It was a very cold day the last Sunday in February, 1969, in Saratoga, Arkansas. The wind was blowing hard and the sky was a dreary grey. The ground was covered with a light frost that morning, which made walking a difficult task.
I had begun preaching for the Negro brethren in October, 1968. They did not have a preacher and were unable to support one. Therefore, through mutual agreement, I began preaching for them. We met at 9 a.m. in order that I might have time to get back and teach a Bible class and preach for the congregation which was supporting me for my work as an evangelist.
As I got up and began to get ready for services, I thought of the hardship that would soon be facing me. The hardship was the coldness of the church building. It would not be properly heated. The overcoat, which I wore over my suit, would remain on me throughout the entire service and still I would be cold. As I preached, my breath would freeze. Although I knew this would happen, I wanted to preach for them because I felt as Paul did, “. . . for woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel” (1 Corinthians 9:16)
As I drove up to the building a few minutes before 9 a.m. that Sunday, brother John Olden came walking toward the church building. As I proceeded to enter the building, I thought about the great faith, and the great love for God, this man must possess. The hardship of preaching in a cold building was nothing compared to the sacrifice and effort that this child of God had made in order to worship his Creator with God’s sons and daughters.
What was so amazing about seeing this brother at services that morning? It was not because he was present. In fact, it would have been unusual if he had not been present. The amazing thing was that this brother, in the Lord, had walked nearly two miles through the woods, without even the benefit of walking on a road or a path. In spite of the distance, the coldness, the treacherous ground, and his age (you see, he was probably 80 years, or older, this brother was present with the saints. He loved God with all his heart and demonstrated that love in his life.
Oh, how foolish our excuses must appear to Him who sacrificed His life for us. Now, what was your excuse for not assembling with the Lord’s children in order to worship Him? You have an automobile to ride in, and it has a heater. Why were you late for services? This brother had to have left his house around 7 a.m. to have arrived before time for worship service.
Are you willing to pay the price of discipleship? Are you willing to deny yourself and take up your cross and follow Him? (Matthew 16:24)
(from Present Truth – Don R. Hastings)
Guardian of Truth XXVII: 17, p. 521
September 1, 1983