We are in the “dog days of summer,” an ancient expression that was based on an astrological movement of stars and represented the hottest period of the year. The span of time varies in different cultures but basically begins sometime in July and ends in late August or September. I was in Phoenix for a week at the Southern Baptist Convention. I think they got a jump on the dog days of summer.
Dog days give me the connotation of being uncomfortable. There are a lot of things in life that make us uncomfortable. Recently I was interviewed for a video by “For the Church” from Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. One of the questions was “what difficult thing in your life has taught you the most?” In answering that question I realized it was one challenge that has played out in numerous seasons of my life. Constant adversity has been my companion throughout my ministry.
Shortly after I was saved, I answered God’s call to preach. I went to a Baptist college, where I was confronted with theological liberalism for the first time. Some professors denied the virgin birth, the bodily resurrection and the exclusivity of salvation in Christ. More than once I contested with them about their positions. It did not end well for me; I was asked to leave the school. At that moment I had to decide whether I was going to believe the Bible to be inerrant. In the crucible of adversity, my life’s ministry was shaped.
God blessed the second church where I pastored. We saw people come to Christ, and the church grew. Those who were in the power structure resented losing their place to the new people. I was voted out as pastor. I think some Methodists cast ballots. But I could not quit. God had called me to preach, and there are too many street corners in America for me not to preach even if a church wouldn’t have me.
When the Conservative Resurgence got in motion, I was already on the train. Actively working to see change in my state convention, I was attacked by denominational leadership. A preacher delivering the convention sermon brought a message that alluded to me and my efforts to bring change. I love being a “convention Baptist,” but if I had to lose my future involvement because of my stand for the Word of God, so be it. By God’s grace, the convention returned to its biblical roots.
Then in 1998 I was called to serve the churches of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention. There were a number of untrue statements made about me and the convention by outside critics. One state paper editor wrote an article calling me “a liar, a hypocrite and a horse thief.” He said I was “stealing” churches and institutions. I admit I have lied in my life. I admit I have been hypocritical in my life. But I have never been a horse thief. You know what they do to horse thieves in Texas. Being visionary and missionary had to continue to be my focus.
We all want to be loved and accepted. We should never give people a reason to fault our spirit. Even when we stand for truth in a Christ-like way we will be criticized. God showed His faithfulness to see me through many challenges. I’m here to testify of his grace.
The dog days of summer may be uncomfortable, but fall is on its way. Relief will be here soon. When you go through adversity, remember God’s Spirit will see you through. Jesus is there all along the way.