I was going through old blog posts, and I came across this one from a few years ago. In 2016, I was invited to be “chaplain of the week” for the Oklahoma State House of Representatives. It was a fun experience, and I pray folks were encouraged by what I had to say. Below is a transcript of the brief devotion I gave at the end of the week. (NB: This post originally appeared on the Trinityhaus blog.)
Thank you for allowing me to come and serve as your chaplain this past week. It has been an extraordinary blessing to me, and I only hope that my being here has served to be a personal encouragement to you. It is my sincere hope and prayer before God that this has indeed been the case.
I was told that I was not allowed to do two things: Not to go longer than five minutes and, second, that I could not take up an offering. This is a rather huge challenge for me, a Baptist preacher. Don’t worry: I shall resist all such temptations. Joking aside, I do think I have hit on a common stereotype of preachers—namely, a stereotype characterized by being long-winded and money-hungry. Stereotypes are unfair precisely because they are not always true. You, perhaps, are in a position similar to mine. By virtue of your position, your job title, you are stereotyped. I don’t think this is fair, as I am sure you don’t either. After all, stereotyping often proves to be, among other things, discouraging—and discouragement always leads to being distracted from the task God has given us. So the question remains: How do you and I—as servants to people before God—overcome these stereotypes, these distracting stereotypes? The answer, I think, is simple: We must continue to commit ourselves to that which is Good. Scripture says, “Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good.”
G.K. Chesterton used to comment about how the word “good” has different meanings. He once quipped that if a man could take a sniper rifle and pick off his grandmother from a distance of 500 yards that one could, indeed, call him a “good shot” but not necessarily a “good man.” The man in question would, no doubt, have been good at what he does, but not at all good in who he is. This is the great challenge before us, isn’t it? Too often we come to focus on the things we do in our jobs to the neglect of the people we are supposed to serve through our jobs. Our jobs were designed to serve people for the sake of people, for their well-being, for their good. This is God’s desire.
Another way to say all this is that we are called to love. Of course, that word itself has its own stereotype, being packed with assumptions like romance and feelings. But most fundamentally, “love,” at least in the Christian sense, are those actions that look out for the well-being of other people, that look out for their good. The challenge before us, before you, today is to realize that the position you hold, the title you bear, the honor you carry, is, at the end of the day, only fitting for good men and women.
The three traditional Christian virtues are: “faith, hope, and love.” The first two are wonderful virtues to have. When I see a person of tremendous faith, I am inspired; when I see a person of amazing hope, I am encouraged; but when I see a person of selfless love, service, and self-giving sacrifice, I see true goodness, indeed, true greatness.
I was told that I could not do two things: Go beyond five minutes, nor could I take up an offering. I think I have been faithful to the first, but perhaps I have failed at the second. Thinking about it, I do hope I have succeeded in encouraging you to offer something this morning. I pray that you offer yourselves completely and fully and self-sacrificially to both our Good Savior and to the good people of the State of Oklahoma. May these things be said of you. May they be said of me.
Thank you all so very much; you’ve been very kind. Blessings to you and your families. Please join me in prayer.
“My God, may you give to these wonderful men and women before me, these servants to the people of Oklahoma, the encouragement they need to carry out their task, their duties, their responsibilities. May they never be discouraged and always hopeful. Indeed, may they be united in faith, in hope, in love—in you, for the people. Amen in Christ our Lord.”
If you find my writing helpful and encouraging, please check out my Patreon page for ways you can support my ministry. Here’s the link: Patreon.com/MatthewHalsted