"What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, 'Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!'"
July 18, 2012
There is an 86 year old man who attends the same church as Jon and I go to. Victor has attended this church for numerous years and loves everybody and everybody loves him. From the first Sunday Jon and I attended this church, Victor has made a point to shake our hands and give us a hug each time he sees us. He will tell us what a blessing we are to the church and how we brighten up the place and how thankful he is to have us there. Each Sunday morning our pastor has a time where the congregation goes around and greets one another and shakes hands, and Victor tries to make it to each and every person in attendance.
The thing is, he is not a spry man with a quick step. Making his rounds to greet everyone is quite a feat and time consuming. He walks in a painfully slow shuffle. I lead the congregation in a song following this time of fellowship, and generally when I start singing Victor is still slowly making his rounds. It doesn't bother him in the least that everyone else is already back to their seats and ready to move forward with the service, he is determined to not miss anyone. When he's finished, he'll make his way back to his usual front row seat.
A few weeks ago he showed up at church with a horrible looking black eye where he had fallen at home. He has started getting a little shaky on his feet, but his sweet wife said that he refused to use a cane.
A couple weeks later, towards the end of our Sunday morning service the pastor was getting ready to serve communion to the congregation. Victor had been kneeling at the altar praying and got up and started slowly shuffling down the aisle. I was at the piano at this time. All of a sudden the whole congregation heard this thud as Victor fell face first on the floor. I believe that he tripped over the leg of a chair that was next to the aisle. The pastor rushed back to kneel at his side and a couple men ran over. Everyone gave a sigh of relief when Victor began praying out loud. I was worried that he had hit his head and was unconscious.
When he finally stood up, he said that when he was praying earlier he had felt that God wanted him to "run" around the church. He said, "And I'm going to go ahead and do it, if anyone wants to join me." A couple of ladies walked on each side of him as he shuffled around the church.
After church his wife and a few others noticed that Victor was holding his arm at an awkward angle. That afternoon he let his wife take him to a clinic where they did an x-ray and found that he had broken the bone between his shoulder and elbow on his left side. He has to wear a sling to hold it in place and his wife now has to dress him and do a lot for him. Victor has also started using a cane. But he still wants hugs and wants to greet everyone who attends each service.
In the Sunday evening service following Victor's accident, our pastor addressed the congregation about the incident. Basically what he said was that just because Victor fell and got hurt didn't mean that he was out of God's will when he tried to walk around the church. In fact, following the service he felt bad that he hadn't joined Victor in obeying what he felt impressed that God wanted him to do.
We can look at this incident and think, "That was just silly for this old man to walk around the church! Why didn't he quit when he fell and got hurt?" But sometimes the things God asks us to do doesn't always make sense to anyone; even ourselves. We may not always understand the purpose behind what we feel impressed to do. But sometimes the purpose may be to see whether or not we're willing to obey God, even if we see no reason for what we're doing and no one else joins us. It's often easier to obey the things that make sense to us and we know that we will see the results; but what about those little things that we don't understand?
There are times when we're doing everything right, and yet bad things occur. Being a good person or doing good deeds doesn't protect any of us from adversities. Being involved in ministry and being active in the church doesn't insure us protection from all harm and adversities. We all will endure both times of hardship as well as times of blessings. Granted, there are times when we put ourselves in positions where we get into trouble and cause our own grief. And sometimes we may make stupid choices that will affect our lives. But there are things in life that we have little, if any, control over and they just happen. We may have been doing everything right at the time that it occurs.
Godly men and women are diagnosed with terminal diseases and have to suffer. Faithful christians are involved in car accidents, have house fires, lose their jobs, and face disasters. Does that mean that they didn't have enough faith or were disobedient or have lost God's favor? Absolutely not! There are no explanations to some things that happen in life. And some things make no sense.
I don't understand why my mom was diagnosed with cancer at the age of 40 and suffered through surgeries, chemotherapy, and radiation. I don't know why God chose to take take her home to be with Him instead of healing her. She was a godly women who was one of the best people I've ever known and was faithful to God and to her family. She had kids and grandkids who needed her, yet she died at the age of 48.
I don't understand why a pastor's wife that Jon and I knew was instantly killed in a car accident, while her husband and son were completely unscathed. I don't understand why several years ago my sister and brother-in-law's home was broken into numerous times and things ransacked and stolen, while they were faithfully pastoring a church and doing the work of God. I don't understand why a niece who desperately wants another child has lost two babies in her womb. I don't understand why my brother-in-law, who has been involved in ministry full-time for many years and has touched many lives, has had to battle brain cancer. The list of things I don't understand could go on and on.
I may not understand many things, but one truth that is very real to me that I do understand is that when we endure hardships, we can lean on God and He will give us peace and help us get through our difficulties. I honestly don't know what people do who don't have God to lean on in life. Knowing that regardless of what happens, I can go to God in prayer and have the assurance that He will listen to my cries, is one of the greatest consolations in my life. Losing loved ones is heart-breaking and there is grief, but knowing that they are in heaven and that I'll one day be reunited with them fills me with hope, because I'm assured that the separation isn't eternal.
A second part of this is how we respond when others are going through difficulties, that are sometimes life-changing. The Bible story that comes to mind is of Moses, Aaron, and Hur, which is found in Exodus 17. The Israelites were facing a great battle with their enemy. As long as Moses stood on the mountain with his hands raise in the air, the Israelites would be victorious. But when his arms grew weary and began to fall to his side, the enemy would begin winning. That was a lot of responsibility put upon Moses' shoulders. God didn't send angels to hold up Moses' arms, nor did He supernaturally empower Moses with strength. Moses was human and he grew very tired and weary. But God did put it in Aaron and Hur's hearts to stand beside Moses and hold his arms up. I'm sure that they grew tired and weary also, but the three of them working together made the load easier on them all.
Sometimes we may be in the position of Moses where we're facing great responsibility and hardship and the weight and stress of the load is tiring and more than we can bear alone. We need to allow others to come and stand beside us and be our Aaron and Hur during those times. But other times, God may place it within our heart to stand beside someone who is carrying the burden and we be their Aaron and Hur. We are the ones who stand in the position of giving support and encouragement. Perhaps we can't take the burden off the shoulder of the one who is facing the battle, but we can stand beside them and love them and do what we can to hold their hands up so they're not facing the battle alone. The responsibility for holding his hands in the air still belonged to Moses, but he had the help of those two men to support him and help lighten the load.
Victor was determined to follow through and obey God and walk around the church, even though he was hurt. He could have quit right then, or left church early, and no one would have blamed him. In fact, he would have had the sympathy and approval of the whole congregation. But he never mentioned the fact that his arm was hurting and possibly broken. He never asked for help. When he stood up he told the church what he had started to do when he fell and said that he was going to continue on. Two women walked on either side of him in support spiritually and also in support physically should he fall again. They were his "Aaron and Hur" for that moment in time. Even after the service was finished, Victor never acknowledged that he had hurt his arm and didn't want sympathy.
We all will likely face situations in our life when we face the battle and are in the position of Moses. We may grow weary and need the support of others to get us through. And that's okay. It's okay to admit that you're tired and frustrated and broken and weak and need others to stand by you and help you. But there also come times when someone we're close to may be going through their Moses experience and God allows us to be their Aaron and Hur for the duration of the battle. We pray for them, support and encourage them, and help them as long as necessary.
We need one another on our journey through life. God did not intend for us to be loners. The scripture that best sums this up is Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 "Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work; If one falls down, his friend can help him up. Put pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up! Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken."
Sometimes we need to support one another just like Aaron and Hur, holding each other up when we are exhausted. Other times, it may be because we have different skills. Loretta can lead the church through a song on the piano, but it's even better with drums, more singers, and a trumpet.
One of the best ways we can support one another is to find a ministry in a church. It could be cleaning up, mowing, greeting guests, or whatever. And it doesn't have to be for your own church. There are a lot of churches everywhere that have an older congregation with few or no members who can mow the lawn easily. And almost everyone has a neighbor who can't easily mow, shovel their sidewalk, or drive to the grocery store.
Country Fried Okra
Okra, cut into chunks
Cut okra into chunks. Dip in buttermilk to coat; roll in flour. Salt and pepper to taste. Deep fry in oil until golden brown.
I had another great-nephew born early this past Friday morning. He was born face up with his eyes open. As soon as he was born the doctor looked at him, then looked at the daddy and commented, "Oh my goodness! You just had a clone! He looks just like you." And sure enough, he is a mini replica of my nephew. My sister (the grandma) commented that it was like seeing the same newborn for the third time. Both of her boys looked exactly alike when they were born (not so much after they got a tad bigger), and now Owen looks like a replica of them. The big sister says that since she now has a new baby brother, she now has a new best friend.
Enjoy the little things in life.... for one day you'll look back and realize they were the big things.
We love you!
Loretta & Jon