An Unlikely Candidate For Ministry

January 4  An Unlikely Candidate For Ministry


I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God  unless he is born again. John 3:3.

It was in the hopeful and expectant exuberance of the Second Great Awakening that we discover what appeared to be a rather hopeless candidate for ministry.

In fact, in his 20s William Miller(born in 1782) was more interested in making fun of preachers than in emulating them. In particular, he found the ones in his own family to be especially good targets for that brand of fun. Those "favored" by such activity included his grandfather Phelps(a Baptist minister) and his uncle Elihu Miller, of the Low Hampton Baptist Church.

Miller's mimicking of his grandfather's and uncle's devotional peculiarities afforded great entertainment for his skeptical associates. He imitated, with "ludicrous grativy," his relatives' "words, tones of voice, gestures, fervency, and even the greif they might manifest for such as himself."

Beyond entertainment for his friends, such exhibitions functioned as a statement of who young Miller was. Like other young people in times fo rapid cultural transition, Miller had gone through his own identity crisis. Part of his rebellion against his family had undoubtedly been an aspect of the perennial struggle of adolescents to discern who they are in contradistinction to their parents.

That struggle, unfortunately, is equally hard on both parents and adolescents. Such was the case of William's deeply religious mother, who knew of his antics but found them anything but funny. To her, the actions of her eldest son were "the bitterness of death."

William, however, hadn't always been a religious rebel. In his earliest years he had been intensely and even painfully devout. The first page of his diary (which he began to keep in his teens) contains the statement: "I was early taught to pray the Lord." being the only descriptive statement about himself in the diary's introduction, it must have seemed important to him as a distinguishing characteristic.

But it was not to last. In early adulthood Miller left Christianity and became an aggressive and skeptical deist, who would lampoon not only his grandfather but Christianity itself.

But old Grandpa Phelps never gave up on him. "Don't afflict yourself too deeply about William," he consoled his mother. "There is something for him to do yet in the cause of God."

And so there was. But, unfortunately for her, it would take time for that prophecy to reach fulfillment.

Phelps never stopped praying for his children and grandchildren. Here is something important for those of us who live in the twenty-first century.

He who has given you life knows your need of food to sustain it. He who created the body is not unmindful of your need of raiment. Will not He who has bestowed the greater gift bestow also what is needed to make it complete?(TFMB 95).