A Preacher’s Farewell
For 16 years David Feddes has preached each week on the Back to God Hour, the radio ministry of the Christian Reformed Church. He followed Peter Eldersveld and Joel Nederhood, two splendid preachers. We heard them both with great profit, and also David. This is the opening of his final Back to God Hour message. – G.T.
This is my last Back to God Hour program, and it’s hard to say goodbye. My first radio program aired in January of 1991. I was 29 years old at the time. Now 16 years have flown by, and I’m 45 – not quite ancient, but not as young as I used to be. The past 16 years have been full of blessing. It’s been a joy for me to speak of Jesus on the radio and invite people to walk with God. It’s also been a joy to hear from so many of you. I’ve read thousands of e-mails and letters, and I’ve had thousands of conversations on the telephone. I’ve preached in hundreds of churches, as well as in prisons and public auditoriums, so I’ve met lots of you face to face. God has given me the privilege of touching many lives and of being touched by many of you. I thank God, and I thank all of you who have connected with me in one way or another over the years. My time as Back to God Hour host has been so rich and satisfying that it’s hard for me to let go.
But let go I must. Two years ago I informed my board that I would be leaving the Back to God Hour, but I agreed to continue speaking on the program until arrangements could be made for new programming. Now the time has come to complete the transition. I have been studying for a doctorate in intercultural studies, and I’ve accepted a position as Director of the Center for Advanced Studies at Crossroad Bible Institute. Crossroad offers Bible studies and personal mentoring through the mail to thousands of people in over 60 countries. Crossroad specializes in ministry to those in prison. In my new work, I will help prepare Bible-based lessons for Crossroad students and provide training for Crossroad instructors. I will research and write about what the gospel says to people in prison, to the justice system, and to the wider society. I will also preach in prisons and churches and anywhere else God gives me opportunity.
I look forward with excitement to new opportunities, and I look back with gratitude. When I first went on the radio at age 29, I was nervous. Dr. Joel Nederhood had been the long-time speaker on the Back to God Hour, and I had enormous respect for him. In fact, I grew up hearing his voice almost every Sunday – my parents were faithful listeners and loved his messages. When Dr. Nederhood and the Back to God Hour board invited me to become his successor on the radio, I felt overwhelmed by the honor and the challenge. Joel Nederhood became a friend and mentor, and he gave me much encouragement, but it was still scary for me to take over the program on which Joel had spoken the gospel so well for so long. I felt like I was only a kid. I was a farm boy whose worst grade in college was in speech. Who was I to take over from a master communicator? I did not try to match Joel or sound like his clone. I just tried to speak God’s message as best I could, and trusted God to make good things happen.
Many good things have happened. People who did not know Jesus have put their faith in him and received eternal life. People found answers to their questions and strength to face challenges. Christians grew in their faith. The broadcast expanded its outreach to English-speaking people overseas, especially in Nigeria, and God’s work among Africans has been marvelous. About twelve years ago the Back to God Hour began to partner with Crossroad, and since then Crossroad has expanded dramatically from a few hundred students to its current level of more than 38,000 students around the world. I praise God for all he has done in spite of my limits and faults. I know that many people have upheld this ministry in prayer, and I have seen God’s answers to prayer.
A lot can happen in sixteen years, in ministry and in family. Back in 1991, my wife, Wendy, and I had been married only a few years; now we’ve been married more than twenty years. Our oldest child was just a toddler back then; now she’s nineteen. We can’t afford to feel too old, though; we now have eight children, including a baby, so we still have lots of parenting ahead of us. God is good.
As I leave the Back to God Hour, my heart is full: full of thanks for past blessings and full of hope for future possibilities. As I say farewell, I want to leave you with some final reminders and a parting prayer.
Some of you have listened to this program for many years, and others have heard it rarely or are hearing it for the first time today. I can’t squeeze into a few minutes everything I’d like to say, but let me highlight a few basics I’ve emphasized over the years, things you must never forget or ignore.
First, God is God. God is real. God is magnificent. God is good. God is wise. God is more important than everybody and everything else in the universe. God is God. You’re not. I’m not. God is God, worthy to be worshiped and obeyed.
Second, you are created in God’s image and designed to find fulfillment in relationship to God. You are not an accident of random evolution. You are specially created to reflect God. You are not junk. You are fearfully and wonderfully made. Believe that you are God’s creation, and seek harmony with the Creator and everyone else he has made.
Third, you have sinned against God and need a Savior. You must repent of your sins and trust that Jesus died to pay for your sins. That is the only way to be forgiven and receive eternal life. It’s not fashionable to say that Jesus is the only way. It’s not popular to talk about hell. But hell is real, and unending anguish awaits all who die without Jesus. Only Jesus saves. I say to you what the apostle Paul once said as part of his farewell to some people: “I am innocent of the blood of all men”¦ For I have not hesitated to proclaim to you the whole will of God” (Acts 20:26-27). If you go to hell, it won’t be my fault for not warning you or for not calling you to Jesus. I am innocent of your blood. Whatever my shortcomings, I have called you back to God and have warned what will happen if you refuse.
Fourth, God claims every part of life – not just an hour on Sunday, not just a small corner of your heart, but all of you. Jesus gave his all for you, so give your all to him: your love, your abilities, your career, your family, your friendships, your hobbies. In everything you do, aim to please God and serve others. As God claims you, he claims the whole world and everything in it. Be his witness, his agent for reclaiming and renewing his world. Do this in fellowship and partnership with God’s special community, the church. Church is not an option; it’s a necessity for being part of God’s mission in the world.
Fifth, keep your eyes on the prize. Seek to know Jesus in fellowship with his suffering and in the power of his resurrection, and pray to be filled with his Spirit – this is the start and the foretaste of eternal life. I have often spoken of God’s new creation, of heaven coming to earth when Jesus returns. My words can hardly give a hint of the joy and beauty that awaits God’s people, but I urge you to keep treasuring God’s promises and keep meditating on eternal life in Christ.
One last reminder: truth is truth. It’s popular nowadays to talk about being “spiritual” without believing anything in particular. But God has spoken truth in the Bible. Keep reading the Bible, and keep praying to God for wisdom. Hold to the truth. Don’t be led astray by lies. Jesus warned against wolves in sheep’s clothing, and Paul also warned that wolves from within the church itself would deny God’s truth and damage God’s flock. Over the years I’ve warned about false teaching, and I’ll say one last time: Beware of wolves. Stay close to the good shepherd, the Lord Jesus. Be strong in the Lord, and resist the devil. Since this is my final Back to God Hour message, I want to impress these vital things upon you.
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