A Life of Preaching--Rev. John Harrell--The Top Five--4. You Don't Choose Your Own Cross

# 4. You Don’t Choose Your Own Cross

In trying to pin down the best sermons that I gained the most from that Brother Harrell preached has been difficult. I also realize that when a man preaches those in the congregation are listening with various difficulties of life that they are facing. While one may say that it was the most encouraging sermon he has ever heard, another hearer may not even be stirred by it. Much of the way that we listen to sermons is what we are struggling with at the time. This message came to me during a time of personal disappointment for the cross that I was having to shoulder at the time. Doors were not opening as quickly as I wanted and the doors that were open to me were not the ones I wanted to walk through at the time. I look back now from a vantage point of seventeen years and see that God could not have worked it out any better. It will happen with you too but you don't choose your own cross.

Over the years, Brother Harrell has routinely preached about the Cross. Sermons such as “You Can’t Carry Your Own Cross,” “Paradoxes of the Cross,” “It Was Dark at Calvary,” “Calvary,” “Bearing the Cross,” “They Ministered at Calvary,” “The Cross You Can’t Carry,” and “The Fading Cross.”

Brother Harrell preached “You Don’t Choose Your Own Cross” on January 12, 1994. Over the years, he would occasionally repeat it particularly when he would do the “Favorite Sermons” to the church in Bridge City. The gist of the message is that God’s children will periodically have to endure the firm hand of discipline that comes from the Lord. He does this because He loves us and our chastening is not grievous but it is helpful in that many times it will be the salvation of our soul.

The surrounding text from 2 Samuel 24 was the time when David was to be punished by God for numbering Israel. He was given choices by God as to what the judgment would be but instead he deferred and allowed God to determine what to do. This is always the best choice because God knows far more about the future than what we even could perceive to understand.

David had a choice of seven years of famine which would mean that there would people would be starving to death. Another choice was fleeing from the enemy for three months in the wilderness but he already knew what that was like also. Thirdly, he was given a choice of having to endure a plague that would have tormented and even destroyed the lives of those he ruled over. The dilemma was difficult at best.

One of the greatest mistakes in life is that we look on the hardships and difficulties of others and secretly wish that we had their cross instead of our own. We have the idea that we would be able to handle it so much easier to contend with. However the very nature of the cross is that it will be difficult for a man to bear. It is quite foolish to long and pine for another man’s difficulties in exchange for your own.

Brother Harrell rarely uses poems in his sermons but during this one he used this one:

I asked God for strength that I might achieve. I was made weak that I might learn humbly to obey. I asked for health that I might do greater things. I was given infirmity that I might do better things. I asked for riches that I might be happy. I was given poverty that I might be wise. I asked for power that I might have the praise of men. I was given weakness that I might feel the need of God. I asked for all things that I might enjoy life. I was given life that I might enjoy all things. I got nothing that I asked for, but everything I hoped for. Almost despite myself, my unspoken prayers were answered. I am, among all men, most richly blessed.

God knows exactly what He is doing when He chooses our cross!

Your cross will blossom and bloom just as Aaron's rod did in the Old Testament. But you have to stay with it and don't lose faith in God. Brother Harrell encouraged that we must have a blind faith in the plan of God for our lives. Again, looking back in retrospect it was all for the best. There are gifts and talents that have made my life so much richer but it was made so because I didn't choose my own cross.

He concluded with something that many would probably enjoy. He said that he would like to have a preaching marathon. He thought he would start at eight with just him and Sister Harrell. Then he would preach at the ten o’clock service, dismiss and go eat and come back and preach that afternoon and then again that night. He would preach the marathon. I have no doubt he could do it!

Quotes from the sermon:

“Men have a tendency to quarrel with their own cross. They would have chosen something else to contend with. If it would have been another situation, I could have borne it better.”

“One man’s meat is another man’s poison and it is certainly so when it comes to crosses. When we get over there, we will see how wisely the Lord has chosen our cross for us.”

“Churchanity wants to do away with cross-bearing but if there is no cross there will be no crown.”

I have had a few more e-mails of those who have heard Brother Harrell over the years and have sent in their “Top Ten.”

Garrett Delano
—1. They That Were Ready; 2. A Call and a Burden; 3. The Holy Ghost Sat on You; 4. Truth Crushed to Earth Shall Rise Again; 5. A Branch with Berries on It; 6. Contented yet Discontented; 7. The Blood and The Ground; 8. God Knows How to Thread the Needle; 9. Heaven on the Road; 10. Nachon's Threshing Floor.

I received the following e-mail from Murry Ray who pastors in Trumann, Arkansas. I have edited it somewhat but you will again see the impact of Brother Harrell on a young preacher. It is as follows:

Murry Ray--Bro. Harrell has been my pastor for 32 years! It’s hard to believe that so much time has passed by so quickly. I was ten when my family started attending BCUPC and received the Holy Ghost shortly thereafter. I have many wonderful memories of growing up in that church and cherish the Word preached so effectively and masterfully by Bro. Harrell. Sermons I remember most are some of those already mentioned, but there are a few more I could add to the list. Here are just a couple:

The Carpenter Encouraged the Goldsmith
One of the Days of the Son of Man
Nine Miles to Hell (Probably stirred me more than any message I've ever heard)
The Bells on the Horses
What To Do When You Panic
The Carvings on the Wall
Light Sown for the Righteous
The Word of a Gentleman

Bro. Harrell not only has the unique ability to reach into the depths of God's Word and draw out precious truths. He also has the rare ability to preach profound sermons from simple, if not, unusual thoughts. Three that come to mind: Apple Blossoms, Hope Seed, Hymn Number One.

More tomorrow. . .

Thanks for reading. . .


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