This retro-article is applicable to October “Pastor Appreciation Month.”
I could just see the top of his head from my sanctuary pew. He was sitting in the pulpit chair. I had no idea what his role was in the funeral. Someone sang a hymn, then, another spoke briefly about the deceased and cited Scripture from God’s Word. There was more singing.
But, at the appointed time, the gentleman in the chair rose, and moved toward the pulpit. He was elderly in years, slightly bent, and deliberate in his steps. Yet, there was an authority in his presence.
He laid down his big Bible, and he opened it like he was intimately familiar with its contents. The Bible looked user-worn. I leaned over to Terry and whispered, “That’s my kind of Bible!”
It became clear that this man was the Preacher of the moment. A spiritual power was apparent in his countenance, and my spirit was stirred in me. There is something divinely and uniquely impressive in a man called of God to preach the Word.
With a voice clear and distinctive, he spoke as though he knew very well the man who had died. But, he moved decisively to uplift the Lord.
The circumstances of the funeral were sad, said the Preacher. However, the opportunity was present to exult in the blessed hope of Jesus Christ. We could rejoice because a way had been prepared, he proclaimed. It was the only way, he insisted, that had been prepared through the Death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ.
The were several who echoed “Amen!” I called out as the authoritatively preached Word filled my heart with passion, “Tell it, Preacher!” In that moment, the Preacher proclaimed the Word to lift our eyes to Heaven’s higher plane. The hope of Heaven gives the saved the hope of eternal reunion on the other side, he said. I felt tears making paths down my cheeks, for it is a hope onto which I hold. I have loved ones in Heaven, too.
The Preacher proclaimed the promise of God’s Word for a new body in Heaven. In a powerful gesture, the Preacher stepped back from the pulpit and open his coat slightly to suggest that his aged, 88 year-old frame would someday receive a new body like the Lord’s. Such comfort it gave to the family to know that their loved one who had previously suffered in the body now had a body immune to disease and death.
I thank God for men called of God who preach the truth of God’s Word. In those moments of proclamation, they have the awesome task and burden to speak to the people on behalf of Almighty God. It is a dynamic and holy exchange that goes on during the delivery of a message from the Book. The hope of the saints depends on it. The eternity of the unsaved is affected by it. The morality of a people is guided by it. The demonstration of the Spirit and of power is manifested in it. Preaching is that critical experience whereby our faith is strengthened to stand, not in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.
Men called to preach possess a passion. They possess a passion for God. They are motivated by love for Jesus Christ. They burn inwardly with the drive to declare God’s truth.
Church, if you have a man who preaches the fundamental truths of God, respect the man, not for who he is, but for what he does. You see, the man called to preach is a man put on the spot. It prevails upon us to consider the strain that weighs on the preacher. The preacher is situated between the hostility and rebelliousness of human nature, and the demands of God’s holy expectations. But, a man whose heart burns for God is virtually oblivious to the former, and dedicated to the latter.
Thus, the Preacher, that 88 year-old dynamo for the Divine, concluded his message. I did not realize it at the time, but, he, in fact, had been preaching the funeral service of his son.
As the Preacher sat down, I was too moved to utter another “Amen.” But, I heard Terry whisper through her own tears, “Bless you, Sir.”
Appreciate the Preachers, for, “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that brings good tidings, that publishes peace; that brings tidings of good, that publishes salvation; that says unto Zion, THY GOD REIGNETH.”
The Rev. Ron Branch is pastor of Faith Baptist Church in Mason, W.Va.