I am on my way home from out-of-the-middle-of-nowhere Pennsylvania. Two nights ago I landed in Baltimore and made the three hour trek to Agape Farm to preach at Creation Festival. I was scheduled to preach twice. Once yesterday morning and once today.
Preaching at Creation is a pretty big deal. There’s something like 70 or 80 thousand people there and they really do give a high priority to the preaching. It’s not just the bands that make the people stay through the rain and endure the humidity, it’s the communication of God’s Word. I’ve done some Festivals where the announcement of the preacher who is about to speak brought about what I’ve come to nickname “the reverse altar call.” The crowds run toward the concession stands or the amusement park rides or the trailers. Not at Creation. Pastor Harry has developed an atmosphere where the worship time and the preaching time are equally honored.
In other words it’s an AWESOME place to preach and to rock!
Yesterday morning went fine. I preached on Isaiah 6:1-8 and God did his thing. The vast majority of the crowd raised their hands to take “the double dare” (to share the gospel with one person within the next 48 hours AND make the commitment to begin to develop a lifestyle of personal evangelism!)
Then something bad happened.
I began to lose my voice. By 6:45 pm my voice was gone…I mean completely gone. I couldn’t say two tiny words with my one big mouth.
The problem was that I was scheduled to preach this morning at 9:15am again to the tens of thousands at Creation. I did all my due diligence. I drank tons of water. I gargled a half dozen times with piping hot salt water. I took throat medicine. But more than anything else I prayed. I had my staff praying for me. I even had my good friend Jose Zayas come over and pray for my throat (He went to Oral Roberts University so I figured he could use some of that ORU prayer mojo for his theologically conservative homeboy)
From 6:45pm-6:45am I didn’t say one word. My co-worker and on the road roommate, Jason Lamb, and I went to eat dinner and I couldn’t say “boo” let alone “pass the salt.” Before we crashed at 11 that night I scribbled a note to Jason to have him call Creation and tell them to have a back up plan just in case my voice was still gone in the morning.
During those 12 hours of silence I did a whole lot of praying and thinking. I began to realize how much I am dependent on my voice. I’m a preacher. A preacher without a voice is like being a basketball player without hands, a runner without legs, a fashion model without a catwalk (err…or whatever.)
During those 12 hours I confessed my sins to God. I confessed that I have a tendency to trust in myself and my own ability. This complete loss of voice made me trust in God and him alone. Without him I could do nothing. Without his healing power over night I could say nothing.
I began to ask myself questions like, “Apart from my speaking ability who am I?” The answer reverberated within my soul, “You are a child of the living God.” Like Jacob ,I wrestled with God all night in prayer. Unlike Jacob I didn’t meet the morning light with a limp but with a complete healing of my voice.
By God’s grace my voice came back STRONG. I preached in power (his not my own) this morning, first to the large crowds of Creation and then for an hour straight to 350 or so youth leaders. My voice didn’t fail once.
What did I learn? I need Jesus. Who I am is wrapped up in who He is and who I am in Him…not what I do.
Thank you Lord for the silence. Thank you for reminding me of what is most important, not my ability to spout funny, moving, motivating words, but your work in me and on me to make me what you want me to be. Then, above and beyond that, if you choose to use me to reach others then that is gravy.
Thank you Lord for speaking to me loudly in the silence. Thank you for using me in spite of me. You are an awesome God. I love you Daddy!