My daughter-in-law saw it first. It was a rather large gator swimming in our backyard pond. We enjoyed watching it and taking pictures as it swam lazily around the pond. However when it was spotted sunning itself in our backyard, something had to be done for the sake of our two curious pugs. The official gator removal guys came and lured the gator to the shore, pulled him out of the pond, taped his jaws shut and secured the 7ft. 7in. gator for removal. When it was safe I ran my hand over his back and noticed how rough and rugged the hide of that gator truly was. That rough hide is essential for the survival of the alligator.
Too many of God’s people have such a soft and sensitive hide when it comes to their spiritual lives. They are easily sidetracked and discouraged by the difficulties of life. They get offended and hurt by others. It doesn’t take much to cause them to fall into sin, and they lack that determined spirit that keeps them faithful to the Lord. The apostle Paul had a rugged faith. He tells us in 2 Corinthians 11:23-28: “…in labors more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequently, in deaths often. From the Jews five times I received forty stripes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods; once I was stoned; three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been in the deep; in journeys often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils of my own countrymen, in perils of the Gentiles, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; in weariness and toil, in sleeplessness often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness-- besides the other things, what comes upon me daily: my deep concern for all the churches”.
All of us could use a hide that is a little more like an alligator and less like a kitty cat. We need to have the kind of faith that will not fail through difficult trials, flaming temptations, and even the careless words of fellow believers. How rugged is your faith?
It was a beautiful day to visit Greenfield Village in Dearborn, Michigan. My wife and I were thrilled to be the typical tourists as we walked through the various historic homes. As we were about to leave for the day we noticed that a little boy had slipped off a curb and had skinned his knee. He screamed in pain as his father tried to comfort him. The little boy only cried more when he saw some blood oozing from his knee. I stopped by and offered the father a Band-Aid. The application of the Band-Aid worked liked magic and the little boy’s tears dried up and a smile appeared on his face. Being a father of six children, I had gotten in the habit of carrying a few Band-Aids in my billfold and they always came in handy.
God’s people need to be on the watch for situations that the Lord may bring across our path where we can minister grace to hurting people. Peter challenges us to be on the watch in 1 Peter 3:8: “Finally, all of you be of one mind, having compassion for one another; love as brothers, be tenderhearted, be courteous”. Paul challenges us: “Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially those who are of the household of faith” (Gal. 6:10). We do not have the ability to fix people. I have learned that there is only One who can do that, and His name is Jesus. However I believe that God desires to use us to lead others to Him and even offer a word of comfort, counsel, hope or encouragement. We can also be used to offer some practical help to those we meet.
There are a lot of skinned up and bleeding people we meet in life. Perhaps God wants to use you and me to minister to them. Let’s be on the lookout for those who have slipped off the curb and always make sure we have a Band-Aid in our billfold.
As is my custom I stopped at our local McDonalds for my noon-time iced tea. As I was negotiating putting the lid on my tea an explosion of glass and metal rocked the peaceful lunch crowd. The sound was so deafening I didn’t know what had happened at first. A car had come crashing through the doors of the restaurant sending glass flying and customers scurrying. I quickly scanned the scene and found that no one was seriously injured except a few ruined Happy Meals. This is the third crash at this McDonalds in recent memory. I feel sorry for the restaurant and its manager as he rushed around, assessing the damage. I also feel sorry for the poor couple who just hit the wrong pedal.
As disturbing and heart stopping as that noontime McCrash, there are other kinds of wrecks that are a lot more tragic. I have witnessed Christians who hit the wrong pedal in their spiritual life and ended up crashing hard with a broken life, ruined relationships and damage to others. They busted through the doors of biblical obedience and ended up having to pay dearly for it. Paul was always aware of his own propensity to sin. He gives us a testimony in 1 Cor. 9:27: “But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified”. We must all realize that we too can find ourselves involved in a spiritual crash if we are not careful.
I left the restaurant as the police and ambulance crew came to the scene. They would make sure that everyone was OK and get all the details of the accident. The car would be repaired and the corporation would once again find a new front door for this McDonalds. Those of us who know Christ need to keep a strong grip on the wheel and the right foot on the pedal lest we also suffer a serious wreck. But if it happens to us, God is there to pick up the pieces of our own McCrash.
Part of the Punta Gorda Pathways bicycle and walking trail takes you alongside the Peace River. There is a stretch of the pathway that is bordered by a picturesque mangrove thicket. As I walk this beautiful trail I have noticed various animal footprints in the concrete. Footprints of heron, panther, fox, raccoon, and even a bear. It didn’t take me long to realize the footprints were fake. The designers of the trail purposely made these footprints no doubt to add a touch of the wild to our journey through nature.
Fake footprints however, can cause a real problem in our spiritual lives. It is possible to do a pretty good job of replicating the walk of a child of God without being one. We can appear to others as good and decent people. We may go to church, give to charitable causes, and even serve in various roles within a religious setting. However these religious footprints do not make us a genuine child of God. Jesus made a sobering statement in Matthew 7:21-23: “Not everyone who says to Me, Lord, Lord shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name? And then I will declare to them, I never knew you, depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!” In Jesus day and in ours there are those who instead of being genuine believers are make-believers. True believers in Christ are those who have repented of their sins and received Jesus as their Savior. They are characterized by walking in the footsteps of Jesus doing the will of the Father.
The footprints that I saw engraved in the concrete were not made by the real animals, they were fake. I pray that the footprints we make in life are made by a genuine faith that is intent on following our Savior.
Pastor Stultz has been writing this weekly devotional for many years. In 2009, he published a compilation of devotionals in book form, also called Moments of Meditation