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Next Man Up

Pastor Matt Osborn

This past week, we had one of our bigger events called Teen Wars. Each of the past two years, we brought in a special speaker to preach to our teenagers. This year, I brought in my youth pastor who is now a church planter in New York City, and he has been there for 15 years. He is someone that I thought would connect well with our teenagers and be a huge challenge to them for the things of God, and I was right. However, I did not expect him to have challenged me so much over the weekend. 

I knew that God would not just speak to the teenagers but also to our youth team and myself, but I did not realize how much and how it would affect me.

Brother Ron Taylor, as I grew up calling him, had a big influence on my life. He was my youth pastor and mentor to me. I was also called to preach under his ministry. This made every night of Teen Wars that much more special for me to hear him preach. Friday night, though, was different. He got up to speak to us on the last night and said, "I have something different here at the start of my message." He then set the Bible that he had been using down on the podium in a more prominent way toward everyone. 

He began to tell a story. When he was called to be a church planter in New York City, someone in the church gave him this Bible before he left the church where he served as youth pastor.  He said the man gave it to him and told him, "It does not matter if you use it directly or not, but I hope that it is an encouragement to you." He then gave him a pat on the shoulder and said, "Go win them with the Gospel." He said this like a coach encouraging his player to go all out as he was put in the game. 

Brother Ron then said for the past fifteen years this was His Bible. Although he would rarely write in this Bible like he did in most of his others, you could tell that he had used it well while also taking good care of it. The edges were starting to fade and the leather was very loose after being broken in for so long. He said it had been an encouragement to him because of what others had written on the front and back of the Bible cover. 

The man who gave him the Bible used to have seniors in his youth group sign it with encouragement for the next generations to come behind them. Challenging words as well. For instance, a challenge to keep God on the forefront of their mind, always keep Jesus first, follow Jesus no matter the cost because the cost is worth it, and many more. Brother Ron shared how much of a blessing this Bible had been and the man had been who gave it to him. This man had been a mentor to him in ministry. When he gave him the Bible, it was like the passing of the torch. 

Brother Ron then looked up and said, "That guy was your youth pastor - Pastor Matt’s dad, and now I am going to give it to you. I hope it challenges and encourages you as it has me these past fifteen years in New York City."

He then said, ”Go win the next generation with the Gospel.”

As I sat in the back of the chapel that night, all I could think about now was the challenge that this Bible represented, staring me in the face. I would like to share them with you.

1. To Take the Challenge

That last phrase that was also given to Brother Ron was given as a call to take the challenge of sharing the Gospel with the next generation and generations to come. He said every night to our teenagers that God had big plans for them as they could reach multiple generations in this room. He had confidence that they were capable and God wanted to use them. But you have to accept the challenge to get into the fight. 

It is a challenge to live for God and follow His will because it is not the easy or well-traveled path. Jesus said this would be difficult when He described living out the Christian life. 

Luke 9: 23-24, “And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it."

John 15: 20, “Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you …”

With the difficulties, though, always comes the promises of Jesus that He will never leave us nor forsake us. 

After hearing the story of this Bible, all I could think about was doing my part in following God’s will. I also wanted to continue what was started by my dad, the seniors who signed the Bible, my youth pastor in NYC, and now me.

2. To Be Faithful

Secondly, I was challenged not only to do my part but also to remain faithful in doing the things of God. Unfortunately, as I read some of the entries of a few seniors, I recognized the names. I identified some of them because I know that they are not in church and do not want much to do with the things of God anymore. 

Thank goodness, though, more names are being faithful and still following what God has called them to do all over the country now. 

Paul said it in this way to the church at Corinth — 1 Corinthians 4:1-2, "Let a man so account of us, as of the ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God.  Moreover it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful."

I want to be able to say at the end of my life like Paul said to Timothy in 2 Timothy 4:7-8, “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing."

3. To Pass the Torch

This is something that I already wanted to do and is a big reason why I am in ministry. I want to see generations to follow taking up their cross and following Jesus in greater ways than I ever could. But after hearing the story of this Bible last Friday, it drives me even more because of the relationships with the two previous men who owned this Bible. The relationship of my dad and watching him remain faithful and strong even in trials and struggles. The relationship of my youth pastor to follow completely God’s calling on his life and saying over and over again phrases like, “I cannot believe I get to be involved in God’s plan," or "I do not think I could find the same joy doing anything else with my life.”

It brings to mind the verses in Hebrews 12:1-2, “Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

Whether we have been saved for a few days or decades, we are called by God to be the next man up. It may not mean by vocation for everyone, but God has called all to take up our cross and follow Him, to be faithful in all things, and to pass the truth on to others who will train others for years to come. We will never know this side of heaven the lives that could be touched by the Gospel because we were faithful and answered the call to step in the fight!

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