A couple weeks ago I wrote a post about George Muller and explained that, among those Christians of the past, he is my biggest “hero”. I admire his commitment, faith, sacrifice, and discipline, and I try to emulate it.
I also have heroes among those who are alive today, and I want to talk about them this morning. My biggest heroes among those who are still alive, and the two people who have affected my spiritual growth the most, are my parents.
They have served God unswervingly for fifty years. They have “walked the talk”, both publicly and in private. The man you saw preaching behind the pulpit and the woman you saw teaching a Sunday School class were the same people you would see if you dropped in unexpectedly at home to eves drop on home life.
My father began looking for God when he was in the Air Force during the Korean War. He was the crew chief for a bomber maintenance crew and had shown such an aptitude for the work that he was promoted rapidly and became the youngest such crew chief in the USAF.
While he was stationed near Savannah, GA, for some training, he and a buddy decided to find out more about God. He remembers going to church throughout his childhood, but never having been presented with the Gospel, so now he was determined to find out what it was all about.
He and his buddy first went to the largest church in Savannah, figuring they were the largest so they must know the most about God. It didn’t work out that way. It was a dead service, and they didn’t learn anything that day.
The next week, they went to a small country church on the outskirts of town. At this little Baptist Church he heard the first clear presentation of the Gospel in his life.
Praise God for the little country churches! Praise God that “bigger” and “more” does not always mean “better.” Praise God for people who are faithful in “little” positions, “little” towns, and “little” churches.
When my father was transferred back to the Whiting, MO, Air Force Base, one of the first things he did was to look for a church. He chose a little Baptist church out in the country. The first Sunday he went there, he was surprised to hear the preacher talk about that very same Gospel he had heard about at the church in Georgia. There he surrendered himself to Jesus and was Saved!
A short time later, an evangelist came along to hold nightly preaching meetings, and the young people in the church divided into groups to have a competition to see who could bring the most people to the meetings. My father’s group stopped at a farm in Knobnoster, MO, and invited a young woman to church. In 1956, shortly before my father was discharged from the Air Force, they were married.
The young married couple moved to my father’s native state of Maine after his discharge. Despite the opportunities my father had to make tremendous money from his Air Force training, he surrendered to God’s call on his life and they moved back to Missouri where he attended Bible college. Before graduating from college, he was already pastoring a little country church, driving 70 miles one-way every Sunday to get there.
In the following decades they ministered at eight churches throughout Missouri and Maine – all of them “little” country churches – seeing the hand of God move strongly virtually everywhere they went. I say “they ministered”, because although my father pastored these churches, his work would have been virtually impossible without my mother by his side. Every pastor knows exactly what I mean by that. In every church they went to, my mother served in a multitude of positions: Sunday School teacher, pianist, choir member, event organizer, nursery worker, cleaner, cook, counselor, and much more.
They always served in “small” churches, often having to work an outside job in order to make ends meet. They kept on ministering through every trial and challenge. They kept ministering when the treasurer at one church embezzled thousands of dollars and my father’s own salary check from the church was returned from the bank – and he had to go weeks with no salary at all. They kept on ministering through health crises and family crises. In the good times and the bad, they just kept on.
Through all of it they modeled Christ before the church, the community, and their family. It’s one thing for a church to call its pastor blessed, or for the community to hold him in high regard, but when his own children – those who see who he really is and what he really believes every day – rise up and call him blessed, that’s something indeed! My parents lived Christ before us, through the good and the bad.
I never realized how hard that was until I was married and had kids of my own.
Today they are retired (though no preacher ever really “retires”), but only because of health reasons. They have no retirement package and no stash of cash. That’s not what they have labored for all these years. Yes, they could have! My father could have stepped into the aeronautics industry right out of the Air Force and retired with a nice pension plan. He had many other opportunities along the way that could have allowed him to accumulate large amounts of money and this world’s goods, but he didn’t. He stuck with his calling, and that’s one of the things I most admire about him.
How tempting it must have been at times to go out and earn some “real money” instead of living on the pittance most churches paid. Instead, they persisted in serving God at times and in places where others would have given up or moved on to something “better.”
And, even in their retirement and with health problems that come with age, they are some of the most active and devoted members of the church. They are the ones you can depend on seeing at church every time the doors are open. It takes a whole lot more than a little sniffle, TV program, or nice sunny day to keep them out of church. The last time my father missed church was because he was in the hospital. I don’t remember when my mother last missed.
They are my heroes, above all other men and women who have walked this earth. They gave their lives as a living sacrifice that others may be blessed, grow, and be led to eternal life through Jesus Christ, and they did so happily, never regretting a moment of it and never complaining about anything they “could have had”.
What I have told here isn’t even the half of it. If I have one tenth the Spirit that is on them, I will be a success.