Dear Dr. MacArthur,
My dear friend Dan has already written you an open letter this year, and one may think that's the end of it as he has given you a friendly encouragement to do something really hard for the sake of the faithful as part of finishing strong. However, what Dan had to say has absolutely nothing to do with what I have to say, so I'll say this bit myself.
I've had the great pleasure to visit SoCal twice in the last year or so, and both times I got to tour the GTY offices because, well, I was living in Phil's house for the week and from my perspective it's always instructive to see where the magic happens (and we go see Disney while we're there, too, since we're middle American tourists). Both times I had the pleasure to chat with the staff and both times I got to view your office at GTY -- and I found that I had to simply just walk out quickly. I had this really unnatural fear that if we stuck around too long, you'd show up and I'd have to meet you face to face.
Now, honestly: I'm not a fan-boy. I can remember that the last time I was at T4G I was walking from the hotel to the conference and as I turned to my left, the guy crowding up on me was CJ Mahaney, and I didn't get all creeped out. I didn't grab for my pen to get an autograph. He's a guy, I'm a guy, and we were walking down the hall together. No Problem.
I once rode in an elevator with John Eldredge when he was a big name at CBA and I was a little disappointed at what a short little fellow he was, and that he needed a handler to make his way around the conference center, but I wasn't overcome with awe for a guy who has sold a million books. Ergun Caner once forced his book on me back when people thought he was an ex-jihadi and he told me (without every talking to me about what I believed) that everything I knew about the Crusades was wrong. He made me feel the way the guy selling scented anointing oil made me feel, which is not star-struck. My wife once (accidentally) cut in line to get Third Day's autograph (she thought she was meeting the sales rep from Provident), and we had a good laugh about that. I didn't get all giddy when she handed me Mac Powell's and Mike Lee's autographs.
But when I stood in your office, I was remembering when I was a very young Christian, living in a place called Sackett's Harbor. I barely had a local church, and I was working at a thankless job for a guy who hated me, and I had to drive 20 minutes to work every day at 4:30 in the morning. On the way back from work at 3 PM, I would hear J. Vernon McGee. But on the way in -- and I remember almost every drive as a drive through icy cold in the snow-covered hell-bow of NY State and Lake Ontario -- you were preaching through the Bible.
I wasn't in the worst place anyone has ever been. I wasn't homeless, or unemployed, or without prospects, or unsaved. But I was disoriented spiritually, and undisciplined, and unfocused; and because of the situation I had at work, I was also depressed, and looking for some sort of hope in a world which, frankly, could care less about me. And I was still making the rookie mistakes a newly-saved adult makes every time.
What happened to me through your preaching was not personal discipleship -- it couldn't be. You don't know me, and you could not have known me or my problems then. But through the work of GTY assembling your sermons for the radio on a daily basis you saved my spiritual life. You planted a seed in me which others were also working to plant, and which others still cultivated for a good harvest as I later became a husband and father and leader at work.
And in doing this, you really didn't do this for me: you did it for Christ. I get that -- I get it that you don't really preach with anyone in mind but with Christ in mind so that those who are listening, whosoever they are, will hear it and come. I get it that you sort of did it to me and not for me. But when I think of the massive benefit I have received simply because you were a faithful servant to Jesus, I am taken aback.
The only other man in my spiritual life to have this kind of impact on me was my pastor, and he did personally disciple me. He did take the time to make me talk about spiritual things and consider spiritual reasons for following the narrower path rather than a wider path which would just be easier. But here's the thing: what he was trying to tell me and do for me would never have mattered if, when I was driving in the dark and the snow each morning, you hadn't also spoken the words of life into me when I was preparing to go to a job I hated, working for a man who distrusted and denigrated me even though I was doing things for him he didn't even know he needed. You spoke daily into my doubt and my downcast state with sound spiritual wisdom, and it changed me.
So when I stood in your office, I wasn't in the office of a famous man. I was in the office of a fellow who saved my spiritual life, and the life of my marriage, and of my professional vocation, and the life of my family. For me, I'm not sure I could meet you and not over-react, because you have given me so much which was so essential for the start of my walk with Christ. Everything that has come after it is a consequence of what you have done, and the least I owe you for that is thanks.
So today: thank you. Thank you that you taught me about Christ so I could love my wife better. Thank you that you taught me about humility so I could think of others as more important than myself. Thank you that you taught me how to confess my sins for the sake of repentance. Thank you that you taught me that I have a refuge from all my doubt in Christ's resurrection. Thank you that, with other faithful men, but in a place they could not reach me, you were filling up what was lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church.
Thank you that what you have given me makes Christmas brilliant and sweet. I hope that this season brings good tidings of great joy to you and yours. Thanks for being a good friend and good boss to Phil. I look forward to seeing what God has for you as you finish the race well for the sake of your savior.