Pristine Grace

The Most Important Thing I Have Ever Learned
by Don Fortner
The Most Important Thing I Have Ever Learned

    Seven years ago (1975) God, in his adorable and gracious providence, taught me a very important lesson, a lesson which changed my life and ministry radically, a lesson which I hope never to forget. I had been preaching for eight years at the time, and I was about four and one half years into my first pastorate. During those earliest years of my ministry, I was a strict Calvinist and a thoroughly convinced Baptist. My doctrine was precisely accurate and orthodox. I gave myself relentlessly to the work of the ministry. But something was missing. My ministry lacked heart and fire.

    Then the Lord laid me flat on my back in a hospital for twentyone days. The doctors told me I had cancer. It had already progressed to the advanced stages. immediately, I began to evaluate my life's work, thinking that it might come to an end in the near future. After honest, heartsearching evaluation before God, I had to conclude that those first eight years of preaching had amounted to very little, if indeed to anything. I could not see how I could have been profitable to anyone. I had been spinning my wheels in the sand. My heart was crushed in conviction, and I sunk in despair. My doctrinal orthodoxy gave me no comfort. But then the Lord God graciously taught me the most important thing I have ever learned. The words of the Apostle Paul flashed into my soul like a dazzling ray of light. They were burned into my heart as with a red-hot iron - "CHRIST IS ALL!" (Col. 3:11).

    Never before or since have I made a vow to God. But in that hospital bed, I solemnly vowed to the Lord my God that if in his good providence he would be pleased to allow me to preach again, and if he would give me grace to do so, I would never again preach to men anything but Jesus Christ the Lord. That is the reason why I am' "determined not to know anything among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified". It is my heart's determination to preach all of Christ and to preach Christ always. These past seven years I have not turned aside from my purpose. And God helping me, I never shall be. I am a thoroughly convinced Calvinist of the highest order, and I am a strict Baptist; but today there is a heart to my "body of divinity" and fire in my soul. It is just this - "CHRIST IS ALL!"

    I thank God for what he has taught me. I confess to my shame that my own sinful pride kept me from seeing it before. You can be sure of this, God is going to teach you that "CHRIST IS ALL". Either in this life, or in the judgment, you will be taught that "CHRIST IS ALL". If you are one of his children, or one of his preachers, I pray that you will not have to be brought to the gates of death, or worse, to learn this lesson - "CHRIST IS ALL!"