Last September, I was listening to a sermon by a pastor from Florida. Toward the tail end of his message, he mentioned that a few years before Billy Graham died, he had a friend who had invited Billy Graham to dinner and had invited this pastor and his wife to join him.
I don’t think many of us would have to think long and hard about an invitation to have dinner with Billy Graham. Especially a dinner with just a handful of people in an intimate setting like a home. For many Christians, that’s the equivalent with sitting down with the President. Or as my dad’s rankings might go, “Jesus, the Apostle Paul, and Billy Graham.”
As they ate dinner, this pastor said very little and hesitated to ask questions. Just soaking it in as Billy gave wisdom and shared his experiences and views on things as he was coming to the end of his life.
But this pastor finally had the courage to ask Billy Graham one question before they left. Just one big question: "If you could preach one more sermon from one passage of Scripture, what would it be?"
I know right now you're probably wondering what that passage of Scripture was. (It was Galatians 6:14, by the way...) But my mind instantly began to recall passages of Scripture that had been transformative in my life. Passages that if not entirely memorized, would "make the cut" if I had been asked that question. It didn't take me long to narrow down to about 15-20. I narrowed it down further to about 5-10. The weight of the whole thing hit me.
Every preacher will have a last sermon. Every teacher will have their final lesson. Every Christian will have a final opportunity to declare a Scriptural truth to someone. Every disciple of Jesus will have a final chance to summarize the Gospel to someone based on God's Word. Every follower of Jesus will read their Bible for the last time. The weighty thing is...We don't know when that is.
So anytime we do any one of those things, it's not to be taken lightly. So we work on it. We hide it compactly in our hearts for meditation and for heart transformation. Who knows when our last days might be? Only God knows that. Oh, may our hearts not grow stale!
I got to thinking... if I only had a few days to live, what would I want to say? This season of life will change one day. When I"m 80 or 90 and still living, my last sermon might be different than what I think it would be today. But I know what wouldn't change...it would still be a passage in which the Gospel would be clearly articulated.
I went back to the office in my church several weeks ago and remembered a book I hadn't looked at in a long while. It was entitled, "If I Only Had One Sermon to Preach" and it was a collection of different pastors, teachers, and preachers. It had once been my grandfather's, the Rev. C. Max Allman, and my grandmother allowed me to take a couple of boxes of books that had once been his, to which I'm so thankful for. He pastored for 40 or so years. He's no longer with us, and I know today I would have so many questions for him. I've tried to track down his final sermon and the closest I've got to finding this out is to learn that he was doing a Sunday night series on "Family", though I'm not sure if that was his last. But the point is...he had a final message.
We all have a final message. We all have a final declaration. We all have a final day where we breathe our last breath on earth, and I so yearn to live a life where I live a sermon out to the church and to the world.
So with our upcoming series, we want to think about what we would say to the church if it were our last time with them. We want to share what we would say to a lost and broken world if it were our last time with them. At the center of it all, is the Resurrection of Jesus. If Jesus didn't rise from the dead, then anything we have to say means nothing. And if Jesus did rise from the dead, not only do we have access to Resurrection power, but it means He's restoring the Kingdom as it should be and one day WILL BE! The Resurrection of Jesus means as a follower of Jesus, I too, have new life in the Kingdom of God. Though my last breath is coming, my Savior is present and waiting.