Torrey Conference Blog
Day 3 - Friday
By Samantha Aviles
It is Friday, the third and final day of Torrey. But it does not feel like it. Typically by the last day of a conference, students have gotten in all their credits and are taking advantage of a long weekend by getting off campus. Usually Fridays are much less crowded, but not this year. The gym was filled to the brim; students were packed three rows deep on the floor in front of the stage while students in the bleachers are encouraged to squish as tightly together as possible to make room for everyone that has come to hear Francis Chan.
Yes, the gym was hot; made even worse by the sweaty bodies pressed so close together. Yes, the bleachers are horribly uncomfortable and after an hour and a half I’d lost most of the feeling in my lower backside. Yes, I am fighting a cold and was slightly drowning in my congestion the entire time, but all of that didn’t matter. Francis spoke from his heart with his eyes fixed on the beauty of Christ, his words bringing Biola students face to face with the reality of this life and to our Glorious Savior in the midst of it all.
He reminded us of 1 Peter 4:12 which says “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.” If we are living this life for God, we should expect suffering. Nowhere in the Bible are we given the example of someone who followed Christ and lived a safe and comfortable life.
John 15:18-19 was a verse that I held onto growing up, and yet somewhere along the road I seem to have forgotten its message: “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.” Where did we get the idea that we can be seeking God’s glory with all we have and not expect the enemy of our souls to try his hardest to thwart us? Chan encouraged us to even desire suffering because it is in that suffering that we are nearest to Christ, saying that the Holy Spirit is a comforter, and why would those who are comfortable be in need of comfort.
My hearts most fervent prayer is that I may stand and be able to truly echo with everything in me Paul’s words in Philippians 3:8: “Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ.” Oh that my fickle heart, depraved mind, and wayward soul would see the fullness of life, the sweet beauty, and the awesome glory that are in Him and long for that always! Brothers and sister, join me in searching out the greatness of our God and fixing our hope and indeed our very lives in who He is and proclaiming his wonder to the world!
Day 2 - Thursday
By Patricia Diaz
“Christians are not liars,” said the Rev. Adrian DeVisser at tonight’s session, “but we sing lies.” I didn’t want to admit the truth of that statement, but the conviction was real. We sing about God’s sovereignty and our love for Him. We beg Him to inhabit our hearts and touch our lives. We say he is the only thing that matters. But we don’t really believe it. We don’t really act on it. And I know that in my life I have been ignoring millions and millions of suffering people, choosing instead to stay within the comfortable and seek only my own small ambitions.
I sat in my seat in the gym tonight staring down at the stage – at the passionate Sri Lankan preacher, pacing back and forth. I was struck by the certainty that here was a man who felt God’s pain for the broken world around us. For the colonies of “untouchables,” for the widows, the orphans, and the millions of children involved in the sex trafficking industry; for the unthinkable number of people who will go to bed tonight without a meal; for the lives that are slipping away to a hopeless eternity each second even as you read this post; for all who are marginalized and forgotten. And as I sat in my seat, I began to cry.
In that moment, I was overcome by my selfishness and utter unworthiness of the boundless love of Christ. That he chose me to be saved from among millions and millions! Most of all, I was shocked and horrified by how blatantly I ignore a suffering world. As the Rev. DeVisser cited statistic after statistic, I found myself instinctively trying to close my ears and mind. I did not want to understand the evil they communicated. I was just waiting for that part of the talk to be over so I could get on with the real business of my spiritual growth.
But as he continued on with story after story, the depth of his compassion for people I don’t even want to think about broke through. I could not push away the world’s pain any longer and instead found it crashing in and invading my own heart.
I realized that all my life I have spent closing myself off to suffering. I don’t want to experience the emotions that come when you stare into the face of evil. I don’t want to feel that pain. Instead, I reject it.
I need not look far to come across people who are hurting. The facts are there, available for anyone to see. But as DeVisser reminded us, compassion is not just feeling sorry for someone. It is not an emotional reaction, but rather a conscious choice of intentionally committing to care for others — and being willing to pay the price for that caring.
It all comes back to Christ and what he did on the cross. We can suffer and share in each other’s suffering because he endured more pain than we can imagine. We can care because Christ cared first. We can be a comforting presence in each other’s lives because he is always there in ours.
As both Kay Warren and Adrian DeVisser touched on, choosing to bring hope to people who are suffering connects us to God’s heart. When I cry, when my heart is broken and I allow myself to feel hurt for others, I am coming into closer fellowship with Christ. In opening up my heart to the pain of others, God opens up His and pours his compassion into my life.
We cannot possibly sacrifice any more than God did for us already by giving us Christ on the cross. With God we can make a difference in this broken world, DeVisser encouraged us.
“Do you want to make that difference?” he asked us. “If so, please stand.”
I rose to my feet with everyone else in the gym, tears still streaming down my face.
“I hope you understand what you’ve just done,” he said with a serious smile.
I may not. But I do know that God is working. Without a doubt the hymn “The Solid Rock” has been the definitive song of the conference this year. As I sing the refrain again, as we have dozens of times over the past two days, I can sense that he is making me a little less of a liar:
On Christ the solid rock I stand
All other ground is sinking sand
All other ground is sinking sand
Day 1 - Wednesday
By Bethany Vigil
Suffering is a pretty hard topic to talk about. It’s heavy and, let’s just say it, depressing. When I heard about the Torrey Conference, I didn’t know what to expect. I knew it was going to be like chapel, but I didn’t think that anything exciting was going to happen.
I had a hard time focusing at the first session by Dr. Tremper Longman III. I didn’t see how suffering could have applied to me. It was just going to be for those who were truly hurting and suffering, not a college student who was just getting adjusted to being at a new place. So I sat there and tried to listen as best I could.
I decided to go to the reflection time. I figured I should attempt to clear my head and speak to God. It was helpful, but I just didn’t really feel any different. So I was prepared to go to the next one more focused and determined to hear God speak to me. Unfortunately this too was hard for me to focus on. I remembered Kay Warren talking about how we have to find the treasures God hides in suffering and darkness. In spite of my attempt to get something out of the second session, I went away disappointed. I had still yet to understand how suffering could apply to me and how I could even get anything out of this conference.
For the third time I entered a session, thinking that I shouldn’t even attempt to get anything out of it. But this time it was different. Kay Warren talked about how we can suffer together, and we shouldn’t be alone. This caught my attention; I personally am a huge fan of empathy, weird as that sounds, so I became more attentive. It wasn’t until the end that I felt God touch my heart.
Some students went on stage at the end, and we got to see how God moved in their life through their suffering. It was amazing to see that suffering isn’t limited to death or huge tragedies you go through, but it can also be in insecurities, depression, little things we deal with. God broke me then and there because I knew I was under that category.
I didn’t realize that suffering can come in so many different ways. If I learned anything from today, it’s to not put suffering into a box. We all are suffering, whether it’s big or small.
Through my brokenness, I sought after God. I looked for him and his comfort, and during the extended worship they had, I actually was able to sense God’s presence for the first time in a long time.
I know that I can’t expect things to be just as awesome tomorrow, but I can expect God to speak to me in a new way. Having him make me vulnerable and speak to me today just opened up more opportunities for tomorrow and the rest of the conference. It was definitely an amazing way to start of the Torrey Conference and end day one.