictions He addeth His mercy,
To multiplied trials, His multiplied peace.

His love has no limits, His grace has no measure,
His power no boundary known unto men;
For out of His infinite riches in Jesus
He giveth, and giveth, and giveth again.

Chris Phillips

Chris Phillips

Chris and Dawn were married in 1989; they have been blessed with four children and seven grandchildren. Their journey in full-time Christian ministry has taken them from Georgia to South Carolina, Costa Rica, Cuba and the Dominican Republic. Through the ministry opportunities God has given them over the past thirty years, their passion has been to see souls saved, solid churches established, to encourage church leaders, see marriages restored, parent-teen relationships healed, child-rearing methods improved, and generations impacted by solid, biblical counseling of the fundamental truths of God’s Word. Chris and Dawn are graduates of Pensacola Christian College where Chris also received his MS in Education. Their passion for Biblical counseling led them to pursue certification through the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors (ACBC), and Chris is currently pursuing his Doctorate in Biblical Counseling. They are eagerly anticipating how God will use Selah International Counseling Ministries to make a difference in the lives of God’s servants and advance the Kingdom of Christ. ” Now unto Him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us…Unto Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.” (Eph. 3:20-21)

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