John Bunyan's allegory, Pilgrim's Progress, gave birth to the idea of setting forth the experiences I have either had or personally known about during my race of life thus far. Episodes having a direct bearing on a preacher's life will be related. My main qualification for being so bold in writing this is my ordinariness. Outstanding talents are nonexistent with me. Cultivated abilities have produced an average achievement record. It is my unalterable conviction that if God can use my limited and unexceptional gifts to His glory, for certain He can do the same for any ministerial colaborer or aspirant.
As you read, it will become obvious that the closest similarity between these articles and the work of John Bunyan is the title and pseudonym. With apologies to Mr. Bunyan, a few bits of allegory may be scattered here and there, now and then.
Adventist ancestry on both sides of the family tree blessed my past. The roots go so deep on my mother's side that if Adventism had an Eden, my great grandfather would have come close to qualifying as an Adam. In fact, I had a great uncle who attended every camp meeting of a certain conference for eighty years, starting with the inaugural one as a babe in arms. The only reason he quit going is because he died.
My birth year made me a World War II preacher-graduate. In spite of my rather late entry into Adventism's ministerial ranks, I have lived extremely close to this movement through heart, eyes, and ears since its inception. Even though nearly half of my forty-year ministerial wanderings are still ahead of me, I look back with the deepest gratitude and thank God repeatedly for the honor and privilege of being a Seventh-day Adventist minister. I have often thought that even if I miss heaven, the rewards of the ministry thus far more than offset any trials endured. The incomparable joy of serving as a colaborer with Christ is above explanation. I can partially sense this but can't properly express it.
Iron Cage of Despair
Admittedly, difficulties and conflicts, especially within my own turbulent nature, have frequently plunged me into the iron cage of despair. True, I will sit behind those bars some more, but when the mind crawls out of these brief dungeonlike experiences and by faith grasps the over-all beauty of service for and with Christ, spiritual joy reigns anew.
Two Determining Truths
One valuable truth discovered in recent years, which every preacher ought to discover as early as possible, is that life and calling do not come by accident. This fact is valid for all men but particularly so for the minister. To win where Lucifer lost is at this point. God emphatically declared to Lucifer that He had brought him into existence and had appointed him a definite work (Eze. 28:14, 15). Refusal to accept these two determining truths transformed Lucifer to Satan. The deceiver, through every conceivable means, has dulled, blunted, and calloused man's perceptions until the vast majority grope blindly through life until the grave mercifully hides their faithless existence.
God and Jeremiah
Jeremiah's experience is not exclusive. It is a sample of God's design for all men. The preacher who hankers after security can't find a better text than Jeremiah 1:5, R.S.V. "'Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nation.'" So powerful and wonderful was this thought that Jeremiah started his book with it. Whether in a mud pit or smashing pottery visual aids, Jeremiah's mind was constantly undergirded by the thought "I have been selected by God for this work." You can't break a man who tenaciously holds to the conviction summed up as follows: "I am here by appointment, I have a work given to me by appointment, and by the grace of God I will do my best to honor His investment in my life and work."