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The egg salad sandwich from God

Dr. Jim Denison is a cultural apologist who helps people respond biblically and redemptively to the vital issues of our day. He is also the co-founder and Chief Vision Officer of the Denison Forum, a Dallas-based nonprofit that comments on current issues through a biblical lens.

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egg salad sandwich from the Atomic Cafe in Albuquerque NM (Credit: Jill Reed via Flickr)

Yesterday I began a series on the top ten spiritual truths I’ve learned over the years.  We’re discussing them in chronological order, from the first lesson I learned to the latest.

Here’s #9: We cannot measure the eternal results of present faithfulness.

An egg salad sandwich changed my life.  I was a freshman at Houston Baptist University majoring in Christianity, but I wasn’t sure why.  God had called me into ministry, but I wanted to be a professional tennis player or play the trumpet for a living.  (Neither was entirely plausible, but I was 18 at the time.)  I had no idea where my life was going.

One day between classes I bought an egg salad sandwich from the cafeteria and sat down on a bench to eat it.  A moment later, Dr. A. O. Collins sat down beside me.  Dr. Collins was chairman of the department of Christianity and philosophy, sponsor of the university’s academic honor society, a nationally-renowned archaeologist, and a larger-than-life figure.  I was scared of him.

He called me by name and asked about my family and background.  For some reason I mentioned that I played tennis; the next thing I knew, we were scheduled to play together two days later.  That week, he became my spiritual father.

Dr. Collins attended my ordination, my father’s funeral, and my wedding.  He sponsored my fraternity and inducted me into the academic honor society he led.  He wrote letters that helped me enter seminary.  He became my adviser, mentor, and lifelong friend.

Several years passed.  Janet and I were serving New Hope Baptist Church in Mansfield, Texas while I taught at Southwestern Seminary.  One year the congregation planned an after-church fellowship for my birthday, patterned on the old “This Is Your Life” television show.  They enlisted my brother, hid him in the closet of the Fellowship Hall, and prompted him to emerge at the appointed time to tell stories about me.

The party continued for 45 minutes or so.  Then another voice emerged from the broom closet.  It was Dr. Collins.  He preached in Houston that morning, drove five hours to the church, hid in the closet with the mops and ammonia, stayed at the fellowship until 10:00 PM, then drove back to Houston so he could teach his 8:00 class the next morning.  I will never forget his love for me.

I was with him the day before he died, spoke at his memorial service, and cannot wait to see him in heaven.  My life is dramatically different because of an egg salad sandwich and a college professor who had no idea his obedience to the Spirit would make such an impact on me.

Jesus told Nicodemus, “The wind blows where it pleases.  You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going.  So it is with everyone born of the Spirit” (John 3:8).  We cannot know the future significance of present faithfulness.  Can the Spirit lead you anywhere he wants you to go?