By Bill Cavender
Jehovah had told Moses that he could not bring Israel into Canaan (Num. 20:12). Joshua, Moses’ friend and companion, a younger man, would lead the people into that promised land. “But Joshua the son of Nun, which standeth before thee, he shall go in thither: encourage him: for he shall cause Israel to inherit it” (Deut. 1:38).
I suppose preachers are more keenly conscious of the brevity of life, the certainty of death, that “one generation passeth away, and another generation cometh,” than are others. Being associated and working with aged and infirm people, with the sick and sad and sorrowing, being present at death, and conducting funerals, and burying the dead impresses us continually how “swiftly we’re turning life’s daily pages.” In all facets of life the older gives way to the younger, and as we do we should be trying to build bridges across the tempestuous chasms and streams of infidelity, worldliness and ungodliness which would hinder and hurt those who come after us.
Years ago I heard the statement made that “God had one Son and He was a Preacher.” This was in 1947, not long after I had made a decision to give my life to preaching the gospel and had already begun preaching-a decision I have never regretted and from which I have not consciously deviated from that day until now. If the Son of God was a preacher, such work is bound to be the highest and noblest calling of man. No life could be fuller, richer and more rewarding in so many ways. In spite of all the puns, pokes and jokes at and about preachers, the world’s most important men are faithful preachers. The work they do is the world’s most needed and necessary work. It still pleases God “through the foolishness of preaching to, save them that believe” (1 Cor. 1:21; 15:1-4). The gospel is still the power of God unto salvation (Rom. 1:16). No man ought ever to feel inferior or afraid, discouraged or dejected, because he is a preacher. Our weaknesses are glaring at time, especially to ourselves when we examine our faith and our lives by His will and way regarding preachers and preaching. Yet if a man preaches the truth of Christ, lives the pure life God demands of us, and has a love for and desire to save the souls of lost men, then God will bless him. He will be the most useful man in the community, nation and world-whether the brethren or the world understands that or not.
I do not believe the work and preaching of a gospel preacher changes with time. What the apostles of Jesus preached and how they preached it, what and how the pioneer preachers in our own country preached, what the faithful, older preachers of our own lifetime preached, is still what the world of sinful men and the saved ones in God’s kingdom, the church, needs now. Gospel preaching is still comprised of study, learning, memorizing, teaching, preaching, praying, working and living godly in Christ. Jesus and His apostles set the pattern for us, both in what to preach, how to preach it, and how to live it. This is still our task in this present evil world (Gal. 1:4).
There are several things, more than others, which have encouraged me as a preacher to “keep on keeping on.” I would like to share these with fellow preachers and other brethren, especially men who are younger than my fifty years and who may be beginning their lives as preachers of God’s will.
Our greatest joy and encouragement is that deep, heartfelt satisfaction experienced when we hear and see a soul born into God’s kingdom, saved from sin, a child of God through faith and obedience to the gospel. We should never lose our zest for lost souls, our desire to teach and save them. This is our great work above all else we may do, to save souls by preaching. To teach a person the truth, to see faith created and obedience from the heart accomplished, still brings to me the deepest satisfaction I experience in this life. One soul is worth more to God than the totality of all His creation; worth more than every piece of gold and silver ever spent by all men for all time; it cost the life of the Son of God Himself. The worth of one life to God, the fact that it took the only sinless life ever lived to redeem it, should ever be in our minds as we preach Christ to the lost, striving to bring them to Him who can and will take away sins. To see one born again is still to me the most compelling factor in my life as a preacher. “The love of Christ constraineth us” to save souls should be an abiding principle to every preacher.
Closely akin is the joy experienced as we see a soul developing and growing in the grace and knowledge of our Lord. We who preach are specialists in the world’s greatest work, building souls for eternity. A preacher deals with those intangible matters of the soul as it wrestles with the problems of living in a sinful world. We are constantly building into God’s temple people who will be “gold, silver or precious stones,” or “wood, hay, stubble” (1 Cor. 3:10-17). If our work and preaching be true, we who preach shall receive a reward. Even if our work is not saved at last, we still shall be saved (1 Cor. 3:14-15). I have now preached long enough to see both kinds of my own work in God’s temple: some who are abiding faithful, growing, walking in truth and holiness, going toward heaven; and some have apostatized, become defiled and corrupted again, walking in error and sin, going toward hell. Yet, even with the latter, if we scripturally tried, the reward shall be ours although some of our work perishes. When a soul we have taught and influenced for good by God’s will and by our lives is prepared for heaven, there is no greater joy. I have preached many funerals of people who died in hope of eternal life with God because of some influence that I, along with other gospel preachers, had with them to direct their lives into righteous paths. To see them in heaven forever will be joy unspeakable.
Another tremendous encouragement I have had as a preacher has been the love, goodwill, generosity, hospitality and kindnesses brethren have shown me and my family through the years. Yes, I have made some enemies. That seems to be unavoidable, no matter how hard we try or how sincere we are to wish it otherwise. We should never deliberately try to make enemies of anyone. If we have any, let them be for the truth’s sake. Jesus, our Saviour, had more enemies than friends in His lifetime and we will not do any better along that line than He did. But a true preacher will be genuinely loved, appreciated and respected by good, sincere and devout brethren. A preacher, more than any other member of God’s family, understands the meanings of Jesus’ words: “There is no man that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my sake, and the gospel’s, but he shall receive an hundredfold now in this time, houses, and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands, with persecutions; and in the world to come eternal life” (Mark 10:29-30). This has been literally true in my life. I have blessings a hundredfold, with fathers, mothers, brothers and sisters in God’s family all over this nation and the world. Their houses and lands are mine to be enjoyed and used. They share hearts, homes and hearths with me and mine. Generosity of brethren has been overflowing toward me. I believe it will be the same with every faithful preacher if a man will be conscientious, sincere, appreciative, pure in life, clean in habits and sound in doctrine. He will have unlimited opportunities for preaching, work and service. He will never get around to doing all the preaching, studying, writing and work that comes his way.
Many preachers lose their optimism and interest in their work, cease to study and pray, get side-tracked by business endeavors and pleasures, become bitter because of problems and reverses, or become opinionated or hobbyistic in their preaching. Then they wonder why it is that opportunities for preaching and service begin to dwindle. A preacher ought to inspire others to want to be Christians and to be the very best Christian possible. Our life should be one of joy and happiness, contentment and inner peace, thanksgiving and appreciation in service to Christ and our fellowman. When this is true of a preacher, his work will be fruitful, he will be appreciated, and his influence for good will abound. He will be a blessing to the world, to brethren, and he will be blessed a hundredfold.
The last encouragement I would set forth to younger preachers is that “hope of eternal life, which God, who cannot lie, promised before the world began” (Titus 1:2). Our preaching includes continually “the hope which is laid up for you in heaven . . . ” (Col. 1:5). If there is any man among brethren who has a clear view of heaven, of dwelling in the Father’s presence forever, it should be the gospel preacher. We cannot create a desire for heaven if we do not possess it. We cannot show the way if we are not traveling that way. To keep in our minds, when older or younger, that we shall receive “a crown of life” will be one of the greatest incentives to press on toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus (Phil. 3:13-14). We must never lose sight of death, eternity and heaven. A preacher should really want to go there.
Young preacher brother, you are a soldier in God’s army, a worker in His vineyard, a builder in His temple. Never turn back. Fight the good fight of faith all your life. Work, and your labor will be rewarded. Build true to His will and the church will be a well-ordered, beautiful structure. Your eternal success is assured by God if you be true and pure. Your sorrows and setbacks will be stepping-stones to higher ground upon the eternal plains of bliss and gladness in heaven. God will use you, by the preaching of His word, to save those who believe and obey the truth. You are the most important man in this world to lost sinners. Never betray your trust. “Guard that which is committed unto thee” (I Tim. 6:20).
Truth Magazine XXI: 12: pp. 186-187
March 24, 1977