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by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

It is my honor this afternoon to bring a meditation on the life of my esteemed friend, Dr. William A. Powell, Sr.

Bill Powell will always be remembered as a man who stood up for the Bible. He didn’t do that only in the quietness of his home. He took his faith in God’s Word into the arena. A man like Bill was described by President Theodore Roosevelt, who said:

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly...who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause, who at the best knows in the end the triumphs of high achievement and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.

Bill dared to uphold the inerrancy of the Bible in a time of apostasy, when cold and timid men played politics and sought to look good. While these men played it safe, Bill was actually in the arena.

Bill manned a submarine in the United States Navy during World War II. At the close of the war, in 1945, on Soldiers Field in Chicago, Bill heard George Beverly Shea sing, “I’d rather have Jesus than silver or gold, I'd rather have Jesus than anything this world affords today.” Then and there Bill decided that he wanted Jesus Christ more than anything this world offers. That song became the theme of his life.

In our day of shallow Christianity many believe in a gospel of success. They say that a man who is blessed by God has an easy and prosperous life. If hardships and trials come, they say that God has not blessed. But they are wrong. The old gospel called men to a life of self-denial and cross-bearing. The old gospel called men to take the road less travelled, the rough road of self-sacrifice for Christ.

It was on this less travelled road that Bill Powell made his earthly pilgrimage. Bill took the same rough road as Stephen, who “being full of the Holy Ghost, looked stedfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God,” while wicked men “cried out with a loud voice, and stopped their ears, and ran upon him with one accord...and stoned him.”

Again, Bill took the same rough road as Paul, who was “in labours more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequent, in deaths oft. Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one. Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep. In journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils of mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; in weariness and painfulness; in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness. Besides those things that are without cometh upon me daily, the care of all the churches...If I must needs glory, I will glory of the things which concern mine infirmities.”

Or again, Bill took the same rough road as Valiant-for-truth in Pilgrim's Progress. “A man stood there with his sword drawn and his face covered with blood. Mr. Great-Heart said, Who are you? The man answered, My name is Valiant-for-truth. I am a pilgrim, going to the Celestial City. Odds are nothing when truth is on your side. ‘Though an army may encamp against me, my heart shall not fear.’ Besides, he said, I have read in some records that one man has fought an army. How many did Samson slay with the jawbone of a donkey?”

That was Bill. His sword was drawn and his face was covered with blood. He now stands forever with men like Stephen, Paul, and Valiant-for-truth. He is a pilgrim, gone to the Celestial City.

Of men like Stephen, Paul, Valiant-for-truth, and Bill Powell, Christ said this:

Blessed are ye, when men shall hate you, and when they shall separate you from their company, and shall reproach you, and cast out your name as evil, for the Son of man’s sake. Rejoice ye in that day, and leap for joy: for behold, your reward is great in heaven: for in the like manner did their fathers unto the prophets.

Bill’s place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat. He has been caught up into the third heaven, into paradise, and has heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter. But one word Bill has heard is not unspeakable, for it is recorded in God's Book, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant...enter into the joy of thy Lord.”

So, what is Bill Powell’s message to us? It is this: “I’d rather have Jesus than anything this world affords today.” Whenever you hear that song, remember that William A. Powell, Sr. not only heard it – he lived it.

I’d rather have Jesus than silver or gold;
I’d rather be His than have riches untold;
I’d rather have Jesus than anything
This world affords today.
Than to be the king of a vast domain
Or be held in sin’s dread sway;
I’d rather have Jesus than anything
This world affords today.

You got what you wanted, Bill. You got Jesus Christ in all His fulness and glory! Now go on Bill – and enjoy Him forever!

(Eulogy given at the memorial service for Dr. William A. Powell, Sr., Bremen, Georgia, March 25, 2000, by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr., pastor of the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles, California).

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