An ode to Jimmy V
A joyful heart is good medicine.
— Proverbs 17:22
Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.
— Philippians 4:8
— John 11:35
If you laugh, you think, and you cry, that’s a full day.
— Jim Valvano, 1993
The best speech I have ever heard, outside of a theocentric expository sermon, was given by Jim Valvano in the month before he died of cancer in 1993. People remember Valvano as the basketball coach of North Carolina State, the unlikely national champions of 1983. But Jimmy V was much more than a basketball coach and commentator. He was a devout Catholic, a faithful husband and father, and the most courageous cancer fighter and fundraiser who ever lived, and died, with the disease.
Most people’s most memorable quote from the speech is what Valvano said cancer could not do: “Cancer can take away all my physical abilities. It cannot touch my mind. It cannot touch my heart. And it cannot touch my soul.” Amen. But my favorite part was his part about what constitutes a good day. “If you laugh, you think, and you cry, that’s a full day. That’s a heck of a day.” Amen and amen.
This past Sunday at our church, I gave way in the pulpit to one of our Elders and participated mostly as an ordinary worshipper. I don’t do it often, but I enjoy it immensely when I do. I tell you, it was a good day.
I laughed. We always laugh at our church. You can hear it ringing out as the people enter in and when they depart. You can hear it during the service in response to the pastor’s corny jokes or sarcastic wit. It was the great 19th century preacher Charles Haddon Spurgeon who introduced plain talk and hearty laughter into the church, and for it he became a legend. We don’t have any legends in our church, but we have a lot of laughter.
I thought. There was a lot to think about, for the service was immersed in Holy Scripture. We read together every Sunday from the suggested texts of the lectionary, plus hear a sermon from a passage chosen by the preacher. As Jeremy expounded eloquently on Psalm 36, I thought about thinking, or how Christians ought to think, with a biblical worldview, and how few there are that think that way. But we do, in our church, think that is, a lot.
I cried. We choose not to engage the fads of modern worship, loud music and soft lighting, etc. We function with simple, biblically regulated means of honoring God and His word. As Tom introduced a beautiful, and fairly new hymn for him, about Christ, his voice cracked. My eyes watered. We all sang our hearts out. Later, as the deacons served the Lord’s Supper, the broken bread and wine broke my heart, as it does every Sunday. I don’t think I’m the only one.
So what makes for a good church, a good worship service, or a good, full day in the house of the Lord? I think Jimmy V said it best. Chuck DeVane is the pastor of Lake Hamilton Baptist Church. Call him at 501525-8339 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.