I’m at the age now where this happens almost weekly. A little foretaste of Heaven.
In Glory, they’ll be coming up saying to you, “Do you remember that lesson you taught?” That prayer you prayed. That offering you gave. That note you wrote. That sermon you preached. That witness you shared.
“Well, that’s why I’m here. God used it in my life.”
And you will be stunned.
Makes you want to be more faithful today, doesn’t it? More generous, more prayerful, more loving.
Here are five foretastes of glory I’ve had recently…
One. In a bookstore, a man introduced himself and thanked me for something I did over 30 years earlier. He said, “You counseled a college girl not to have an abortion. I was the father. We married, and that child is now our 32 year old daughter and the joy of our lives.” He said, “I’ve remembered your name all these years so, if we ever met, I could thank you.”
I had pastored for 19 years in Mississippi when I was a young adult, but after an absence of 30 years moved back here in the fall of 2016. I was beginning to learn of the fruit of those earlier years.
A few weeks later in a grocery store, a man approached, introduced himself and said something almost identical. Then he said, “Our baby was born handicapped and lived eleven years. But every day, she was the most precious thing in the world to us.”
I said to both men, “You know I don’t remember anything about this.” That was all right, they said. They understood.
I said, “But I hope you’ve got the right minister. I do want this on my record!”
Two. The chairman of deacons where I was leading a retreat told the entire group of a little thing I had done many years earlier, which God had used in his life.
It was news to me.
Back then I’d been slightly injured in a traffic accident and he was the insurance agent for the other guy.
I had been riding with the mortician in the funeral home car returning from the cemetery when we were broadsided by a pickup truck running a stop sign. My head broke the dashboard, resulting in a deep gash and a permanent scar. I got a ride to the hospital in the emergency vehicle. The deacon telling the story said, “I was the insurance agent, and in those days not going to church anywhere. You were the pastor of the First Baptist Church. I remember how you made no demands, how easy you were to work with. And you asked if I thought it was possible for the insurance company to replace your glasses which had been broken. That’s when I decided you were the real deal. You were not trying to soak the company for all the money you could get.”
“Not long after, I started back to church.”
Three. Yesterday a friend in Texas sent a note to say he is retiring next month from the church he has been serving some years. A generation ago, he sent a note to say he was on the staff of another church in Texas. I hear from him every twenty years. What makes that special is that he is the product of an area-wide youth rally I started fifty years ago while serving my first church out of seminary in Greenville MS. Charles Treadway belonged to a church 20 miles away from town, but when we started the once-a-month rally–basically a youth-led worship service that rotated among our Baptist churches–he quickly became one of the leaders. He found for the first time that God could use him in a leadership way, and out of that, God called him into the ministry.
I told him to find Bruce Morgan, a staffer at the great St. Martin’s Episcopal Church in Houston TX. Bruce was also a teen in Greenville during those days and came into his own in leading the other youth in the rally. Both men, I humbly say, give me far too much credit for God’s call upon their lives. But I gladly rejoice in these outstanding men and what the Lord has done through them over this half-century. A foretaste of glory divine.
Four. Over fifty years ago, Karen was a teenager in my seminary church. She ran across something I’d written recently and contacted me from Longview, TX. Karen remembers a dozen things about me and my ministry, all of which God used in her life. She has served God faithfully all these years, I’m so happy to say. These days, she’s battling cancer and needs our prayers. I rejoice in this young lady.
Five. Attending a funeral in a church I pastored exactly half a century ago, I met lots of teenagers all grown up and grown old (i.e., retired, greying). A lady I did not recognize introduced herself. “Over 50 years ago, when I was the mother of three small children, you visited in our home and led me to Christ. Thank you.”