Nothing recedes like success

The Lord welcomed Chappo home just on two years ago.

There’s not a day goes by that I don’t think about him. We miss him, for sure. And when I say we, I know I speak for so many. His friends, our wives, our children. Across Australia and the world. In South Africa, Britain and many other places.

He is with the Lord and in that I rejoice. But I wish he was still on the other end of the phone. Or gripping a golf club. Or holding court at a dinner party. 

Chirpy or grumpy. Funny or serious. We loved him every way and we’d love to love him all over again.

Thanks to Jesus, one day we will.

My mind will often wander to one of his more quotable quotes. Or ingenious one-liners. Or regrettable putts.

The other day my thoughts drifted to his talk entitled Nothing recedes like success based on the story of the rich fool found in Luke Chapter 12:16-21. It wasn’t so much the talk but it was the story he told me about the talk.

He had just returned from a preaching stint in Britain and said that, while there, he gave the talk on the Rich Fool for the 75th time. It had become such a good friend to him over the years, he said, that he took it out for dinner to celebrate!

It’s funny the things you remember about the people whose memories you cherish so much.

So captivated was I by this little cameo that I went to where I thought I would find the talk. And I wasn’t mistaken or disappointed. There it was in his book on preaching, Setting Hearts On Fire (Matthias Press 1999 p201-208).

Chappo often said that his close friend, Michael Orpwood, was largely responsible for editing his raw material and getting it into the published form that we continue to be blessed by.

It was a thrill, on so many levels, to read the black words on an off-white page of that Bible talk once again: to read the simplicity and straight to the point logic of his words; to hear the clarity and emotion in his voice echoing through my brain; to see his mannerisms like a movie in my mind; to recall his care to move from levity to sobriety; to bring us face to face with the living word of the living God:

    I am going to read you a story in the Bible about a man who I think     everyone would have thought was very successful. God, on the other hand,     had other ideas . . . . O! And by the way I think he was probably an     Australian. Listen and see what you think. (He reads Luke 12:16-21) Well,     what do you think? Is he Australian? Listen again. ‘What a lucky man you     are. Take life easy. Eat, drink and be merry.’

    It is a common mistake to live as if God isn’t there and it is foolish as well     because God really is there. He has shown himself . . . . I used to teach RI     (Religious Instruction) at a Sydney High School. You could be absolutely     certain that with each new class I had someone, sooner or later, who would     say, ‘Hey! Have you ever seen God?’ . . . . It’s a clever question because he     thinks I will have to say ‘No’. My answer was , I could have if I’d been on     time.’ You can’t live in every moment of history, can you? I never saw     Queen Victoria although most of them thought that I qualified.’

Chappo’s pace would change. From easy going and gentle self-deprecating humour to  strong surges of fact about the powerful ministry of Jesus demonstrating that he had the authority of God. Calming a storm, raising a dead child. Healing a centurion’s slave. 

And without the scratching around that sludges up so many sermons (and makes them longer than 20 minutes) he takes his listeners to the heart of the matter:

    Not only did God show himself to us in Jesus but he shows us exactly the     sort of person he is and how much he loves us. He allowed Jesus to die in     our place and take the punishment our sins deserve. For years and years, I     didn’t know that. I knew that Jesus had died on the cross. But I didn’t     know it had anything to do with me. I didn’t know that it was so I could be     forgiven and become friends with God. I didn’t know God loved me like     that. I thought that if you lived a good life everything would be OK. I was     completely mistaken. I, like the man in the story, was a fool. I was careless     about God and needed to be forgiven. And Jesus loved me and gave his life     for me. Thank God that he is a kind and loving God.

And so the sermon about success receding just keeps going because God whom Chappo served, and the gospel which Chappo preached, is in the very words of God in which Chappo trusted the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes (Romans 1:16-17):

    I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the     salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile.     For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness     that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: ‘The righteous will     live by faith.’

Nothing recedes like success. But nothing succeeds like this life giving gospel.