Timothy 2:15 “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.”
His name was William Edward Dobbs Walton. Most knew him as Bill Walton. His friends called him Skeeter. He was a loving husband, father, and grandfather. He was a teacher, and a powerful gospel preacher. He preached for over 30 years in Chattanooga, Tennessee. To me he was a partner in the work at North Hixson. He was a mentor, a role model, and a dear friend.
Bill had a deep voice and loved to sing (and sing loudly). He had such a wonderful sense of humor. It was dry. His jokes often were missed. But to those who knew him and knew his heart, he could easily bring a smile to your face. Bill had a lot of unique sayings. When Bill thought something was good (especially tasted good) he’d say it was “mighty fine.” One of my favorite Bill “isms” was, “When the obvious sense makes good sense, seek no other sense.” That was a helpful reminder!
Bill had a way with people. With Bill you knew he would listen to whatever you needed to say. He gave you his time and attention. Bill had a gift for saying the right thing at the right time with the right tone. After any time spent with him, you’d know how much he cared for you. He sympathized with the hurting. He encouraged the discouraged. He was patient and long-suffering with this young, naïve preacher who had a lot to learn (and still does).
I’ve thought a lot about Bill recently. It’s almost been a month since his passing, and yet a day doesn’t go by that I don’t think about him. A question that’s popped up in my mind is: “How do you measure the worth of a preacher?” It’s not by how many gospel meetings he holds, or how well known he is among the brotherhood. It’s not by how many books he writes or blogs he posts.
A preacher’s worth is determined by his work. As Paul said in 2 Timothy 2:15, his approval is from God. The work of preaching the gospel is not self-serving. It’s not for the praise and attention of man. It is humble work and service of a disciple of Christ. Preaching the gospel is an act of service to God (Romans 1:9), and service to the church (Colossians 1:25).
Bill never published any books. He never wrote any blogs. He wasn’t well known across the country. He didn’t hold lots and lots of gospel meetings. And yet because of the years of service Bill gave to Christ and His church, the kingdom is stronger, and countless souls walk closer to God. How many men are now preaching, sharing the same good news, because Bill first taught and mentored them in the gospel? How many men and women became Bible class teachers because Bill first taught them? How many Christians are sharing the good news with their neighbors and friends because Bill first shared the message with them? How many marriages have remained strong and vibrant because of the teaching, preaching, and example of Bill? How many homes are standing firm in the faith because of the teaching and example of Bill. If you were to look at the lives of those in the Chattanooga area, many of whom have moved across the country, you would read the pages of Bill’s epistle (2 Corinthians 3:2).
How do you measure the worth of a preacher? I imagine this question runs through most preacher’s minds, as I’m sure it did Bill’s. Am I doing any good? Am I still effective? Bill often felt that his preaching and teaching was substandard – as I’m sure most do. How do you determine if a sermon was “good?” How do you know if your work is still effective?
Bill has helped me see that the work of teaching and preaching the gospel is one of sowing seeds, the trees and fruit from which we will likely not live to see. But our worth is not measured by how many baptisms, or how many Bible studies held, or gospel meetings offered, or any such tangible variables. Our worth is found in God for whom we work and serve. We offer to God the best of our effort. We pour our hearts into this work, and it is God who grants the approval of His workmen.
So, fellow preachers, keep sowing. Keep preaching. Keep reading. Keep teaching. Keep listening, helping, and counseling. Keep studying and learning and growing. Keep praying. Keep on working. No, you may not hold many gospel meetings. In fact, you may not be asked to hold any. You may not get any likes on your blogs. You may never write any books. You may not be well known beyond the small circles you’re in today. But you’ll be known by God. And your work will be seen by God. And the good you do today, though you may never live to see it, may make the difference in the lives others. Because of you others will come to know of Christ. Because of your teaching, some may be persuaded to believe. Because of your teaching, men may one day teach, serve as deacons or shepherds, or preach the gospel. What may seem small to us, is great in the eyes of God (Matthew 10:42). Praise and thank God for the privilege of being used in such wonderful ways!
Present yourself approved to God as an unashamed workman. That was my friend. That was Bill Walton. I will miss you dearly Bill. I am glad you made it safely. I’m overjoyed that you’ve received the reward for your lifetime of service to God. Thank you for your years of service. If only you could see all the good you’ve done. Your work lives on. Thank you for your teaching, your preaching. Thank you for setting such a wonderful example. Thank you for showing us Jesus.
Thank you, my brother. And thank you Jesus, for allowing our lives to cross. I am who I am today because of Bill.
by Jordan Shouse