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Get in Over Your Head! by Ray Pritchard

Have you heard the story of Charlie Riggs? Over 50 years ago, he came to Christ and was discipled by a young man named Lorne Sanny, who himself was being discipled by Dawson Trotman, founder of the Navigators.

Charlie was willing to grow in Christ, but he was a bit rough around the edges and didn’t seem very promising as a Christian leader. When Lorne wrote to Dawson, he told him that Charlie Riggs was the only man he was working with and he felt discouraged by the prospects. Trotman wrote back and said, “Stay with your man. You never know what God will do with him.” So, Lorne Sanny continued to work with Charlie Riggs.

A few years passed and a young man named Billy Graham came on the scene. In 1952, the Navigators “loaned” Charlie Riggs to the Graham team to handle the follow-up in their early crusades. He planned to return to the Navigators eventually. However, he worked out so well that he stayed with Billy Graham.

In 1957, on the eve of the famous New York City crusade at Madison Square Garden, the crusade director suddenly had to be replaced. Who could they get? The lay chairman suggested Charlie Riggs, but Billy Graham wasn’t sure if he could handle the job. “All he does is pray and quote Scripture.”

The layman insisted, Charlie Riggs got the job and the rest is history. The New York campaign became a model for the many crusades that would follow in later years. Billy Graham said, “I didn’t think he could do it. But I had this peace—that Charlie so depended on the Holy Spirit that I knew the Lord could do it through Charlie.”

Charlie Riggs retired after many years of effective service to the Lord. What was his secret? How could a man with little formal training rise to such a high position and hold it for so long'

He says, “I always asked the Lord to put me in over my head . That way, when I had a job to do, either the Lord had to help me or I was sunk.” God was delighted to answer this prayer time after time. He put Charlie Riggs in over his head—and then bailed him out.

So many of us dads play it safe with our families. We pray only for what we think we can handle. Our answers are small because our prayers are small.

Here’s a challenge. Let’s take Charlie Riggs’ prayer as our own: “Lord, put me in over my head.” It’s safer to stay in shallow water where you can always feel the bottom under your feet, but the real challenge is to jump in where the water comes up over your head. What are the challenges we face when we’re in over our heads? Job changes, teenagers, college costs and church schedules to name a few.

How about it, dads? Are you ready for some excitement? I am. Let’s ask God to put us in over our heads. And then, let’s watch God keep us floating just when we think we’re about to sink.

From “On the Father Front,” Vol. 8, No. 2, Summer, 1995

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