Our son is a gifted attorney, and we are very thankful for his accomplishments, not only as a lawyer, but as a Christian, a husband, a father, as well as a son. He has given us wonderful advice on legal matters and in many areas of family and faith. One particular piece of advice from him that I usually try to follow is this; “Never sign anything that you haven’t read and understood.” Excellent advice for a time in our culture in which a simple handshake does not have the significance it once had. I have a special friend who is an evangelist, who was prepared on one occasion, to sign his name to a document that he had not read and certainly didn’t understand. God’s grace and mercy prevented him from making that grave error.
Brother Bill Stafford lives in Chattanooga, Tennessee and has been a Southern Baptist evangelist for the greater part of his 55 year ministry. Cathy and I have grown to love Brother Bill and his wife Sue for more than 20 years, and have served with them on the board of The International Congress on Revival for almost 15 years. We have travelled overseas and served in that ministry to pastors and their wives, to encourage them, pray for them and help strengthen their ministries. All of their expenses were paid to come to a central place and to stay in a nice hotel where the annual conferences were held. That ministry was a spiritual highlight for Cathy and me, and especially wonderful in allowing us to know Brother Bill and Sue on a deep friendship level. Brother Bill trusted my counsel in spiritual matters, and he sought advice and counsel on health issues as well. In several instances, he allowed me to schedule medical tests and evaluations by other specialists, who were colleagues in my hometown. Bill’s home was at least 500 miles away, so appointments had to be scheduled well in advance.
For this particular appointment, Brother Bill had been experiencing some gastric problems requiring medications, and I thought it best that he have an endoscopic procedure on his stomach. This required preliminary preparations prior to, and the use of strong sedatives during the procedure. The only physician in our town qualified to do this procedure was an excellent doctor with lots of experience, but was not a professing Christian. I made him aware that my friend was a well-known Baptist preacher, and had travelled a great distance to have this procedure done.
On the scheduled day for the procedure and following the introduction of the two men, I decided to remain in the procedure room, in case anything unexpected might occur. I was feeling the responsibility for the safety of my friend, since I had recommended this colleague to him, and he could have had it done more easily in his own home where there were 20 or 30 equally qualified specialists. As the intravenous line was quickly inserted, and the sedative was being slowly given, I was feeling a little more calm, even though I was not receiving any of the sedative.
Prior to the insertion of the scope, the physician began asking questions that are routine, but I could tell from the inflections in his voice, there was also some sarcasm. He asked, “Mr. Stafford, do you drink whiskey, beer or wine for special occasions?” Brother Bill chuckled a little with his answer, “No sir, I never have.” I could tell the sedation was beginning to work, because Bill’s words were slower than usual and his tongue was a little thicker. The doctor then asked, “Well, you probably use tobacco in some form. Do you smoke an occasional cigar or take a chew of tobacco when you go out on a fishing trip?” As more of the medicine entered his vein, Bill very slowly said, “No sir, I never cared for any of it.” Seemingly a little frustrated with the answers he was hearing, the doctor then said, “Well, I know when someone really makes you mad, that you will use cuss words! You occasionally cuss when you get mad, don’t you?” The doctor was certain that the amount of sedation Bill had received would act like a truth serum, and he would discover how a preacher really acted and talked in private. I was thinking I might have to put my hand over Bill’s mouth just in case he would say something he would not want heard. Then in Brother Bill’s typical manner, he said very slowly and with a tongue so thick, it hardly sounded like his voice, “Well sir, if a man makes me mad enough, you could write some of those words on a piece of paper, and I would sign it!!” The skeptical doctor was astonished at Brother Bill’s candor, and even laughed at the response. I was greatly relieved that I didn’t have to intervene and Brother Bill didn’t have to sign anything that he had not read, and certainly didn’t understand at that moment.