Don’t Take it Back

“Stick by your guns—if you’re a real preacher.”

[The following story appears in Will Willomon’s Stories from Willimon. When I read it, it struck a chord with me and I hope it does the same for you.]

He owned a hardware store, and he was a member of my church. Someone had warned me about him when I moved there. “He’s usually quiet,” they said, “but be careful.” People still recalled the Sunday in 1970 when, in the middle of the sermon (the previous preacher’s weekly diatribe against Nixon and the Vietnam War), he had stood up from where he was sitting, shook his head, and walked right out. So, I always preached with one eye on my notes and the other on him. He hadn’t walked out on a sermon in more than ten years. Still, a preacher can never be too safe.

You can imagine my fear when one Sunday, having waited until everyone had shaken my hand and left the narthex, he approached me, gritting his teeth and muttering, “I just don’t see things your way, preacher.”

I moved into my best mode of non-defensive defensiveness, assuring him that my sermon was just one way of looking at things, and that perhaps he had misinterpreted what I said, and even if he had not, I could very well be wrong and er, uh . . .

“Don’t you back off with me,” he snapped. “I just said that your sermon shook me up. I didn’t ask you to take it back. Stick by your guns—if you’re a real preacher.”

Then he said to me, with an almost desperate tone, “Preacher, I run a hardware store. Since you’ve never had a real job, let me explain it to you. Now, you can learn to run a hardware store in about six months. I’ve been there fifteen years. That means that all week, nobody talks to me like I know anything. I’m not like you, don’t get to sit around and read books and talk about important things. It’s just me and that hardware store. Sunday morning and your sermons are all I’ve got. Please, don’t you dare take it back.”

  “The Unfettered Word,” sermon, Duke
University Chapel, October 15, 1989


Treasuring God’s Word

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“How can a young person stay on the path of purity? By living according to your word. I seek you with all my heart; do not let me stray from your commands. I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you. Praise be to you, Lord; teach me your decrees. With my lips I recount all the laws that come from your mouth. I rejoice in following your statutes as one rejoices in great riches. I meditate on your precepts and consider your ways. I delight in your decrees; I will not neglect your word.”
– Psalm 119:9-16 (NIV)

 
The Bible in the picture that I used is my own Bible and after 3 1/2 years of owning and using this Bible, I’ve decided that it’s time to retire it. I’ve preached many a sermon with it over the last few years and now, laden with duct tape, highlights, underlines, and post it notes, it will now have a special place in my top dresser drawer. I will confess though that as much as I’ve read the Bible, I’ve not always applied it to my heart like I should, and I can promise you that if I had applied God’s word to life all the times that I should have my life would’ve gone a lot easier and possibly would have turned out much differently.
David starts out this part of Psalm 119 by asking a legitimate question. “How can a young person stay on the path of purity?” The answer is by treasuring God’s word. Treasuring God’s word is not just reading it, but living it. James tells us,
“But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.” – James 1:22-25 (ESV)
 
Did you catch that last part? James actually tells us we will be blessed by applying the word of God! He’s not talking about necessarily material blessings, but he’s talking about an inner sense of peace. The word blessing in the Bible means happiness. James is telling us that if we apply God’s word to our heart then in the end, we’ll be satisfied with living by God’s prescribed order.
Today, pray about how God would have you apply His word to your life and ask Him to put people in your path that you can share His word with.