Stan Wilkins taught me how to preach a sermon. Every week, as I prepare to preach, I think about Stan. He was larger than life. He was loud. He loved Jesus. And he knew how to communicate the love of Jesus to people.
I sat in Stan’s class two nights a week for a semester. I hate school. Especially when school is at night. But I loved Stan’s class. I even made my wife come with me one night. She loved that class too.
Stan spent that semester teaching us how to preach one small passage of Scripture.
“Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.” Matthew 7:24-27 (ESV)
Stan taught that room full of young preachers to do one thing and do it well. He told us that every sermon had only one point. Not three. Not a cute poem at the end. Just one point. And so he asked us, “What’s the point of this passage?”
Looking back, it seems weird but we spent the entire semester trying to answer that question. We broke into groups and discussed it. In a room full of preachers, that can be dangerous. We diagramed sentences in the passage. We read commentaries.
And finally, at the semester’s end, Stan filled us in on the answer we were all looking for.
“Every human being is wired to build a life.”
I have that written in my Bible. I look at it frequently. And when I do, it’s impossible not to think about Stan, the life that he built and the work he did in helping us to build ours.
When my wife got pregnant I stopped going to night school. Seminary had to wait. After our firstborn came we moved to another city and I started back at a different seminary. In my opinion, it was the best seminary in the world. The professors were world renowned in their field. The leadership was strong. The campus was beautiful.
But there was no Stan.
Shortly before we left for the new seminary a friend gave me a call. My friend, like all good ministers, broke the news quickly and directly. The details were fuzzy but my friend’s one point message was clear.
Stan had died.
Death has a way of making true statements people made while they were living all the more powerful. We are all wired to build a life. And Stan’s was built well. On the solid rock of Jesus and not the shifting sand of this world.
There are moments that I wish that I could call Stan. There are so many questions I’d like to ask him regarding the finer details of life building and preaching and ministry. There have been times that I wanted him to preach at the church that I pastor. They would have loved him.
But then I come back to reality. I can’t wish that on Stan. It would be billions of steps backwards for him. By God’s good grace, Stan’s life building is complete. And it is that same grace that has brought Stan to his new home, safe in the arms of his Savior.
So instead of wishing Stan back I just remember and try to apply all that he taught me.
Do one thing.
Do it well.
Build your life on Jesus.
You may never know the ways that the life you’re building is influencing the life that someone else is trying to build.
Even after your work is complete.