FORT WORTH, Texas (BP)–Mixing humor with his family’s own heart-wrenching testimony, William Crews told Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary students to “keep looking up (at God) and you’ll make it.”
Crews, president of Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary in Mill Valley, Calif., spoke at Southwestern’s chapel service Nov. 27.
Drawing from James 1, Crews said God tries to teach each person facing hard times four things. He shared in his sermon, which he said he wrote as a class assignment while he was a student at Southwestern, “what I share with you now comes out of Scripture but also out of my own experience.”
Crews said he had preached this sermon numerous times since writing it as a Southwestern Seminary student. It was only after he preached the sermon at a local church during the 1997 Southern Baptist Convention in Dallas — three weeks after his daughter Rhonda died — that the message became very personal to him.
His daughter had attempted to take her own life numerous times from the time she was 16, Crews said. She died of an overdose of prescription drugs on May 22, 1997 at the age of 37.
“That morning at 3 o’clock, the doctor came out to tell me that our daughter was dead,” Crews recounted. “I went into the room where the body of my daughter lay and said goodbye to the little girl who had always been daddy’s girl, the little girl that I had held in my arms only hours after she was born, but who through all her life had struggled with severe depression. She was gone.
“Our family was ushered into, what for us, was a new experience. While I had always been — as a pastor — with other people at times like that and often faced the struggle of knowing exactly what to say or what not to say, our family had never experienced loss like that.”
The first thing God wants people to learn is, “I must agree with God that all trials have a godly purpose in my life,” Crews said. The “perfect work” mentioned in James 1:4, he said, is not an absence of sin, but instead becoming a more complete follower of Christ.
Second, “I’m learning to pray and ask God for help,” Crews said.
“My definition of wisdom is the ability to see the right way and the wrong way, and the courage to choose the right way,” he said. Noting that God will give “liberally and without reproach,” Crews said God gives far more than people could ask.
“When you ask God for help [in] facing a tough time, God is not going to make you feel silly or stupid for asking for help. Learn to pray and ask God for help.”
The third area Crews identified is, “I’ve got to have complete faith in God.” Drawing from Job’s familiar statement, he said, “I know that my Redeemer lives.”
The fourth area is, “You’ve got to keep your eyes focused on the goal ahead.”
“Human nature is such that we look around,” Crews said. “James says don’t look around, but look up.” Too often, he said, the poor look at the rich and wish they had more money, or the rich look at the poor and feel pity, when both groups should look at God alone.
Crews said he preached this sermon and told this story, which he called “extremely personal,” in hopes that it would be “extremely helpful” for students.
A 1994 Southwestern Seminary Distinguished Alumni Award winner, Crews recounted many fond and humorous memories of the seminary. After his first semester at the Fort Worth seminary, Crews left and took a pastorate in West Texas.
“What happens to seminary drop-outs is they become seminary presidents,” he said to laughter from chapel attendees. “It didn’t take long for me to figure out I needed to get back, and I got back as soon as I could.
“I have said on other occasions that if there was any one single thing that was formative in my ministry, it was being here at Southwestern Seminary,” Crews said. “I will forever be grateful to the men and women who helped shape my ministry during those early years.”
(BP) photo posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo title: WILLIAM CREWS.