10 June 2008

A Great Joy That Fills the Heart of a Gospel Preacher/Teacher

I arose early on Sunday morning because where I was scheduled to preach was over a hundred miles from my home. As I drove down the interstate highway I could not help but observe the beauty of the Lord’s Day morning with the sky so blue and the trees so full of green foliage. From time to time as I drove down a county road I saw beautiful flowers and some promising vegetable gardens that soon would be laden down with fresh produce. The drive was most enjoyable and even relaxing at that time of the day.

I eventually arrived at my destiny and went inside the church building in this south Alabama city of Brewton . I soon met old friends and was introduced to new friends who are members of this congregation. After the evening assembly a young father introduced himself to me. I asked his last name again because I recognized not only the name but the city where he informed me he had lived previously. I asked him his parent’s names and immediately I knew who he was when he told me that their names were James and Linda Barron. I looked at him and told him that I not only knew his parents but his grandparents.

Standing by him was his beautiful daughter which I supposed to be about twelve years old. I moved along side her and gave her a hug and said, “Let me tell you about your ancestors.” In actuality I was looking in the face of the fourth generation of the Jesse and Magdalene (Mary) Miller family. I was moved with deep emotions when I remembered the story of this family that obeyed the gospel many years ago. But before I progress in this particular story I must relate to you what transpired the following Wednesday evening when I spoke at the College Avenue congregation in the city of Enterprise, Alabama .

One of the first people I saw after entering the building was Brenda Miller Penn, the aunt of this small girl’s father I met on the previous Sunday night. You see, Brenda is a daughter of Jesse and Mary Miller and the twin sister of Linda Barron who is the grandmother of the small girl. Brenda then introduced me to her daughter and husband and their small children. As you can perceive, there is a real story about to unfold in this article.

It was in the winter of 1965-66 that the good church in Elba, Alabama where I was then preaching, heard about the Jesse Miller family that was in dire need of help because the husband/father had been seriously injured while working and was unable to provide for his family. Of course the Christian brothers and sisters supplied the needs of the family and because of the kindness and love manifested toward this family a door of opportunity was opened to study the Bible with them in their home. My good friends and brethren Roy Fuller and Harris Winston (now diseased) studied with the family and I also encouraged them as they were contemplating giving their lives to the Lord. It was on Sunday morning, January 30, 1966 that I had the wonderful privilege of immersing Mary, the mother, along with the children, Jerry, Brenda and Linda into Jesus Christ for the remission of their sins. Because of the unusually cold weather (24 degrees) for south Alabama and the serious injuries Jesse had sustained, we waited until Tuesday, February 2 to baptize him.

The members of the Elba church soon fell in love with this wonderful family. Jesse continued to mature in Christ as well as the rest of the family and later he became a deacon in the local congregation. Several years later Jesse died and Mary and the family moved some thirty miles north of Elba to the city of Troy . There they became active in the work of the Lord’s church. As the years passed by the children all married and had families of their own. Some members of the Miller family moved to other locations but one thing that stands out in my mind is the faithfulness to the Lord of the children and grandchildren and yes, even the great-grand children of Jesse and Mary Miller.

As Christians we should never underestimate the good that can be accomplished when we assist individuals and families who are in need with the necessities of life. The apostle Paul wrote in Galatians 6:9, 10: “And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith.” In this life we may never fully realize the full measure of good done by the kind and benevolent acts that are shown toward others. And remember this, “For God is not unjust to forget your work and labor of love…” (Hebrews 6:10).

The decision by the Jesse Miller family to give their lives to Lord over forty-two years ago determined the direction that the future generations would travel; that is, obeying the gospel of Jesus Christ and living for Him. God has allowed me to live long enough to bear witness to this truth as I continue to meet members of this good family, even to the fourth generation. I could not help but think of what the apostle John had to say about a similar situation as found first of all in 2 John 1 when he was writing to “the elect lady and her children…” He expressed himself as recorded in verse 4: “I rejoiced greatly that I have found some of your children walking in truth, as we received commandment from the Father.” Then in 3 John he wrote to his dear friend Gaius. He expressed himself in this manner: “For I rejoiced greatly when brethren came and testified of the truth that is in you, just as you walk in the truth. I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth” (Verses 3 & 4).

As a gospel preacher of more than fifty years I can truly say that one of life’s greatest joys is to know of the faithfulness of people who I have encouraged to give their lives to the Lord. I am mindful of the deep feelings that Paul expressed for the church in Thessalonica as found in I Thessalonians 3:7-9: “(T)herefore, brethren, in all our affliction and distress we were comforted concerning you by your faith. For now we live, if you stand fast in the Lord. For what thanks can we render to God for you, for all the joy with which we rejoice for your sake before our God…” Our young preachers and teachers should learn that while we do the planting and watering it is God who gives the increase (I Corinthians 3:6). The harvest of souls may be soon or later but it will come. Learn to be patient. I close with these thoughts from Psalms 126:5, 6

“Those who sow in tears, shall reap in joy,
He who continually goes forth weeping,
Bearing seed for sowing,
Shall doubtless come again with rejoicing,
Bringing his sheaves with him.”

1 comment:

Nancy Hood said...

This was touching!