Friday, September 3, 2010

"...As Bro Larry Brings Us the Message."

“Hot Off the Griddle of Heaven.”
Pastor and Mrs Varnell did all they could to encourage us young college “preacher boys.” Their little church in a nearby town provided many opportunities for us to speak at their meetings. I remember one special occasion when Pastor Varnell called me and said, “You boys come and preach this Sunday.” Usually one of us would deliver the sermon, but on a couple occasions we did a “tag team” message, dividing the time up between us. On this particular occasion Pastor Varnell was letting us decide who would address his congregation.

Our circle of aspiring ministers consisted of Larry, Lonnie, Mike, George, and me. On this particular Sunday, however, Larry Rodeffer and I were the only ones able to attend the meeting. On our drive to the church I turned to Larry and asked, “Do you have the message?” He shook his head and said, “No, Billy. I don’t have a thing. Do you?” Very confidently I replied, “Yes, Larry. I’ve got the message.”

We arrived at the church, went in, and took our seats on the platform beside the pastor. I began looking through my Bible, doing some last minute preparation for the sermon. Larry was sitting there relaxed with his Bible lying on the seat beside him.
When it came time for the sermon, Pastor Varnell walked up to the podium and said, “Bro Billy and Bro Larry are with us this morning, and one of these boys has a message ‘hot off the griddle of heaven.’ ” He turned and looked at us, and I gave the signal that I would be the one he should introduce.

I walked up to the podium, read a few verses from Luke chapter 4, said a prayer, and then looked out at the congregation. But to my great horror, my mind went blank. I had preached from those verses many times, but this time I could not find the message. As I began to mumble to the congregation I thought to myself, “Oh Lord God, how am I going to get out of this? I have read the scripture and said the prayer.” Once you do that you are into the message. “But I have nothing to say. What am I to do?”

A brilliant idea came to mind. I paused a second, and then with renewed confidence and peace, I looked at all those people and said, “You all remember what I have said---as Bro Larry brings us the message.”
I then went to my seat and sat down, looking at Larry with that “innocent” guilty look on my face.

Without saying a word Larry looked at me in a mild shock, and very slowly picked up his Bible and walked over to the podium. He laid his Bible on the pulpit, opened it up, and then slowly looked back and stared at me for about three seconds with that questioning look of surprise and shock still on his face.
He then gained his composure, told the congregation to turn to the chapter where Jesus healed the woman with the issue of blood, and proceeded to give one of the best sermons he had ever given.

“Brother Larry” did have the message. I did not. And though Larry had not planned to speak at that particular moment, he drew from the resources of his life of prayer and study and gave a message that really did turn out to be “hot off the griddle of heaven,” as Pastor Varnell had promised in his introduction. Larry was the only one there who knew I had been rescued from a predicament. His success overshadowed my mistake.

Mistakes are part of growth .
We must be willing to make mistakes and to stumble in order to learn and grow. It takes faith to be willing to take risks. Peter spoke up and was wrong a few times, but learned in the process. In the Bible we see men of God moving in great success, accomplishment, victory, and accuracy in the things of God, yet we also see them in failure, missteps, and errors of judgment. Why is it that we have difficulty seeing ourselves on either end of this spectrum? We are shocked to think that we can experience and participate in the same successes as those men of the Bible. We also are shocked and discouraged when we find ourselves in the same types of mistakes and failures. Too often we are content to stay in some path of mediocrity and safety where we do nothing great and make no major mistakes. We even think this is where we belong. But that is not real life as God intended for us. God meant for us to learn and grow. And to do that we need to be willing to take risks in our walk of faith.

Likewise, leaders must not be afraid for people to make mistakes. Often church leadership is afraid to create an atmosphere where people can take risks, especially in the things of the Holy Spirit. They are afraid people will become strange and spooky or get into some eccentric and crazy behavior. Therefore, they prohibit people from stepping out and taking initiative. My philosophy has been that church members should have freedom to speak up and “step out”, as long as they give the leadership and their brothers and sisters permission and liberty to correct and instruct them in the process. This atmosphere of freedom and love where people are comfortable attempting obedience, unafraid of failure, yet loyal to truth, teachable, and willing to be corrected rather than indulged or rejected is what we see in the relationships of the twelve disciples in their walk with Jesus and each other. This same atmosphere is good for us also. Training and growth require the freedom to stumble and slip a bit.      ---Billy Long


Dena Sim, Tucker, GA said...

Billy, I continue to love to read your blog. It never ceases to amaze me when God "ties my tongue" because He has another plan. That happened one morning when I was teaching Sunday School. I had my message prepared, but then went on a blank. As it turned out, there was a class member that needed that time for some prayer and reassurance. We are so often preparing against failure that we do not allow God to move freely. Great message!!

Bobble said...

"Too often we are content to stay in some path of mediocrity and safety where we do nothing great and make no major mistakes." That caught my attention. Seems like I'm hearing that a lot lately. I told my wife the other day, "There's got to be more the Lord wants, that I want, than this." Paul said, "I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me." That's my prayer. Lord, forgive me for settling for mediocrity and safety. Thanks Billy.