I remember when my son took Texas State History in high school. Somewhere in that class he ran into a quote of William Tecumseh Sherman (the Civil War General and later Secretary of War under President Grant). The irascible Sherman said, “If I owned Texas and hell, I’d rent out Texas and live in hell.” Well, I couldn’t disagree more. I love Texas. However, Sherman’s quote helps me remember how dangerous it was to be a Texas pioneer after the close of the Civil War. Those who launched the Methodist movement for Christ in Texas lived out of an incredible commitment to our Lord and to his Gospel.
Last Saturday we had a great Centennial Celebration for the Central Texas Conference. In my speech at that hallmark event, I shared a story that Dr. Wayne Matthews had given me. The early Texas Methodist, both lay and clergy, came to offer a courageous witness to Christ and the Kingdom of God. “James T. Griswold, who arrived in Texas straight from college in Alabama, was never able to adequately explain his attraction to Texas. He said: ‘A strange thing happened to me not many days after I received my license–an impression came over me to ‘go to Northwest Texas to preach.’ I hesitated not, but promptly said, ‘That I will do.’ My face was set like flint to do that thing. As I began to talk Northwest Texas among my colleagues at college, they would say, ‘You are crazy, boy! That is nothing but a desert. There are no people out there, and why throw away your life? You will either starve to death or freeze to death.’ All this and more was said to me but to no avail.”
Reflecting on the witness of James Griswold, I was forced to ask myself. To what am I “set like flint?” Am I willing to brave the rigors of life (in a very different 21st century way) out of a commitment to Christ in sharing the gospel for others? It is a challenging question which assaults the life of comfort and ease which I lead. Romans 12:1-2 reminds me to be transformed by a renewing of the mind to discern the will of God. In that prayerful discernment, I seek to be “set like flint” to carry out the mission of making disciples of Jesus Christ.
 R. Wayne Matthews, God’s Plan and Us, October, 2010 The quotes are from The Methodist Excitement in Texas by Walter N. Vernon and others pg. 156.