Dr. Bob Gray Sr. retired pastor of the Longview Baptist Temple in Longview, Texas. 45 years of ministry with 33 years of pastoring. Author of 35 books and conference speaker.
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Tuesday, September 20, 2016
Dr. Jack Hyles Was Proud of Those Who Did Not Become the “Ideal”
He rode a bus to Sunday school. He trusted Christ as Savior and became faithful to all of the various activities and services of the church. Eventually his parents and his siblings would come to know Christ as well. They were never the most faithful people in the church, but they were good people. He always exceeded his family in his own spiritual growth. His junior year in high school he transferred to Hammond Baptist High School. When he graduated from high school he enrolled in Hyles Anderson college but never finished a single class. He sometimes laughingly said that he majored in ping-pong.
Soon, he began experiencing success in the business world. He grew in business but strayed from the church. He did not go into deep sin, but he stopped attending church altogether as he became more and more successful. Later he would marry and start a family. Life had its ups and downs. He prospered in business and reached the pinnacle of success. He was good to people. He had integrity. He was honest and paid his debts. He kept many of the values he had learned growing up in church. He never stopped loving his pastor though he never went back to church. He often referred to Brother Hyles and things that he learned from his pastor. He was grateful for all the good things that came to him at First Baptist Church. Many years would pass before he eventually found his way back to church. It was not quite like the church in which he had grown up but he was back.
One day Dr. Hyles was talking to someone and he said something a bit surprising. “Do you know who I am proud of you?”
“Who?” the person asked?
“I am proud of…” and he named that man's name.
“Why are you proud of him?” the person asked.
“I am proud of him because although he did not become the ideal he is still a good representative of many of the values we taught him. He pays his bills. He has integrity. He's a good man. I am proud of him.”
“But, he did not become the ideal that you had in your mind for him,” the man said.
“Oh, but, I had no ideal for him,” he responded. “You see, all I can do is invest in people. Some sticks and some doesn’t. Some people stay closer to what they learned here than others, but I am proud of all who accepted the influence that we were able to give them. I am proud of those who are not the best, but are still better than they could have been. I am proud of what they are. We teach ideals,” he said, “But we must not turn our ideals into expectations. We must be happy that we had the opportunity to influence them and whatever influence sticks should please us. Imagine where some people would be had we not influenced them. Yes, I am proud of him.”
One of the lessons that many people did not learn from Dr. Hyles is that he did not expect everyone to be everything he was or that he taught. He could still be proud of them. He could still admire them. He could still rejoice in what they did become.
Many times people become disenchanted by others who do not live up to their expectations. Dr. Hyles did not have such expectations. He reserved his expectations for himself. He did the best he could to be the man he should be. He taught what he believed was right, but then free-will took its place. People made their choices. But regardless of their choices many were influenced and became better people than they would have been without that teaching.
For example, consider the young man who grew up at First Baptist Church under the influence of Dr. Hyles. That man, who is himself a pastor, now ridicules much of the positions he was taught, yet he preaches the gospel. His parents were reached by the church and as a result he grew up as under the influence of the Gospel. Think of where he might have been without First Baptist Church. He preaches the funerals of many of the disgruntled former members of First Baptist Church. I can almost hear Dr. Hyles say, “Well, somebody has to preach their funerals. I am glad it's him and we influenced him in some way.” Yes that is how Dr. Hyles thought. He was not focused on what they could have been from an idealistic standpoint but what they could have been from a realistic standpoint.
Dr. Hyles was more interested in doing his best to influence people than in expecting them to would turn out exactly the way the way he would have preferred. There are pastors of churches who have disavowed their affiliation with the independent Baptist world , yet who would not be pastors had it not been for his influence. They still preach the gospel. They are not criminals. Their lives are still counting for good. Could their lives have counted for more good. Of course, and so could yours and mine. Dr. Hyles was proud of them.
Tens of thousands of people around this world were influenced by Dr. Hyles. He was proud of those whose choices took them in a different direction yet who still remained faithful to the Lord in some way.
Dr. Hyles was preaching in a distant state. Sitting in the audience was a graduate of Hyles Anderson College who was at that time on staff at a Southern Baptist Church. Some preachers shunned him. Others greeted him, but rather coolly. When the service was over that man stood in line to shake hands with his former pastor. Some beliefs had changed but he still loved the Lord and appreciated Dr. Hyles. When he got to the front of the line he shook Brother Hyles hand and they exchanged a few words. Before he walked away Dr. Hyles pulled him closer to himself and said, “I am proud of you.” That was Brother Hyles.
A young man graduated from Hammond Baptist schools. He met with Brother Hyles for counsel as to where he should attend college. He gave the young man some suggestions. The young man took none of those suggestions and instead went to a very liberal college. Years later the young man recounted an exchange between he and Dr. Hyles. He said, “I want to see Brother Hyles afraid that he was angry at me. When I walked in his office door he hugged me and told me how proud he was of me. I knew he loved me.” That was Dr. Hyles.
People make mistakes with their lives but Brother Hyles was still proud of what they were trying to do for good. He did not believe in giving up on people because they chose a different direction. He did not lose his love for people because they did not become exactly like he was. Hyles-Anderson graduates went out and started churches that were non denominational but Brother Hyles was still proud of them. Some even used money given to them by Russell Anderson and later they changed the direction of their church. Brother Hyles did not try to get that money back, nor did Russell Anderson. Good was still being done. It wasn't the exact way brother Hyles would have preferred but he was happy that good was being done.
Are we too idealistic? Do we expect everyone to live up to our unreachable expectations? Some are intolerant of their own who have changed but not Dr. Hyles. He was still proud of them. There were even some who tried to hurt him. Often they were people about whom he knew bad things. One day someone was talking to Brother Hyles and said, “Brother Hyles, do you know that ____________________ has tried to hurt you. Why don't you tell what you know about him?”
Dr. Hyles quickly replied, “Because I do not treat people based upon the way they treat me. In most areas he is still a good man. Why would I want to destroy him?” Dr. Hyles knew things about the man's past but he knew those things were in his past. He said, “God allowed me to help him conquer those things. Why would I want to use that against him when good was done. I still believe the man will do some good. Let it go. It is not about how much good people do to me. It's about how much good people to for the sake of God. They will not do everything I wish they would do. They will not always treat me the way I wish they would. They may even change their opinion about me. But I am not the issue. Christ is the issue. That is the only thing about which I should be concerned.” Yes, that was Dr. Hyles.
My challenge to all of us is to stop being disappointed in people because they don't live up to our expectations. Better yet, we should stop having expectations. Love people. Do your best to teach and train them. But when they do not take everything that you have given to them and use it the way you wish they would, be proud of them anyway for the good they did get. Don't throw out the baby with the bathwater. Our job is not to make everyone exactly like us. Our job is to encourage them to be as much like Christ as we can. Even if we don't get them as close as we wish, we should rejoice when they are closer than they could have been.