It is astounding how many people God will use to bless us in an incredible number of ways during a lifetime. The people who bless us seem to be remarkably diverse – they have different backgrounds, personalities, gifts, and are different ages. They have different skin tones and appearances. What they all have in common is that they blessed us at some point in our lives. Whether in great or small ways, these people invested in us, and our lives were never the same as a result.
His name was Bob Willis. For those who are baby-boomers, he looked a lot like Fred MacMurray from the old television show, “My Three Sons.” For those who are younger, Google it! Bob and his sons were members of the first congregation I ever served as “the preacher.” I started preaching for that church two weeks before Cherie and I were married. Bob and his boys were present at our wedding.
Bob was completely unassuming and unpretentious. There was a kindness and gentleness about him, yet there was tremendous strength too. He loved to drive Model A Fords. I never realized it at the time but Bob Willis would become the embodiment of the literally thousands of people God has used to bless my own life.
My first job as the preacher lasted only about two years before I was asked to resign. The work had been extremely difficult from the outset and I didn’t really know what the future had in store. I wasn’t sure about continuing to preach. One evening Bob showed up at our apartment. He wasn’t there very long before he handed me rent money for the next month and said, “I want to take care of your rent until you find another church to work with. Don’t be too discouraged, Mike. I want to encourage you to keep on preaching because that’s what I believe God wants you to do.” And that’s exactly what Bob did.
It’s now been well over 35 years since that event happened, and it remains as fresh in my mind as the day it occurred. I tried to pay Bob the money back but he would have none of it. As I’ve grown older, I’ve come to realize that I could never really pay Bob Willis back for the way he blessed me.
I think of Bob Willis often before I preach or teach even now. He represents so many people who have encouraged and helped me in ministry. Every child of God has many “Bob Willis types” in their lives because God is good and none of us makes it home to heaven without the encouragement and love of others. Who are yours?
A couple of weeks back, Bob’s son “Tex” contacted us to let us know his Dad had gone to be with the Lord. And this passage immediately came to mind: “For God is not unjust so as to overlook your work and the love you have shown for His name in serving the saints, as you still do” (Hebrews 6:10). Remember NOT to forget those precious souls that have helped you get through the rough patches of life and pointed you to God’s grace!