I have been very transparent about being born with an inherited speech defect. It was so severe that I could not pronounce the word “the.” In the speech world, it is called “articulation disorder,” meaning the tongue does not know where to go to produce certain sounds.
Everything changed, however, when one day in high school I told the Lord, “If you will help me with this inherited defect, I will always use my voice for you.”
God so worked that I went on to undergraduate school where the fourth year I was voted president of the student body. I went from there to Dallas Theological Seminary, where my peers voted me one of the four top preachers of the class of 1973.
It is certainly to God’s credit, because if it were not for what He did, I would not be an evangelistic speaker. My plea to God, along with a year of speech therapy, is what God used to give me the victory.
Let me begin by saying that there are many times that I wish I would not have to struggle with my inherited speech defect. I envy speakers who speak so eloquently that they never struggle with their speech. For years, I prayed that God would so help me that no one would ever be able to notice that I had a speech defect. After years of prayer, it appeared to me that was not going to happen.
Then one day, I read Broken in the Right Places by Alan Nelson (now called Embracing Brokenness) which became my favorite book outside of the Bible. I got down by my bed and told the Lord, “If you want to use me with the defect instead of without it, that’s okay.” Since that tearful moment, I’ve been very transparent with people about my background, and I keep asking God to use me in spite of it, not without it.
Second Corinthians 12:7–9 has also ministered to me greatly: “And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure. Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. And He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”
Whatever that thorn in the flesh was, God did not answer Paul’s prayer because He wanted to use Paul with it, not without it. As I have wrestled with this inherited defect over which I had no control, I have told the Lord that I am content if He wants to do the same thing with me. That is why I sincerely shout the Hallelujah Chorus when people tell me, as they often do, “You are the clearest communicator I have ever heard.”
I often tell others every single person has something with which they struggle. It may be physical, mental, spiritual, or emotional. Many times, it is something, inherited like mine, over which they had no control. Some struggles are larger than others but everyone has something. I always ask them, “Do you want to be a victim or victor?”
A victim is someone who surrenders to the struggle, whereas a victor is someone who controls or conquers it. A victim is someone who allows the struggle to conquer them, but a victor is someone who conquers their struggle.
Through our struggles, God is glorified, particularly when it comes to unbelievers. Non-Christians identify with someone who has struggled and made it. God can use you to say to them, “If He helped me with my struggle, He can help you with yours.”
The only ones who lose out are the ones not willing to admit they have a struggle or those who live in defeat. You have every reason to rejoice. Through Christ you can be both transparent and victorious.