I was like a cat on a hot tin roof. I couldn't sleep and found myself pacing in the small motel room. I could not believe how uptight I was as I prepared for the church service in which I was to give the sermon. There were countless times in my life when I stood before groups of God's people to teach His Word. What on earth was the big deal this time? It was not like there was going to be a thousand people in that church.
The time was early June in 2006, a full 20 years since I had last taught the Word of God publically. I was not the same man I was in 1986. I was much older and wiser, but I was also acutely aware of why 20 years had gone by since the last time I was allowed to present the Word of God in public. I had messed things up royally and the ministry which had provided the forum for me to teach had basically dissolved. I was left in a weakened and confused state with nowhere to teach or preach. I had no credentials, no referrals and nothing to verify that I had the ability or knowledge to give even one sermon.
Yet, in spite of (and perhaps because of) these things, God had opened the door for me to stand before a group of His people in Silver Creek, Mississippi and present His glorious Word. Unlike so many times for so many years when I took for granted the whole idea of teaching/sharing God's Word, I was incredibly aware of the awesome honor I had been given and with all of my heart I had one prayer; please don't let me mess this up.
I had prepared a simple message on the joy of giving and how through our giving, God provides for His people. This was a message I could give in my sleep because I had done it so many times. Yet, as the hour approached for me to actually give it, I was nervous and found myself questioning my ability. I was fighting the same fight I used to face in Junior High whenever I had to give a book report. For years I would get so uptight and anxious that my teeth would chatter and I would stutter. More than once the teacher would have to sit me down because I froze and stood there as a statue in front of a room of giggling teenagers. Oh how I was praying that Sunday morning that I would not make a fool of myself and my God.
The time finally came when I had to stand up before the packed church (word had spread that a white man was giving the sermon that day and everyone wanted to hear what he had to say) and speak the words I had loved to say but had not said for 20 years; please open your Bibles to... It was hot and muggy that Sunday morning and every stitch of clothing on me was soaked with perspiration. I felt myself starting to shake and knew that if I didn't stop it right then, I would regress into stuttering and then shutting down. It was the moment of truth within me. Would I rise up and believe that God had indeed opened this door for me to present His Word, or would I cower in fear and make a total fool of myself.
I took a deep breath and totally trusted God that HE would give me the strength, wisdom and ability to bless His people. Suddenly I was filled with incredible peace, the sweating ceased and when I opened my mouth, the words just flowed with no stress or strain. For the next 30 minutes, with God's help, I managed to make the people laugh and near the end, bring them to tears. God had His way that day because I allowed Him to speak through me instead of me depending on natural ability. As I prayed at the end of my message, I was filled to overflowing with thanksgiving and humble gratitude for the opportunity God had given me to once again do what I love the most in this life which is to teach His Word.
After the teaching, the pastor thanked me and they took a special offering to be used for sister Sylvia's ministry. Later, the pastor told me that there was more money in that offering than anytime in the history of the church. When we allow God to speak through us, His Holy Spirit moves people's hearts and amazing things take place. That Sunday morning, God managed to provide for His children as they gave from their hearts. That Sunday morning, God managed to prove to me that He still loved me and had great things in store for me to do for Him. That Sunday morning, God managed to break down the walls of fear, suspicion, hatred and prejudice. In the course of one glorious Sunday morning nine years ago, God proved to all with eyes to see and ears to hear that He is bigger than our doubts, greater than our fears and stronger than our weaknesses. God worked and His people were blessed and at the top of the list of blessed people was me.
Although I stood before many churches and groups over the next year, I never have publically taught God's Word since June of 2006. Whether I ever have the opportunity again, I do not know. What I do know is that if God needs me to bless His people, I believe I can do it just as long as I trust Him and allow Him to speak through me. I will forever remember that Sunday many years ago as one of the great turning points in my life and one that blessed me personally more than I could ever communicate in a blog.
When my teaching career ended due to health issues, I figured I was finished as a teacher. No, I will probably never stand in front of a classroom again but God let me know that a teacher is who I am whether it is formally or simply one on one. When God calls us to do something, He call us to do that. The delivery method or audience might change but that makes no difference. God never puts people out to pasture. Never. I'm glad He doesn't!
This blog has brought back memories of my time as a pastor, some painful and some happy for my last time in the pulpit was August 1985 and at the time I railed against God for this happening and in jest people called me 'another washed up pastor.' Which I began to believe was true. But God in his grace and wisdom has led me here - I can relate to the en powering of God as I am not a natural speaker nor writer/blogger either but God is so good.
Thanks for the blog it has meant much to me.