“But I do not count my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the Gospel of the grace of God” (Acts 20:24).
Forty years ago March 4th fell on a Sunday. It was the first day of an eight day series of televised meetings held by evangelist James Robison at the North Phoenix Baptist Church. I was in attendance every day. I don’t remember what Robison preached on at every meeting, but the first night stands out: that’s when I responded to God’s call to preach the Gospel.
The message was on apathy. It affected me so strongly that I crafted my own oratory speech on the topic for my high school forensics team the following year. It was a speech that won the largest tournament in the Soutwestern U.S. that year at Arizona State University.
I was a junior in high school when James Robison came to our church. I would turn 17 on the final day of the crusade. The preivious Easter Sunday, not quite one year earlier, I had committed my life to Jesus Christ. I was baptized the Sunday after Easter and attended church each week from that point forward. In fact, I became immersed. I went to youth choir on Sunday nights, Monday night outreach, Wednesday prayer meeting. I was at every youth activity and went to youth camp the following summer. I wanted to be whatever a Christian was supposed to. This went further or deeper for me, though.
The pastor of my church was Richard Jackson, a passionate Gospel preacher. Many times when he preached I felt compelled, not just to do what he urged, but to run up to the pulpit and preach! When Robison came, the fever grew stronger. I wanted to do what these men were doing. On the first night of the Robison crusade I responded to the invitation to recommit my life, to stop being apathetic. I spoke to a crusade counselor, I believe his name was Mike, who was just a few years older than me. I think we prayed first, then I said, seemingly as an afterthought, “I believe God is calling me to preach.” It wasn’t an emotional decision. I had come to the realization, perhaps admitted to myself for the first time, that this would be my life.
Interestingly, my grandmother called it when I was only five years old. She told me I’d be a preacher. I never gave it another thought, until I came to the same conclusion at age 17.
For 40 years I’ve pursued and practiced preaching the Gospel. I don’t know that I’ve been that successful, and I’m certainly not worthy, but I remain committed. So long as the Lord Jesus has a place for me to serve, I’ll keep it up. I don’t intend to retire. Maybe I’ll go on another 20, 30 or 40 years. Who knows? I just want to finish the race and hear the Lord say, “Well done, faithful servant. Enter into the joy of your Master.”