Earlier this week, we heard the news that one of our favorite professors from seminary, Dr. Roy Fish, passed on. Soon after hearing that news, our news feed on Facebook was filled with posts and links to blogs about the kind of man Dr. Fish was. A professor, a preacher, a denominational leader, an evangelist, a man of God. These were “hats” I saw him wear during the one semester that I was privileged enough to sit under his teaching at SWBTS. As I thought about those days and about why Dr. Fish was so loved by so many, I remembered a story from that semester that I’ve never been able to forget. A story that even now challenges me.
It began one day with a young woman in our class who had a prayer request. Her job as a dog walker (yes, we all had strange jobs — I was one of the janitors for the campus library) had her out and about in several neighborhoods on the west side of town, far from the seminary area. While walking her clients’ dogs one day, she came across a group of men painting a house. Feeling led to speak with one of them and share her faith, she began a conversation with him and shared just a little bit about what Christ had done in her life. She asked us to pray for this man, telling us that she would have more opportunity to share as he and his crew finished up that house.
A couple of days later, she came in with an update. “I saw the painter again, and I began sharing the Gospel with him once more,” she said. Then, she smiled, with a look of disbelief on her face, “And he told me, ‘You know, I’ve been talking to my friend, Roy, about this.’ As we talked more, it came out that I attend Southwestern, and he followed up with, ‘That’s where Roy works!'”
Dr. Fish, who was pretty much always smiling in class, smiled just a little wider. “And then what?,” he asked, practically giddy.
“Well, I asked him where Roy works on campus… and, Dr. Fish, he was talking about YOU!”
Out came the rest of the story, as Dr. Fish told us that this young man was one of the people that he had come into contact rather randomly and that he had felt burdened to keep in touch with him even though their lives were completely different. Because Dr. Fish was so sincere and kind, this young man didn’t think it odd and began a friendship with him. Dr. Fish had been sharing Christ with him for a while and told us, “You pray for this young man, because God is definitely doing something in his life.”
This was pretty crazy to the rest of us. Fort Worth isn’t a small town, so the odds weren’t good that the paths of two seminary people would cross with the same person, especially in areas far removed from the campus. But Dr. Fish didn’t seem all that shocked, smiling and chalking it up to the good humor of God, while the rest of it attributed at least part of it to the likelihood that Dr. Fish had probably shared Christ with over half of the city anyway. Class after class we’d hear stories about waiters and waitresses, random strangers in the grocery store, people who just crossed paths with Dr. Roy Fish and, feeling worn down and discouraged and lost, would see the compassion and kindness of Christ in his life and would share their hearts with him. He wasn’t pushy, he wasn’t insincere, he wasn’t looking to add people to some list of conversions — he was just crucified to Christ, willing to love others as He would. He didn’t spend his time fighting a denominational fight, arguing deeper issues of theology that we’ll never settle this side of eternity, fighting political wars, or being caught up in all the peripheral concerns that so easily distract us as believers. He just lived for Jesus and lived to tell others what He had done.
Earlier this week, when I thought about what Dr. Fish’s homecoming must have been like, it was easy for me to imagine that it was over-the-top amazing and thrilling, given all the Kingdom work he had done. Surely, it was more spectacular because of all those who were won to Christ through his testimony. But saying that and believing that assumes that we can earn some glory and honor for ourselves through earning honor and glory for Christ on earth. And isn’t it so much more honoring, so much more glorifying, and so much more consistent with Scripture itself, to attest to the fact that the homecoming of EVERY believer won for Christ by the blood of Christ Himself is as celebrated as the homecoming of Dr. Fish? It sure does take righteousness out of our power and our hands and place it right into the hands of Christ. And Dr. Fish KNEW that. That in the end, all the glory and praise and honor and acclaim belongs solely to Christ. And right now? In the here and now? ALL glory and praise and honor and acclaim belongs solely to Christ. When we see Him face to face, He will celebrate that HE ALONE won us to Himself and that He has glorified the Father in doing so. Regardless of what we did and only because of who He is and how He triumphed over sin and the grave.
And that, friends? Is exactly what Dr. Fish knew and lived. I pray that I would do likewise.