When Jonathan Forester MD of Pineville took time away from his busy medical practice to attend the 2008 Evangelism Conference, he heard the precariousness of Tuesday afternoon speaker Sammy Gilbreath’s life.
PINEVILLE – When Jonathan Forester MD of Pineville took time away from his busy medical practice to attend the 2008 Evangelism Conference, he heard the precariousness of Tuesday afternoon speaker Sammy Gilbreath’s life.
“It’s a very serious condition,” Forester said after the session about Gilbreath’s heart ailment. “He could have died any moment, even when he was speaking up there.”
Because he is living proof, Gilbreath had his audience’s attention, but it took awhile before they caught his passion.
Living with passion begins by learning the value of the promise of life, Gilbreath said. He spoke of the joy of a child with a new puppy or kitten, of the father of a newborn child, and in the same sentence, continued with “I don’t see many people getting excited about new life in the Kingdom of God.
“There is no greater joy than taking the word of God and sharing it with someone, and seeing them come to know Jesus Christ as their Savior and Lord,” Gilbreath said, and the after-lunch audience responded with silence. A close listening of the CD made of his talk – see page 12 for an ad where you can buy your own copy – does not include even one whispered “Amen.”
He preached from 2 Tim. 1 and said, “If you learn to live like you’re dying, you’ll have passion. If you believe this coming Sunday will be the last message you’ll ever preach, passion won’t be your problem.”
If you live like you’re dying, you’ll value the promise of life, spiritual blessing, a clear conscience and remembering, Gilbreath preached.
One thing he realized soon after he’d received his diagnosis was that grace is never given in advance, Gilbreath said, and when his death happens, his family will have all the grace they need, that God can take better care of them than he can.
Another thing he realized was that “if” negates an apology. “If” – as in “If I’ve offended you, I’m sorry” means “You’ve got a problem and need to get over it.”
“If you’re going to have passion and live like you’re dying, you’ll welcome the comfort of a clear conscience,” Gilbreath said. He’s taken care to apologize to the people he’s said ‘If’ to, he added.
Gilbreath has been told he’s probably not going to be able to receive a heart transplant, but if he were to, he’d want to thank the woman who gave her son’s heart, and she in turn, would want to lay her head on his chest just to hear her son’s heartbeat one more time.
“Living like I’m dying has taught me the value of remembrance,” Gilbreath said. He encouraged his listeners to focus on people and their need for Jesus, rather than on all the other good work that can leach life from a person, from a church.
“If you lack passion, learn to live like you’re dying,” Gilbreath preached. “You’ll learn the value of remembering someone made a difference in your life.”
At the conclusion of his words, men poured down the aisle for a poignant time with God and several as they raised their heads, wiped tears from their eyes.
Mike Walker, pastor of East Bayou Baptist in Lafayette, was the only man from Louisiana on the speaker schedule for the 2008 Evangelism Conference. He preached from 2 Kings 22.
“We need to bring what we’re doing in alignment with what the Word of God says,” Walker preached “… Passion is what moved Josiah to impact the entire nation for God.”
When Josiah looked, he found a broken land, Walker preached. “The people were polluted; they had a divided heart. They weren’t true to God alone. [Josiah] digested the word. He let the word come in and purge him and cleanse him and make him what he ought to be. … The land was filthy with junk. He went after all the things that would draw God’s people away from him.”
Walker asked his audience if there were any Asherah poles in their lives that diluted their relationship with the Lord.
“If we have a divided heart we won’t be as effective as we need to be,” Walker preached. “Do you have anything you look to for your consolation rather than God? … If we don’t give [whatever sin, thought process or attitude separating us from God] a death blow, it will come back into our lives.”
Walker turned his vocal attention to passion killers. The first: a congregation’s “cruise ship mentality” that says “take care of us; we’re paying the bills. …
“I think the longer we’re saved, the more we forget just how lost we were, the more we forget just how much without hope we were,” Walker continued. “We forget how lost those people are, how desperate they are.”
A professionalism mindset also is a passion killer, the Lafayette pastor said. “What it was supposed to be about was a relationship with God, but it became rules and ritual …. position, pomp, piety, power, prestige, and we’re more concerned about looking good to the parishioners, peers and the Baptist Building than that we have a heart and passion for lost people.”
Walker instructed his listeners to turn to the second chapter of Revelation for the next passion killer, “where you get distracted and end up losing your first love. … Folks expect to be distracted by the lure of sinning but Revelation says you can even be distracted by doing good stuff. You don’t take the time to keep the fires of your relationship hot. The Ephesians fell in love with good deeds and simply lost their love for Jesus Christ.
“We can do the good things and still miss the point by not doing the greatest thing,” Walker continued. “Passion comes out of a relationship with God.”
Solutions: Model servanthood. Develop a culture that’s excited about changed lives. And don’t give up.
“We can’t quit; we’ve got to see it through,” Walker preached. “It is amazing what one person on fire can do for God…. Josiah was a man of passion and because of that he impacted an entire kingdom.”