george hancock stefanOne of the funniest stories (at least for me) regards a visit after I preached from Mathew 12:36: “But I tell you that men will give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken."  I preached that sermon in the morning and in the afternoon, a parishioner came to ask me if I believed that sermon.  I had to laugh because I do not preach sermons that I do not believe. A sermon should convince the preacher first before he delivers it to the congregation.  Once I stopped my amusement, I saw that the person had come to me in panic. Giving an account for every careless word in the Day of Judgment was a frightening situation. We sing that song in the Sunday School, “O be careful little mouth what you say, for the Father from above, He is looking down with love, O be careful little mouth what you say,” but we go on saying careless, hurtful and violent words.

I was thinking of that story as I am writing the yearly church reports. In the Bible there are so many well-known stories of accountability. We are told that each one of us must appear before the throne of God to give an answer for the good and evil that we have done. We know the story of the master who gave five, two, or one talents to his servants and when he came back, he called them to find out what they have done with his talents.  We know that verse which tells us that the person who has received a lot will have much required of him.

As a pastor, I remember talking to one of our parishioners about their vacation to Acapulco, Mexico.  I have a tradition of asking our parishioners to bring a bulletin from the churches that they visit while on vacation.  I volunteered to find a couple of churches in Acapulco for them to visit. “Pastor, we are going on vacation, not church visitation,” they responded. I was not able to convince them that God's people in Acapulco would love to have visitors from abroad.  Another time, I was trying to get lodging for one of missionaries. I called one of our parishioners who lived by herself and had 4 rooms.  This missionary was a young lady who I thought would be a blessing to this elderly lady.  “Pastor,” came the reply, “I am not used to sharing my house with strangers!” My attempt to say that this is a young sister in the Lord, not a stranger, did not convince her.

One of the things that we all have in equal amount is our time.  One of my great joys as a pastor is to know what I call my regular attendees.  No matter what kind of weather we have for Sunday, I know that they have given Sunday as they day of worship and praise to the Lord and I will see them there.  I consider them pillars in the house of the Lord.

This year our congregation has exceeded our budget.  Some of our people gave from their abundance and some of our people gave sacrificially because they know that the work of God's Kingdom has priority in their lives.  In the words of Apostle Paul, first they have given themselves to the Lord and afterwards everything they have to the Lord's people.When I joined the Romanian Missionary Society in the 1980s, Dr. Peter Trutza spoke these words in his farewell address to the new leadership: "We have built this organization from the scarcity that we had. God is looking to see what you will do from the plenty that you possess."  Those words came to my mind many times when I looked to the plenty that I have, when I counseled other people, and when I preached from this church's pulpit.  We are a church and we are a nation that has been richly blessed, and even in this time of economical struggles we have so much more than the vast majority of the world's population.  We have larger houses, larger cars, bigger salaries, and take more vacations than most people of the world.  God, the Giver of every good gift has given them to us because He loves us, but He is also going to keep us accountable.

May you be able to rejoice in the Day of Judgment when you will give your final account before God.