“And you have forgotten that word of encouragement that addresses you as sons: “My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son.” Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father? If you are not disciplined (and everyone undergoes discipline), then you are illegitimate children and not true sons. Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of our spirits and live! Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.” Hebrews 12:5-11 (NIV)
We were visiting an out-of-town church recently and the pastor shared a very interesting thing. The church had a guest speaker the Sunday before we were there and evidently, or at least this was my take on it, the speaker said or did something that was out of order. I don’t know if it was his message or his method, but I took it that something wasn’t quite right. This pastor shared a very healthy and mature message:
He told the congregation that he was proud of them. He told them he’s aware that some speakers he invites because the speaker has a need to hear his own message (in other words, needs a “learning” opportunity) and others he invites because they have a message for the church to hear. Sometimes, the speaker has a message both for himself and for the church to hear. But, the important part was that none of us is perfect We all live in imperfect vessels. To believe that we cannot do the work of the Lord because we are aren’t perfect is ludicrous. If that were the case, none of us would do anything for the Lord…ever!
Perhaps you are in the middle of a divorce or ending an affair. Maybe your boss just reprimanded you and your response was anything but Christ-like. Or, you slipped up and used the drug again after swearing it off for the umpteenth time. It could even be that you disrespected someone, gossiped, coveted, etc. Whatever the sin is, whatever your temptations look like, God can and will use you.
I liked this message very much. In this context, the speaker must have done something wrong. But I loved what the pastor had to say about the wrong. He didn’t judge nor condemn. His comment was full of grace and love. He gave the speaker an opportunity and I would guess that this pastor might have done a bit of loving correction and/or instruction when it was over.
Here’s what I love the most. If the speaker did something in error, then this was a great learning opportunity. He may have ended up embarrassed or humiliated a bit, but no one ever died of such things. The pastor may have used the opportunity to teach and correct. I have this picture in my head of a child learning to ride a bike but in the insanity of the moment, he wobbles, swerves, and suddenly the front end of the bike is jerked and the child panics and falls. The parent doesn’t scold the child for falling but instead helps him up, dusts him off, and encourages him to get on and try again. Sometimes, there is need of a band-aid because the fall ended in a bit of a disaster (there’s the humiliation part). But the loving parent knows the child must get up and try again or they will never learn how to do this task.
Same thing goes for our progress as Christians. This pastor lovingly took care of business the Sunday before with a speaker who got off track a bit. The tricky part was that a congregation heard the faux pas. So on this Sunday, the pastor next helped the congregation understand about learning opportunities. In essence, he told them, “we won’t judge, we won’t make fun of, we won’t take anything away from this speaker because the important part is that he tried. I’ve helped the speaker through this and now I want you to make sure your heart is sitting correctly over this.” What a lovely testament to this shepherd and his flock!
The next time you find yourself involved in either hearing an error of judgment by another Christian or you are the errant offender, remember that failure is not the end unless you allow it to conquer you. The failure is only a learning point, an opportunity to fine tune and grow, a potential turning point in your growth with Jesus. We all fail. We are all cracked pots. We all biff it. But, the Lord will use us in it all. He will use you through the great days when all goes well, and He will use you in the bad days, when you take a dive. The point to dwell on is this: Jesus loves you, stands by you, and sent you the Holy Spirit to help you. Period.
How wonderful it is to know there are such gracious and loving pastors to help us along the way!