On this date 15 years ago I began my days as a professor at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. When I think about the ways our great God has allowed me to teach, to mentor, to love on students from then until now I am in awe.
I watched Emmitt Smith give his acceptance speech for the Pro Football Hall of Fame last night. He talked about how he yearned to be a Dallas Cowboy from age six, how his life seemed to be marked by destiny. God created and crafted me to be a teacher. I am quite aware of my imperfections to this day and all my shortcomings as a teacher. But I know this is the destiny for which God has created me. Other opportunities have come which would have paid me a lot more money and arguably provided me more notoriety, as if that were why someone should be in ministry. But I just want to teach, to help people GET it.
Notice I said 15 years ago I began to teach at SEBTS. But 15 years and a few days ago something happened that changed my attitude toward teaching specifically and ministry in general. My family—Michelle, Josh at age 7, and Hannah age 2—traveled with me to Alabama from Houston en route to North Carolina. We stopped at my parents’ home, where Michelle and the kids would stay until I got things rolling in Wake Forest.
A long flatbed trailer sat in the edge of the pasture at the farm where my parents lived. I walked out to look at it, stepped over the big tongue, and walked up the middle of the bed. You know what happens when you walk over the axle of a trailer—it flips. So I was in the process of flipping the trailer by walking over the axle when I heard a blood-curdling scream.
My Hannah, now 17, has always enjoyed doing things with me. So as I went out to investigate the trailer, she hurried after me. Unaware of her pursuit, I simply went about my business. When I heard my Mom’s scream, I turned to see Hannah had followed me to the trailer. She had just climbed on the tongue when I turned to see her. Out of the corner of my eye I caught her form fall off the tongue as the trailer flipped.
I proceeded to do a very, very stupid thing. I turned and ran straight up the bed of the trailer to get her. While it was the most direct route, my sudden reaction caused the massive metal tongue to crash down on top of her. I grabbed the tongue and pulled it off her, and saw her limp, pale, form, her eyes rolling back into her head.
I thought I had just killed my daughter.
Josh screamed, “Is she dead?” as I scooped her up and yelled to my mom to call 911. The paramedics came and worked on her. She is obviously fine now, as somehow her body was spared the full brunt of the trailer’s weight. But for a while that day, everything came into rare focus.
I had just finished my first book. I could not have cared less. I was about to embark on a journey to teach some of the greatest leaders of the church in our time. Did not matter. I would be able to travel the world and preach in some of the greatest churches in the United States. I would trade it all in a heartbeat for my daughter’s heart to continue bringing her life.
None of my accomplishments or my hopes mattered at that moment. I just wanted my girl to live.
When is the last time you have felt that kind of urgency? In Matthew 9:35-38 we read of the urgency of Jesus. He saw the crowd, the multitude, and was moved with compassion. Do we see people as Jesus did? Do we too often see groups as we like to tag them—jocks, nerds, wealthy, poor, in crowd or out crowd, our kind or not—or do we see as Jesus did, that all around us there are those spiritually blind, like sheep with no shepherd?
Do the things that moved Jesus deeply move us? He was moved with compassion. The Greek word means the viscera, the gut. Think about things that so move you, you feel it in your gut. When is the last time you had that kind of ache for someone who does not know Christ?
Do we pray like Jesus prayed? He prayed for harvesters. We pray too much for temporal needs and too rarely for eternal matters. Do you find yourself praying for a movement of God to spur believers to tell the world about their Lord?
Do we do what Jesus said? He said to pray for workers. Will we be the answer to that prayer? When I lead someone to Christ I often ask him or her to tell me someone who would love to know this. I love to hear the new Christ follower tell me of someone they know had been praying for them—a man in Franklinton, NC, who said he knew of his wife’s prayers, a man in another state who said his mom had prayed for him since his childhood.
I want to be the answer to a precious saint’s prayers. You can be that too. Live with urgency. But be sure that urgency is about things that matter.