Altar Call – Opelika-Auburn News
January 18, 2004
People who think they cannot be replaced have made a terrible error in judgment. They are wrong. No one is indispensable. There is always someone who can do your job as well or better than you can.
I learned that personally years ago as a pastor. Once or twice I left a church figuring it would collapse without my brilliant leadership. Amazingly, every church I served has managed to do well without me.
My friend Mike Roberts took my place at Trinity Methodist in Opelika. Mike is an experienced pastor who has much to offer. Friends tell me that Mike preaches the gospel in a strong way. He is giving the church good leadership. There is every reason to believe Trinity will grow stronger under Mike’s solid guidance. In that I rejoice and for that I pray.
Many years ago I journeyed to Fairfax, Virginia, to preach a revival in a church there. My hosts urged me to bring my wife, Dean. It was a good thing I brought her along. After preaching one sermon, I collapsed and was rushed to the hospital where I spent the next week recovering from a bleeding ulcer.
Dean stepped up to the plate and preached in the remaining four worship services.
She did such a good job that the pastor said, “You really did our church a favor by getting sick; the people have loved Dean’s messages.”
That was not the last time Dean has filled in for me. One year I was scheduled to preach at a conference retreat at a time when we faced difficult problems with our sons. We agreed that I was needed more at home with the boys. Dean drove alone to Blue Lake, on a dark, stormy night, and gave a powerful testimony. Once again our friends shared their joy that I had been detained so that Dean could take my place.
I thought about all this as once again I have been unable to go preach in the Conference Men’s Retreat at Blue Lake. My son Tim and I were scheduled to share the platform. The theme this year is “Fathers and Sons.” Our plan was that Tim would offer a brief testimony and I would bring the sermon.
When it developed that I could not go, I called Tim and asked if he could take on the assignment by himself. There was a long pause. Then Tim said, “I will talk to the Lord about it and let you know.”
A couple of days later Tim gave me his answer. “Dad,” he said, “I believe the Lord has given me a message for the men, and I am willing to offer it.” My heart leaped with joy.
At the retreat Tim told the men, “I am not a preacher; I am a forester. I had been planning to share a brief sermonette, then let Dad deliver the power punch. When Dad told me he could not go, I realized I had to find some meat and potatoes for my little talk. With the Lord’s help, I have put together a message that I believe God can use as a blessing to us all.” He proceeded to deliver a message that I believe was more powerful than anything I might have offered. The report of my friends confirmed this for me, and my heart was melted by their response.
Like Jeremiah, Tim is a weeping preacher, though not a prophet. He cannot share five minutes without reaching for his handkerchief. By that time the people in the audience are reaching for a Kleenex of their own. Tim’s emotional response to the work of God in his heart is quite contagious.
When someone takes your place, you can react with resentment, anger, grief, or joy. I am convinced the only wise response is joy, even when that does not come easy. As I look back over my life, I remember that my reaction to being replaced was not always a joyful one.
That I now regret. I realize that I need to celebrate my opportunity to be anywhere, no matter the brevity or length of my time there. Such an attitude opens the heart to joy. While no one is indispensable, we can nevertheless enjoy our work while we have it, and learn to rejoice when someone else takes our place.
One thing about choosing joy is that no one can rob you of it, and it tastes so much better than grief or resentment. Today then I am rejoicing as I think of family members and friends who have taken my place – and done an excellent job in their own right. + + + +