This month, I'm sharing credit with my Brother in Christ, Phil Barnard, because it was his message (as I understood
it) at the beginning of a recent Halftime - that's what we call our Men's Ministry's Wednesday evening Bible study
at FBC Centerville - that inspired me to write this. Now, if I say anything in this article that you find
controversial or offensive, see me, not Phil. I take full responsibility for what is written here and there's always
a possibility that I may have taken something he said wrong.
Have you ever found yourself tooling down the highway, singing along with the tunes on the radio with not a care in the world and then, to your absolute horror, you see in the rearview … blue lights? You think, he can't be coming after me, can he? And then you look down at the speedometer and see that you are going seventeen miles-an-hour over the speed limit. Without realizing it, you've broken the law!
Hopefully, unlike me, you haven't found yourself in that situation, but I'd be willing to bet that you've found yourself in the midst of something similar. You're just humming along, living life, attending church and small group, spending time in the Word, just as happy as a clam. But, in the background, there's something eating away at you, like a cancer. You might be harboring some resentment for that guy over there with his face buried in his tablet during the Pastors sermon. How dare he? Playing games or texting someone inside this Holy Sanctuary during MY time of worship? Or, maybe you're offended by that young woman in the third row who's wearing a skirt that's well above her knees and that blouse that's showing too much cleavage! Has she no shame? Exposing herself in front of, not only the Lord, the Pastor and the congregation, but to the children too! The children! Or, perhaps one of your supposed Brothers said something in an email that you found offensive about the state of - insert your pet peeve here. Just who does he think he is? He can't really believe that! I really need to set him straight before he really messes himself up, or worse, corrupts someone else with his wrong thinking! There are, literally, thousands of ways that the behavior of others might rub us the wrong way, and you might even feel that it's your responsibility to “correct” their behavior … because that's what Jesus would do.
Or is it?
And, what about our own behavior? Have you ever found yourself in a funk? Feeling depressed and maybe even a little angry at the world? Wanting nothing more than to withdraw and do your own thing, rather than spend time with family or friends. You might even think, in your present state of turmoil, that you're unworthy to attend church or go to Bible study because you don't want your negativity to “rub off” on your fellow Christians. You even justify your absence by telling yourself, I'm only thinking of them.
I will now loosely quote the immortal words of Colonel Sherman Potter when I say, “mule melons!”
I love M*A*S*H!
C'mon, admit it. You've felt this way a time or two. Without realizing it, and feeling completely justified, you've committed the sin of judging others or allowed yourself to be beaten down, failing to rejoice in the trials.
“Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you suffer trials of many kinds,” James 1:3 (NIV)
We all do it, and I believe I know why. Oh, there are those that say, “leave a child alone for a while and he or she will find a way to mess something up”, and this may be (probably is) true. But, I am a firm believer in spiritual warfare - and in giving credit where credit is due. When we're saved, we're forever removed from the clutches of the enemy, Satan. But, he and his minions don't just watch us get dunked, shed a tear and pack it in, never to bother us again. Oh, contrary my love (that's French). When we make the decision to follow Jesus Christ it's like saying, bring it on to that whole bunch, and they're more than willing to oblige. And, they're gonna be sneaky about it, too. They won't necessarily throw the whole barn at you. They may start with just a handful of hay, just to get the ball rolling. Then a chicken comes flying at you, then a horse, then a tractor and before you know it, you're letting things get to you and you start feeling, depressed and maybe even a little judgmental.
Maybe that guy with his face in his tablet is using its Bible app to follow along with the Preacher's message. Maybe that woman in the third row is wearing the nicest outfit that she owns. But you know what? She's there, in church, listening to the Word and trying to become a better Christian. Who knows, this could be the day that she decides to accept Jesus Christ and join the church. And your buddy with the email … maybe he just has trouble expressing himself and you've misunderstood what he meant. As for yourself, it's easy for us to get side-tracked in our busy lives and, just like when you aren't paying attention to the speedometer. We get caught up in the scenery and lose focus on what the Word of God is trying to tell us. We walk-the-walk and talk-the-talk, but as my Brother Phil said, “the outside of my cup was clean, but the inside was dirty”.
“Preach the word, be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage - with great patience and careful instruction.” 2 Timothy 4:2 (NIV)
This verse applies to ourselves as well as others. We must remain diligent, ever watchful for the enemy's attack. He can and will use anything and anyone against us, to knock us off our path. But, with the power of Jesus, we will be victorious.
The battle is on!
Ephesians 6:10-18 and 2 Chronicles 7:14.