Last week, one of God’s choice servants entered the presence of His Savior. Today many paid respect Dr_Steele_Dr_Spottsto Norman Spotts, a true man of the Word. Being able to say that about someone these days is no light matter.

He served many years as Bible professor, chaplain, and dean of students at Clearwater Christian College. That is why I have always referred to him as “Dean” Spotts (which many thought was his first name). Most of us remember him as dignified and reserved. Friendly and even-tempered. Drolly humorous with a signature smirk. His mind a vast resource of biblical knowledge.

Pursuing my bachelor’s degree in Bible, I had the opportunity to sit under his instruction in Old Testament Survey, Doctrines, and other courses in that department. Perhaps even more importantly, I sat at times on the other side of his desk in his office in Dambach as he offered godly counsel. One time in particular stands out. While still a student I felt that I had been slighted and unappreciated in a ministry opportunity. My pride had been stepped on, and I saw nothing but greener pastures serving elsewhere. With patience and perspective, he explained the right thing to do and the right way to do it. How to approach the situation biblically. How to respond to adversity appropriately. How to deal with people in general. Of course, his counsel was always drawn from and liberally seasoned with Scripture.

He was the instructor for the PMT class (Pastoral Ministry Training). He told us how to make the Bible the focal point of our preaching…how to safeguard our personal lives and ministries against temptation…how to perform a wedding…how to do a funeral (“Be careful that you don’t fall in the hole at a graveside service”). There were only a few of us in the class that semester; John Jackson, JC Nixon, Mike Mrkall. Occasionally, we would preach to each other in class and critique each other afterward. Each of us would stand behind a lectern and present our sermon as the others, including Dean Spotts, would take notes. In that small classroom on the side of the Easter Library, there was nowhere to hide if you made a mistake. During one of my attempts, I vividly remember my eyes, brain, and mouth refusing to cooperate with each other. I repeatedly mentioned the Apostle Paul throughout the sermon, when I clearly meant to say Peter instead. When I finished and it was their turn to weigh in, each of my classmates pointed out the obvious mistake – even counting how many times I had made it in just one short sermon. Truthfully, I would have done the same in their shoes. However, Dean Spotts, while acknowledging my gaffes, chose to focus on the biblical text and the content of my message. What gracious encouragement for a 21-year-old with extremely limited preaching experience.

Soon after I entered into ministry at New Testament Baptist Church, Pastor Ramsey invited a group from the college to sing in one of our services. He also invited Dean Spotts to preach. I remember being proud to say that I had been his student as he delivered a message about “The Man Who Picked Up Sticks” from Numbers 15. Although I have no notes from that morning, I have never forgotten the message. Within a year or two, we hosted another musical group from Clearwater Christian, and Dean Spotts would again be there to represent the college. However, this time Pastor Ramsey asked me to preach that morning. Equal parts of anxiety and anticipation filled my mind as I stood behind the pulpit that day. As much as I wanted to minister the Word to the congregation, I also wanted to see a look of approval on Dean Spotts’ face as he nodded his head in agreement. I wanted to make sure he knew I had listened and learned in his classes and was doing my best to rightly divide the Word of truth.

That was because I knew he was a man most familiar with the Word of God. Someone who understood its value. Who treasured it rightly. Who studied it diligently. Who preached it with sincerity and conviction, knowing that it was the power of God in the lives of those who would hear it. As his pastor shared several verses today from Psalm 119 about a love for Scripture, he noted the similarities between the psalmist and Dean Spotts. Pastor Haney summarized, “He was a man devoted to the Word of God and was blessed throughout his life because of it.”

The older I get, the more I have come to appreciate men who are more concerned with genuine substance than temporary style. More devoted to the Word of God than the trends of society. More concerned with the Lord’s approval than man’s applause. Men like Dean Spotts.

I can almost hear him closing a public prayer with these words from Ephesian 3:20-21, “Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.”