Almost exactly two months before the date, I began preparing a sermon for this past Lord’s Day. Bible Christian Church in Arkansas City, where Randa and I lived for five years, provided the opportunity. Even though that is two-hundred-and-fifty miles away, I looked forward to the opportunity with anticipation and appreciation. As soon as my friend, Mark Flickinger inquired as to whether I would be interested and available, I knew my topic: Unity.
And so, as I prayed, studied, reflected, and contemplated, I prepared for that theme. Picked out a few pertinent scriptures and gave much thought to them. I jotted down some notes and even wrote a song for the occasion. As the time drew nearer, I developed an alternative version of the song. I was quite confident that the sermon topic was pertinent and appropriate. Surely it doesn’t take a lot of meditation to conclude that “unity” is a good subject for believers to consider in these times that we live in.
And so, on Saturday morning, less than twenty-four hours before the scheduled time, I continued praying, studying, reflecting, and contemplating. Taking advantage of Mark and Diane’s hospitality, I sat outside in the shade of a cedar grove at their home adjacent to Camp Horizon, relishing the view of their landscaping: stone walls, flower beds, accenting shrubs and bushes, the woods lining the perimeter of their yard. And thinking. Even though I was confident of my planned subject, there was something that kept tugging at a loose corner of my consciousness. Something just wasn’t quite right.
“Well,” I finally said to myself, “I’m going out to the back deck and I’m going to pray until I reach a breakthrough on this mental logjam.” And so… I did.
It took about an hour. As I continued praying, thinking about unity and the scriptures I’d been studying, I thought about another song that I’d been considering singing as part of the service, “I Will Sing of the Goodness of God.” I remembered how profoundly the song affected me the first time I heard it. At the line, “I have lived in the goodness of God,” my spine tingled with goosebumps, and I began weeping as I realized, “Even at the very worst times in my life, I have lived in the goodness of God.”
During that prayer on the Flickinger’s small deck, once again I felt the surge of tingling on the back of my neck and along my spine. I knew, instantly, that the Holy Spirit had given me a new topic and direction for my sermon. In just a few minutes, I was looking up new scriptures. I read Romans 8:28, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose,” intending to use that as a key verse.
As I scanned back to the beginning of the chapter, and then read through the whole chapter, I realized, “This entire chapter is about the goodness of God!” And so, a new sermon began forming. And along with it, finally, after two months, a sense of peace about the lesson I would share. Mark and Diane reinforced my sense of peace with the feedback they gave me Saturday evening. And, on Lord’s Day morning, the Spirit worked in me and in the congregation to provide even stronger confirmation.
Throughout my life, I have always found contentment, fulfillment, and affirmation when I have listened to the leading of the Spirit. Without exception.
I’d rather not discuss the results of when I refused.