I cannot forget his story, however.
Someone gave me a recording of an incredible moment in the life of an evangelist whom, for some reason, God sidelined for a while. The evangelist developed a throat disease that silenced him. All he could produce was a coarse whisper. He lost his voice, but he never lost his passion for Jesus or for God's Word, and he was considered a terrific Bible teacher. Undaunted, he left the road, plugged into his church, and started teaching a Sunday School class. A microphone amplified his whisper and also allowed for weekly taping, which is the only reason I'm able to share this story—because I heard it myself.
The former evangelist taught for a few years, remaining faithful when many wouldn't become bitter. I've thought about this man often, wondering how he maintained his faith and positive attitude when his preferred ministry was taken from him. What would I do if I lost my voice, if I couldn't sing? Would I retire to my church and remain faithful in the ministry? I hope I would. I believe I would. But here was a man who did.
I listened to the cassette as he preached on Psalm 103 and read aloud Verses 2-4.
Bless the LORD, O my soul,
And forget not all his benefits,
Who forgives all your iniquity,
Who heals all your diseases,
Who redeems your life from the pit,
Who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy…
The teacher's class was quiet as he read aloud in his whisper, "Who heals all your diseases." He paused and said, "You know, I don't know why He does this, but He does. Some of us He chooses not to heal, and some of us He chooses to heal, but that's His sovereign choice."
He returned to the passage and continued reading, whispering the next line, "Who redeems your life FROM THE PIT." Instantly, his voice returned in mid-sentence. He spoke the words "from the pit" in full voice. It startled it. He paused and repeated himself, still in full voice: "Who redeems…your life…from the pit." There is no other sound on the tape. The class is stunned and completely silent.
The once-and-future evangelist seems almost fearful: "I don't…know what's happening…right now...." Someone in the class yelps in glee, "Whoooo!" And the rest of the class comes unglued. They go nuts, and I was left with goosebumps and a grin as I stared at the tape player. The evangelist finished the entire lesson in his normal voice, and it's all on tape. It was one of the most powerful moments I've ever experienced, and that verse stuck with me.
In so many ways, Jesus has redeemed my life from the pit. He wanted me when I didn't want Him, and He pulled me out of the pit when I was unable to escape on my own.
One of the blessings of my youth pastorate at Center Hill Baptist was the use of the church parsonage and the church lawnmower, which came in handy considering the parsonage's front and back yards. The back yard was connected the church's softball field, which, thankfully, I did not have to mow. Still, the acreage was large enough that I called it my "Back 40," and it required substantial time on the riding mower. It was a songwriter's dream.
That's where my "Lawnmower Song" was born; it's titled Praise You with the Dance on our first CD.
The parsonage was nestled in pretty countryside surrounded by tall pines and robust hardwoods, and every time I fired up the mower I couldn't help but feel my smallness in God's vastness. So I would start singing this little worship song that kept bouncing around in my head. Cars zoomed past on the highway, their drivers laughing at the guy bellowing from the op of his lungs, but I didn't care. I saw God's beauty and it reminded me of my wretchedness, and I couldn't help but remember the old evangelist whose raspy voice grew strong as God reassured him that He had redeemed his life from the pit. I knew the feeling, so the words of Psalm 103 and Psalm 40 helped frame this worship song. Psalm 40:1-2 states:
I waited patiently for the LORD;
he inclined to me and heard my cry.
He drew me up from the pit of destruction,
out of the miry bog
and set my feet upon a rock,
making my steps secure.
In the spirit of the healed evangelist, the first verse of the song proclaims that I will sing to the Lord and "lift my voice." The second verse concludes with a praise: "For You have brought me out of the pit."
Satan still tries to dampen my enthusiasm on occasion: "Why are you doing this? You don't deserve to do this. You are a sorry dog to stand up here and try to sing these songs to Him." It helps to remind myself that those people who have been forgiven much are the ones who should sing even louder. If ever you see me chocked up, especially in the middle of a worship song, it's because I'm remembering the truths of Psalms 103 and 40 and I realize just how far He reached down to yank me out of that pit.