It’s Sunday of Horizons week (http://www.fhu.edu/horizons) at Freed Hardeman University and this morning I was privileged to worship with the body of believers in Henderson, TN. It was an encouraging morning with a completely packed building. I saw brand new babies and I saw a woman who is a hundred years old. I loved the singing (especially singing “O Come all Ye Faithful” in July, because we should sing of his birth often and in all seasons) and I loved, loved the prayer at the beginning in which we talked to the Father about specific mission works both in the local vicinity and as far away as Poland and Russia. I loved remembering the crucifixion Friday. I loved hearing a lesson about the preparation that Jesus, The Word in the flesh, made to execute His earthly ministry and take my sins to the cross.
But the part of that assembly that possibly made the greatest impression on me today occurred in the Bible class hour when I sat at the feet of a man who is 92 years old. J. Walker Whittle stood in that auditorium class and discussed the life of the apostle Peter. He did it capably, with passion and power. I think it’s a phenomenon–a lesson about life-long commitment that may be more vivid than any other I will hear in this week of leadership training, though there will be powerful lessons.
Without any disrespect to Brother Whittle, let me say that when I was a student at FHU between the years of 1977 and 1980, he was a Bible and Business teacher, as I recall, and I thought Brother Whittle was a godly, elderly man even then. (When you are 18, anyone over 45 is elderly, I guess.) But that was thirty-plus years ago. In the intervening years, Brother Whittle has taught and baptized people. He has helped his children raise his grandchildren, and now, he is watching his great grandchildren grow up for the Lord (and he is watching them play ball!). He has also been sick and he has been sad, at times, and there have been some days when he just felt very tired, especially during those long months when he sat by the bedside of his wife of many years as she became very sick and finally left this world.
After the excellent class, I went up to talk with Brother Whittle. Caleb and I spoke to him about his weekly Monday night Bible class in his home. That’s right. He opens his home every Monday night to anyone who would like to come and study the Word. He said, “I always fix up some kind of treat for them, too.” We asked what was on the docket for tomorrow night. He said “Three-layer chocolate fudge cake.”
Did you hear me? He is 92! Now what was that “reason” you’ve been giving as to why you are no longer actively involved in the work of the church?