Thursday, June 4, 2009
Keep On Keeping On
As a pastor's child, it has been my priviledge to meet many wonderful people. Some of them were known from my childhood and some from my older years. One of the most memorable figures I knew and loved as a child was Rev. Wiley Neal.
It could be depended on, regardless of which hymn was sung or what text was ministered, that Rev. Neal would witness at the end of every service. His face would reflect the joy he felt in his heart as he gave his testimony and reflected on the evening's message. It was not unusual for him to raise his hands and give praise to the Lord as he spoke. Many times he would sing his testimony with a voice that was surprisingly strong for a gentleman in his seventies.
Rev. Neal not only rejoiced in the Lord in the sanctuary, but also in his home. Many times as a child I visited his home with my parents. He never failed to touch my heart with how lovingly he spoke about the Lord he served. He would sit in his rocker in the living room and share with my parents how God had blessed him throughout the years he had known the Lord. I recall my father sitting across from him and hanging on his every word for not only was Rev. Neal a godly man, he was also a fine teacher and Daddy often spoke of how inspired he was by Rev. Neal's insight.
As a child, I adored my elderly friend. He took time to talk with me and made me feel important. I felt comfortable asking him questions for he was so kind and patient in answering me. I came to love and trust him because of his loving spirit and his gentleness towards me. He became a grandfather figure to me when my own grandfather passed away. He encouraged me to love the Lord and to always strive to be the best that I could be. I adored him.
My fondest memory of him comes from the words he uttered at the end of every testimony. He would always close with the words, "Pray for me that I can keep on keeping on.". I asked him once what he meant when he said that. Very gently he explained that, no matter what came his way--good or bad--he wanted to keep on serving the Lord until his death. He wanted to keep on being all that he felt God wanted him to be. He told me that, even though he was an old man, he still wanted to do all he could to lead others to the Lord. He wanted everyone he came in contact with to be able to see the love of God in him and to want to know God as a result. He just wanted to keep on doing God's will.
My heart was so broken when Rev. Neal passed. Such a void was left in the lives of all of us who knew and loved him. It took us a while to get used to closing our services without hearing that sweet voice at the end. He left behind such a legacy--such an example. All of us who knew him were blessed to have done so.
So now, I think about my own relationship with God. I realize that I have been so blessed to have had not only a family I love and cherish, but the influence of tremendous men and women of faith. Men and women who lived their faith every single day of their lives and who have left behind a legacy that continues to inspire me on a daily basis. Because of Wiley Neal, I have learned the importance of "keeping on". In the face of all adversity, I want to keep on. In the midst of every storm, I want to keep on. In gain or loss, joy or sorrow, I want to keep on. For it is in the "keeping on" that we come to know Him as the God of all comfort, the lifter of our heads, the strong and mighty tower, the refuge from the storm.
Oh, may I have the spiritual strength and courage to continue on for the God I love so dearly--the God who has led me through much storm and adversity--the God who has been the truest friend I have ever known. May I have the determination to press on and remain at His side, sheltered in His arms.
I look forward to the day when I see Rev. Neal again and hear that rich, sweet voice say to me, "You made it, little one.". My glad reply will be the words I heard so often as a child. I don't think I will be able to resist a smile as I look at him and say, "Yes, I made it through. I just kept on 'keeping on'."