*edited for readability*
(Pastor Dave speaking) Please be seated. We’re about to watch a video of a mentor and a friend and someone who’s impacted my life deeply over the last 20 years that I’ve been here. But before I introduce that, I just want to really give a shout out to my team and all the different teams. What you don’t see going on is all the background work that has to happen in order for each Sunday and each service to take place. And I’m so grateful for my teams running and gunning and getting it done. Even to make this video happen: Steve only had strength to preach one sermon. And so we had to video it and then turn around and be able to show it and the teams nailed it. And so I’m so grateful for my team doing that. As I introduce Steve, I want to give you some background for what you’re about to see, because I realized some of you probably don’t know Steve.
So let me introduce it this way. On a broad scale, big picture- the culture in America… It’s very interesting to me that we save eulogy and even that word eulogy; we tend to associate that with a funeral, don’t we? We go to a funeral and then we eulogize somebody, but it’s very interesting because we have to wait until somebody’s dead to say good things about them. Because you see all of us reserve the right at anytime to unfriend other people and if I’ve said good words about you, it’s really hard to unfriend you, because I just said good things about you so it gets very awkward. And so this morning I got to eulogize (say good words). That’s what eulogy means. I got to eulogize a really good friend, a really good mentor, somebody who has impacted my life profoundly and yours too. I’ll show you in just a moment.
He really changed the course of my life without even knowing it. You see, this is how good God’s grace is. Oftentimes he’ll use people to intersect and to change our lives or to better our lives and we don’t even realize it. I’m going to introduce to you Steve Troxel and we’re going to watch this video, but I want to shortly share with you how he impacted my life, and changed my life, and made my life better. You see way back in the eighties, Steve Troxel was the pastor, the senior pastor of Wayside Chapel. That’s who planted Hillside Fellowship. Well back in the eighties, there was a young girl named Allison Brooke, who went to that church and Steve was her pastor. And Steve faithfully poured into her life and into her family’s life. Well, I ended up marrying that girl. And so I get to reap the benefits of a lot of Steve’s hard work as he poured into my wife, and cared for my wife, and provided an example, and shepherded her heart.
So my life is better every single day because of the work that Steve Troxel did. Well then early in the nineties Steve Troxel and Wayside Chapel decided to support and promote a work out here in Spring Branch, Bulverde with four families, who decided they really wanted a body of believers out here. Well it ends up that I ended up being the pastor of that church that Steve helped plant, and so that was huge. Later on in the nineties, 1996, 1997 when I moved down from Oregon, as a meth… recovering meth addict and alcoholic, the first week I was there at his hill, there was a teacher there named Steve Troxel and he just came alongside of me. He didn’t know me. He didn’t know I was depressed. He didn’t know I was suicidal, he didn’t know I was hurting. He just loved me because that’s what Steve does. And he came to my dorm room one night and just encouraged me ‘press on, pursue Christ. Life will be OK. If you put Jesus first, everything else will fall in place.’
So it made a huge impact in my life. And then in the two thousands, Steve and Connie began coming to church here, and I was just incredibly overwhelmed and anxious. I mean, this guy who’s been a pastor for 40 years is all of a sudden sitting in the back of the church. And so even as I’d preach, I’d just kind of look back there and see if he’s asleep yet. And then I’ll never forget. I was preaching through Ephesians chapter three that morning. Then all of a sudden I heard a loud “Amen” from the back. (We’re not an amen congregation, Amen?)
And so it shocked me and I looked back and it was Steve cheering me on and his face was, ‘Go preach, tell them about Jesus and you’ll hear him every single week. Amen, Amen’… and I can’t tell you how huge of an impact that has on a young pastor. I drove home that day crying, just knowing that somebody older was saying, ‘Go, keep going, press on’. And so this morning, we as a body, we as a group, got to tell Steve that we love him, that we’re for him. His wife is incredibly precious. I got to tell Connie this morning that it’s hard to be a pastor’s wife. And she has done it with grace and elegance. She has done it in amazing ways. Brooke and I have known her a long time. Never heard her say a negative word and they’ve been through a lot. And so I get to introduce to you the video because Steve, again, couldn’t preach it twice. The video of Steve Troxel sharing Christ Jesus with us. So enjoy.
(Pastor Steve Troxel speaking) Well, I hope those recorded words are still valid when the recording is available. I’m going to get a copy of that. I’ve never had such an introduction, so honored to be here. We love you people. We love Dave. We love his teaching. It’s drawn so many of us here because of his ability to articulate the word of God, more importantly, the gospel each week. And I want to touch on that in a moment, but first thing I want to do is kind of clear the air. I’ve been healthy most of my life, but at age 27 I developed Addison’s disease. And I was fine for the next 40 years and then the wheels came off and I’ve developed some other problems. Among them was more recently Parkinson’s disease. For about the last probably six or seven years I’ve had that. So if you see strange movements up here, or if I fall off the front of the platform and land in somebody’s lap down here: Be ready for me! You’re kind of in the splash zone where you are. Two months ago I had an aortic valve replaced, so I’m still trying to recover from that. It was a bovine valve. So if you hear, “Moo…” You’ll know where that noise was coming from and be able to identify it.
When I was diagnosed with Addison’s disease, which is very rare, only five in a million have it. So there’s five of us here in San Antonio. One in 600 have Parkinson’s, so there’s probably several here this morning that may have Parkinson’s. But I have the privilege of being the only one that our doctors know of, that has both of these combined, which is an interesting phenomenon. When they were diagnosing me with Addison’s disease back in 1970, the doctor who diagnosed me… they quarantined me and put me in isolation. They fed me tortillas and pancakes. That was it! Because that’s the only thing they could slide under the door. No, that part is not true. I have a coughing form of asthma. It’s non contagious, so you don’t have to worry about it. But I can tell you that when I get to coughing, I can clear a waiting room in the doctor’s office in a matter of seconds. I had that happen here a couple of weeks ago. A lady was sitting across from me, I was up for a visit and she’s sitting there and all at once I coughed and covered my mouth of course, but I’m over in the corner. She looks over at me and kind of gives me a nasty look, during flu season of course. So I coughed again and all at once she reached in her purse and pulled out this mask. She gave me this dirty look and got up and walked out. I thought, I don’t know what the problem is with this woman. She’s got a problem here.
Anyway it’s a joy to be able to be up here. This is actually the first time I’ve spoken to a crowd since I’ve had my aortic valve replaced. I know a number of you will come up to me afterwards and say, “Hey Steve, how are you doing?” So I wanted to update you. We’re doing fine. We’re gaining ground little by little. Got a ways to go. But then, hey, I’m 75- I may not make it all the way back. And I agree with you Dave. I’m ready to go when God calls, I’m ready to go. And that’s what I want to speak to about to some degree this morning is: How do you finish well? There are so many we have here that are not finishing well. We know people who are not finishing well. So what is it gonna take for you and me to finish well and to be able to hear him say at the other end of the journey, “Well done, good and faithful servant. Enter into the joy of the Lord.” (Matthew 25:21)
I’m going to just say up front. I’ve been surprised by your reaction this morning. In the comments that were made by Dave. And Dave we’re so humbled by that. We consider it an honor to be able to come out here and hear you week after week, and we sense God speaking through you in a powerful way. And you and Brooke are such a blessing to this Church body. And that’s the one reason that so many of us want to cover you and shield you from the target of the enemy, because he knows. He knows if he brings you down, he brings down a lot of other people.
And that’s one of the things that kept me on the right road when I was a Pastor all those years. I would keep in mind not only how it would hurt my wife and family, but how it would hurt so many people across the country: that little by little know you and know others who know you. And so I think all of us would say, just stay the course. And I pray that for all of your staff, the new ones coming on as well.
I want to pray and then I’m going to focus on one verse. Father, I am so humbled by what has been said of me this morning and you know how unworthy I am of those comments.
We’re just so grateful for what you are doing in our midst and how you are blessing this fellowship. And what you’re using to draw people here, and to draw people to yourself, and to lift up Jesus, and to give him glory. And to make much ado about him because he alone is worthy. I thank you this morning for friends and I look out and see who have come from a distance to be here this morning. We’re truly honored that you would…that you would have these words said of us and we, you know… you know how much we need you. And as people have asked me how I’m doing this morning, I’ve been able to say that I’m operating by your grace and I’m only here because of your grace. And it’s your strength and I may be weak in the flesh, but strong in the spirit. And that’s where I want to be this morning as I speak these words. So we commit this time to you in Jesus name. Amen.
You know Billy Graham, of course, went home to be with the Lord a few weeks ago. I don’t know how many of you were touched by him, but probably all of us were to some degree, in some way touched by his life. Talk about a man of integrity. He was. And, you can imagine the pressure he felt at times. But he built in that barrier between him and the enemy, especially as the enemy can use another woman. And it’s amazing how God has used Billy. A number of years ago using one of the big crusades and he was preaching along. And we’ve all had that experience if you’ve been preaching very long: where there was just no power there, there was just no sense of God being at work. Which by the way, if you see me make some strange moves, my feet and so forth, that’s the Parkinson’s. I don’t mind mentioning that. My fingers tremble, so I don’t turn to as many biblical passages as I once did, but hey, His grace is sufficient in the midst of all that. And some of you maybe have been diagnosed with something this morning and you’re discouraged by it, and I want to encourage you that God is able, God is sufficient. He is all we need.
Anyway, Billy was preaching and there was no power in it. It was one of these huge conferences in an open air stadium. And as he’s preaching, he just senses that he’s got a wall in front of him. And so afterwards they were having their debriefing, the team… Billy Graham’s team. And he said, “you know, I don’t know what the problem was this morning or tonight,” but he said, “I feel like… I feel like there was no power there. There was no sense of God’s presence. And the invitation when it was given there wasn’t the normal turnout that they would usually have.” And so as he’s saying that, all at once his sidekick, Grady Wilson says, ‘Billy, I know what the problem is.’ And he said, ‘Well, what’s that?” And Grady said, ‘You didn’t preach the cross. You didn’t get to the cross.’
As I thought about Dave’s ministry over the last several years, since we’ve had an opportunity to sit here week after week: one of the things I love about this brother is he goes to the cross. He’s constantly taking us to the cross. Where there we can find power. There’s power in the cross. You know, I didn’t realize this until later on in life. The fact that Christ died for our sins and that’s part of the Gospel. And he was buried, and he was raised again, and Dave mentions it one way or another every week. In the process of dying for us, he was resurrected from the dead, and he ascended into the heavens, and he’s at the right hand of the Father. And one of these days He’s coming back in glory and power. And as we think of that, the verse that comes to my mind is 1 Corinthians 1:18.
(1 Corinthians 1:18) “For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing…”
It doesn’t make sense to someone who is, who is not a believer. It’s moronic. That’s what he says in 1 Corinthians 1:18: The preaching of the cross is to those that are perishing, foolishness. But then the rest of the verse says,
“…but to those of us who are being saved, it is the power of God.”
So it’s important for us. Then it’s important for us to hear the Gospel articulated over and over, and important for us to do it in the church. In order that the word of God might be completed and Christ might be glorified. And we’d take him from the cross to the empty tomb, to the resurrection, and finally to the ascension, and to the second coming.
And the preaching of the cross is to those who are perishing foolishness. But to those of us who were being saved: what are we being saved from? Well, we’re being saved from sin. We’re being saved from addictions. We’re being saved from failed marriages. We’re being saved from so many different things. You can put it in there. That the cross is what gives healing to that and balm to that. How do we know that? How do we….how do we deal with that? Well, I’m going to turn to my notes here. One thing I’ve noticed is my mind isn’t as sharp as it was and I know you’re agreeing with me.
Let me just back up and say Paul is. Paul is a… (I’ll get it together in a minute… when this happens. Just pray for me. I can draw these blanks so many times… I can be in the middle of sentence with Connie. (Thank you). And, all at once I think, ‘where am I taking her on this journey?’
1 Corinthians 1:18: He’s saving us from a number of things. You can put whatever you got that you’re dealing with in that category. It’s the cross of Jesus. Why? Because there is where we die to self. And every day we get up and we go to the cross. We die to self.
We say, “not I, but Christ now lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20)
And as we are daily going to the cross and taking our sins to the cross where Christ took them upon himself: then we began to experience victory. So it’s important that we hear the gospel articulated over, and over, and over again. And Dave does it in so many different ways. And I’m going to come back to that at the end of my message this morning.
Acts 20:24 has been my favorite life verse, and I’ve gone back to this a number of times when I’ve been dealing with issues in my life. I have to go back to these four different things that are said in Acts chapter 20, verse 24. And I would encourage you, if you don’t have a life verse yet, you consider using this as a life verse because it’s a great one. Now here’s the situation. Paul was nearing the end of his life. So as things have been said about me this morning, I suppose they were being said about Paul. And Paul was saying them about himself. He was ready to die and he was anxious to die. He was anxious to see the Lord because he realized it was far better to be with Christ. And that’s where each one of us wants to get to that point in our lives.
If we’re really going to enjoy this life down here, we gotta get to that point to where we can say “For to me to live is Christ and to die is gain.” (Philippians 1:21)
And that’s where Paul was. Romans 1:16, he says, “I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ. Why? Because it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone who believes. Something as foolish as the cross; God uses that as an instrument of salvation. As THE instrument of our salvation, where he took our sin upon himself in that moment. I love the illustration that Jesus used the serpent in the wilderness. You remember that story and how the people were complaining against God; and complaining about the lack of food, lack of water, and, and constantly, you know complaining to Moses. And finally God sends poisonous snakes among the people, and they bit the people, and everyone who was bitten died. (Numbers 21:6)
And so the people crowds say, ‘Moses, you got to intercede to God. You’ve got to do something to help us.’ And what did Moses do? God said, “take a brass serpent, put it up on a pole. And everyone who looks to that serpent, will live.” (Numbers 21:7-8)
And so he took that serpent…. he made a serpent and put it up on a pole, lifted it up. And everyone who looked lived. The text says, everyone who looked lived. A very simple message. We can see many people coming to Christ as we stay with that simple message. And I love the way that Dave does that week after week. Now his stability of position. You’ve got an outline in your bulletins, so I’m going to stay with that outline. He says, “None of these things move me.” (Acts 20:24) “None of these things move me.” And what’s he talking about?
While he was on his way to Jerusalem and the Holy Spirit kept telling him….if you back up in this passage, the Holy Spirit kept telling him that at some point he was going to experience tribulations and change. That was his future. Now put yourself in Paul’s shoes, if you will, for a moment and think: if you knew that tomorrow, or the next day, or Sunday, next year, you were going to be put in chains; You are going to be put in prison– What would your mindset be right now? I had a situation here back. It was right after I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s where I was doing a memorial service and I was still adjusting to the fact that I had Parkinson’s. It took some time to adjust to that and as I’m about to do this memorial service. I’m sitting down in the front and it comes time for me to speak.
And just before that I had noticed they had a little summary of her life and the little sort of an obituary. And it said that she died from the ravages of Parkinson’s disease. Now I don’t know if you’ve ever got up and spoken in front of a multitude of people after something like that’s happened. But my first thought was, ‘I don’t need this now. I’m still trying to adjust.’ And she died from the ravages of Parkinson’s disease. So it’s kinda like, I knew now what my future was. I was going to, was going to be experiencing ravages. I knew that. I knew that a difficult times were ahead of me. I’ve accepted that and Connie’s accepted that and she’s been an incredible encouragement and a help to me as as a number of you have. But in ways that only a wife can take care of her husband and times like that. She’s been super.
I want that to be said. We must never be afraid of death. Never be afraid of death. Born once, died twice, born twice, die once as Revelation 21 says. We’re to constantly be in a mindset where we’re fearing God more than we’re fearing death itself. God himself said,
“Don’t fear the one who has the power to kill you, but rather the one who has the power to destroy in hell” (Matthew 10:28)
We’re to fear God and to honor him. It’s a once experience for the believer. It only comes one time and I try to keep that in mind. I don’t know how it’s going to be, and how God’s going to take me, or how He’s going to take you, but you will be taken. “It is appointed for men to die once and after this comes the judgment.” (Hebrews 9:27)
So that day will come, when we’re going to stand before Christ. And you’re not going to have anybody to help you, other than yourself, to answer for those questions that may be asked at that particular time. When you have that final examination. And if you’re a believer, it’s before the judgment seat of Christ. If you’re a non-believer, it’s before the great white throne judgment-only to know…be notified that you’re going to be separate from God for all of eternity. You know there’s a couple of passages that really speak to me along with this one that I’m on this morning and that is 2 Timothy 4:6-8, where Paul said, “I am now ready to be offered. The time of my departure is at hand. I’ve fought the good fight. I’ve finished the course. I’ve kept the faith. Henceforth, there is later for me, a crown of righteousness which the Lord, the righteous judge, will give to me. And not to me only, but to all those also who love his appearing.”
What a great thought: that each one of us, just like the Apostle Paul, can experience victory. Can hear him say, “Well done.” Can experience the rewards at the judgment seat of Christ.
1 Corinthians 15:58, Paul says, ‘therefore my beloved brother, you be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord. For as much as you know your labor is not in vain in the Lord.’
Don’t be moved by what you hear in the world around you. We live in a changing culture and it’s continuing to get further and further apart from God and disconnected. And I challenge the young people: Don’t lose your faith in the midst of that. It is important that you keep your mind focused upon Christ. Christ is the one who is the the Messiah. One of the verses that we often overlook on resurrection Sunday is Romans 1:6, Paul or verse four, I think it is, Paul says,
(Romans 1:4)“who was declared the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead’
And that word declared as horizo and it means horizon.
He was horizon to be the son of God with power. As you look out and you’re standing at the sea level… and you’re looking out and you’re seeing the horizon, there’s a clear mark where the horizon is. And that’s what Paul is saying here, “that Jesus was clearly established as the Son of God by his resurrection from the dead.”
I love that passage where Paul says in Revelation 21,
1“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there is no longer any sea. 2 And I (John) saw the holy city, new Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God himself will be among them, 4 and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away. 5 And He who sits on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” And he said, “Write, for these words are faithful and true.”
I love that. It’s like taking money to the bank. It’s secure. More secure than that. But isn’t that great to know? John says, “you have any questions? Here’s what heaven’s going to be like. It’s going to be like the glory of that bride coming through the doorway back there and she’s all decked out in her finest, and she’s left nothing to chance. Everything’s been taken care of. Everything is perfect and that’s the way this new city, the holy Jerusalem is going to be. John says, just write it down because it’s true. It’s true. It’s going to be that way so we can count on it.
You can invest your life on it.
And that’s what he’s saying. And then in 2 Timothy 1:12, I love that verse. “For I know whom I have believed and I am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I’ve committed unto him until that day.”
He’s able to keep our soul certainly for salvation. He’s able to keep us faithful until the day when we arrive in his presence. The second point I want to make is his sacrifice of person. He said, “Neither do I count my life dear unto myself, that I might finish my course.” (Acts 20:24)
Now that’s one I really struggled with. And probably you do too. Every day I get up, I tend to want to live my life for self, instead of for the Lord. And if we all had this attitude in our marriages, in our homes, in our families, in our workplaces– where we were not taking… expressing our own interests, not counting ourselves, to have been… to be primary, but rather to allow Christ to live his life in us. Because part of the Gospel is that Christ died for our sins and took our sin upon himself in order that he went back to having sunny spirit in order that his spirit might live in us, might dwell in us. And its by his spirit dwelling in us that we are identified as the people of God. That’s who we are. And as we… a number of you this morning… I look at this section and then I look at the church that’s going to becoming next session, the following session in each, each one of these services we’ll lift up Christ and glorify Christ because that’s the purpose for which we’ve gathered here together.
I know you’re uncomfortable, but it doesn’t bother me a bit. I used to look at guys that would speak like this and be haunting sometimes in their presentation and think, ‘boy, I wish I could help them.’ So I understand a lot of you are saying, “I wish I could help you,” but I’m OK. I’m OK. You know what, if I ever do this again, (You probably won’t want me to do it again) but if, if I ever do something like this again, I’ll remember what it was. I can’t think of it now. That’s old age.
- Paul’s singleness of purpose. (What time is this? How much time do I have? Enough time to bore them some more? OK, OK. Yeah, that’s it.) Notice his singleness of purpose: “That I might finish my course.” (Acts 20:24) Spurgeon once said, “remember the perseverance of the snail reached the Ark.” “The perseverance of the snail reached the Ark.”
You’ve probably seen the cartoon of the crane that was trying to swallow the frog. You seen that and the frog has his legs stretched out so that it cannot go down the throat of that crane. Just holding on and holding on, but it’s going to persevere. And that’s what we need to do in the ministry and in our marriages, in every area of our life. Being faithful to the scriptures. And we do that as we are able to keep… keep in mind that…that Christ is there. And that’s the single purpose: is to live our lives, to glorify Him, regardless of what that may entail.
Hebrews 12:1-3, that’s another great passage to write down here, along with having a singleness of purpose. And it is, Paul says, or whoever wrote the book of Hebrews said,
“Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of god. 3 For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”
And he is to be our example. We’re to be following him every day, pursuing him. And as we’re pursuing him, we get closer and closer to the finish line.
So he had a singleness of purpose. And I would encourage you this morning just to examine yourself. Do you have a singleness of purpose in your life this morning? Or are you kind of that double-minded man, that unstable man, that James Chapter one talks about: one foot in the world, one foot the Kingdom. And Paul is telling us that it cannot be that way. You need to have one single purpose and that is to finish your course with joy.
And then finally is simplicity of preaching. It’s just simply talking about Jesus. By the way, it’s probably time I read that verse for you since I didn’t do that to begin with. I mentioned that Paul was on his way to Jerusalem. He got sidetracked and the elders came out and met with him from Ephesus–20 mile walk out. They came out and met him at the seaside. And that’s where Paul and sharing these words with them as he hears about his future and is warned about his future. And more importantly, as he gives himself to the call of the Gospel, he’s not going to waver at all in his following Christ. So he says, “in order that I might proclaim or testify to the gospel of the grace of God.” (Acts 20:24) We hear a lot in the news today about those who are giving testimonies and those who may be called upon to give testimonies. What is a testimony? It’s just simply retelling things as you know them. As you have seen them, being honest, and faithful, and testifying to the gospel of the grace of God.
Paul says, “that’s what I want to do with the Gospel. I want to testify to the gospel of the grace of God the rest of my life. “If we do that, we’re going to finish well. If we focus on the Gospel, and we’re talking about the Gospel, and sharing the Gospel, and how the Gospel is good news, because that’s what it is. Then we end up….we end up in a good place at the time of our departure from this present life into the next life, into heaven itself. You know? I wrote down here in my notes, ‘keep it simple, stupid.’ We need to keep the Gospel simple. We get it sometimes so confused. And I love the way Dave, week after week after week is clarity. Presents it in a different way, but it’s the same basic truth. Uses different wording, but it’s the same basic truth. And, as we focus on the gospel message ourselves, we need to be sure that we just keep it very simple.
You know, over the years we had a number of crusades in San Antonio that involved a fairly well-known evangelist. Like the most recent of course was Billy Graham back in 1997. Our church had a part in all of these various conferences. The first one we had was with John Guest. He was an episcopalian evangelist, but very evangelical. And I remember John Guest sharing the experience, how it was right after the iron curtain came down. And he had a group of several people that wanted to get into one of the former Soviet countries and pass out bibles, and make sure that they had bibles available to them. And he says, so they get to the border, and I think it was at the Hungarian border, they get out of the car to have the car inspected and everything.
And the guard who has eleven other guards with him, they’re examining the vehicle. And, all at once, the guard, the leader of the group, he turns to John Guest. He says you’re an evangelist from America. He said, “in order for you to get into our land, you’re going to have to preach a message to all of us.” He wanted to hear the truth. And John Guest, as I remember the story, said he didn’t know what to do because it was midnight. They were tired and now this guard wanted all of his guards to hear a message from this American evangelist. And so he got them all lined up and he just went over to him and he looked into the eyes of that first one. And he said, “I just want you to know God loves you. Christ died for your sins. You trust him. You’ll end up in Heaven.” And then he goes to the next guy, looks into his eyes and said, “I just want you to know God loves you.” Anyway, he did this all the way down through those 12 guards and every one of them at the end prayed to receive Christ. And it was the timing that he was there, and it was the fact that he was being used of God in a very special way, to present the gospel to these men. And I know stories like that are encouraging to all of us.
I had a situation back a number of years ago, and I’ve told this story before, but it involves a well-known man who is now on the other side of the veil. But he was the owner of a restaurant back in College Station, where some of our friends have come down from College Station to be here. He owns several restaurants. And to be honest about it, he was very obnoxious. And we can overhear him talking to his daughter. We didn’t know it was his daughter at the time- but really blasting his daughter about something. And he was in this big restaurant and this other couple, Walter and Joanna, and Connie and I, were the only ones there. And as we are listening to his conversation, we had ordered.. And Walter I remember ordered (what do they call them, egg, egg, egg, not actual egg) but egg substitutes, and they were out. And so the waitress came back and the owner of this…big guy, he was about 6’4, had a black outfit on, black hat. He comes back to the table and he said, “We don’t have any, egg beaters?” And she said No. He said, “well, why not?” And he gets so upset over those eggs beaters. Walter says “no, it’s OK. It’s all right. We don’t… I can, I can eat these eggs. They are just fine.” So he ends up coming back to the table to apologize. And he said, “you know, there’s just absolutely nothing in this life that’s certain anymore.” He said, “I’ve got this ranch up in Washington state of Washington. And he said they have mad cow disease now. And it’s coming down now across the border.” And he said, “First thing my whole herd’s going to be infected.” And I said, “Well, there are two things we can know for sure.” I wanted to get rid of him. I was like Jonah, the defiant prophet, who was sent on a mission, but didn’t want to go. And, and so, I said, “Well, there are two things you can be sure of.” He said, “Well, what’s that?” ‘One is you’re going to die and two, you can know where you’re going when you die.’ And he looked down at me and he said, “What do you mean by that?”
And I remember he pulled up a chair between Walter me and I said, “Lord, this isn’t what I wanted.” I didn’t want this at all. We had an opportunity to share the gospel with him. He took his hat off, he prayed, they brought our meal and I gave him a tract to look at. That’s all I had with me at the time. And I shared that with him and said, “Just take this and read it and we can talk more after we’ve eaten.” And so we did, and I went into the men’s room, came back out. He was sitting there reading the tract. He gets up and he walks over. And I’m not a very big person as you can see. He just enveloped me in this great hug. He just put around me and pulled me up to him and he said, “Steve Troxel, I’ll never forget that name.”
And I said, “It’s not my name that’s important. It’s the name of Jesus and I said you’re trusting him.” Anyway. Didn’t get to conclude the conversation other than having prayers. So I’m not sure what happened. The man’s name is John Ganter. And I can say that now cause he’s gone. But I wonder where John Is. I’m hopeful he’s gonna be in heaven and I’m going to see him there, because I think his attitude that day was of such, that that’s going to be my privilege. A year later, Walter and Joanne sent me…. (I didn’t know I was going to share all this this morning with Joanne’s son and his family here)… but a year later they sent me his obituary. Sixty four years of age, died….probably all the stress he had in his life. We never know. We never know how God’s going to use us. And I think we are as a church, at a point where we need to be so focused outwardly. Look at the strength that’s here- as the people of God who are indwelt by the Spirit of God, have an opportunity to minister the word of God and to minister The Gospel. And you have no excuse for not being able to articulate the gospel because this man right here gives it to you every week. What to share. Write it down and learn how to share that message with others because that’s what they need. I had a doctor just a couple of weeks ago that… I gotta be careful how I share this because he’s still living.
I met him out on the roadway, so we’re standing. I’d been kind of waiting for him because he’s got a mistress that he’s put up in a house in the area. And, I waved him down and started talking to him. He kind of looks like the mad scientist in the Back to the Future movie. That’s how he looked. Just white hair, both sides puffed out– and he’s looking up at me as he’s sitting in the car. I tried to address some things about the neighborhood and so forth. All at once as we get to the end of my conversation, he looked up at me and he said, “Do you think that when I stand before God, that he will forgive me?” And I thought, well, that’s interesting. It was so off the wall, but that was a concern he had. And there’s a lot of people out there that have similar concerns. We’re not even identifying ourselves as believers and we’ve got the good news of the Gospel to share with them. And we need to be more open and vocal and let it be known.
That’s what Paul says, “That I might finish my course with joy and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus to testify of the Gospel of the grace of God.” And that’s what every one of us should have as a commitment. Testify, keep it simple, learn how to spread it, share it with others, and then get those people to to the point of coming to Christ. My Dad, when he came to Christ at age 40 (I think I’m out of time… I’m gonna quit here in a second). At age 40, he came to know Christ through an evangelist who was visiting the community. Dad really gave his heart to Christ. And, he became an evangelist in a sense. He still had the dairy farms. I can remember seeing my dad walking, running into the house. I would see my dad kneeling down with someone, a businessman that he had just led to Christ, and he would give him…. and that was my dad. The impact….the impact that he had in my life in that area. And Dad was one who always said “In order to get somebody saved, you got to get them lost first.” You gotta get them lost before you get them saved. We need to let people know that “there is not one who has not sinned. All have sinned and come short of the glory of God, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. There is hope, Oh, wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me from this body of death. But thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. (Romans 3:23-26) The victory can only come through him and from him and from his dwelling in us.
So we gotta keep it simple. You know, I used to use this poem about every few years at Wayside and I just feel like it’s had such an impact on my life and I want to share it with you in closing. And you may even want to make it your poem along with your life verse. But it goes like this.
Picture yourself standing before Christ because that moment is going to come sooner than you realize. And how can you be ready for it when it comes and that’s what we’ve been talking about this morning and this poem is entitled
When I Stand at the Judgement Seat
When I stand at the judgment seat of Christ
And He shows me His plan for me;
The plan of my life as it might have been
Had He had His way, and I see
How I blocked Him here and I checked Him there
And I would not yield my will,
Shall I see grief in my Savior’s eyes;
Grief though He loves me still
Oh, He’d have me rich, and I stand there poor,
Stripped of all but His grace,
While memory runs like a hunted thing
Down the paths I can’t retrace.
Then my desolate heart will well-nigh break
With tears that I cannot shed.
I’ll cover my face with empty hands
And bow my uncrowned head.
No. Lord of the the years that are left to me
I yield them to Thy hand.
Take me, make me, mold me
To the pattern thou hast planned.
And that’s our prayer for you this morning. I can only imagine what God wants to do through this fellowship and what he’s going to continue to do as Pastor Dave and the rest of the team lead us. It’s exciting to be a part of something that God is doing. Henry Blackaby said “find out where God is at work and join him.” That’s what we did for 10 years with the ministry we were involved in called Shepherd Support, which still continues today. If you want to find out more about that, just look up Shepherds Support.org and you can get information on that. So anyway, God bless you. We love you and I am so honored this morning. I think I’ll go home and go to bed.
(Pastor Dave speaking) I can’t tell you how many times Steve told me throughout the years. “Keep it simple, stupid. Just give them Jesus, because if they have Jesus to have everything, but if they don’t have Jesus, it doesn’t matter what else they have. They have nothing.” That’s good wisdom. And so may today be a day where you put Jesus first, where you repent of those things that have taken first place. Because when Jesus isn’t first place, nothing else fits. Let’s pray.
Father God, thank you for this morning. Thank you for Steve and I pray you would use his life, his example, to encourage us to number our days so that we might present to you a heart of wisdom. Father, I pray that you would use his words to convict hearts where we have put other things above your son, Jesus Christ. Father use today to change lives for your glory. In Jesus name. Amen.
Acts 20:17-25 NASB
17 From Miletus he sent to Ephesus and called to him the elders of the church.18 And when they had come to him, he said to them,
“You yourselves know, from the first day that I set foot in Asia, how I was with you the whole time, 19 serving the Lord with all humility and with tears and with trials which came upon me through the plots of the Jews; 20 how I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable, and teaching you publicly and from house to house, 21 solemnly testifying to both Jews and Greeks of repentance toward God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. 22 And now, behold, bound by the Spirit, I am on my way to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there, 23 except that the Holy Spirit solemnly testifies to me in every city, saying that bonds and afflictions await me. 24 But I do not consider my life of any account as dear to myself, so that I may finish my course and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify solemnly of the gospel of the grace of God.
25 “And now, behold, I know that all of you, among whom I went about preaching the kingdom, will no longer see my face.
- Paul’s stability of position – None of these things move me.
- Paul’s sacrifice of person – Neither do I count my life dear unto myself.
- Paul’s singleness of purpose – That I might finish my course
- Paul’s simplicity of preaching – The ministry of testifying of the gospel of the grace of God