FORT WORTH, Texas (BP)–Decades ago when T.W. Hunt was about to become a leader at a boys camp in Spain, he asked God to give him the type of biblical faith Paul, Timothy and Peter possessed.
“I expected to get zapped and then drive into camp with that same kind of faith they had in the New Testament,” Hunt, author of several books about prayer, told more than 5,000 senior adults attending a national convention in Fort Worth, Texas, April 15-17.
“But it didn’t happen like that. God did give me faith, but it took years and years. And he did it by building five conditions into my life.”
“Joy in the Journey” was the theme of the fourth national Senior Adult Convention sponsored by LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention. The first national senior adult convention also was held in Fort Worth in 1987, followed by similar conventions in Atlanta in 1992 and Nashville, Tenn., in 1997.
In addition to Hunt, keynote addresses were given by Esther Burroughs, women’s leader and motivational speaker; “Prayer of Jabez” author Bruce Wilkinson; Gene Mims, president of the LifeWay Church Resources division at LifeWay; and Paul Carlisle, a professor at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Kansas City, Mo.
Hunt, author of the “Doctrine of Prayer,” “Disciple’s Prayer Life” and “The Mind of Christ,” told senior adults to “write the five conditions of faith down and put them in your Bible and pray about each one”:
1) For Christians with faith, prayer becomes their very breath. “You cannot help praying. Many times I’ve missed meals, and I hate to tell you this, I’ve even missed classes because I was praying,” said the former music professor at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth.
2) Christians with real faith see life from a spiritual perspective. “You wake up in the mornings thinking about Jesus.”
3) For Christians with biblical faith, Christ is the source of their joy. “Joy in the Bible is not happiness,” Hunt said. “When the Bible talks about joy, it talks about joy in the Lord. Most people think joy is when you get credit for good things, but let me tell you, if God gets all the credit, there will be great joy.”
4) Christians with real faith keep their eyes on the Lord, not just what they are praying for. The problem with some churches today, Hunt said, is that members don’t let God take over. They don’t keep their eyes on him. “They say, ‘We know what to do. We’re trained. We have methods, money and buildings.’ Some of the churches I go to, I even wonder if God is there.”
5) Christians with biblical faith know Jesus is real in the present. “Most of us think of Jesus in the past or future, and that is important. But the most important thing about Jesus Christ is what he is doing right now. Jesus is real right now.”
Hunt said once he realized God was giving him the faith he asked for so many years ago, he also discovered it was a package deal.
“I began to realize that along with faith came two other things I was not expecting — trust in the Lord and hope.”
Faith brings with it trust in the Father and hope in him — not just hope he will fulfill specific wishes, Hunt said.
“Hope is never followed by the relative pronoun, that,” Hunt said. “It is always hope in God, not hope that it won’t rain or that I won’t have cancer.”
A Christian falling on hard times may have a difficult time with faith and hope, he said, “but he can still trust in the wisdom of God.”
In August, LifeWay is releasing a new, nine-week, video-based study by Hunt, “From Heaven’s View.” The study, co-written with Hunt’s daughter, Melanna, discusses her experiences with cancer.
Seniors from 38 states attended the national convention, reported Larry Mizell, coordinator of the event from LifeWay.
Joyce Olroyd of Emmanuel Baptist Church, 45 miles south of Springfield, Ill., said she came with a group from Illinois, arranged through the state Baptist association.
“This is the first one of these I’ve come to, but it won’t be my last,” she said. “It’s all great, the speakers and the music. My husband and I got to meet a lot of people we haven’t met before and that was nice. We made some new friends.”
Kate Ragan of First Baptist Church, Mt. Zion, Ill., who was with the same group, said this was the third national convention she’s attended.
“I just love to see all the people. I love the camaraderie of Christian people. I love the music and the messages too,” she said.
Bill Morrison of First Baptist Church, Pensacola, Fla., drove up with a busload of 39 senior adult choir members from his church to sing in the 750-member convention choir.
“This is the first one I’ve been to, but I think I’ll keep going. It’s been a great time of enrichment and renewal,” Morrison said.
“We came to have a good time and fellowship,” said Gene Collier of First Baptist Church, Wagoner, Okla., who was with his church buddies David Redfern and Terry Jones. Ten people from the church drove in a van to get to the convention, he said.
“The messages are good and the singing is good,” Redfern said. “They are almost as good as I am,” he added to the jabbing elbows of his friends. “Naw, just kidding. They won’t let me sing anything.”
“That’s right. He can’t sing,” Jones said.
During the final session on April 17, “Joy for the Journey,” a musical drama for seniors to perform, was premiered. Published by Genevox Music Group of LifeWay, the musical was written by Esther and Bob Burroughs.
A fifth national senior adult convention is being planned by LifeWay for 2005 with a location to be announced.