Thursday, February 17, 2011

What Makes it all Worth While

I received a card this week from a friend. I have received many cards over the years, and have appreciated every one. There have been thank you cards from funerals, visits, baptisms, and sermons. There have been birthday and anniversary cards, holiday wishes and more. At one time I counted over 2,000 get well cards I had received through my battle with cancer. I HAVE BEEN BLESSED WITH CARDS! But I have never received a more meaningful card then the one I received this week.

Sometimes your life in preaching does not work out just like you had planned (welcome to life in general). We recently moved from our wonderful congregation in Lawrenceburg to another wonderful congregation in Cookeville. Anytime you leave one work to go to another - the hardest thing to leave behind is people! I am talking about relationships and dear friendships. The people you leave behind have become the most important people in your life.

Preachers have some special blessings that most elders will never experience. Because elders in the church do not shepherd enough as a whole, the blessings that come to shepherds are usually deferred to preachers. People that you have sat with in hospitals, or studied the Bible with into the late hours of the night...people you visited when they welcomed a new baby into their family - will appreciate you and love you in a special way. You baptized them. You conducted their family funerals. You married their children.

While there are times that elders have frustrated preachers because they were primarily "business meeting" elders, every preacher would also admit that they are thankful that people love them as their preacher in a special way for the shepherding they do.

The man who sent me the card is in his 80's. When I first came to town, this man had been worshiping in this congregation for 50+ years, but he had never obeyed the gospel. When his Christian wife contracted lung cancer, I began to spend a good bit of time with them. At the end of one visit, after we had prayed for her, I asked this man if there was anything I could do for him...He said, "Well, you can take me down to the church building and baptize me!" We could not get there fast enough! God had worked on his heart for many years. Preachers had come and gone and they had worked on his heart with the gospel message. His wife, through her silent but humble obedience to God's will, had worked on his heart by example.

I will never forget that day. I got to call his two Christian sons down to the building, so they could see their father, nearly 80, be baptized into Christ. They had to get over the shock first! But they were so thankful to God.

When the baptism was over we gathered to pray. His wife asked to be restored as well. I remember as he sat down on the front pew, he let out a loud sigh and his shoulders dropped about 2 inches. He said, "I should have done that a long time ago."

Within a year's time, his wife passed away from lung cancer. For the next 7 years I enjoyed being his preacher. He was always there. He was always happy. He was always singing!!! A simple and soft spoken man, he never communicated much. But I knew that we loved each other. And that was enough.

I left that congregation a few months ago. But he found my new address, and I received his card in the mail. Inside, the card had these words, written by the manufacturer:

"I always thank God for you..." ~ 1 Cor. 1:4. "I just got to thinking how blessed I am to have a friend like you. All the thoughtful, loving things you do mean more than words can say."

He did not write anything in the card himself. He just signed his name at the bottom. He didn't have to write anything. I understand exactly why he sent it.

You see, it does not matter how many times people ridicule you for what you preach. It does not matter how many times people question your activities or your motives. It does not matter how many false accusations may come. It does not matter that people sometimes misread you, misrepresent you, or misuse you.

All that matters, is that there will be people in heaven one day because you loved them enough to help them get there. The costs cannot be compared with what can be gained.

I have a special friend in Lawrenceburg, TN. We have touched each others' lives. God's providence brought us together. This is what makes life worth living. This is what makes everything I experience in ministry worth while.

"Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another." ~ 1 John 4:11

1 comment:

  1. Good article, Jeremiah. I wish you the Lord's best as you begin your work at Willow Avenue!