Today, we celebrated the life and fruitful ministry of a man I will always call, my pastor. The Church where he served The Lord, faithfully for over 25 years, was filled to capacity. I think it safe to say that there wasn’t a dry eye in the house. Yet, our sorrow is strangely mingled with joy in the assurance that our pastor is in the Presence of Jesus, for eternity, awaiting the glorious day we will all be reunited again. I say strangely mingled with joy, because there are so many that do not share the blessed assurance, that a child of God has. We sorrow, but not as they which have no hope of eternity with Christ. (1 Thessalonians 4:13) To those it would be a strange thing to possess such joy, even mixed with our sorrow at the earthly loss we sustain when a loved one departs. We miss them sorely, yet we know that we shall see them again and share eternity together.
I met the man over 26 years ago, when God called him to pastor our church, First Baptist Church, Anacoco, Louisiana. The church was modest in number, but strong in faith in God. Much of my family attended, the younger of my two sisters led the music, and my Mother attended, as well. The core church members were like family to us all and have been ever since. You couldn’t ask for a more loving group of people. When they called our pastor, they called the right man for the job. He had a heart for God and a heart for people, as well.
I was saved and even answered the call to the ministry, at a young age. Like everything in my entire life, I hit the ground running! I was seldom one to hesitate; I would dive right in. Often, the combination of zeal, when multiplied by ignorance, is fatal. There have been numerous cases where this has been proven, but God had a plan for my life. So here I am, in a small town near where I was born and raised (you might have been reared, but I was raised) licking my spiritual wounds from having charged forward into the ministry front-lines with little armor or armament. It is difficult when you have much zeal, yet possess little wisdom. Anyway, this was my plight–a failure in the ministry, a failure in my family and person. I could attempt to cast blame on my circumstances or other parties, but I knew the blame rested squarely on my own shoulders. You see, when things got bad I threw in the towel, but God tossed it back and insisted I wipe my face! I didn’t realize this last part until years later. I thought just maybe I had convinced Him that I was a bad choice for the ministry. Hopefully He would let me be. I thought I was hiding pretty well. I knew I was a Christian. I knew where I was going when I died. But, God wasn’t finished with me–not yet!
Here comes this new pastor! Great! He doesn’t really know me! We knew each other’s families; everybody did, in this small town. But this will be a great place for me to hide out. But, then he began to spend time with me. He began to show me that he loved me and was concerned about my life. Wait! God has found someone to search me out! What’s up with this?
You see, you couldn’t be around my pastor for very long without hearing about Jesus, or his encouraging you to walk closer to Christ. I remember the first time I saw his library. It was filled with so many books! I have never seen its equal to this day. He had only a chair and a lamp. When you saw him he was in The Word.
It was my pastor that encouraged and mentored me to get myself into the Bible, with daily devotion time and prayer. Soon, I started getting up early in the morning, before anyone in the house was awake, reading my Bible and praying. This was not normal activity for me. I liked to sleep late! But, armed with the love and encouragement of a loving pastor that deeply cared about my life (and ministry), I got up, clutching my Bible, and nervously, yet quietly calling on The Lord God of Glory. I developed the desire to have the first part of my day to be in The Word. I don’t say this to boast, but to share the truth. I wanted The Bible, God’s Word, to be the very first thing my sleep-filled eyes were to set upon. No internet, no newspaper, no television, no social media, but God’s Living Word. Fortunately, in 1993 and 1994, we had no social media or internet to speak of. But, to this very day, this is the way I start each day–7 days a week. This is because my pastor loved me and encouraged me. He pastored me! He taught me! His love for me changed my life!
It wasn’t long before God began to speak to my crusty heart. I will never forget how The Lord, in that still, small voice, through His Word, showed me exactly what He wanted me to do with my life. I have been getting up early, every day since then, hungering for God to continue to speak to me through His Blessed Book. He still does! This is because of one man–my pastor, who loved Jesus with all his heart, and loved God’s people, and the lost, as well.
We left that small town in late summer of 1994, headed for Virginia, where I entered college to follow Christ and let Him equip me for ministry. I can’t say that it has been roses and apple pie, but, I was finally able to graduate with a degree in Biblical Studies. I am pursuing a Master’s Degree in Strategic Leadership, which I know would make my pastor proud of me. I won’t quit learning until Jesus comes back, or I leave this earth. I was blessed to have been invited to speak at the Church’s Homecoming, just last September. Pastor Durhl Ray Davis never stopped believing in me! He never stopped loving me! He never stopped encouraging me to follow The Lord.
I was saved, at an early age, because my Daddy studied The Word and lived it. I am in the ministry, today, because Pastor Davis (Bro, Durhl) wouldn’t give up on me. He let God use him. There are many faces that will be in heaven, because Bro. Durhl let God use his life and ministry. There will be a lot of faces that will be there because he let God use him to minister to me, and I will in turn minister to many. His spiritual legacy lives on!
Jesse is currently Interim Pastor at First Baptist Church, Lone Pine, Louisiana. The author of, “America: Danger Close! (will it be) Revival or Revolution? (WestBow Press, 2012) and other works soon to be published. Host of the Podcast: Light of Hope with Jesse Prewitt, and this blog. Please pray for our ministry.