No. 1118



There is a popular song that contains these words, “I overlooked an orchid while searching for a rose.” This is what happened to me recently, as a great personification of these words, when I was preparing to write today’s column titled, “The Greatest Sermon Ever.”
If you are a Christian and have been in church for a good number of years, I am sure you have heard many, many sermons during your lifetime, some better than others. This is certainly true for me. At this point I had never thought about “The Greatest Sermon Ever,” and while doing so I came to a very definite conclusion. I believe you will agree with me when I share my answer with you a little later.
It was during my thinking time that I recalled hearing about a famous sermon titled “Payday Someday.” It is attributed to the American evangelist Billy Sunday, who was a professional baseball player who left baseball in the 1880s for the Christian ministry. While doing some research on this famous sermon, I could find very little about Billy Sunday, but the preacher who made the sermon “Payday Someday” famous was Pastor R.G. Lee, (1886-1978), pastor for many years at Bellevue Baptist Church in Memphis, Tenn. This sermon has been called the most famous sermon of the 20thcentury, and Dr. Lee preached it more than 1,000 times around the world.
When I found it on the Internet, I just had to download and read it, 21 pages of small type. As I read it over the next several days, I could understand why it has been called the most famous sermon of the 20thcentury. In fact, it is so powerful that here is my promise to you. Get your hands on a copy of this sermon and read it, and your life will never be the same again. This is the reason Dr. Lee preached it more than 1,000 times all over the world.
This sermon is set in the Old Testament and is about Naboth, a devout Israelite who lived in the town of Jezreel, and King Ahab and his wife Jezebel, who was a King’s daughter and also a King’s wife. The other key player is the Prophet Elijah, who God used to unfold the tragedy of “Payday Someday.” The plot is centered on the fact that Naboth had a small field, a vegetable garden, next to the King’s palace, and the King wanted it for himself. He offered money and also a piece good land somewhere else. But Naboth, being a loyal Jew who knew that all land was to be passed down from one generation to the next, would not sell.
The King was so distraught that he turned his face to the wall and would not eat and could not be consoled. Finally, his wife Jezebel said, “I will get it for you” and she hatched a plot to have this innocent man put to death.
Dr. Lee uses a tremendous vocabulary for this drama to unfold and I was mesmerized as I continued to read. Finally, the Prophet Elijah reenters the scene and tells both Ahab and Jezebel what their fate would be, as in “Payday Someday”, and it came to pass almost 20 years later.
Now, I have said all this to tell you that my answer to “The Greatest Sermon Ever” is the Sermon on the Mount, found in the fifth, sixth and seventh chapters of Matthew’s Gospel. The reason is simple; one sermon was given by a mere man, Dr. Lee. The other was given by God’s only Son Jesus Christ as He sat down to teach those on the hillside about the Beatitudes, the Model Prayer, how to pray, how to give and many other truths. If you have not already, I hope you take time to read them both.
(Editor’s Note: THE DEAL OF THE CENTURY – Begin your day on a positive note – 365 days for $12. This will benefit the Bookcase for Every Child project. Go to to subscribe.)