This article was originally written for the Baptist New Mexican, a publication of the Baptist Convention of New Mexico, in December 2015.
It was my first Sunday as the pastor of First Baptist Church in Cuba, New Mexico, and I was thrilled to begin this new stage of ministry. I woke up early, ironed my clothes, spent time in prayer, and then looked out the window of my home to notice a fresh blanket of snow covering the church grounds. Immediately, my exuberance turned to the feeling of disappointment. “Well, no one will be at church this morning,” I said to myself. As I continued my Sunday morning routine, I fought back feelings of dissatisfaction and frustration. Then I remembered a story from church history:
Charles Spurgeon is highly regarded as one of the best preachers to have ever lived. He impacted millions of people through his ministry during his lifetime, and many more in the hundred years since his death through his published sermons and writings. He preached thousands of sermons, published a popular magazine which circulated throughout England, and penned 140 books. A man of many gifts, he also led the largest church in London and personally started over 60 ministerial organizations to spread the Gospel. However, the most remarkable event in his life occurred when he was still very young.
In early January, 1850, a 15-year-old Charles Spurgeon set out to attend church on a Sunday morning. A heavy snowstorm hit and Charles was forced to attend a small Primitive Methodist Chapel when he could walk no further. In his autobiography, Spurgeon details this Sunday morning as anything but spectacular: only a handful of congregants gathered in the small building to hear a traveling minister preach the Sunday sermon. Spurgeon described the minister in even less attractive language as “very thin-looking”, “stupid” and “having little…to say”. This was certainly one of those Sundays when most of us would have stayed at home! The text of the sermon was the first half of Isaiah 45:22, “Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth” (KJV), and the sermon’s message was clear: Look to Christ, and you will be saved. It was a simple sermon from a simple minister, and Spurgeon’s life was changed. Charles, who had spent his life trying to gain favor with God, had finally seen the way of salvation, and his life was given over to Christ. He described the feeling this way: “That happy day, when I found the Saviour, and learned to cling to His dear feet, was a day never to be forgotten by me. An obscure child, unknown, unheard of, I listened to the Word of God; and that precious text led me to the cross of Christ.” It was on this snowy Sunday that this mammoth of the faith witnessed the most miraculous event of his life: his own salvation.
This story reminds me of a great truth proclaimed throughout Scripture: God is sovereign even on snowy Sundays. If God was present when Adam and Eve were hiding in the garden, if He was plotting good when Joseph’s brothers sought evil, if He had a plan for Ruth the Moabitess when she lacked family and food, if He had promises of rescue for His people in exile, and if He wrote the script of a bloody cross and an empty tomb before time began, then I have no question as to who is commanding the weather, regardless of the day. There are times when we are tempted to think, “What if?” What if it had not snowed on my first Sunday in Cuba? What if Charles Spurgeon had never gone to church on that snowy day? What if that preacher had chosen another text? As we look to Scripture (and church history), however, it is revealed that there are no “what if’s” in the sovereignty of God. Our God is in control, and our God is good.
Some Sundays will be dreary and yield little results (at least to our eyes). However, we should never underestimate the God of salvation. Pastors, may we never lose hope in preaching the Word of God to those in need of a savior. Our prayer must be that God would send revival to our congregations and our towns regardless of the day or season, and we should not be surprised if He chooses a snowy Sunday to show His mighty hand. Church member, may you never forget this lesson as well, for the Lord may choose a gloomy Sunday to do a miraculous work in your life. May we always approach worship with eager expectation!
My first Sunday in Cuba was a memorable day for my family. While it may have included a gloomy start, the Lord reminded me of my call to preach His Word faithfully and passionately. On my first day in the pastorate, I needed this lesson: God is sovereign, even on snowy Sundays. As we enter this winter season which will include cold, damp days of worship, I pray that we remember this truth.