Today is a milestone for me. I surrendered to preach the gospel message 31 years ago today. I still remember the battle, which had begun quite a long time before that. The battle heated up on March 5th, when the revival preacher said, “I believe God has called some young man to preach the gospel.” My heart nearly burst inside me. My knees grew weak. I began sweating and trembling. I gripped the pew and held on for all I had, hoping that invitation would end. Every night during that revival meeting the story was the same. I stood there, my sweat showering every one nearby, waiting for that conviction to pass so I could relax again.
A week later another guest preacher asked us if we were right with God to show it by giving him the right hand of fellowship. He did not want to take mine; I had hair past my ears and on my collar. No one dressed like that could be right with God, so far as he was concerned. I was just recovering from spinal paralysis (a herniated disc left me unable to move my legs at all), so it was difficult to make it down that aisle. But down I went. On my way home, singing the invitation hymn (I Surrender All) for all I was worth, God spoke. He said, “You’re lying.” The conviction began all over again. I asked the Lord why he said that. He told me I knew why. And I did. I could hardly get home. I got into the family room and fell to my knees; my parents were on the coast visiting family. I cried out for mercy. There was none. The path was clear. The call was clear. I grabbed my father’s topical Bible, looking for verses about the call to the ministry. My eyes fell on Is. 6:8. And I cried out again. This time Isaiah’s words were mine. It was only then that peace came.
It was there that the greatest journey of my life began. Before that day, to stand before anyone was emotional torture for me. I trembled so badly that I could not control my motions or my voice. After that moment, if I stand to preach, I am a completely different person. God takes over. I am empowered. There is no fear. There is only a burning passion to make clear every word God has spoken to me. I would not trade it for anything in the world.
Some do not believe that there is such a thing as “surrendering to preach.” Some well-meaning theologians ignore that possibility. If you did not have to surrender, fine. But believe me: I did not want to preach. I wanted to make money. I was not opposed to the ministry; I just wanted to do God’s work on my terms. So for me, I had to surrender. I surrendered all my dreams. I surrendered my will. I surrendered my entire future. I had to crawl back onto the cross and die to self. I had to remind myself I was crucified with Christ. I had to remember that the life I live today is the Christ-life. He makes my plans. He chooses my path. I just walk where he points. I say what he says to say. I am his. And he is mine.
As I said, I would not trade it for anything in the world. It’s a great adventure.