BALTIMORE – Saddleback Pastor Rick Warren remembered his late son, Matthew, Monday night as a fruitful Christian who used his trials to spread the gospel and encouraged hurting pastors at the Southern Baptist Convention Pastors' Conference to do to the same.
Warren said Matthew would have been a great counselor because he regularly used his pain to help uplift others.
He spent so much time helping others that after his death, Warren said, "I may have received 30-35 thousand letters of condolences from people around the world, and it wasn't the rock stars, the prime ministers or the presidents' cards and letters that meant the most to me. The letters that meant the most to me were letters from people that Matthew had led to Christ, and they would say 'I'm going to be in heaven because of your son.'"
After reading those letters, Warren said he realized, "In God's garden of grace, even broken trees bear fruit."
Warren said his youngest son had trouble from the time he was still inside his mother. He told the crowd that his wife's pregnancy with Matthew was a rough one and he'd regularly prayed as an expectant father for the survival of their unborn child, and that baby Matthew would be OK. "Kay lived, Matthew lived, but the baby was not OK," he summed.
Matthew Warren struggled his entire life with severe depression and mental illness, and often questioned whether God would ever heal him.
"I remember at seventeen – about ten years ago – Matthew came to me. He looked at me with tears in his eyes and said, 'Dad, it's real obvious I'm not going to get any better. It's real obvious that God has chosen not to heal me,'" Rick Warren recalled.
While Matthew Warren had lost hope that he would be healed from depression, his father said he never doubted the power of the cross. Warren testified that his son was very involved in the work of the gospel.
"Because of his pain, Matthew had an amazing sensitivity to people. He could walk into a room filled with a hundred people and he would instantly know who was in the most pain and he would make a beeline for that person and spend the rest of the evening talking to that person, encouraging them," he recalled.
Last April, the Warrens' world was rocked when Matthew ended his life at age 27. The Purpose Driven Life author took a four-month sabbatical from preaching and teaching to draw closer to God and heal. Miraculously, Warren said despite his absence from Saddleback, the California church "had the greatest period of growth in 34 years."
Warren told pastors who seek to see the glory of God that they could only do so through suffering.
"If you want the blessing of God on your life, if you want the power of God on your words, if want the anointing of God on your ministry, you must be willing to suffer," he stated.
Warren encouraged pastors under the strain of suffering to "use the pain to witness to the world."
After speaking briefly, Warren ended his talk in an unusual way – on his knees.
He shared, "As I was flying out here, the Holy Spirit whispered in my ear the people and the pastors who are in pain at this conference need your prayers more than they need your sermon."
Warren was one of eight speakers who spoke on the final day of the SBC's two-day Pastors' Conference. The conference's theme was "Show Us Your Glory."