This past weekend I was in Tampa to speak at Bayside Community Church. I flew in on Saturday, arriving a little after noon. That gave me time for lunch and a walk along the bay before supper. I even saw a few dolphins and a sting ray.
I had a great supper and then I was back to my hotel. As we drove up, I started feeling a bit nauseated. Thirty minutes later I felt terrible: headache, chills, nausea. I went to bed at 9 PM and slept till 8 AM, well, really 7 AM since daylight savings kicked in. The good news was that I felt fine Sunday morning.
I’m not sure what caused it. But I’ve had that before while speaking on several occasions.
My favorite sick preaching story—wait a minute, that sounds wrong—was when my Mom was 84 and I was speaking at Coast Bible Church in Dana Pt., California. Arch Rutherford, a good friend of mine, was the pastor.
I woke up Sunday morning sick. Man was I sick. Anyhow, after showering and shaving, I was no better. I was probably worse. I called Arch.
“Arch, it’s Bob.”
“Hi, Bob. What’s up?”
“I’m sick as a dog. I got up and got ready, but I feel worse. I’m terribly nauseated. I’m dizzy and shaking. I’ve never missed a speaking engagement in my life. But I just can’t make it this morning. Sorry.”
“There will be 300 people here in a few hours. They are coming to hear the Word of God taught. You are God’s messenger today. I have no message prepared. No one else has a message. Do you want 300 people to go home without hearing from God today?”
“No. Of course not. But…”
“OK. So suck it up and be a man and get down here.”
“OK, Arch. See you soon, Lord willing.”
On the hour drive down there I had to pull off the freeway twice to puke. My Mom, who was going with me, was concerned the police might think I was drunk. I was hoping for some rescue. I knew Arch was going to make me preach if I was not in jail or a coma.
I got there and Arch told me I could lay down on the couch in the office until my time to preach. But I knew I couldn’t lie down. If I did, I wouldn’t be able to get up for hours. So I sat there and tried not to move. Every little move brought on the nausea. The light bothered me too.
Then Arch came to get me. I’m told I looked like an albino Serbian. I had no color. Ironically I was preaching on one of my favorite subjects, “You Can Be Sure (John 11:25-27).” Somehow I made it through the message without throwing up and without losing consciousness. Actually, as I recall, it was one of my better messages.
Ever since that day in 1996, whenever I’ve been sick before preaching, I have remembered how I felt that day. It never has been that bad again. And Arch’s words still ring in my ears 21 years later: “All these people will be there waiting to hear a word from God and you are God’s messenger today. Are you going to let them go home without hearing from God today?”
I should add that Arch practices what he preached to me. He is notorious for preaching while in pain. Once he preached with a temperature of 104. Another time he preached less than a week after having plates inserted in both of his broken wrists. He also preached days after breaking his tibia and fibula. Oh, did I say that Arch likes to ride dirt bikes?
I don’t ride dirt bikes. I don’t even drive in the fast lane on the freeway. I am pretty cautious.
Just like marriage, we are called to serve Christ in sickness and in health. Paul put it this way:
“I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ who strengths me” (Phil 4:12-13).
Lord lift me up and make me stand so that I can preach your Word across the land.