Everyone needs a verse of Scripture to call his own. Here is mine.
Old Job was having a time of it. After the death of his children and the loss of his wealth, disease racked his body, leaving him covered with sores. Then, three friends showed up to comfort him–with accusations and blame. He needed a defense attorney and got instead three prosecutors!
The first speaker begins to set Job up for a fall. He’s going to accuse him of having sin in his life which has brought the judgment of God. But first, he reminds him of the way God has used him in the past.
“Your words have stood men on their feet; you have helped the tottering to stand.” (Job 4:4)
Tell me if that is not one of the finest attributes one man could ever pay another. It has become something of a goal for my preaching, that my sermons would be so filled with life and faith that the falling and the fallen would hear and stand up again and get back into life.
What power words have…
It was Monday and I was headed for Alexandria, three hours away, for our annual Louisiana Baptist Convention due to get underway at 5:30 that evening. I’ve made the drive from our New Orleans home so many times–Interstate 10 through Baton Rouge to LaFayette, north on Interstate 49 to Alexandria–that I needed a change of scenery. That’s why I took highway 190 out of Baton Rouge, through the sugar cane country toward Opelousas, then north on 71 to Alexandria.
In the little town of Bunkie, I came upon a gasoline war of sorts, with service stations selling their stuff for $1.75 a gallon. I stopped to fill up and noticing the time, asked the attendant, “Where’s a good place to eat around here? A plate lunch.” He said, “The Bailey Hotel. One block past the light, then left one block.”
The sign in front says the Bailey was built in 1907, although the building has that fresh, springlike appearance like someone has just sunk some money into this place. Inside, I was the only diner in the restaurant, unless you counted the happy chattering of the Lions’ Club on the other side of the partition. As I sat there eating the special of the day, a little white-haired lady entered the room and began rearranging flowers. She greeted me and said something, and in a minute she was standing at my table telling me about the Bailey Hotel.
“I told my son not to buy this place three years ago. But he bought it anyway. And we’re glad. We love it. Although we need to get the word out on the rooms. These 30 rooms could use some customers.”
As a child of the Depression, Jim Lancaster was poorer than most of us can imagine. When a church in his neighborhood announced they were having a vacation Bible school for two weeks, and at the end, each child would receive a free popsicle, Jim determined to attend. He had never actually tasted a popsicle, but he had seen them, and in 1930s Florida, anything cold and refreshing was a welcome treat.
Little Jim did not miss a day. Then, on the last day, the worker gave the children God’s plan of salvation. “You can be saved,” she said, “by praying and asking Jesus to forgive you of your sins and come into your heart.” She added, “If you want to do this, get up right now and come with me now. However, you will not get a popsicle.”
Out of over 200 children, two boys came forward, Jim being one of them. Years later, both of those boys became preachers of the Gospel.
Barry is the treasurer of his church. A few days ago, he sat in my office and told me of the financial trouble his church had found itself in. They are running some thirty thousand dollars behind their million dollar budget. I said, “Do you have unpaid bills?” “No,” he said. I said, “And your church is without a pastor?” “Right.” I said, “Friend, you don’t have a financial crisis. Your church is doing just fine. Besides, you’re going to get a new leader. The offerings will go up once he arrives and begins his ministry. Stop worrying.”
On the other hand, a new pastor told how his church is not responding to his sermons on stewardship. “In fact,” he said, “the Sunday after I preached on giving, the offerings actually went down. I’ve been in the pastorate a long time, but never had that happen.”
I said, “I think I know what happened.” He was all ears. I said, “Not all churches are alike. Some have members with deep pockets. When the church gets behind financially, the pastor brings it to their attention, and they bring in the money, and the crisis ends. However, I’ve known your church for many years. You don’t have wealthy people. So, they’re not going to be able to respond immediately to your stewardship lessons. But just stay the course. Keep telling them. They’ll come through.”
My friend Windy Rich had had a demanding week. When he arrived at church that Sunday morning, the associate pastor met him at the door and asked him to read a passage of Scripture in the worship service. Windy scanned it hastily, then, assured that he knew it, walked to the pulpit and intoned, “He that humbleth himself shall be exhausted.”
I’ve been thinking about fatigue lately. Not enough to exhaust me, you understand, but still…
What started it was finding an old journal and going over some notes on one of the busiest days of a long pastorate. It went something like this…