Sunday, August 2, 2009
This past week was Vacation Bible School week at our church. It was great!!! The children were beside themselves with anticipation making each night a true adventure. My grandsons were both able to be present every night and, since they missed VBS last year, it seemed a special treat to them to be able to be there this year. Along with the other children they played Bible games, made crafts, learned new songs, listened to stories of their favorite Bible characters, guzzled snacks and treats, and, over all, had a wonderful time.
The last night of the week was a special night. This was the night when the entire group of children gathered together and sang for their parents and family members. It was precious! Tears welled in my eyes as I looked at the faces of the children I have come to love and listened to their voices join together. The joy on each child's face, the pride they took in their singing--it was just so touching to watch them. My mind went back to the time when my own children were small and how they also enjoyed learning about Jesus.
As I sat there and looked over the group of children, my mind recalled the scripture, "And He gave some apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;...for the work of the ministry...". I began to consider just what I was looking at. Which one of the childhood faces I was looking at would be tomorrow's pastors--which one would be a future teacher or evangelist? Which one of those children would be called to a foreign nation to work on the mission field? Going beyond the scriptural reference--which ones would be the worship leaders and musicians of tomorrow? Just where would each one of them fit into into God's future church? Oh! how I yearn for them all to know the beauty of service. How I long for each of them to lay down at night knowing the peace that comes from having touched a life with the gospel of Christ. My heart longs to tell them how glorious it is to stand in the congregation of saints, knowing that you have been used of God to bless and/or instruct them in what it means to know our Jesus. Oh! the richness of Christian service--the joy of being in God's employ. There is, indeed, no greater glory.
I have not always felt this way. There was a time when I sang and played music from a sense of duty. God gave me talent--I gave it back to Him in each service I attended. But I gave it out of obligation, not joy. That is until I accompanied my father to revival services at a small church in the mountains of Kentucky. The church was not much bigger than one of the Sunday School rooms in my father's church. The piano was old (ancient it seemed), with only the middle keyboard making sound. When Daddy preached he had only about a five foot square to move around in--that was rather limiting for Daddy who tended to speak as much away from the Bible stand as he did behind it. And, of course, there was no central air conditioning. And, of course, the revival took place at the hottest time of midsummer. However, I played and sang my heart out during that meeting. I have a strong voice and, since there was no sound system, it held me in good stead.
My whole attitude changed one night toward the end of the revival. I was very hot and decided that I would step out to the small porch at the front of the church to get some air. Daddy had preached a stirring message and I had sang what he had requested. As I stepped out onto the porch I caught my breath in amazement. I could not believe what I was seeing. Men and women alike, who had found no room at the small altar inside, were kneeling at the bumpers of their cars for makeshift altars. They were crying in repentance, asking God for forgiveness for the wrongs of their lives. Tears fell down the weathered cheeks of men who had spent their lives working hard for their families with little reward. Women whose hands were worn and reddened from homemade soap and scrubbing floors, were lifting those same hands in praise to our precious Lord for His forgiveness of their sins. The smiles that covered the lined and worn faces brought radiance to those same faces and brightness to the eyes that were now filled with tears of joy.
I could not move for a moment. The overwhelming presence of God that filled that small church and extended to the parking area which, now filled with humble people praising God, had become an extension of what was taking place inside. I began to weep uncontrollably. I was ashamed that I had taken this glorious gospel, this talent I had been given, this Godly heritage I had been given, all for granted. I came to realize, with repentance and a new vision, that God wants more than just going through the motions. He wants us to use what He has given us and use it with joy. He wants to work through us to accomplish His purpose---and He wants us to enjoy the working. I have never forgotten those lovely mountain people who taught this preacher's daughter that simple fact.
So, I look at the smiling childish faces in front of me and I wonder. I wonder will they really continue to love what they do for the Lord in the future as much as they do now? Will they give everything they have to give and then dig deeper for just a little more--all in an effort to please the God they serve? Will they cheer each other on and stand by each other's side, knowing that together they can accomplish anything? I wonder. Will God bless me to live to a ripe old age so that I can be there to hear the first sermon, rejoice in the first song, thrill to the first music played and, by example, let them know that the joy they feel now is nothing to be compared to what they will feel when that first knee bends because of their obedience to Christ. Dear God, I pray it will be so.
Who knows which one of them will lead the church of tomorrow? Only our great and loving God knows that. But this one thing I do know--it is my responsibility to lay an example of service before the children and youth of today that will make Jesus Christ irrisistable to them. If I can convey, by word or deed, the joy of serving Jesus and do it in a way that will draw the little ones I love to Christ, then I will have been a success. Who knows which one will pick up the blood-stained banner and, in the words of the prophet, shout, "Here Lord am I. Send me." Who knows? God knows and, one day, so will we.