Last Sunday morning, while we at First Christian were wrapping up our first service, Pastor Fred Winters was preaching his last sermon in Maryville, Illinois. While speaking to his congregation a lone gunman, 27, entered the sanctuary and approached the pulpit. The first shot struck the pastor’s Bible, sending what appeared to the audience to be confetti everywhere. The congregation initially thought it was a skit of some type. As the pastor turned away, the gunman chased him, shooting him twice. Two church members subdued the man as he attempted to flee, each suffering stab wounds. Pastor Winters died from his wounds.
This weekend, in the midst of their mourning, First Baptist Church of Maryville will welcome a guest preacher – Al Meredith from Wedgewood Baptist Church in Fort Worth, Texas.
On September 15, 1999, a gunman walked into a youth prayer rally at Wedgewood and began a shooting rampage. Seven people – four teenagers, two seminary students and a children's choir director – were killed and seven others wounded.
Pastor Meredith said that although his church shooting was nearly a decade ago, “The memories came flooding back.” He continued, “I want them to know you get through this. You’ll never get over it, but the rest of God’s kingdom around the world is praying for you.” Later he explained the reason he will occupy the pulpit this Sunday – “They’re a flock without a shepherd.”
The Apostle Paul wrote the Corinthian believers, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4).
What storms have you been through in life? Too many to count? To hard to talk about?
Why did you go through those storms?
What storms are you currently in?
Why are you going through your current storms?
Friends, God never wastes our experiences – even the bad ones! He not only molds, refines and teaches us in our storms, but he deliberately uses storms to prepare our ministries for others in the future. What am I saying? Our storms are ultimately for others! He not only wants us to go through storms, He wants us to grow through storms. Why? So that we can use our past experiences and praise reports to bless and comfort others going through their rough weather seasons in life.
For my many friends and readers currently treading vigorously in the churning chin-high waves; for those boarding up windows and hunkering down, holding your families as close as possible; for those losing hope, wondering when the winds will finally cease and the battleship grey sky will be replaced by glorious sunshine again – Hang on! God is still on His throne! Storms come and storms go. Yours will eventually blow over. And through it all, remember – “I’m going through this for a reason. God is using my storm to prepare me to help someone else – perhaps several people –down the road.” Get a vision of yourself not only on the other side of your current storm, but helping someone else in God’s perfect timing. I think Pastor Al Meredith would agree.