We continue to celebrate the life of Sam E. Stone this week by highlighting humorous and poignant snippets from articles he wrote primarily in the years before he became Christian Standard’s editor in 1978.
The “Throwback Thursday” features throughout February are dedicated to Sam, who died Jan. 25 at age 84.
As you’ll see—and as friends, family, and longtime readers surely remember—Sam had a deft ability to weave anecdotes, stories, and quick asides into his articles (and sermons) to entertain the reader (and listener) while making larger points grounded in Scripture. Here are some examples . . .
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“What Makes a Good Church Leader?” (May 25, 1968)
. . . We need men of faith. Robert Morrison was such a man. He set sail to do missionary work in China amid considerable ridicule. Someone asked him if he thought that he—just one man—could make much of an impression on a great nation like China, so long embedded in another religion. He replied, “I can do very little, if anything. However, I expect that God will.” And God did. And He will with your life if you commit it unreservedly to Him in faith.
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“Esther Saves Her People” (a Bible School Lesson from Sept. 7, 1968)
Often it appears easier for a person to remain silent in cases of dissent, discord, discussion, and disturbance. We think of the old slogan, “Silence is golden.” Someone has observed, however, “Silence isn’t always golden; sometimes it’s just plain yellow!”
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“Convention Characters” (April 24, 1965, p. 7)
I like conventions—you meet so many interesting people there. . . . The mover caught my eye first. Naturally. . . . He would breeze into the auditorium and just as quickly (and noticeably) make his exit. . . . The shaker was the next convention guest to catch my eye. . . . He was always coming up to someone and extending his hand in greeting. As soon as the name on your convention badge came into the view of his well-trained eye he was ready to call you by your first name. A friend decided to have a little fun with him. He wrote “Pope Paul” on his badge, walked over and received a jubilant greeting—at first. . . .
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“Sinless Christians” (May 15, 1977; p. 4)
“Do you ever sin? If you do, then you’re not a real Christian.” Some in the religious world today hold this position.
They say that those who are truly born again live in a state completely above sin. If you slip and do wrong, according to these people, it simply proves that you’re not a true Christian.
Most of us have a different experience, however. We’re like the little boy who was asked, “If everyone were made either a white sheep or a black sheep depending on whether he was good or bad, which color would you be?”
He thought a moment and then said, “I guess I’d be kind of spotted.” . . .
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“Help Someone Grow” (June 5, 1977; p. 5)
There are various roles. Wherever you are, whatever ability you have, whatever the circumstances, there is something you can do for God. Several years ago I baptized a little grandmother—a lady in her eighties. She was as faithful as could be. She’s worked with a ladies service group making clothing for the needy; she would share her social security check with the Lord; she would seldom miss a service.
Then her health began to fail. She was admitted to a nursing home. And when I would visit her there, she told me how she passed her copies of The Lookout and other Christian literature around to the other residents and the nurses.
Her eyes never lost their twinkle. She smiled at me one day and said, “Perhaps here is my place of service.” And it was. She lived there until her death. And she made it a place of service. You can do that too.
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“The Kind of Father I Want to Be” (June 19, 1977—Father’s Day ; p. 11)
One father was upset with his son and scolded, “Every time you’re bad, I get a gray hair.”
“Boy!” his son replied, “You must have been a terror! Look at Grandpa!” I must not forget my own shortcomings. . . .
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“Lights for a Dark World” (July 3, 1977; p. 11)
I preached at one church for nine years—and preached perhaps nine hundred sermons there. If I were to return and ask the people to name or outline some of my messages, I doubt that few members could even list ten. But every person there would be able to tell how I lived, the spirit I showed, and the impression my life made.
As Charles Allen put it, ‘‘The minister brings the greatest light by the life that he lives rather than the words he speaks.” So it is with every Christian.
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“Higher Ground” (July 17, 1977; p. 5)
A teacher in our high school had a greater influence on me than she probably ever knew. I never had a class under her. I didn’t know her well. I had always thought of her as a little eccentric—wrapped up in her Latin and history classes.
During my senior year, some of us put on an assembly that was just a lot of clowning around. I wrote one of the skits. I thought it was really funny. The kids ate it up.
But later word got to me that this teacher, Miss McGowan, had been a little upset about it. She reportedly thought some of the lines were in poor taste.
I decided that I’d just go talk to her about it. I wasn’t afraid of her! And, after all, what was so bad about the skit?
I’ll never forget that afternoon I went to her room at the end of the school day. . . .
“Miss McGowan,” I began, “I heard you didn’t like my skit in the assembly. I wanted to know what was wrong with it.”
She was very calm. She had been bothered by it, she explained. But she didn’t start bawling me out.
“But there wasn’t anything really bad or wrong in it,” I defended.
She stood quietly and said, “No, Sam, that may be true. But there is so much to see in life that’s good, Why focus on anything but the good? There’s a poem,” she mused. “It goes: ‘Two men stood behind prison bars—One saw mud, the other stars.’”
That was about all there was to our conversation. But I’ve never forgotten it. It made me see the crucial importance of one’s outlook—or perhaps I should say his uplook.
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“Spiritual Growth for the Church Leader” (Dec. 11, 1977; p. 4)
The alarming thing about many Christian leaders today is that they seem oblivious to the implications of the message they teach. They can shout about holy living; they can write about the need for devotion; they can preach about Christian behavior—but seemingly they fail to realize that the message must first be obeyed in their own lives.
They remind one of the Boston preacher who saw some urchins clustered about a dog of doubtful pedigree. “Well, what are you fellows up to?”
“Swapping lies,” said one. “The fellow that tells the biggest one gets the pup.”
“Boys! I’m shocked! When I was your age I never thought of telling an untruth!” the preacher replied.
The kids chorused, “You win, the dog’s yours!”
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“When It’s Hard to Give Thanks” (November 28, 2013)
Two men were walking through a field when they spotted an enraged bull. Instantly they started running for the nearest fence. The bull was in hot pursuit. Terrified, one shouted to the other, “Pray, John. We’re in for it!”
“I can’t,” his friend yelled back. “I’ve never prayed in public in all my life!”
“You’ve got to!” his friend implored. “The bull’s gaining on us!”
“OK,” panted John. “I’ll pray the only prayer I know—the one my mom taught me at the table: ‘O Lord, for what we are about to receive, make us truly thankful.’”
Sometimes it is hard to give thanks.
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When assessing Sam’s life, his writings, and his ministry, it isn’t hard to give thanks at all. And so we will end this remembrance by simply saying, “Thanks, Sam.”