Hey, good morning men. I got to settle something real quick. One, I got to pull my britches up. Hey, what’s your name right there? Your hands are like that. You’re looking right at me. Yeah. So would you stand up? Scott? No, those guys. Yeah. Not you. You’re out of it. No, the other guy. Okay. You lose. You. You’re in. You’re the toughest guy in this room. Or either the stupidest guy in this room. Your face is right in the sun. Richard said you want out of the sun. John Donaldson gets his butt out of there. Well, I’m proud of you. Come up here when this is over and I’ll autograph your sunburned head. Okay?
This is like an IQ test every year. I can’t wait to see who sits at that table. Hello, son. You know, I was with the Redskins for 14 years and went through five head coaches. That’s why the NFL stands for not for long. And, and we haven’t done this in awhile, but we’re going to do it today because I like it. I’m the speaker. I get to do whatever I want. In our day, we couldn’t beat the Giants and we were always chasing the Giants and we hate New York. They’re just down the road and they’re not really even from New York. They’re from New Jersey. And, and we could never figure out why the Redskins just couldn’t beat the Giants. And so, I think I had what theologians call an epiphany, an awakening. I was at a funeral in one of these old Jersey cemeteries, like where they filmed The Godfather movie kind of funerals, you know, and a lot of people are buried in those things above the ground. What do you call those cement things? A mausoleum. You know what? You’re the only guy that said anything. That was my ninth grade biology teacher and coach right there. Norman Green. You’re smart after all, aren’t you?
You know what I remember? You used to give me like master’s degree courses in butt-chewings. Remember you were Saban and I was Lane Kiffin and he still loves me and I love him. Thanks for coming, coach. Now what was I talking about? Oh, the Giants. So I’m at this cemetery and I thought, I saw something that made me realize, people from New Jersey are just tougher than we are. They’re just tough up there. I looked over at a tombstone and engraved right there in marble, solid marble, were these words, ‘what are you looking at?’
I thought, there it is, right there, but they have something that’s very endearing. And I began to love this greeting when, after 9/11, I saw an interview with a young woman that lost her brother who was a first responder in the New York City fire department and she recalled the last time they were together and they they ran a red light in the suburb on the way into the city, and rolled down the windows, have a good day, have a good day. And they exchange pleasantries. And then right before they left she said, hey Mikey, who’s better than you? And that’s their greeting. And Mikey would go, no, you. And then they get in an argument. No, you. No, you. And so, Christ rebuked people for their lack of hospitality.
Before I speak to you today, I want you to greet each other, New Jersey style with some attitude, little accent, a little argument, and I want you to stand up and greet your brothers and say, who’s better than you? Then get in a big fight over it. You. No, you. One minute. Let’s roll. Get up.
Let’s open with a prayer. My wife sends me little devotionals. We live in Colorado now. Thirty-two years in DC was enough. By the way, Brit Hume and Fred Barnes, they all send their, I tell them about you guys, they send their greetings to you. They’re still on fire for Christ, putting Christ on the scoreboard. And that’s our definition to say His name. When you’re in a conversation, Christ said, if My name be lifted up, I’ll draw everybody to Myself. You don’t need a program. You don’t need a slick thing. Just talk about Me. And we call it, I coach all my guys, put Christ on the scoreboard. Don’t say the good Lord or the man upstairs. I personally hate that last one. The man upstairs. Say Jesus, be a man. Have some spiritual Kahunas. Just say The Name. Put Him on the scoreboard. Even if it’s a field goal, take the points, right. Anyway, Holly sent me this one. I’m going to open with a prayer and I know we, that’s kind of a little tradition and it just blows by us. But listen to this. Satan dreads nothing but prayer. His one concern is to keep the saints from praying. He fears nothing from prayerless Bible Studies. Prayerless work, prayerless religion. He laughs at our toil. He mocks our wisdom, but he trembles when we pray. Amen.
You know, you guys, let’s bow our heads, Lord, we take this prayer seriously. Prayer is the antithesis to the secular world we live in. No God, no meaning, no purpose. Prayer is the exact opposite of that. Forgive us that we don’t pray enough, that we don’t pray in slow motion. Take our time. Lord, we’re praying to You today that You would touch us. We don’t know what’s happening. Maybe You’re coming back. Maybe the whole world’s going to hell. We don’t know. We know this. Fox News can’t save us. Government can’t. Nobody can. You can. Lord, I’m just praying that every man would have a Pentecostal gift of hearing that on the day of Pentecost, people all talk about the tongues, but read it again. It said, each one heard in their own tongue and I pray You’d give every man in here a message. He wouldn’t be thinking about his work, or money -changing, or politics. Thinking about his life. Lord, I died and came back from a heart attack two years ago, and when I was in between the land of the living and the dead, no one was there. I had no Rolodex. I didn’t own a place in Colorado. I was alone walking through a dark valley. You were the only one with me. It always boils down to that. Lord, help us focus. In Christ’s name. Amen.
Well, you know, I, the further I get, because I did die and come back, my life has really been reduced down to the prime numbers, the prime note. I’m not real cluttered. Like I say, I’m not confused, but I know whose team I’m on and I know whose jersey I wear and I’m on the field. I may be getting my butt knocked off, but I’m out there. You know, if you’re on the sideline today, I want you to take a look at your life. You weren’t made to be on the sideline. Every one of you were made to be players. Some positions. God’s got a position for you. First question is, are you on the field?
Now, a lot of the stories I’m going to tell you today, some I have told here before, but I purposely retell stories because when you go through the Gospels, a lot of those parables, Christ told them over and over again. There’s a saying in coaching, and most of them I minister to refer to me as Coach Leachman or just Coach. And there’s a saying, if you don’t repeat, you’re not coaching. If you don’t repeat, you’re not teaching, Isaiah said, line upon line, repetition upon repetition. Does this bring back a memory back on the line? Let’s get back on the line for John Donaldson. Oh, John thinks that was funny. Let’s run it again. We’ve all had moments like that. So, I learned this principle. It was reinforced to me. I was an Africa training pastors a few years ago, and I went out to this guy, his name was Enoch. I went out to see his, where he lived, Idi Amin had killed his father and we were way out in the bush, and I’d been in a major towns speaking and stuff in Africa, but I never went out in the bush. And, I remember Enoch said, we were by this creek, he said, you know, a hippopotamus lives right in there. And I’m like, really? They’re like big. I kept picturing those teeth. He said, yeah, they can do about 30. I thought I can’t do 30, you know? And I kept looking at that and then he said, would you pray on this African soil? We’re praying that we could have a church for our village right here. And this man’s name was Enoch. I said, you know, you’re in the top 10, Enoch. He said, well, what do you mean? I said, he was the seventh guy mentioned in the Bible, you’re in the top 10. His wife was standing there, and this is typical of a man, he said, you hear that? Top ten, right here.
And we prayed. He wept, about one day having a little church. It was Christmas, I think it was about the 23rd. And he said, you know, we want you to eat at our house. And when we prayed, the sun went down, we went to his house. He and his wife both were educated in London, but they came back to their people in the bush. They could’ve stayed, but they didn’t. Dirt floor. And here, both of these are PhDs. And he said, pastor Leachman will bring us a Christmas message. And we walked in this house, it was night and I couldn’t see anything. They didn’t have any electricity or anything, just a little kerosene thing. You could smell kerosene in the air and when I looked in there and my eyes adjusted, his house was completely full. It was like Acts chapter 10. Cornelius, when Peter came to visit, he invited everybody in town and they were all in there waiting to hear me and I’m way over vanity because I’ve never done much in my life. I mean, I’ve been over introduced all the time because people trying to pump their program up. I got introduced as a two-year All American and captain of the National Championship team at Alabama. And I’m thinking, oh my gosh, I hope Kenny Stabler is not in the room tonight.
So he said, pastor Leachman is very famous in the United States. He will now speak to us about Christmas. And I thought, okay, no pressure there. When I looked at him, the Holy Spirit gave me the message. I knew what to say. Tell him about the shepherds. Tell them about the shepherds.
God’s about to send His Son. Almighty God. And who does He choose to announce it to? Shepherds. These humble, smelly guys. Unchurched, nomads. But boy, were they in touch with nature. They got those sheep to sleep and they were laying there looking up at the stars maybe hearing a few crickets. Now, how many would you guess? How many angels would God send to announce the arrival of His Son? Ten percent? 50? All of them? I would say all of them. Now, the power an angel has, if two of them could nuke Sodom and Gomorrah, what would all of them have? And it saidthe sky peeled back and they were praising God in the highest and these humble shepherds here. My Son’s coming, He’s on the way, the shepherd’s went, and they were the first to see the baby Jesus. They knelt and worshipped him. They were the first to worship and on the way back to their sheep, they witnessed to everybody. They were the first missionaries. They told everybody, the Messiah has come. We saw Him and we praised Him. These humble shepherds. Don’t we all need a bigger dose of humility, boys? And our pride? And our sense of entitlement today?
Well, I gave this message and apparently the Holy Spirit liked it, because the Holy Spirit blessed it and it really touched this whole village. It was like a revival broke out. They began to praise the Lord and all this. I thought this is like being in the Bible, but it’s on earth here. And when it finally settled down, pastor Enoch looked at me, and says, this message was well received. It has touched the hearts of our village. Do it again. I said, what? Do it again. I said, preach the whole sermon I just did again? One more time, please. (Laughter) And then they go ahead and announce you. So you’re like, pastor Leachman will now begin his second, you know, boy, is that different from the United States? Nigeria, you need to be all, you need to shut that down. And, you know, we just need to give our whole hearts to Christ, guys. I’m here as a witness. I died and came back. There was nothing but Jesus, nothing. Now, if you’re playing with Him today, I don’t know that I’ll be here with you all at one more roll call. This may be it for me.
Well, I’ve been praying. I’ve been on the floor this morning in the shape of a cross with my head on the kitchen floor praying for you guys that not one guy would walk out of here, not sold out, not sobered up. I don’t mean from liquor and addictions, I mean from your own pride and worldliness, where you understand all there is. at the end of the day, it’s Christ, and the day always ends.
Now, my title is, The Best of Times and the Worst of Times. In Luke 13, Christ tells a story. I mean, the Bible tells a story where some people come to Christ and go, hey, you know, these people were in the synagogue and Pilate had guys come in there and kill them. They were in church and they got a terrorist attack from, from our authority, our king, and he killed them when they were in church. What about those guys? Christ always ups the bar. He said, well, what about this, those people, 13, 16, however many were at the Tower of Siloam, and the towers fell on them and kill them. What about them? And then He said, do you think you’re more righteous than they are in? Unless you repent, you too will perish.
Now, this is the worst of times. I mean, the best of times for the people that are talking about this, their life’s going great and they’re talking to Jesus about, look at these people. Their life has become a disaster, quickly, in a heartbeat. Richard wrote a book, if you don’t have this book, it’s called The True Measure of a Man. I’ve taught out of this book all over the United States and in other countries. There was an email or something, a communique here., I’m going to read. Maybe from somebody sitting in this room today. I’m not asking for permission because it’s right here, and if something goes wrong, it’s tough crap for Richard, not me.
I’m leaving town tomorrow, but I’m so proud of Richard. Look at this ministry you’ve started. I knew you when you were a complete idiot and now you’re….
…don’t believe in miracles. Hello?
“Permit me, if you will, to ramble about some recent discoveries I’ve made in my personal life. Like many in our country, I’ve been incredibly dismayed over the last six months about the enormous depletion of the value of the stock market. The real threat, and recession, waylaying my business, and the businesses of many others, I have spent many anxious hours and sadness and worry over the tremendous loss of wealth, the loss of future business opportunities. As a Christian, I have had to ask myself, why am I in such turmoil?
I’ve come to realize that life to me is money, affluence, financial security. My faith has been uncovered and found to be very flimsy and really of no account in terms of contentment. I have asked myself, what is really so troublesome inside of me about losing my financial security? The answer has come to me recently….”
Richard, is this gentleman from Mountain Brook? Around this community here?
“I have asked myself, what is really so troublesome inside of me about losing my financial security? The answer has come to me recently in truth. Having to live without lots of trappings and wealth, travel, entertainment, security isn’t the biggest issue, although it is very disappointing. The real problem and the fear inside of me because I worry about all my wealth and privilege that I will not be considered a man. My feeling of manhood is found in all the trappings of wealth.”
That is one of the most honest things I’ve ever read.
Stop One, men. Stop putting your faith in things that can be taken away from you because they will be taken away from you. They will. These people went to church. I’m having a great day. They’re dead. These people are standing around and a tower falls on them. They’re dead. Everything’s taken away in a flash. I’m praying the Holy Spirit could get through to you right now. Then you would understand once and for all, stop putting your faith in things that can be taken away from you. You’re going to live a life of fear and anxiety, suspended animation. Stop looking for people to validate you. Stop people pleasing. They can’t validate you. They can’t.
I’ve told you this before, that’s why I keep repeating this. You know what? I’m not afraid of you guys. I don’t need your approval. Now, I don’t have a chip on my shoulder. I’m not mentally ill. I want to give a good talk and I want you to speak well of me, but if you don’t, I don’t need it. I want it, but I don’t need it. Only God can validate me. Only Christ can validate me, and being an athlete, I promise you, if you’re a high achiever, if you’re an “A” type, this is the hardest thing to learn.
If you’re a people pleaser, you’ll never know who you are because, who are you? You’re like whoever you’re trying to please, you will morph and say things they like to say. You’ll dress the way maybe they’ll approve of you. You’ll talk about topics they’re interested in and you’ll never know who you are because you morph depending on who you’re with. God will use people in your life, but we need to learn to look through people to God.
Now, Biblical repentance, Os Guinness, another one of these guys like Richard, he’s been a friend of ours in Washington for 30 years. He’s one of these guys when he talks, he’s a PhD from Oxford, when he talks, you go, I don’t know what that man is talking about, but I’m glad he’s on our team. I’ll tell you that. But he did teach me about Luke 13. He said, Biblical repentance is when your life’s going great and you repent. Remember, these people are pointing out people that catastrophes that happened to, and that could be a metaphor for a business catastrophe, a health something. What about those people? You know, religious people, if something bad happens to somebody, you know who they blame? The people. Well, I guess we saw that coming. Well, it must have been something in their life. You know, they called it in. They always blame the people. Yet sometimes, it’s not your fault at all. Secular people, when bad things happen, who do they blame? God. God’s a bad God. His job is to bless us and when we’re doing fine, His job is to disappear in the attic and leave us alone. And when we get in trouble, He needs to come back out of the attic and rescue us, or He’s a bad God, and Christ blew right past both of those things. And He looked at them and He’s looking to you and me today. And He said, no, unless you repent, you will perish. What is He talking about? And this is what Os unlocked for me. He said, you know, Biblical repentance is when your life’s going great and you repent of your sense of entitlement and self-righteousness.
You know, we have a beautiful place in Colorado and we got it because I obeyed, we obeyed, the Biblical plan for financial security. Not these stupid prosperity guys. They’re idiots. If I offend you, I don’t give a crap. They mock the poor. I’ve been with people sleeping on the ground that don’t have clean water. They’ll never be wealthy. It’s a load of crap. It’s heresy. People suffer for Christ. They’re not wealthy in the way of this world, but Os said, when it’s going good, now I’m going to tell you, we saved for 15 years, and then after that we said, okay, whatever’s in there, we’ve got to build. We build a cabin, it’s fabulous. But I have fought self-righteousness, because I had a friend who I played football with at Alabama. He inherited several million dollars. He wanted a lot more million dollars than that. And he invested it in land speculation and lost everything. And I have fought feelings of self-righteousness against him. Like, what an idiot. I’m glad I’m me. I did it the right way. You know what? I’ve just had great teachers and most of them have been from Birmingham, Alabama, raised me up in the Lord. So what’s the Biblical repentance. When I go to our little ranch in Colorado and I pull in the driveway, I’ll get down on my knees in the driveway, and go, this is stupid. Why do we even have this? God, thank you.
You know, when you’re young and tough things happen, you’re immature and you go, why me? And you’re all ticked off, bitter. When you begin to mature and you begin to see the way of the cross, when good things happen to you, what do you say? Why me? And that’s Biblical repentance and that’s what Christ was talking about. So, if you’re in a good stretch of your life, we’re wrapping up the first half of this message. You love your house. You have privileges, you have things, you ought to just drop on your knees and go, this is ridiculous. God, thank you. Now I’ve told God, now, I love this little ranch. I love it as much as any worldly thing, but you can have it back anytime you want it. I don’t care, but until you want it, and I got the key, I’m going to show up, but it’s not an idol for me. It doesn’t validate me, and I repent of my self-righteousness when I’m doing well. You know, as soon as we prosper, we start taking credit for ourself, don’t we? Instead of giving it to the Lord.
The best of times. How about the worst of times? Paul had a crisis in his life and then in II Corinthians chapter 12, there’s a classic run here. It starts out, and this is Paul speaking. He said, I know a man in Christ who 14 years ago, whether in the body, I do not know, out of the body, I do not know ,God knows, such a man was caught up to the third heaven, and I know such a man, whether in the body or apart from the body, I don’t know. He’s saying, look, you know who he’s talking about? Himself. He said, I know a man that went up to the third heaven. In those days, the first heaven they refer to was the atmosphere. Second heaven, what we would call outer space, third heaven, Heaven, Heaven. He said, whether I was actually there or in the spirit, I don’t know. God knows. I was caught up into Paradise. I heard inexpressible words which a man is not permitted to speak. Be careful about all of these, “I went to Heaven” books, guys. I’m not saying some of it or all of it isn’t true, but Paul said, I was in Heaven and, I can’t tell you much about it. I’m not allowed to say it. That was an apostle. I’m probably gonna go with Paul on this. Which a man is not permitted to speak . On behalf of such a man, I will boast, but I won’t boast except in regard to my weakness, for if I do wish to boast, I would be a fool. Paul said, God gave him a thorn in the flesh and he used an agent of Satan to do it. We give Satan too much credit. He’s not in charge. Read in Revelation. The section in Revelation where Christ finally dispenses of Satan, it’s half a verse. It’s like, that’s it. Over. Yeah, there’s a cosmic battle, but it’s not a heavyweight. It’s like that. Don’t give him too much credit. Don’t ignore him either. Just put him in his proper place. Paul had a thorn in the flesh, thorn in his side, an ache or something he didn’t want that caused him to suffer. Suffering is having something you don’t want or wanting something you don’t have. Paul asked God three times, take this away. Take this out of my life. Come on, men, have you ever had something in your life, or do you now? You agonize everyday. God, could You just take this away? And God said, no. Please? No! Please! No! I think the “no” got louder every time.
How many times did Paul pray and god “no” three times in a row. After the third one, he pivoted. That should be the title of the message today. Pivot. He said, all right, if this is from You, I’m in. That’s all I needed to know. It’s not unnatural to want something that’s painful out of your life, but if you tried everything legitimately and righteously to get out of it and you can’t, you have to pivot. Are you dead? Pivot? He said, I won’t only embrace this. I will now glory in all this distress, all this pain. I’m gonna glory in it. Is that a pivot? He became a mighty man when he became weak. You know, my kids talked me into running the Marine marathon and I’ve told you this, but this is so applicable. I’m not a runner. I’m a football player. I’m built for about 12 yards and a collision. I played linebacker. How fast were you? Not that fast. I met some people on the plane the other day. I had an Alabama visor. They saw my rings. You played at Alabama? I said, yeah. He said, what’d you play? You’re kind of small. I said, I know, but I was really slow, too.
But I was fast for 12 yards. I was what they call quick. I was as quick as anybody for 12 yards. And the good thing for me is if you didn’t get them in 12 yards, guess what? You weren’t going to get them, anyway. It was over. And, what am I talking about? Y’all get to that stage in life? You walk into a room and go, why did I come in here for?
Thank you. Was that that guy in the sun? So I said, you know, when your kids ask you, thank you for saying that, Christianity is a team sport, right? You guys got to push me. Y’all need a little more Black Pentecostal in you. Ain’t that right brother? I had a Presbyterian minister ask me down here a few years ago. I spoke to him and he said, what theology are you? You know, I never get asked that. I said, well, I’m Reformed. I believe in the sovereignty of God, but I’m also a Black Pentecostal. He just jerked like that. I am. I’ve been in NFL locker rooms for too long. They won me over. Lord, no weapon formed against you will prosper! I like being fired up guys. So, I said, yeah, I’ll run in the Marine marathon. And I trained for it for, for five months and I had a coach, Young Life guy who’d run in the Boston Marathon. He said, now, look, you’re going to run out of carbs at mile 20. You can finish, but your brain’s going to say, you’re done. And that’s going to be tough because you’re not a runner. And about mile 20, I ran out of carbs and I wanted to quit. Problem is, y’all know me. I shot my mouth all over Washington, you know, I’m running that marathon, right? Yeah. Yeah. Be there at the Iwo Jima. I’ll see you there. Come on out. I’m going to finish.
So, I thought, this is a disaster. I pulled over for my water and this young Marine, the Marines run it, and this kid, man, he had his sleeves rolled up, big guns hanging out. He’s like 6’3” and he held out my electrolytes and I went up to grab it and he wouldn’t let go, and I’m like that. Finally, I looked up at this kid and out of 14,000 people in the marathon, God has him pick me out and he looks right at me, said, Sir! So I thought, oh crap. Focus, sir! Focus! And I thought, what’d he say? Shiitaki mushrooms. How about that? And I mean, it put a jolt in me and it was rainy and cold and I looked over and his comrade, another Marine, had a sign, a wet cardboard sign that said, I accept the pain. And I thought, that’s it. They get it. Preachers don’t preach this. I’m trying to avoid the pain and it makes the pain worse. I got seven miles to go and I’m trying to avoid it. These guys are saying embrace it and it gets less. It’s a paradox. This is what Paul did. He said, if this is in my life from You, then I’ll glory in it.
What do you mean glory? I was jogging, not too long ago and God keeps sending me Marines to remind me of what Paul was talking about. It was cold and wet and I was babying myself. I was a pandy, a Pansy, or a candy, as they say, and I was just starting out, you know, and I see these two leathernecks coming my way. I mean, I got on my little Orvis windbreaker and stuff like that. These dudes got on brown t-shirts and shorts, you know, that’s it. And I’m looking at these guys and in my manly pride, I started running more erect, and I knew I was going to speak to them. I get saluted all the time in Washington because I have gray hair and I let them do it. I look, as you were, you know, I try to think up one of those things. Good day men, you know, so, I love that stuff. So, anyway, I got going and I was t[unintelligible] just at the sight of them and right when they got near me, I go, morning men. How about this weather? And this young Marine looks up and goes, where else would you rather be, sir? And I [unintelligible] I’m so glad these guys are in business. Where else would you rather be? And Paul pivoted and basically, he’s saying, where else would you rather be? I’m in the middle of a load of crap. Hooah!
I love men like that. I want to be around men like that. I want to be a man like that. Tired of being around little candies, gets a little tough and they get bitter and start whining and quit. I hate that. I don’t have that much time left. Now, I’ll play golf. I’ll be nice to you and all that, but I ain’t hanging out with you. In my discretionary time, I want to be around me and they go, God, I’m ready for anything. Let’s roll. Hooah! Why don’t you say that for me? Hooah!
No candies, please. Hooah! God, I love that. Doesn’t that just sound good, guys? Feels good, too. Paul pivoted. Are you going to pivot? I’m gonna close with a few stories. You know, after my heart attack, one of our children went into a severe, I don’t know what you call it, depression or, and, it was horrible. I know probably every one of you has had some of this in your family. You’re helpless. There’s just nothing you can do. I’ve had it with several of our children where they’ve gone through it and you talk to them and you will, you go into your bed and you wonder if you’ll ever speak to them again. You don’t know what’s going to happen.
And it was like that. And it went on for two years. Now I’m going to confess something to you. It was a thorn in the side. Well, Jerry, were you praying? Yeah, yeah. I was on the floor by my bed praying all the time. God, would you remove this? Would you heal this kid? I can’t stand this. And you know, secretly I started become resentful, but I’m too knowledgeable about how the way, the way of the cross works, so I would not say it to anyone, not even my wife, but I would feel deep in my heart, you know, if this kid wasn’t so screwed up, at this stage of my life, I’d be cruising, you know, I mean, I’m in the, I’m in the fourth quarter and, I go, I thought parenting was going to be over when they were out of college. I looked at my wife, I said, this is never going to end, is it? She said, I don’t think so. I said, I don’t like this part. It was my thorn in the flesh. Now, I’m going to tell you something. Some of you guys may be at a point in your life, where you’re thinking, everything’s going against me. I got this thing and I can’t get rid of it. Powerless.
Guys, with Jesus, it’s always too soon to quit. It’s always too soon to quit. Where else would you rather be, sir? And what I realized all these years of teaching, I got to realize the lesson which should have been elementary, and I’m confessing to you my shortcomings. God was waiting on me to pivot, to touch my son. God could fix my son anytime he wanted, but he’s not just trying to reach your children. You know who, who He’s trying to reach.
God was waiting two years for me to repent of my subtle self-righteousness, my subtle bitterness, not outright. Look, I get the chain of command. I grew up a military kid. Lord Jesus Christ is my commander-in-chief. I just didn’t like the orders He was passing down, but I couldn’t say anything to Him because He’s the boss, so I was stuck and I realized one day God was waiting on me to pivot and embrace it, and I did. I said, God, forgive me for my resentment towards You. Even my son who’s in pain, thinking of myself, acting like I’m ministering unto him, but I’m thinking about myself.
Forgive me. I embrace it. I’m not going to avoid him anymore. It got to where I saw his name on the caller ID, I’d go, crap. There was never a good conversation. It’s always dark and negative, and I began to call him every day to check in. I leaned toward him, I ran toward him. Everything changed about it. I had no sense of dread anymore. I embraced it. I gloried in the pain. I accepted the pain, and you know what? Instantly he began to get better. Now we have wonderful conversations. He’s on the way out. God waited two years for the teacher to repent. What about you?
Two quick stories then we’ll put it on the tarmac. We good, Richard?
I want to tell you a couple of pivots I’ve witnessed in my life, and the power, because Paul said at the end of this, when I’m weak, I’m strong. It’s true, and he said, I’m going to pivot to the greater glory that the power of Christ could rest on me, and you get around people who were in pain, but they pivoted. They transcended. They mesmerize you. What is it about? They have a presence of Christ. They just have a presence of Christ.
I had a guy on Young Life staff in Baltimore. I was kind of his Paul, and he was my Timothy in the Bible. That means I was the coach and he was the player on the field. I was his mentor, his name was Dave Meeks. He was an area director in Baltimore, one of the greatest athletes, natural athletes I’ve ever seen, a great musician. He could stand up in front of 500 kids and just get them rocking and rolling like Young Life people can do. I loved that boy, like my own soul. His wife had a very powerful father, a multi-star general in the Pentagon, and he was our friend, the general, and they had two beautiful kids in elementary school. One day they came down to Washington to go to church with us. We were having Sunday lunch and I could tell something was amiss in the spirit at the table.
I said, what’s up? Are you all having trouble in your marriage? They said, no, we’ve never been better. Well, what’s up? Something’s up, and they looked at each other, and finally, Dave looked at me, said, I have an inoperable tumor in my head. It has tentacles, and going by the records, I have three and a half years. They’re not guessing. They just, they know what it is, and they keep data. He said, I don’t know what to do. People come up in church, they don’t know what to say to me. They just tear up. News is out. I just kind of look at them and they look at me and I don’t know what to think. I don’t know what position to take. I don’t know how to feel, and the Holy Spirit just started downloading what to say to him. I said, Dave, have you ever seen the movie Apollo 13? He said, yeah, one of my favorites. I said, there’s a moment in that movie where they think the guys are gone. They can’t get them back. They’re gonna die. These two wimpy senators, these politicians., remember this scene, they’re in the flight room and they’re whispering, what are we going to tell the American people? How’s this going to look? And Ed Harris, who played the flight director, the actor Ed Harris, he hears these guys, jumps up, straightened his tie, gets in their face and says, excuse me sir, but I think this may be our finest hour.
He turns to the engineers and goes, get into flight engineering room. Get me 10 more amps. Failure’s not an option. They are here. Earth’s here. Get them back. Yes, sir. They got them back. Finest hour. Glory. No suffering, no glory. That’s true.
God led Paul into this suffering. God gave him that thorn. You think I’m any deeper having gone through this with my son? Yes. God wasn’t finished with me. I’ll confess to you, at this stage of my career, I’ve been everywhere, I’ve talked to everybody. I thought I’d just go out to Colorado, still walk with Christ, but just kinda ride my ATVs and chew Redman and spit on stuff and just kind of cruise on to Heaven. God said, I ain’t done with you, boy, you can get your butt back on the field. Stop talking to other guys about it. I said, Dave, you’ve got kids. Have you tried to get out of this cancer? He said, I’ve been to Johns Hopkins, smartest guys in the world. I’m done, apart from a Biblical miracle. I said, then pivot. This will either be your worst hour or your finest hour. If you’ve got three and a half left, there’s nothing you can do about it. This is all you’re voting on, this is going to be my worst hour or my finest hour. I’ll never forget, that young man stood up at our dining room table and began to cry, he said, God, I’ve been waiting for somebody to tell me something like that. Jerry, I’m going to make it my finest hour. By God. It’s going to be my finest hour, and by God it was his finest hour. After Dave died, he was just a little Young Life area director in Baltimore. On a Thursday, 800 people were at his funeral. On a Thursday. How many going to be at yours? Finest hour.
You guys that are going through something or you’re going to go through something. I want you to remember what the Lord is telling you today. It’ll either be your worst hour, or you can pivot, you can become a Marine for Christ, like Timothy. Second Timothy, it says, endure hardship as a good soldier of Christ and make it your finest hour.
The last thing I want to tell you is about a guy, and then we’re gonna close with a prayer. I was speaking at a big men’s conference out in Palm Springs. I felt led to do that because they said there was going to be golf involved. I felt like the Lord was in it to go out there, and it was about 500 guys. It was in this huge beautiful retreat thing that we’re all from Los Angeles, Irvine, Anaheim, that area.
And it was a four-session presentation and it kinda, it just saps you emotionally, but it’s not just the presentations in between, all the men want to counsel and they don’t bring their 10th worst problem. It’s always their top one. And I love doing it, but it just wears you out. And I was thinking, man, I see why Christ would just disappear for a while. I’m just a little guy, Jesus. But man, I’m, I got a headache. I got a speaker’s headache. And so, before one of the meals, California and they know how to landscape and all that, I found a little fountain area with, with heavy flowers and stuff around, kind of a little sanctuary, and so I thought, I’m gonna go there 30 minutes before the dinner bell rings and just sit there and be quiet. And when I went in there, there was an older gentleman in there, just sitting there and he just kinda did like that to me. And I started looking at him and I thought, that guy right there, I had noticed that during this conference, so many young, sharp, virile men would come up to this guy with reverence and talk to him, ask him things, and when they parted, they’d say, thanks pop, love you dad. Like that. I mean, I mean maybe I saw 25 guys do that. And so, while we were sitting there, finally I looked at this guy, and said, who are you?
He said, what do you mean? I said, well, who are you? He said, I’m Forrest Ray. Well Forrest, nice to meet you. But who are you? What do you mean? I said, it seems like you’re the Godfather to half the guys at this conference. They all come up to you and greet you with great reverence and I can just, I can feel love, you know, in the air and their spirit. He said, yeah, I suppose I am. I said, well, what’s your situation? What do you mean? What’d you do for a living? Are you retired? Retired? What was your career? He said, I’m a retired postal service man. I delivered the mail. What do you do now? I was just trying to figure out how this man had so much power in the lives of these younger men. He said, well, I have one son who’s in prison and my wife has rheumatoid arthritis and she’s in so much pain, it’s like she’s in childbirth every day, and I take care of my wife. You good with that? It’s the Lord’s will. And I go, gosh. What is it about you? I’m just sitting here mesmerized by you. I don’t even know you.
He said, all I can think of. And I remember he had on a Timex Twistaflex watch. Do you older guys remember that? They put it on an outboard motor and run around water and still be running. You can buy them for 20 bucks in the drugstore. Takes a licking and keeps on ticking. Timex. You know, and it was a $20 watch. And it looked like it had been his old friend. I said, what is it about you? He said, all I can think of, it’s probably. I mean, he paused and he said, the love of Jesus. I said, you have the love of Jesus in your heart? He said, I do. I said, how’d you get it? And he thought for a second, and he looked at me, and said, I asked Him for it. I said, is that it? He said, that’s pretty much it. And I thought, boy, don’t we make this complicated. People write 500-page books on the Holy Spirit. And I’m talking to a man who has it. Jesus said, if you, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your Father. How much more will your Father give you? What the Holy Spirit, the love of Christ, if you ask Him.
That’s about it. You got to mean business, open your heart and say, I’m tired of being a you know what. I want to be like Forrest. I want to have a presence of Christ. Tired of being afraid, anxious. I accept it. Where else would you rather be, sir, but you can’t do it without the love of Christ in your heart. This is not theology. This is the Holy Spirit. This is reality, which indeed is a theology of its own. That night I got up. This is the last part of the story, if you’re pacing yourself.
I looked at those 500 men and my theme for the conference had been “Going Airborne for Christ”, “Airborne Rangers for Christ”, and I said, men, I’ve been talking about warriors and Airborne Rangers for Christ, and I just met a guy who was a medal of honor winner, in my opinion, and I travel a lot and I’ve seen them all. I’d like to call one Forrest Ray to come forward. He always sat in the back, which was befitting. He just slumped like this. He’d never won anything or had been recognized for anything. He was, he just slumped and these two young guys grabbing by each arm, and kind of, when he went down like that with his feet dragging and all the way down the aisle, he got up on the stage with me, and guys are going, “what’s he gonna do?” I said, you know, I grew up in the military and they trump Christians, they know how to honor each other and sometimes they’ll give a hero a token of their appreciation and esteem. Sometimes they give a watch. Would any man in this auditorium want to donate your watch, and we’re going to have a ceremony for Forrest Ray. And guys were all over the, they were doing like that, as fast as they could. Hundreds of guys were holding their watches up. I looked on the third row and I think the Holy Spirit spoke to me again. I had the number 3,000 go in my head. I thought, that’s a $3,000 watch. Tell me I ain’t Pentecostal. So how about that one?
I grabbed it out of that guy’s hand. He’s like, what just happened? And I said, it’s too late now, brother, if you want it back, I can take you, and you know it. And so I called the pastor up because he is the commander-in-chief. I was just in there to coach them up and we presented Forrest with that watch and I mean there wasn’t a dry eye in the house. Powerful time with the Holy Spirit. Humbling all of us through his humility. It just sparked off of him. Don’t you want to be like that? If you don’t, you’re a dead man walking. You’re a damn fool. You are.
Go ahead and walk out of here on your pride. Don’t humble yourself. Let us know how that works out. I got a call, they said, Forrest is dying, two years later, he wanted to talk to you. I’m a chaplain, and I spend a lot of time in hospitals praying for sick and dying people. Guess what? Guess who prayed for who at the end of the conversation ? Forrest said I’d like to pray a prayer over you. I said, yes sir. I’d become one of his boys.
I’d asked the men, was he ever in the military, and they said, he served in the Navy, and I know senators and stuff, because they’re just, not because I’m important, they’re just in the groups, and I asked one, “would you fly a flag over the Capitol for Forrest Ray? Look up his military record.” They said, “yeah, send it out there.” They had a funeral. All the young men got their military uniforms back out and they were his pall bearers. They got his wife out of bed, and she came to the funeral. She saw the flag draped coffin and all these young men in their dress blues. She said, “I never knew Forrest was a hero,” and they said, “oh yeah, he is.”
Forrest pivoted. Are you going to pivot?
Let’s bow our heads. Let me close with a prayer. You know, Lord, I want to do two things. First, we need to repent. God, I’m standing here and I’m feeling You’re speaking to me now and You’re telling me to tell these men, repent, repent now. Stop trying to do it on your own. Go limp. Spread your arms and say, I accept the pain. I repent of my self-righteousness, my sense of entitlement, which turns me into a baby. Lord, make me a man of God, being double minded, only half in, Lord, make me a Marine. Where else would you rather be, sir? Lord, we need this. This is what great men are all about, but Lord, we can’t do it without the love of Christ. We’re going to ask You now, like Forrest said he did, Lord, and men, any of you men that want to do this, pray with me, Lord, please, please, please. We’re going to ask you three times. Fill our hearts with the love of Christ, where our families, our children, our friends and colleagues would go, what in the world has happened to you? In Christ’s name. Amen.