Earlier this week, Dallas Theological Seminary (DTS) lost one of the giants of the faith when Dr. Donald Campbell, President Emeritus of the school, passed away. He, as well as Dr. Dwight Pentecost and Dr. Stanley Toussaint, a first cousin of my father, have now passed on and gone home to the Lord. They were all professors and icons at DTS for more than half a century and have left their mark on thousands of students throughout the decades.
To anyone who has attended an evangelical or conservative seminary, all of these men are well known for their faith journeys and for their contributions, literary and in the classroom, that they have made throughout the years. And the list of students they have mentored along the way boggles the mind – men such as Dr. Tony Evans, Dr. Mark Bailey, current President of DTS and even Dr. Chuck Swindoll, Past President of this tremendous institution. In fact, they all remind me of Dr. Clinton Branine, the kindly old gentleman scholar who was instrumental in teaching me most of the theology I learned during my seminary years.
There’s just something incredibly humble about these men. Listening to them preach the Gospel and how they lived lives of quiet servitude can’t help but draw all believers closer to the Lord. I was privileged to study in this kind of environment and it was one of the great rewards of my seminary experience.
More than a fifteen years ago, I subscribed to the Dallas Seminary Podcast and I listened to the chapel speaker each day for years. In fact, I still listen when I can. Daily chapel is one of the things that you get used to in school and the DTS chapel series keeps me connected to the Lord on a day to day basis. Although I never met Dr. Pentecost (author of “Things to Come” – one of the greatest books on the endtimes) or Dr. Campbell, who had a wonderful memory and sense of humor – painting pictures in my mind about how seminary was taught 60 years ago), I did have the honor of meeting my cousin, Dr. Stanley Toussaint.
As he was nearing retirement, in his mid eighties, I met Stanley on one of my many trips to Dallas when I regularly visited a client who lived there. I had heard stories of the distant past – like when my father taught Stanley to swim when he was 6 years old. And I had followed Stanley’s career, teaching throughout the world and revered as a top biblical scholar. His knowledge of the Bible far outweighed anything that I could ever hope to aspire to and when I finally met him for dinner, I was even more impressed. What a godly man!
As he entered the restaurant, a local steak house, I recognized him immediately from the videos I had seen when I watched his classes or his preaching online. I knew that he had challenges walking, but I didn’t realize that, like my own brother, Stanley had suffered from childhood polio. As a young boy, he suddenly lost his ability to play in the yard with the other kids and had a difficult time getting around. Although he had something of a remission for many years, he had once again lost most of the use of his legs and was on the verge of using a motorized scooter to get around. In the meantime, two canes helped him navigate his way to our table. For some reason, I was drawn to this issue in his life. After all, there have been several people in our family who suffered from polio and Stanley even looked so much like some of my family members that it was abundantly clear that we were related.
I enjoyed every moment of our time together and it was interesting to hear about his life even as he expressed interest in mine. Our respective ministries served entirely different segments of the kingdom and we both learned from each other about our passions. It was the first and only time that we met in person.
But the thing that I remember most was his description of living a faithful life of commitment to the Lord. There was no pretense at all – just unbridled love for Jesus and deep joy at the thought of living through eternity with Jesus at his side. Stanley did express one thing that he was looking forward to. He went on to explain that he couldn’t remember the last time he was able to run – his legs just didn’t work. Even as a young child, he wasn’t able to play with the other kids. And Stanley told me that he couldn’t wait to run in heaven with Jesus – unencumbered by his earthly physical limitations. I fell silent.
Because walking and running is something that I have always taken for granted. But here was this elderly gentleman, the age my father would be if he was still alive, and all he wanted was to run with Jesus. From the moment we met, I felt oddly connected to the past with my father – here was Stanley, a distant relative discovered from my past, but I found myself virtually unable to comprehend the depth of his love for the Lord. I was mesmerized – and I can see how thousands of friends and students were so impacted by being in his presence.
The verse tonight is somehow appropriate for what Stanley aspired to. The author of Hebrews tells us, in Hebrews 12:1, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” My encouragement this evening is that Jesus expects us to get joy from the simplest things in life. We don’t have to spend excessive amounts of money or try to impress Him with our success. His only desire is that we stay focused on Him and not get distracted by the unimportant things of life. My prayer is that we can all learn from studying the humble lives of men such as Dr Pentecost, Dr. Campbell, Dr. Branine and Dr. Stanley Toussaint. And someday, we can all look forward to running with Jesus. Have a great day in the Lord, grace and peace…