More than 30 years ago, I received a call from an elderly man named John Hunter. Someone had given him my name, and he said he hoped I might be able to answer some of his questions about the new things God was doing in the church.
I agreed to meet with him, and after that initial meeting John and I got together often. I learned that he had already known the Lord for more than 50 years—much longer than I had even been alive at that point. He didn’t flaunt his credentials, but he also had many years of experience as a church leader and Bible teacher. John clearly knew Christ in a deep and profound way.
So why did he want to get together with me? That was something I always found puzzling. Was it that he had a fatherly concern for me as a young Christian leader? Yes, I’m sure he wanted me to succeed as a leader—but that was not why he wanted to get together.
Did he want to straighten out my theology? No, that was the furthest thing from his mind.
Still to this day, I’m shocked by John’s primary reason for wanting to spend time with me: He was so hungry for the things of God that he hoped to learn something even from a “youngster” like me.
This may not seem so remarkable to you, but it still challenges me to the very core of my being. Why? Because John Hunter was hungrier for the Lord than I was.
Let me explain…
Before I met John, I was pretty satisfied with the spiritual level I had attained. I felt knowledgeable about the Scriptures and in touch with the Holy Spirit—wasn’t that enough? But John exemplified the same kind of insatiable hunger for God that the apostle Paul wrote about:
Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on in order that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus. Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let us therefore, as many as are perfect [mature], have this attitude (Philippians 3:12-15).
Until his dying day, John Hunter was still pressing on, not satisfied with the knowledge of God he already had. In his later years John developed Parkinson’s Disease, which made it much more difficult to “press on”—but he did nonetheless. His gait was more wobbly each time we met, as if his tall, lanky body might fall at any moment.
But he insisted on getting together anyway.
When we sat to have lunch, John’s hands shook violently if he tried to gesture or to bring a spoon to his mouth. Often his food spilled on his shirt, drawing the attention of those at neighboring tables in the restaurant.
As his final days approached, John’s words came out slowly and slurred. Sometimes he didn’t finish the sentences he started. But I could always sense the presence of the Lord during the times we shared.
It will be great to see John Hunter again someday. In heaven, I’m sure he has a fantastic new body, unaffected by anything like Parkinson’s. And I can’t wait to see how his childlike spiritual hunger is finally being satisfied as he dances in worship before God’s throne.
Let’s remind each other to follow John Hunter’s example, always yearning to go higher, toward the “upward call of God” for our lives. Let’s stay hungry until our hunger is fulfilled in eternity.
And perhaps the Lord would even have us invest ourselves in a new generation, as John Hunter did with me. Our lives will be changed when we do.
Thank you for sharing this! It really touched my heart.
I remember John being in our home, sitting on the edge at one end of the sofa, but the image is only tall fuzziness. His spirit I do remember and he was a precious brother in the Lord. Thank you for the memory jolting, I need those more frequently these days!
Hope you have a blessed birthday week, Jim.
Hi Jim, Encouraging reminder that we should never stop learning and growing in our faith. I’m often reminded that the more I know – the less I really know. God’s ways are so much higher than ours. Most of the time we try to bring Him down to our level of understanding in an effort of trying to comprehending this infinite God that we serve. Maybe John truly understood that unless we become like little children, we can’t enter the kingdom of God. One thing about children, they are not afraid to learn from others, young or old. John was definitely unique, especially considering the fact that he grew up in a movement that was not exactly passionate about Jesus. The hunger to know a passionate God was probably what drew him to you.
Hi Paul. Thanks for the excellent comments. Yes, indeed, John had a childlike quality, even when he was in his 80s. And you’re right that this was pretty amazing for someone from a Plymouth Brethren background.
You are one of my heroes too, Paul, always hungering for more of the Lord. I want that quality to rub off on me more!
LOL – I wanted to comment on your article, and what do I see? My dear husband got to you first, and all I can do is say, “AMEN!” Good reminder, Jim – especially as we all approach John’s age…