“Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy.” 1 Peter 4:12-13 | KJV
Many a waiting hour was needful to enrich the harp of David, and many a waiting hour in the wilderness will gather for us a psalm of “thanksgiving, and the voice of melody,” to cheer the hearts of fainting ones here below, and to make glad our Father’s house on high. What was the preparation of the son of Jesse for the songs like unto which none other have ever sounded on this earth? The outrage of the wicked, which brought forth cries for God’s help. Then the faint hope in God’s goodness blossomed into a song of rejoicing for His mighty deliverances and manifold mercies. Every sorrow was another string to his harp; every deliverance another theme for praise.
One thrill of anguish spared, one blessing unmarked or unprized, one difficulty or danger evaded, how great would have been our loss in that thrilling Psalmody in which God’s people today find the expression of their grief or praise!
To wait for God, and to suffer His will, is to know Him in the fellowship of His sufferings, and to be conformed to the likeness of His Son. So now, if the vessel is to be enlarged for spiritual understanding, be not affrighted at the wider sphere of suffering that awaits you. The Divine capacity of sympathy will have a more extended sphere, for the breathing of the Holy Ghost in the new creation never made a stoic, but left the heart’s affection tender and true. (Streams in the Desert)
I watched him waiting to die—longing for release from a fading frame, yet fully alive to the end. His beloved Jeanne’s passing preceded his own, leaving him eager to join her. In the meantime, he continued preaching and teaching the gospel as he had most of his life.
Dr. Potts was a force of nature. I met him as a teenager during his pastoral ministry at First Baptist Church in my hometown of Groves. He left to assume the chair of the Department of Religion at East Texas Texas Baptist College; it was there our lives crossed again, and mine has never been the same. With a chuckle and glint in his eye, Dr. Potts guided young star crossed ministry students through a maze of liberal arts education and preparation for vocational Christian ministry. I sought out every opportunity to sit under his teaching, and was privileged to undertake a senior honor’s project in mass evangelism under his tutelage. He personified Christian ministry. Years later, I returned to East Texas Baptist to teach and we renewed our acquaintance. When his health broke and was told he was not long for this world, I began visiting regularly in his home. The teacher continued to teach, and I an eager sponge. On one occasion, I asked him to sign a photograph of himself behind a pulpit. He agreed, reluctantly, and I display it proudly in my office to this day.
I received the call from Dr. Potts’ daughter telling me he had gone, and then Cindy bestowed a great honor by asking me to preach her father’s memorial service. I agonized over what to say, not wanting to fail him or his family, and attempted to put words to the enormous emotion we felt in the loss. The irony was that while we mourned the end of his life and ministry, his impact was felt more than ever before. A life well lived outlasts the man. Dr. Potts endured the melody of suffering with his Savior, and left behind an example of what it means to sing to the end and beyond.