Who Will Fill Their Shoes?
The passing of 1995 has claimed the lives of several faithful servants of Christ. We mourn their passing and honor their memory. Among those who have gone to their reward this past year the following immediately come to one's mind: Paul Keller, Leslie Diestelkamp, and Jody Copeland.
I have had limited contact with each of these men but have highly esteemed them for their work's sake. They were conscientious men who lived the gospel they preached and sacrificed to serve their Lord. We think of them just as John wrote, "Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth: Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labours; and their works do follow them" (Rev. 14:13). While we miss them and their contribution to the Lord's work, we are confident that they are among the blessed dead because they died in Christ. We pay our tribute to them for a well run race and a hard fought battle. These men endured the battle over institutionalism without being embittered and continued to serve as builders in the Lord's service. We commend their good example.
A greater question hangs over us, "Who will rise up to take their place?"
We are confident that the providence of the Lord will continue to watch over his people. Every time there has been a need for a great leader, he has raised up the man for the job. He raised up Moses to deliver his people from Egyptian bondage, Joshua to lead them in the conquest of Canaan, fifteen judges to deliver his people from encroaching enemies, the kings, and the prophets.
In the church, he raised up twelve men to serve as apostles through whom the word of God was revealed. We admire the faith of Peter, John, Paul, and the others. We read in our New Testaments of outstanding men of faith in addition, such as Barnabas, Timothy, Epaphroditus, Luke, and many others.
As we leave the pages of inspiration and turn to our memories of men who have served in our country, we think of several spiritual leaders: Thomas and Alexander Campbell, Barton W. Stone, Jacob Creath, Benjamin Franklin, David Lipscomb, J.W. McGarvey, T.W. Brents, and many other early leaders. As we weathered the storm of institutionalism, we admired the contributions of men such as Roy E. Cogdill, Luther Blackmon, Franklin T. Puckett, and others who have gone on to their reward. We think of several who still living who have made an outstanding contributions: H.E. Phillips, Cecil Willis, Connie W. Adams, James Cope, and many others whose names I have not mentioned, although their contribution are not insignificant. We have witnessed in our lives how God has raised up men for the occasion needed who are willing and able to do his service.
We have complete confidence that the Lord will raise up leaders for his people today, just as he has in past times. Mordecai expressed such confidence when he exhorted Esther to step forward and do her part to deliver the Lord's people from Persian destruction. He said, "Think not with thyself that thou shalt escape in the king's house, more than all the Jews. For if thou altogether holdest thy peace at this time, then shall there enlargement and deliverance arise to the Jews from another place; but thou and thy father's house shall be destroyed: and who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this?" (Esth. 4:13-14). Just as God raised up leaders in the past, so will he today. The more relevant question is this, "Am I willing to make myself available to his service?"
Here are some things that a person needs to do to make himself available:
1. Prepare himself. The preparation that needs to be made begins with absolute conversion to Christ. There can-not be any recesses of one's heart in which he holds onto some pet sins that he conceals from others. Rather, he must cleanse his heart of every defilement of sin. Without complete and genuine repentance, there can be no true service.
There are skills to be learned. A person must study to know the will of God, be able to speak in order to pro-claim, grow in wisdom to use his knowledge most efficiently, and such like things. We need men who are willing to make the sacrifices of their time, money, and lives to prepare themselves to the Lord's work.
2. Make oneself available. Isaiah manifested that spirit. The Lord asked, "Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?" Then Isaiah said, "Here am I; send me" (Isa. 6:8). There are sacrifices that must be made and things that must be endured as a soldier in the Lord's service. We need men who are willing to make those sacrifices.
3. Accept whatever job he gives you. Where one is called to serve may not be the place he wishes to be. One may think that his place in the Lord's kingdom is to preach for a congregation of 300-400 people, to teach in a college Bible class, or to publish some great book. He may feel disappointed to begin his work preaching to 20 people in an isolated corner of the world. Accept wherever the Lord sends you and do the best work you can possibly do for him at that place.
I have only moved to one church that was larger than 100 people when I got there. The largest congregation I have ever worked with was less than 200. I know of other men who have worked in harder places than I have ever had and I have truly admired their dedication, zeal, and perseverance. I honor them because I know the difficulty of working in small places. I also know the thrill of seeing small congregations grow into larger ones through the blessings of God.
Remember the words of Jesus as he told of the lord blessing his five talent servant in the Parable of the Talents, "His lord said unto him, Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord" (Matt. 25:21).
4. Depend on the Lord. The Lord's servant will need to rely upon his Lord. There are days when the battle's victory cannot be seen, when hope seems futile. David said, "Trust in the Lord, and do good; so shalt thou dwell in the land, and verily thou shalt be fed" (Psa. 37:3). "I had fainted, unless I had believed to see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living" (Psa. 27:13). Trusting and relying on the Lord, the servant of God will persevere in his work. Even when he is suffering, as Paul was in the Roman prison, he could say, "Rejoice in the Lord and again I say, Rejoice" (Phil. 4:4).
There are many other things that one could say about pre-paring to do the Lord's service. The question is that asked by E.E. Hewitt in the song, "Who Will Follow Jesus?"
Who will follow Jesus, Standing for the right, Holding up His banner In the thickest fight? Listening for His orders, Ready to obey,
Who will follow Jesus, Serving Him today?
Who will follow Jesus? Who will make reply,
"I am on the Lord's side; Master, here am I?"
I cannot fill the shoes of any one of these men who have departed. But I can put on my own shoes and make them available to my Lord. There is a place to serve in the kingdom, a place left empty by those who have gone be-fore us. Are you ready to step forward to make yourself available to his service?
Guardian of Truth XL: 2 p. 2