The message seems clear: doctrine doesn't help in bad times. That sentiment is opposed to everything I believe about Christianity and ministry. I imagine the same scene as above, a parishoner calling the pastor, explaining he has cancer and a week to live, and asking "so what were those 4 steps to a victorious happy life?" It immediately reminded me of a post that Jay Bennett wrote a while back. Bennett wrote about an experience to explain about how to measure success in Christian Ministry:
I was out of the office one afternoon making hospital visits with pastor Ron Williams. We visited a long-time member of PCPC at a rehabilitation hospital. He was an elderly man, probably in his 80's, suffering from an intestinal blockage. He was weak, confined to his bed, and had been near death multiple times. As a former lawyer, he was a man of many words. Several times he expressed his appreciation to us for just being there to listen to him talk. As we listened, I was struck by the joy this man had. Even in the midst of great suffering and the imminent threat of death, he had a sweet spirit of thankfulness and gladness. He was content in Christ.
As we left his room that day and walked back to the car, I remember telling Ron what an encouragement it was to witness God's work in this man's life. I believe very few people reach the latter stages of life and endure that level of suffering with contentment. Most become bitter and depressed. This man's joy in the midst of great suffering was a clear testimony of God's unassailable love for him. This is ministerial success: contentment in the midst of suffering. It is reserved for those whom God has chosen to inseparably unite to his Son by faith.
As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:36-39).