Tuesday, April 19, 2016

What to Say When You're Second Choice

by Lucinda Secrest McDowell @LucindSMcDowel

Understudy. Replacement. Substitute. Interim.

Have you ever been called upon to take someone else’s place at the very last minute? Rarely convenient – always a stretch…

When we're second choice, it's easy to feel that our presence is possibly a mistake. And how humbling to learn that we were the one God intended to use all along.

At this time.

In this place.

John wasn’t a preacher. But as a deacon in the Primitive Methodist Chapel of Colchester, England he had a simple faith and a willing spirit.

Sometimes that’s all that is required.

On one particular January Sunday in 1850, John awakened to a world of white. Suspecting God didn't take snow days, he put on his boots and trudged six miles into town for church.

Not surprisingly, the church crowd was sparse that day – twelve members and one visitor, a 13-year old boy. In fact, the preacher wasn’t even able to make it through the snow, so someone suggested they cancel the service. After all, who would give the sermon?

Being the only church officer in attendance, John Egglen reluctantly agreed to do the honors, based on the scheduled text of Isaiah 45.22: “Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth; for I am God, and there is none else.”

But remember, he was no preacher.

In fact, he stammered and verbally wandered for about ten minutes until he fixed his eyes on the stranger, easily distinguished in the little company, and said, "Young man, you look very miserable." The blow struck home, and although the teenaged Charlie had never had such a personal word from the pulpit before, he listened intently.

John continued, "Young man, look to Jesus Christ! Look! Look! Look! You have nothin' to do but to look and live."  

I’m not a preacher either, but there have certainly been times when I have needed to step in and offer a good word. Recently I was called upon to fill in a 5-day speaking engagement, as a replacement for an older seminary professor who had become ill. While my natural response was to feel unworthy and unqualified, I chose to believe that this was no mistake.  To serve in that place. At that time.

I said yes and offered up my words ~ my stories. By God's grace, that week ended up being one of incredible fruit and encouragement for all involved.

We never know where our words will land, do we? Canadian Pastor Mark Buchanan in elaborates, “I’d delight if none of my words fell to the ground --- if none were useless, excessive, dispensable, easily dismissed… But that’s God’s business… Either God, God alone, keeps our words from falling and scatters them wide, or else there is nothing in them worth keeping and scattering in the first place. Our concern, our responsibility, is simply to hear and heed God.”

Where did John Egglen’s words land that snowy day so long ago? Did they make a difference?

As that teenage boy recalled years later, they most certainly did: “I had this vision—not a vision to my eyes, but to my heart. I saw what a Savior Christ was. . . . And as the snow fell on my road home from the little house of prayer …I was white as the driven snow through the grace of God.”

That teenager’s name? Charles Haddon Spurgeon.

Who grew up and became known as England’s “Prince of Preachers.”

What do you most remember after hearing a good message? Chances are, it’s the stories that take hold of your heart and provide a lasting influence.

Jesus was a storyteller. And our complicated and seemingly impossible lives also tell a story to a watching and listening world...

What story does He want you to share? Why not spend some time preparing for your own snowy day?

And then say yes when you are summoned… you never know where your words will land.

"Proclaim the message; be persistent whether the time is favorable or unfavorable; convince, rebuke, and encourage, with the utmost patience in teaching." 2 Timothy 4.2 NRSV

What to say when you're second choice - thoughts from @LucindaSMcDowel (Click to Tweet)

Lucinda Secrest McDowell, M.T.S., is the author of 11 books, contributing author to 25 books, and has published in more than 50 magazines. A graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and Furman University, she studied at the Wheaton Graduate School of Communication and served as Communications Specialist for the Lausanne Committee for World Evangelization (Thailand) and Editor for Billy Graham’s International Conference for Itinerant Evangelists (Netherlands). A member of Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA), she has received “Writer of the Year” awards from both Mt. Hermon and Blue Ridge Writers Conferences. Cindy speaks internationally through her ministry “Encouraging Words” and co-directs the New England Christian Writers Retreat. Known for her ability to convey deep truth in practical and winsome ways, she writes from “Sunnyside” cottage in New England. Visit her online at www.EncouragingWords.net

Links  www.NewEnglandChristianWritersRetreat.com
Blog/website  www.EncouragingWords.net


  1. Thank you for sharing, Cindy. I love learning how God calls others and uses them. I will remember this when I am second or even third choice.

  2. I love this story. To think how God weaves all our talents to do His great will. The person who seems to have less talent is no less useful in His work. What a promise! (Exclamation mark intentional)

  3. Isaiah 45.22: “Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth; for I am God, and there is none else.”
    It's amazing. I read that verse this morning and camped out on it! As someone who has been asked to fill in at the last minute more than once, this resonated with me.