A few years ago I was conversing with a friend, reflecting upon our life experiences. Suddenly he asked, “When you look back over your life, who were the people God used to impact you the most?” Three people immediately came to my mind.
The first was my dad. I would like to note that he was not a spiritual leader. In fact, he didn’t even assure me of his salvation until 27 years after I first began praying for him. There were two things, though, that he taught me that benefit me to this day.
My dad taught me hard work. Our family’s dairy farm was a great environment for this lesson because dairy farming is just plain hard work. We started every morning at 5 o’clock and many times worked until 10 o’clock that night. Everything from handling pails of milk, operating farm equipment, throwing around hay bales, and hand-hoeing a crop can be physically exhausting. The hotter the day, the more exhausting it was. Hard work knew no breaks, either. It was seven days a week! In fact, my first vacation was my honeymoon! That hard work, though, benefitted me as I prepared for the ministry because ministry is not a nine-to-five job.
My dad also taught me hunting. He started to teach me at 12-years-old when I could legally hunt. Being an unselfish father, he always gave me the first chance to shoot when we saw game. He taught me small game hunting: rabbits, squirrels, and pheasants. Then, using that basic knowledge of hunting, I taught myself how to pursue big game such as deer and elk. My father gave me a love for the outdoors and those who know me well know how that I am still an avid hunter.
The second man God used to spiritually impact me was my Sunday school teacher in the church where I grew up. Unfortunately, the church was so liberal that the town knew the pastor as one who told dirty jokes. Sunday school was more of a circus because my peers just liked to joke. God was working in my life, though, and I wanted to get serious about studying what the Bible had to say. This particular Sunday school teacher picked up on that and did everything he could to encourage me to study the Scriptures and acquire a thorough knowledge of the Bible. I later realized how contrasting he was as a committed Sunday School teacher to the liberal church in which he was teaching. I thank God many times for the inspiration he was to me.
The third man God used to spiritually impact me was Dr. Haddon Robinson, the man who taught me how to preach. I met him when I started my studies at Dallas Theological Seminary. I came to respect him, not merely as a speaker but as a communicator. Every time I heard him, I came away knowing how to apply that truth to my life.
He made two statements that captured my attention: “When you say ‘thus saith the Lord’, you better be right because that is an awesome claim.” And “Learning how to speak means learning how to think. To speak clearly you have to think clearly.” The first comment gave me a passion to be certain I was saying exactly what the Word said. The second comment developed a passion inside of me to think clearly and then speak clearly. I wanted my audience to come away not only knowing what I said, but also where in the Scripture God said it first.
Thanks to Dr. Robinson I became known as an expositor and an evangelist, which ultimately had an impact on EvanTell! I wanted the ministry to be characterized by a clear presentation of the gospel and by a careful handling of Scripture.
Dr. Haddon Robinson also taught me grace. I was raised in a legalistic background where the Christian life meant rules and regulations. Even when I discovered what Scripture meant by be salvation through grace, I didn’t know what it meant to live by grace. Dr. Haddon Robinson impacted me with his understanding of grace that came straight from the Word.
I thank God for all of those who have impacted me spiritually, but especially the above three. God started with my father who taught me the importance of work, then used a committed Sunday School teacher who encouraged me in my Bible study, and then used Dr. Haddon Robinson to develop me professionally. I’ve been blessed in ways I never expected and certainly did not deserve!