It’s amazing how time speeds as you grow older. My late mother postulated that it was because each succeeding year becomes a smaller fraction of your total. It’s one thing to live 20 percent of your total from age four to five, but quite another to live less than 2 percent of it from age 59 to 60.

When my parents used to talk about “20 years ago,” it seemed a different era. Now “30 years ago” rolls easily off my tongue and seems like yesterday.

Recently, while interacting with my old friend, international evangelist Sammy Tippit, I was reminded of when Sammy and I met in 1972. He was a 25-year-old street preacher in Chicago and I was a 23-year-old editor of a Sunday school paper. I did a story about his having been arrested for passing out tracts in front of strip clubs and interfering with traffic (in other words, impeding business).

Sammy was acquitted, of course, but I clearly recall being overwhelmed by the sold-out nature of this young man. He had become a believer in Christ while a gifted university student, then simply surrendered his entire life to God.

Sammy would go anywhere and do anything to spread the news of salvation through Christ. He became the subject of my very first book and remains my spiritual hero. All these years later, Sammy and I have raised families, enjoy long-term marriages, and are grandparents many times over. We have been friends this whole time, and for the past 30 or so years I’ve also served on the board of his ministry.

Sammy has lost none of his devotion and fervor. He still goes anywhere preaching Christ, actually preferring the hard places. He visits several continents every year, flying thousands of miles and seeking no fame. Those who hear him preach say that he could enjoy a huge constituency if only he would preach in the States about half the time each year.

But Sammy goes where God points him. He recently fulfilled a promise to preach in Pakistan, despite terrorist attacks that killed dozens of Christians just before he was to arrive. How sobering it was for those of us charged with his ministry to face the realities of what we were to do in the face of such real danger.

Sammy was not playing at Christianity. This wasn’t dancing around the edges of ministry. This wasn’t strategizing. This was frontlines, putting your life in the balance, real deal faith.

My relationship with Sammy is just one of the benefits of a life of writing. Facing a mirror like that, spiritual hero or not, is not always comfortable. It can be convicting, humbling, sobering. It makes me long for the easier times.

But no doubt Sammy is probably already packing for some other difficult assignment.

Is there someone in your life who challenges you to a deeper commitment?

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