By: Rev. Jan Sattem, pastor of Good Shepherd ARP Church, League City, TX
Sometimes a preacher can receive a snippet of inspiration from the most unlikely source. Children have been a favorite sermon illustration fountainhead from time immemorial. Other reservoirs of stimulation have sprung from the sports pages, the mail-carrier, the next-door neighbor’s dog, or the commercials on T.V. Why some witticisms have even been homegrown coming from the preacher’s very own head! Not too long ago, I was stricken by just such a gem. It involved the spirituality of my filing and cross-referencing system in the office! As I pawed through those manila folders, I never imagined the gold mine that I would uncover. Years of reading and cutting and clipping and accumulating were about to burst upon my brain in a most unanticipated fashion. Who could have ever guessed! Let me tell you about it.
In my filing system, Adultery was right next to Affections. Now that made good sense to me! Although I hadn’t planned it that way, there it was staring me in the face —an undeniable truism! I looked further and sure enough —Brotherly Love adjoined Call to Service. Again, there was good wisdom in this sanctified filing system! Wasn’t it true? Who could deny it? Sooner or later yes, brotherly love must issue forth in shoe leather Christianity and there should be a genuine call to service! This was remarkable! How had I been able to skip past this marvelous file cabinet of truth for lo these many years? What a dunce I was!
As I rifled through the files, magnificent harmony and veracity unfolded before me. Did the Reformers have file cabinets? Demons were next to Depravity. No one had ever spoken truer words than these. I eased myself down, in a trembling fashion, to ponder it all in a chair as if to glean truth from a master.
Evangelism was next to Excuses! Ooh! Now we were getting a little personal —don’t you think? Still . . . it was a haunting truth. And to think that I had no idea of all the jockeying for position that must have been going on in these drawers over the years.
Fasting, Fear of God, and Fellowship appeared to be soul- brothers, for sure! One quartet which had great appeal was Confession, Conscience, Consolation, and Contentment. My goodness, this one even seemed to teach a progression! What riches these old metal file cabinets possessed! And who could forget Temptations and Testimony and Testing? Now, for sure, I could pause and ponder that one for hours. What depths of inspiration that trio gushed!
Truly, there was awesome knowledge in these file labels! Marvelous “manila theology” bombarded my eyes!
Rewards and Riches and Righteousness again —right on target! Wisdom and Word of God and Work hit it right on the nose!
I could scarcely keep my enthusiasm restrained. I was ready to burst out of the office and go public! I would tell the world of these talking cabinets! Surely, I had the first fully sanctified and theologized filing system! What a boon to Christianity!
Would Christianity Today be interested? Would they consider this as filler material in “Newsbriefs” (Oh, banish the thought!) —or would they recognize it for what I knew it was —a feature article —possibly a cover story! What a contribution this would be to all of Christendom!
Worship and Zeal were even side by side! Clearly, with such fervor in worship, mine had to be evangelical filing cabinets —others might not appreciate such enthusiasm during the service! I was on a roll!
Of course, I would have to acknowledge a certain bias in the categorizing. There were truths locked in these cabinets that I was not certain the world was ready for. Many perhaps needed more study and further scrutiny. Perhaps, I needed to place this cabinet into the hands of one more skilled in the field of interpretation. There were perplexities!
Not everyone would be thrilled with Sin adjoining Singles —although having passed into married life, I had to admit that there might be a hidden truth there! Some might have even questioned Parents being next to Patience —but then (speaking as a parent here), there will always be detractors. Those who would disagree might just be immature! Every truly novel idea is going to meet with its opposition.
But finally, my matchstick skyscraper came cascading down. Alas, it was all for naught. In this alleged “heaven-ordained” system. Humility was next to Husbands and no one would ever buy that (especially wives)! And Husbands was next to Hyprocisy (and no husband would be thrilled with that)! Oh well, you can’t have it all! This whole file cabinet thing was probably a stupid idea, anyway. You just can’t count on file cabinets!
There is a system, however, which is no-fault. Something which yields truism after truism never leading to hypocrisy when applied. I surprise no one when I say that it is the Bible, God’s own Word, fresh, pure, a running bubbling spring of spiritual vitamins for your spiritual health and well-being.
My spiritual mentor once told me of a hospital visit he made to a dying Christian. In consolation, he chose to read to him about “the rest” which would soon be his. He read those words from Hebrews 4 — “There remains then a Sabbath-rest for the people of God. . .” But as he completed that thought, the dying man whispered “Word. . .word . . . word!” Three verses following were the words “For the Word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing spirit and soul, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of Him to whom we must give account. This dying man knew that the Word that he had lived by would soon lay him bare before God for the last time. And he was comforted in knowing that his marathon of life had now narrowed to a final sprint. At the finish line, Jesus awaited him.
My sanctified filing system is not some mystical quick fix that can teach truth instantly. There are so many funny shortcuts these days that pique curiosity and distract from the really important issues of survival and life — reading the Word, swallowing it internally, straining under sufficient exercise, and building muscles for the Christian walk.
God’s precious Word —take it internally twice daily for whatever ails you. And don’t make too much out of your filing system!!