It was a cool summer Sunday evening in the beautiful small town of Kingsport, TN. I was sitting at 6pm where I always sat on Sunday evenings, in between my dad and mom on the left hand side of Temple Baptist Church. This particular evening worship service was going to be one of “those.” Occasionally at Temple Baptist Church, usually in evening services, the good folks who made up the congregation would start giving testimonies. They would just stand up and offer a word of thanksgiving to their God. Once this started happening, it would occasionally take up the entire service, leaving Pastor Bobby Russell unable to preach. I was always fascinated by “those” worship services. I have not been a part of one since I left Kingsport some 17 years ago.
On this particular night the people of Temple Baptist Church were on a roll, offering mini-sermons with their testimonies. Some were taking up quite a bit of time and Pastor Russell, sensing that others were eager to share, would have to begin doing his best to “cut them off” without being rude or insensitive. One by one folks were standing up and sharing what was on their heart.
And then my father stood up.
My father was a leader in the church and it was not uncommon for him to stand and give a testimony. But this night would radically shape and transform me. Amid the succession of lengthy and drawn out testimonies during this service, my dad said only this:
“I’m just glad there’s joy in the Lord.”
And he sat down.
There was then a thunderous roar of “amens” and shouting, the loudest coming from a dear choir member named John who then plummeted his head into his hands weeping. I looked over to my dad, who had a tear in his eye, and time stopped for a moment. During that period of frozen time, I was thinking these things:
Something profound had just happened. At the age of 13, I wasn’t sure exactly what it was, but I knew that my father understood a certain depth to his faith that was best shared with one simple sentence. Today I am 35 years old, have studied religion at educational institutions a combined total of 8 years, and have served on full time pastoral staff for 12 years. I have yet to come up with anything more important than dad’s words that night.
I was also thinking that my dad had something that you can’t learn. It can’t be taught. I’m still not sure exactly what that “something” was, but what I do know is that I am still chasing after it. It eludes me. It is always a step in front of me.
I was also thinking that this is what dads are supposed to do – make a powerful impact on their children. I have written and preached many sermons on the joy of the Lord and I think (you can ask my wife on this one to see if I am on target) that I try my best to encounter trials and difficulties with the strength of the Lord’s joy and contentment. All of this was shaped and put in motion by that cool summer evening. My dad was “just glad” there was joy in the Lord.
Nehemiah 8:1 says this: “Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”
So today and forevermore I echo the words of my father.
I’m just glad there’s joy in the Lord.