By Maggie Walsh
The Alabama Baptist
I didn’t expect much.
When I was assigned to cover part of the Senior Adult Evangelism Conference, I wouldn’t say I was exuberant. I had an ever-mounting to-do list and I had already decided what I would tackle that Monday, which just so happened to be May 1, the day of the conference. So when I saw the assignment waiting for me in an unread email on Friday morning, all I could think was, “There goes my plan.”
But as I drove into work Monday, I was ready. I had decided it would be a productive day. Then mid-morning, a transformer blew outside our office — the working theory is a too-curious squirrel decided to see what electricity was all about — causing my computer to need a two-hour break to recover.
I was less than pleased.
But regardless of all I hadn’t gotten done that day, shortly after 1 p.m. I headed the half-mile down the road to First Baptist Church, Birmingham, for the conference.
Like I said, I didn’t expect much from the conference. After all it was geared toward senior adults and I’m the 25-year-old who’s preoccupied with her to-do list and seriously considering taking up squirrel hunting within the Birmingham city limits.
So as I found a seat in the back of the packed sanctuary, I thought I would take notes, smile politely and slip out right after the message.
I didn’t expect the enthusiasm of the white- and gray-haired participants around me to be contagious.
I didn’t expect Squire Parsons’ rendition of “Sweet Beulah Land” to bring me to tears.
And I didn’t expect the sermon by longtime evangelist Junior Hill to be just what I needed to hear.
Hill placed his walking canes on the podium after slowly making his way up the steps of the stage and took a moment before he began.
“They say when you get old, three things happen to you,” he said. “First you get feeble, then you get forgetful. And number three … .”
Silence. When we all began to laugh, a gleeful little grin crept across his face and you could tell he was utterly delighted by our laughter. To see that kind of childlike joy in a man of his … maturity … was unusual. He caught my attention.
Hill went on to say that he has never seen such despair as he does today as he travels the country. Citing low baptism and church closing statistics, he said, “I don’t have to tell you these are bad times. But the problem with bad times is we don’t always react the right way.”
Most of the time we start fretting, Hill said, defining “fretting” as an inner vexation that stirs you up. But Psalm 37 has some thoughts on fretting, he said.
First we’re to “refrain from fretting.”
“Fretfulness corrupts the spirit,” Hill said. “When you fret, you’re hurting yourself more than the person you’re fretting toward. … It’s corrupting, contagious and confusing to sinners.
“The Bible says, ‘Let your light so shine before men and let them see your good works,’” he said, referring to Matthew 5:16. But so often our fretfulness gets in the way of our light. Was he talking specifically to me right here? It felt like it.
Hill went on to say that we’re to “rely upon His faithfulness.” Telling stories of how people have given him hundred dollar bills over the years that he just held on to until he met the person who needed it, Hill reminded us that God faithfully provides what we don’t have.
“For over 30 years I’ve been giving away that hundred dollar bill and every single time I’ve ever given it away it always comes back.”
Making his last point, Hill reminded those of us in attendance to “rejoice in His fellowship.”
“This is the gist of what I’ve been trying to say — if you ever get your desire before your delight, there will never be any delight when you get your desire. We often pray in an if-then scenario. [But] when we can pray above all things that God is the source of our contentment then God miraculously gives you what you didn’t know you needed or wanted when you get your desire in the right place.”
Age doesn’t prohibit you from being used in big ways by God, Hill said. “Do what you can for Jesus and don’t fret while He’s doing something.”
His timing is perfect
The beautiful thing about God is that He can use an aging evangelist to remind those of us in our 20s and those in their 70s that His timing is perfect, that He has always provided and that He has never forgotten you.
And then the combined choirs of Heritage Baptist Church and Eastern Hills Baptist Church, both in Montgomery, sing “He’s an On-Time God” to close the service.
So many times I put God in a box — like in my church box or my quiet-time box — and then get surprised when He’s in my work box or some other box where I didn’t put Him.
On May 1, I opened my cover-this-conference box and was engulfed by the grace and love of Christ all over again. My fretting stopped and I was challenged.
While the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions’ office of evangelism planned the conference for senior adults, it was a conference for any adult who needed to be reminded of the power of the God we serve.