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to Treat Different Types of Church Members
Electronic Printing by FFEP
Pastors who leave churches
because of problems, find the same problems welcoming them on the front
porch of their new pastorate.
Pastors who leave churches
because of disgruntled members, will find those same members waiting for
them at the door of their new church.
Pastors who leave churches
because of an enemy, will find that same enemy is a member of the church
where they are going.
One cannot run from problems
concerning human relationships. These problems must not be avoided or
evaded; they must be solved. Life is composed of a series of human
relationships. Much of one's success in life depends upon the proper
handling of these relationships and the proper priorities concerning them.
Whether we like it or not, we
must relate to people who are weaker than we are. Whether we like it or not,
we must learn to relate to people who are stronger than we are. Whether we
like it or not, we must learn to relate to our enemies, to the fallen, to
the tormentor and to the tempter. All of these are found in every church,
and the members of every church must learn to face them properly if we are
to reach a lost world.
I have preached all over this
great nation. I have delivered over 45,500 sermons. I have found that God's
people are basically the same everywhere. Every little group of us is a
microcosm of all of us, and each of us must learn to live peaceably with the
rest of us. To that end, I give you this book and my heart.
Treatment of Those With Whom You Disagree
Romans 12:10, "Be kindly
affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one
Ephesians 4:1-3, "I therefore,
the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation
wherewith ye are called, with all lowliness and meekness, with
longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; endeavouring to keep the
unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace."
Ephesians 4:30-32, "And grieve
not the Holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of
redemption. Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil
speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: and be ye kind one to
another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake
hath forgiven you."
I Corinthians 6:7, "Now
therefore there is utterly a fault among you, because ye go to law one with
another. Why do ye not rather take wrong? why do ye not rather suffer
yourselves to be defrauded?"
As is said often in this
manuscript, the modem fundamental church is far more intricate than it was
in previous generations. In earlier times church members were together only
a few hours a week. On Sunday morning we met for Sunday school, which was
followed by the morning preaching service. About half of us returned on
Sunday night, and a remnant came to the midweek service on Wednesday
evening. Because of this, we did not know each other real well, and the
possibilities of irritation were few and seldom. We could wear our best
behavior for an hour or two. So, it was easy to like each other.
The modem fundamental church is
far more complicated than that. We are together often and for long periods
at a time. For example, the First Baptist Church of Hammond has many things
for our children and young people. We have our Christian schools where a
child can enroll in kindergarten at the age of 4 and 19 years later graduate
from our college with his master's degree. This means that we are together
at school five days a week for seven or eight hours. Included in the school
program are many extracurricular activities such as sports, cheer leading,
pep squads, shops, class meetings, class parties, field trips, etc. Then the
church provides regular youth activities, camps, choirs, children's clubs
and intramural boys baseball league, Bible studies, prayer groups, teenage
soul winning, high school Bible clubs, etc.
This means that the fundamental
church of today has become its own little community. We are together not
only for two or three hours on Sunday, but we are together every day of the
These activities cause
multitudes of opportunities for interaction and provide many different forms
of relationships. The average parent, for example, has regular contact with
those who lead his children. There are many of these such as the principal,
the teachers, the coaches, the choir directors, the youth directors, the
Sunday school teachers, the Bible club leaders, the soul-winning captains
and many others. We no longer simply see each other sitting side by side in
the quietness of a morning service, but we are constantly interacting with
church people. We see each other as we are. We see faults as well as
strengths, liabilities as well as assets, and the minus as well as the plus.
Men, when we go to church, we
may share the same Sunday school class with the parents of the child we
teach in school and with the teacher of our child. We may sit in the same
choir with them or usher side by side with them. We may sit with them in the
same Sunday school class or share the same bus route. We may sit
side by side in one of many other church activities of
the modem fundamental church. All of this means that there are more chances
for disagreement, irritability and even strife. Constant care must be taken
in order to minimize friction caused by disagreements.
1. Do not express
disappointments. So much can be left unsaid. Never use such
statements as, "I am disappointed with you," "I am disappointed in him," or
"I wish you had not done that." There is no law that says that we must
comment on everything that is said to us or that we must critique everything
that is done to us. If something has been done that has disappointed us, it
has already been done and there is no undoing it. There is no need for us to
summarize our displeasure. This is the time to use the art of silence.
2. Do not give your opinions
if not asked or if they are outside your area of authority. There is no
law that requires us to always give an opinion, and it is usually best to
keep our opinions to ourselves unless our advice is requested or unless it
is within our area of authority and responsibility. If someone expresses an
opinion with which we disagree, it is usually best not to voice that
An aid to this is the division
of responsibilities. I am a firm believer in delegation and separation of
authority. The more decisions that we share, the more opportunities we
create for disagreement. For example, in a home I think it is wise for the
husband and wife to divide responsibilities, therefore making as few
decisions together as possible. For example, at our house I take care of the
finances. That is my responsibility and my area. For these many years I have
given Mrs. Hyles an allowance every week from whence she buys groceries and
incidentals and then has some left for herself. She spends this money as she
chooses. Apart from that, I am in charge of the rest of the finances. We
never have to argue or fuss about money. She has her area of responsibility
and I have mine.
On the other hand, the house,
its furnishing and keeping are her responsibilities. She chooses where the
furniture is placed, and all the decisions concerning the house are hers. If
I come in some night and the sofa is in the entrance hall blocking the door,
I will simply crawl over the sofa and say, "What a novel idea! Not many
wives realize how tired their husbands are and are thoughtful enough to give
him a place to rest as soon as he walks in the door."
Other responsibilities are
divided likewise, which means there is no opportunity to disagree or argue.
This is why I advise young couples not to go grocery shopping together. She
may want one brand; he may want another. If 100 objects are bought together,
then there are 100 opportunities for disagreement. I recommend that if young
couples do go grocery shopping together, that one should simply push the
cart and the other make all the decisions. These are just illustrations in
suggesting that we divide responsibilities so as to avoid disagreement
This same thing should be
applied at church. There is no need to appoint five people on a flower
committee to spend seven days deciding what flowers are going to be on the
communion table on Sunday morning. Let one person do it and avoid chances
for disagreement. There is no need for a music committee to decide what the
choir special will be on Sunday. Let the music director decide. Delegate
responsibility. Give authority. Divide the decision making processes. There
is no need for a youth committee to plan the youth activity. Let the youth
director do it. Let the Christian school teacher be the school teacher. Let
the principal be the principal. Let the choir director be the choir
director. Let the bus director be the bus director. Let the head usher be
the head usher. Choose qualified, spiritual, amiable people and give them
each an area of responsibility. Of course, there should be veto power at the
top, but this power should be used wisely, carefully and seldom. Of course,
it must be remembered that the responsibility is delegated, but let there be
responsibility. This gives us less opportunity to express unnecessary
opinions that could cause strife and friction.
If the wife asks the husband
what he thinks about her new hairdo, he can sidestep the answer graciously
by saying, "You always look attractive." This policy can be applied to all
the areas of our family and church life and will keep our disagreements from
surfacing, and believe me, most of them do not need to surface!
Of course, the wise person will
seek counsel from others concerning the decisions that he must make within
his sphere of authority, but until such advice is sought, silence is usually
the best course of action.
3. Do not demand your area of
authority. There are some fields and areas in which one might be more
qualified than the person to whom this responsibility has been delegated.
Then, there are some people who will give you advice that is unwanted and
that you think is not needed. In other words, they are not complying with
the suggestions made in the previous point. When such intrusion is made, do
not bristle; do not remind them that they are out of bounds; listen to them
patiently without making rebuttal; thank them kindly for their advice; and
then choose yourself whether or not to use it. Do not let them know who is
boss or remind them of their intrusion. Do not flaunt your title, your power
or your position. Simply realize that the power of decision is in your
hands, and if someone has unwisely used his right to intrude, his intrusion
makes you no less responsible to make the decision. Because of this, there
is no need for rebuttal on your part. Simply listen to the one who is out of
order, thank him for his suggestion and go about your business of making the
right decision within the sphere of your responsibility.
4. Do not start an answer
with a negative comment. Such statements as, "I don't agree," "You're
wrong," etc., should never precede a statement of disagreement. It would be
far better to use such statements as, "What do you think about this
additional thought?" "Here is an idea along the same line," or "Your
statement has led me to this thought."
When someone presents an idea
with which we do not agree, negative statements at the first of our reply
are like a slap in the face and can partially or totally close the door of
their acceptance of our idea which is about to be expressed.
5. Allow the other person to
have at least a possibility of being right, or the possibility that he may
be partially right, or the possibility that some of his opinions may be
right. Leave him room to breathe. Leave him with some dignity.
Recently a young lady was
expelled from Hyles-Anderson College. Shortly after this expulsion, I was in
her home church preaching for two days. I asked her father if he and his
daughter would have lunch with me on Tuesday. The young lady was not treated
as a criminal. She was treated with dignity and propriety. Toward the end of
the conversation I told her that there was a possibility that we too had
made some mistakes. I asked her to tell me frankly of any area in our
college where she thought we could improve and where students could be
treated with more justice, propriety and discernment. Though she was
reluctant to do so, upon my insistence, she did. Her suggestions were very
helpful, and some of them are being implemented at this time at
Hyles-Anderson College. Our conversation was a help to me and a help to her.
She was a fine young lady who had made some mistakes and who wanted to
correct them. I did her a service by giving her a chance to help us, and she
did us a service by her willingness to help. I predict that she will return
to us and that she will be a cooperative, obedient and diligent student;
and, by the way, she and I will no doubt be friends for life.
strongly, and this is good, but in our interaction with each other, we must
not always feel that there is no possibility of our making a mistake. We
must remember that honest disagreement is not always rebellion or anarchy.
6. Do not express your
opinion unless you have the power to help. If someone asks me after a
certain course of action has been taken, "Did I do right?" I do not reply
The act has been committed, and it is too late for advice. I am always happy
to give advice and counsel when asked, but I do not volunteer that advice
nor do I expose my opinion when it can plant a seed that could lead to
disagreement and perhaps strife.
7. Do not express your
opinion when you are aware of the advice that has been given by your peers
whom you respect and with whom you work.
Just the night before the
writing of this chapter, a Hyles-Anderson College student came to my office
asking my advice about a matter. He reminded me that he had already sought
advice from Dr. Evans, the President of Hyles-Anderson College, and then
told me quickly the advice that Dr. Evans had given him. I graciously
declined to give him advice because I did not want to nullify or conflict
with the counsel given him by Dr. Evans, whom I respect tremendously.
This is not to say that the
young person should not have sought advice from more than one, and I would
certainly have counseled with him and advised him had I not known of his
previous approach to Dr. Evans, or if I had not known the nature of Dr.
8. Ask yourself, "Who
probably has the best chance of being right on this issue?" If the
administrative committee of Hyles-Anderson College is discussing college
curriculum concerning history classes, I would think that Dr. Evans, one of
fundamentalism's outstanding historians, would be eminently more qualified
than I. So, if he and I were to disagree concerning history curriculum, I
would probably yield to his position. If we then turned to the subject of
the curriculum of pastoral theology and had a disagreement, Dr. Evans would
no doubt yield to my position. Such action should also be considered when
the parent disagrees with the teacher concerning a school matter, when the
teacher disagrees with the principal concerning administration, when the
member of the church disagrees with the pastor concerning his preaching and
many other areas of the church program.
I am an opinionated person; most
leaders are. However, I realize that my knowledge of music is very limited.
To be sure, there are boundaries that I build around the music program at
First Baptist Church and that of Hyles-Anderson College, but within those
boundaries, I almost always yield to the wishes and decisions of those in
charge of the music departments. Of course, those who lead these departments
are lovely people and would bow to my wishes on any occasion. I accept the
right to have this authority and to exercise it if I see fit, but the
possession of this right does not necessitate its frequent use. It must be
remembered that we have as much a right not to use our rights as we have to
use them. We should not abuse them by unwise use or an excess of frequency.
9. If someone refutes your
opinion, let it stop there. There is no need for rebuttal. Simply voice
your willingness to consider the opinion that has been expressed and
courteously refrain from expressing yours.
For years I have had a little
hobby, that of trying to improve the disposition of disagreeable people. It
is a wonderful little game that I play, and it is among my favorite hobbies.
I was in a southern city returning a rented car. It was very early in the
morning, probably an hour before sunrise. I went to the counter to return my
papers and keys. I greeted the young lady behind the counter with "Good
morning! How are you today?" She gave no reply; in fact, she didn't even
look up. She simply took the papers and the keys and began her routine
immediately I wanted to help her get in a good mood, so I started my little
game of trying to make her happy Again I said, "Good morning! How are things
going today?" Again there was no reply. Similar further attempts were made
to brighten her day, and all ended in failure. I then leaned over the
counter, looked up at her and said, "Why are you mad at me?"
She grinned and replied,
"Mister, it's too early to be nice!"
I said to her, "Ma'am, it's just
as early on this side of the counter as it is on that side of the counter."
She then began to laugh and
thanked me for brightening her morning. We both went on our way rejoicing.
Several years ago I was in a
small city in southern Louisiana. The dear pastor took me to lunch on
Tuesday. He chose a little downtown restaurant, locally operated and
obviously very popular. The waitress came to take our order. She was a
little bit less than kind. (Ah, here was another splendid chance for me to
practice my hobby!) The pastor ordered first, and then it was my time. I
looked up with a smile and said, "I'll take a Big Mac, French fries and a
chocolate shake." (We were not at McDonald's.) She looked at me sternly,
then smiled and said, "Mister, a Big Mac sure beats anything we have to
serve here!" I found that she was angry at her employer, and as I remember,
she had decided to quit her job. When she replied that a Big Mac was better
than their food, all of us laughed. My mission was accomplished! Well,
nearly, for before I left the restaurant, it was my joy to lead her to Jesus
I was on an airplane flying to
the Greensboro - High Point Winston-Salem Airport. I sat down beside a
gentleman, well, at least I thought he would be a gentleman. I spoke to him.
He did not reply I spoke again. There was no answer. (Ah, ha! Here is a
chance for me to enjoy my hobby of cheering up a fellow human being.) I
proceeded with such statements and questions as, "Isn't it a nice day?" etc.
All of my attempts to gain a response failed. I then tapped him on the
shoulder. He looked at me and I started using my hands as if I were speaking
to him in the sign language. With a puzzled look on his face he asked,
"Fellow, what are you doing?"
I said, "Sir, I thought perhaps
you were deaf since you had not replied to any of my questions or
statements, so I was trying to communicate in the sign language." He began
to laugh immediately, shook my hand and introduced himself This gave me a
chance to witness to him and to lead him to Christ. (Again, mission
accomplished and hobby enjoyed!)
I was flying from Orlando,
Florida, to Chicago. I had a change of planes in Tampa, Florida. Upon
landing at the Tampa airport I found that my next flight would be three
hours late. There are few places in the world more boring for three hours
than an airport, so I went to the restaurant upstairs and was met at the
entrance by a young waitress. She asked if I wanted a booth. I replied,
She led me to a booth and said,
"Is this all right?"
I said, "Yes, ma'am."
She came back in a few minutes
and said, "Sir, are you ready to order?"
I said, "Yes, ma'am."
She took her little order pad,
threw it on the table in front of me, put her hands on her hips, and said in
a gruff voice, "Yes, ma'am! Yes, ma'am! Yes, ma'am! Yes, ma'am! Yes, ma'am!
Yes, ma'am! Yes, ma'am! Yes, ma'am! Don't you know any words, sir, other
than 'Yes, ma'am'?"
I replied, "Yes, ma'am."
She turned and walked away
abruptly upon receiving my order. When she came back she tossed my plate on
the table, causing some of the food to spill. (Hey, here's a chance to do my
hobby, but believe me, this one was a real challenge!) When she returned to
give me my ticket, she turned her back, faced the other way and wrote my
check. She then handed it behind her back to me and walked away angrily. I
had had a light lunch; in fact, my ticket was only $1.67. As I left, I
placed a $5 bill on the table and slowly walked toward the cash register.
While I was paying my bill of $1.67, the little waitress came walking up and
said abruptly, "Mister, you dropped some money on the table as you left,"
and handed me the $5 bill. I returned it to her saying, "Don't they tip in
Tampa?" She broke! Tears filled her eyes and she asked, "Mister, did you
leave me a $5 tip after I've been so rude to you?"
I said to her, "Young lady,
you're not a bad person. You have a heartache. There is a reason why you
were unkind to me, and I do not feel in any way negative about you." She
continued to cry in that busy little restaurant filled with people, and she
told me a sad story. Her husband had left her a few days before. She had had
to get a job and the salary was not large enough to care for the children
that he had left with her. She told me that she didn't want to live!
Standing there in the busy restaurant, right at the entrance, I led her to
Jesus Christ. Then she apologized for having been rude to me. (Praise the
Lord! Mission accomplished! Mission more than accomplished; what a nice
hobby!) A couple of hours later I was walking toward my airplane, and whom
did I meet but this little waitress! I smiled and said, "Are you still
She shyly responded, through an
impish grin, "Yes, ma'am!"
For years I have been trading at
a little convenience, drive-in market called The White Hen Pantry. It is
located just a few blocks from where I live, and it is convenient for me to
stop by every morning on the way to work to purchase a USA TODAY newspaper,
and occasionally I will make other purchases. One day an older lady who
often waited on me there asked me, "What's wrong with you today?"
I replied, "Nothing. Why do you
She said, "This is the first
time that you have ever been in here through these years without whistling
or singing. There must be something wrong." She seemed a little sad and
nearly out-of-sorts. (I immediately saw another opportunity to use my hobby)
I told her that nothing was wrong.
She said, "Then why do you
always sing and whistle?"
I said, "Because I am happy."
She said, "In this old sick
world, how can you be happy?" I looked around and saw that there were no
other customers there. This in itself was a miracle. I think the Lord
dispatched an angel out in the street, telling folks to drive on by for
awhile. For some time no one came in the store, giving me a chance to tell
her why I am happy and to share with her that happiness. In a few moments
she received the Author of that happiness as her Saviour. (Once again
mission accomplished! Hobby enjoyed!)
Several years passed. One day I
was requested to go visit a man who was very ill. He had asked for me. When
I got to the house he told me why he wanted to see me. The lady whom I had
won to Christ at The White Hen Pantry was his wife. I did not know it, but
she had passed away not long before my visit with him, and he wanted to
thank me for being so nice to his wife and to tell me how much she loved and
appreciated me. I sat there with him on a Sunday afternoon and won him to
Christ. Ah, hobbies have bonuses, don't they?
The Christian should always be
working toward harmony Needless disagreements should be circumvented and
avoided if at all possible. Most of our disagreements are so useless and
needless, and so in our fundamental churches where we are so interwoven and
have so much interaction, we need to be on constant guard to prevent them.
I love good music. Nearly every
day of my life I take time to listen to classical music. I do not allow this
kind of music to be used in our church because I believe that church music
should be limited to hymns and Gospel songs, but in my personal life I often
drive or eat with the classics as background music. The reason I love good
music is because good music is harmony of sound, and I
want to dwell in harmony, which leads me to choose sound that is harmonious.
This is one reason (among many) that rock music is wrong. It is sound with
I love good literature,
especially good poetry. I read it regularly and I write it often. Poetry is
harmony of words and meter. Bad literature is words with disharmony. Good
literature promotes harmony and is harmony.
I love good art; in fact, I
often visit art galleries. I do this because good art is harmony of colors.
Modem art, which often looks like someone has taken a canvas, squirted
ketchup on it, thrown three raw eggs at it and stirred them with a touch of
mustard, framed it and called it art, this is disharmony of color, whereas
good art is harmony of color.
My favorite subject in school
was algebra, because in algebra the balancing of the equation is the
bringing of harmony. Here we have a harmony of numbers. Basically harmony is
balancing life's equations.
I was staying in a hotel in
Milford, Ohio. My room was on the fifth floor. As I got off the elevator, I
was facing a wall. On that wall was a painting. That painting was crooked. I
can't stand a crooked painting, so I straightened it. I went to my room,
unpacked my bags and decided to go to the restaurant for a bowl of soup.
While I was waiting for the elevator, I turned and looked at the painting.
It was crooked again. I straightened it. I went down to the restaurant, ate
a bowl of soup, came back up to the fifth floor. As I got off the elevator,
I noticed the painting was crooked again. I straightened it. I went to my
room, washed, brushed my teeth, got my Bible, went to the lobby where I was
to be met and driven to the services. As I was waiting for the elevator, I
noticed the painting was crooked again. I straightened it. I went to the
church, preached, and was driven back to the hotel. When I got off the
elevator, I noticed the painting was crooked again. I straightened it. I
went to my room, went to bed, but I couldn't sleep. All I could think about
was, "Is that painting crooked again?" I got out of bed, put on my pants and
shirt over my pajamas, walked down the hallway to see if the painting was
crooked or straight. It was crooked. I got on the elevator and went
downstairs, walked to the desk and asked the night clerk if she had someone
who could come up and straighten the painting on the fifth floor. She said
that the maintenance men were all off for the evening and that there was no
one who could do it. I asked her if she had a hammer and nails. She said she
did. I said, "Would you let me borrow them so I can straighten that painting
She said, "Sir, why do you want
that painting straight?"
"Because I can't sleep!" I said.
She smiled and gave me a hammer
and a nail. I went upstairs, straightened the painting, returned the hammer,
returned to my room and got a good night's sleep. All was harmonious again.
I cannot stand needless
disharmony Complaining affects me like a shovel being scraped against
concrete. I try not to practice it, and I try not to be around people who
do. It promotes disharmony and an unbalanced equation.
This is the reason that I do not
go out to eat after services. I cannot be around the criticism of God's
people by God's people. I simply refuse to listen to negatives. I do not
want this computer on top of my shoulders called a mind to be programmed
with negatives. I have people who need me to lift them, to comfort them, to
proclaim victory to them, and I cannot do it if I live amidst talk that is
not harmonious and if I program my computer with negatives.
A fundamental church should be a
refuge, a haven, a pavilion, a shelter from the irritability of our critique
infested society. If, in fact, a church is exactly this, its members must
learn to live with their disagreements which, because we are human, will
exist. If because we are Christians we can refrain from expressing
disappointment of people; refrain from giving opinions that are not
requested; refrain from fighting for our rights and our areas of authority;
refrain from negative statements such as, "I don't agree!" or "You're wrong
on that!" and allow each other to have the possibility of being at least
partially right; refrain from expressing
our opinions unless they will help; ask ourselves,
"Who probably has the best chance of being right here?" and refrain from
responding when our opinion is refuted, we will have made at least some
progress toward harmony and peace!
Don't forget our little hobby,
that delightful little game of balancing human equations and promoting
harmony between ourselves and those whom the will of God has brought close
to us often on a daily basis and with whom the Holy Spirit has led us to
interact. May that same Holy Spirit lead us to interact in such a way so as
to treat properly and with grace those with whom we disagree.
Treatment of the Fallen
Galatians 6:1, "Brethren, if a
man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in
the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted."
Galatians 5:19-24, "Now the
works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication,
uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance,
emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings, murders,
drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I
have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not
inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace,
longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against
such there is no law. And they that are Christ's have crucified the flesh
with the affections and lusts."
In order to fully understand
Galatians 6:1, one must connect it with Galatians 5:19-24. The one overtaken
in a fault in Galatians 6:1 is no doubt one overtaken in one of the faults
mentioned in Galatians 5:19-21. The one who is spiritual in Galatians 6:1 is
the one who possesses the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22, 23. In
other words, when the one who has the fruit of the Spirit overtakes one who
has the works of the flesh in committing one of these works, he receives
instructions in Galatians 6:1 as to what he is to do. Care must be taken
that one who commits some of the works of the flesh does not take it upon
himself to correct one who commits others of the works of the flesh. In
other words, the one who is guilty of wrath is not qualified to lift the one
who is guilty of fornication. One who is guilty of strife is not qualified
to lift the one who is guilty of lasciviousness. In such a case the blind
leads the blind, the fallen lifts the fallen, and the flesh attempts to make
the flesh spiritual, which, of course, is impossible.
We must be careful, therefore,
to address Galatians 6:1 only to the spiritual, to those who walk according
to the fruit of the Spirit, as listed in Galatians 5:22, 23, and do not walk
according to any of the works of the flesh as listed in Galatians 5:19-21.
1. The word, "overtaken,
"implies a witness. When someone who is spiritual witnesses the fleshly
acts of someone who walks according to the flesh, he then may attempt to
restore the fallen one. This verse does not say, "If one who is spiritual
hears about someone being overtaken in a fault, he is to restore him." It
does not say, "If one who is spiritual suspicions that a brother has been
overtaken in a fault, he is to restore him." It is very plain that before
the guilt is assumed, it must be proved. Before one is assumed guilty, he
must be "overtaken" in a fault.
2. The word, "fault," would
include any of the works of the flesh mentioned in Galatians 5:19-21.
3. The word, "spiritual," is
one who embraces all of Galatians 5:22 and 23.
4. The word, "restore," means
"to give back." It is the same word used concerning Zacchaeus, who, when
he was converted, restored fourfold to all of those against whom he had
sinned. The word means to bring one back where he was. This does not mean
that a person who is fallen is still qualified to do everything that he used
to do without a time of proving and testing. It DOES mean, however, that the
one who is fallen should be brought back where he was as far as his
relationship with the brethren are concerned. He should be accepted with the
same open arms as before, with the same love as before, with the same
compassion as before, with the same tenderness as before, with the same
grace as before, with the same mercy as before and with the same fellowship
5. The word, "meekness," is a
very interesting word. It implies an evenness. It is often used
concerning objects which are the same all the way through, such as
homogenized milk in contrast to milk where the cream rises to the top. When
the Lord Jesus said, "Blessed are the meek," He was saying in a sense,
"Blessed are the equal ones," or "Blessed are the ones who look up to no one
and down to no one," but "Blessed are the ones who look with a level eye to
everyone." "Blessed are the ones who think themselves no worse than anyone
and no better than anyone."
The story is told about a
Baptist church in Washington, D.C. Many years ago Chief Justice Charles
Evans Hughes, it is said, joined this particular Baptist church. Many others
joined this particular Baptist church that same morning. As the names were
read, Chief Justice Hughes was on one end of the line and a poor young man
from a minority race was on the other end of the line. Of course, the pastor
started off with the name of Chief Justice Hughes, when immediately Mr.
Hughes interrupted the pastor and said, "Pastor, start at the other end of
the line. The ground is level at the foot of the cross!" This is what our
Lord is saying in Galatians 6:1. He is reminding us that we are to look down
on no one, and even as we restore a fallen one, we are not to feel or act in
a superior way. We are no better than he.
Neath the light of a kerosene
lamp, beside the heat of a wood stove, with windows stuffed with newspapers
to stop the howling wind from entering, with an outhouse in the backyard and
a well off the back porch, my little mother used to point to me with a
povertystricken finger and say, "Son, you are better than nobody, and you
are as good as anybody! Look down to none; look up to none! Look everybody
square in the eye! We don't wear the clothes that others wear, and we can't
afford the house that others can afford, and we can't drive a car like
others drive, but you are as good as anybody But son, never let theday come
when you feel that you are better than anybody!" This is what God is telling
us here. The restorer is not to look down on the restored.
6. The word, "considering,"
means "watching." This means watching yourself, not watching the
restored one! We must realize the possibility of the restorer entering into
the same sin that was committed by the restored, and one of the easiest ways
to commit such a sin is to keep our eyes on the sinner rather than on the
Saviour, and to be watching the life of the restored one rather than our
We are reminded by the Apostle
that all of us are capable of committing the sins of the rest of us, and
that there is no temptation given to one of us that is not given to all of
us. I Corinthians 10: 13, "There hath no temptation taken you but such as is
common to man: but God is faithful, Who will not suffer you to be tempted
above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to
escape, that ye may be able to bear it." God is telling us in Galatians 6:1
that one of the main reasons we are to look everybody square in the eye as
equals and look down on none is that if we do feel superior to the restored,
we may ourselves be tempted by the same temptation he faced and enter into
the same sin that he committed.
7. The words, "also be
tempted," are noteworthy. This takes us back to Galatians 5:19-21. God
is telling us here that those of us who live in the Spirit as in Galatians
5:22 and 23 possess the potential of committing any or all of the works of
the flesh in Galatians 5:19-21.
8. The word, "bear," in
Galatians 6:2 implies that we are to bear the guilt of the fallen and
restored one. Then the word "burdens" in Galatians 6:2 teaches us that
we are to enter into the yoke with them and to pull with them in order to
help them to win the victory and gain strength. God is telling us here that
when one sins, all have sinned. It would be a wonderful day for churches
when every member takes the blame for the sin of one and realizes that the
sin of one is really the sin of all.
When Achan took the forbidden
gold, silver and garment from Jericho, God said, "Israel hath sinned." Oh,
yes, Achan actually committed the sin, but all of Israel had a part in it.
It will be a wonderful day in our churches when, if a young person goes into
sin, the Pastor will say, "I have sinned." The Sunday school teacher will
say, "I have sinned." The departmental superintendent will say, "I have
sinned." The youth director will say, "I have sinned." The director of the
youth choir will say, "I have sinned." The teacher in the Christian school
will say, "I have sinned." The coach will say, "I have sinned." The parents
will say, "I have sinned." The teaching is very plain. An individual's sin
is a corporate sin, for had we not failed in some way, the fallen would not
have failed. Since we all have sinned when one has fallen, then we all
should bear his burden, as in Galatians 6:2, "Bear ye one another's burdens,
and so fulfil the law of Christ." We all should lift him up. We all should
accept him back. We all should love him. Since the sin was a corporate one,
then the work of restoration should be a corporate one, and the grace of
restoration should be a corporate grace.
9. The words in Galatians
6:2, "fulfil the law of Christ," can be accomplished and completed only when
we have restored the fallen, have realized that we too have fallen in him,
and we all have joined in the act of restoration and in the grace of
Now what is this law of Christ?
I think it deals with I John 2:1, "My little children, these things write I
unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the
Father, Jesus Christ the righteous." What a beautiful passage! It is
addressed to little children, perhaps babes in Christ, those to whom it
would be easy to fall. The first admonition is that they sin not. God hates
sin, and God does not want us to sin.
Then He immediately tells us
what His law of behavior is when we do sin. He does not say, "If any man
sin, he loses his salvation." He does not say, "If any man sin, he is the
object of God's disgust." He says, "If any man sin, we have an advocate with
the Father." Notice the first person plural, "we." The Apostle was including
himself as a sinner and as potentially in need of the reclamation mentioned
in the following words of the verse.
Now notice the word, "advocate."
This is the word, "paraclete," which is translated "comforter" elsewhere in
the Scripture. It means "someone to run to another's side." God is saying
here that He does not want us to sin, but that if we do sin, we have someone
to run to our side, and who is that someone? Praise the Lord, it is Jesus
Christ the righteous! When a Christian falls, Jesus runs to his side to pick
When I was a little boy, nearly
all the streets we lived on were dirt or gravel roads. I would often run to
Mother and ask if I could go across the street and play with a friend. She
would say, "Why, of course, son, but be careful crossing the street. Stop
before you cross, look both ways, and don't run! You may fall on the
gravel." I assured her that I would obey, but as I got closer to the street,
my little boyfriend would scream and say, "Hurry up, Jack! Hurry!" so I
would run across the street, lose my footing in the gravel, fall, and skin
my little knee. My mother would immediately come running to my side. She was
disappointed in me, but she did not spank me. She took me back into the
house, wiped off my knee and cleaned me up, put some medicine on the knee
and perhaps a bandage. I said, "Mommy, can I still go across the street and
She said, "Yes, you may, but
son, I am telling you again: Don't disobey Mother and run. If you do disobey
Mother, I'm going to have to bring you in the house and make you sit beside
me while I iron so I can keep my eyes on you." I would go to the yard and
start for the street. Then I would get excited again and rush across the
street, only to fall the second time. Mother would rush to my side the
second time and repeat the care. She would lift me up, take me into the
house, wash me off, care for whatever scratch or cut I may have and then she
would say, "Son, now if you run across that street this time, I'm not going
to let you go across the street to play. You will have to come in and sit
beside me while I iron so I can keep my eyes on you." I promised that I
would walk across the street, but I forgot the promise, and in the
excitement of getting to my little friend, I stumbled and fell again. Mother
ran to my side, picked me up and very kindly took me into the house and sat
me on a chair beside the ironing board so she could keep her eyes on me.
This is exactly what our blessed
Saviour does. When we fall, He runs to our side to pick us up. He takes care
of our wounds and reminds us not to sin again. When we sin again, He runs to
our side to pick us up and takes care of our wounds and once again reminds
us not to sin. When we keep on sinning, He finally says, "Okay, I can't let
you stay down there any more. I must bring you up to Heaven so I can keep My
eyes on you." This He does. He is taking us to Heaven, which is basically
called "the sin unto death," and is not an act of wrath or violence; it is
another act of love. He does not want us to continue in sin, so in His mercy
He brings us to Heaven so we can be with Him, and He can keep His eye on us.
This is what I think God means
when He tells us to bear one another's burdens and so fulfil the law of
Christ. When a brother falls, we are to join Jesus in running to him. In
fact, in some cases, we are to be Jesus running to him, for as much as we
have done it unto one of the least of these His brethren, we have done it
Far too many of us would
translate this Scripture in Galatians 6: 1, "If a brother be overtaken in a
fault, criticize him," or "If a brother be overtaken in a fault, slander
him," or "If a brother be overtaken in a fault, try to ruin him," or "If a
brother be overtaken in a fault, try to destroy him. " In far too many
cases, this is our manner of treatment to the fallen. Thank God, it is not
His manner and it is not His desire for us to treat them in such a way.
Mark 16:7, "But go your way,
tell His disciples and Peter that He goeth before you into Galilee: there
shall ye see Him, as He said unto you." Notice the two words, "and Peter."
What a blessed statement! The ladies have come to the tomb. They find the
stone rolled away and a man dressed in white at the sepulchre. He is a
messenger from God, and what is that message? "Go tell the disciples and
Peter that Jesus is risen. " Why did he single out Peter? We know why At our
Lord's crucifixion, Peter had joined himself with the wrong crowd. He had
warmed himself by the Devil's fire, had walked afar off, and had denied the
faith, the church and his Lord. He had even cursed. He was a fallen saint,
not fallen from grace, but fallen in grace. Nevertheless, he was fallen. How
sweet it is and how tender it is that God's messenger brought God's message
that the ladies go and announce the resurrection of Christ to the disciples
"and Peter." God was reminding us that He has a special love for the fallen.
God loves all of us, but He has a special unique love for some. He says, "Go
tell the disciples and the burdened," "Go tell the disciples and the
lonely," "Go tell the disciples and the fallen."
I do not know all that is behind
these two little words, "and Peter." Perhaps if he had not said "and Peter,"
they would not have told Peter, because perhaps they would not have thought
of him as still being a disciple, or maybe God wanted Peter to know in a
special way that He still loved him and that Peter still belonged to Him.
These two little words not only
show His love for the fallen, but they show His care for the fallen and for
each individual. God is saying, "Peter, the Christians may not care any
more, but I do!" "The Christians may not be concerned about your
restoration, but I am." "The Christians may have given up on you, but I
haven't." So He gives the message to the angel to give: "Tell His disciples
and Peter. "
There is something else that God
is saying with these two precious words, "and Peter." He is letting Peter
know of His forgiveness. Can you imagine Peter getting the message that God
had sent to him a special word? God was saying to Peter, "You are forgiven.
I want you where you were. I love you as I loved you before. I need you as I
needed you before. I care as much as I ever cared, and Peter, you are
At this moment this author is
that messenger. He says to that person who has fallen whose eyes are
scanning these pages: God said, "Go tell the disciples and you. " And he
says to the members of the church who have not fallen, "When you tell the
good news, tell the fallen too. Include the fallen!"
Then God is also reminding us of
His awareness. He was saying to Peter, "I know you are there. You may think
you have gone so far that I cannot see you, but you haven't! I know your
address! I know where you live! I know where you work! I know your motives!
I am aware of you, Peter, and you won't get beyond that awareness!"
How beautiful! How wonderfully
sweet that God sent His messenger to tell of His resurrection, and to send
the ladies to tell the disciples . . . and Peter!
May God help His churches to
love the fallen, to pray for the fallen, to run to the fallen, to lift up
the fallen, to welcome the fallen, to strengthen the fallen, to carry the
burden of the fallen, to share the guilt of the fallen and, by God's grace,
to reclaim and restore the fallen!
Treatment of the Weak
Romans 14:1, "Him that is weak
in the faith receive ye, but not to doubtful disputations."
The word, "weak," in this
passage means "without power" or "little power."
I have often said that there are
four groups of people in the First Baptist Church of Hammond. Group # 1 is
composed of those who accept what the preacher says because the preacher
says it. Group #2 is composed of those who believe what the preacher says
and accept it because they already believed it. Somewhere else they were
grounded in the faith, and then to their surprise they found someone who
agreed with them years after they thought such preachers were extinct. Group
#3 is that group of people who listen to what the preacher says, consider
the pros and cons and decide whether or not to accept it. Group #4 is that
group of people in the church who believe nothing the preacher says, but
they love to hear him say it. Now it matters not whether these four groups
comprise the membership of a local church, but one thing is for sure: There
are different degrees of strength among our church members! Some church
members are strong. Some have fallen, some are heartbroken, and, yes, some
are weak. The Bible does not leave us in wonder about the treatment of these
Notice again Romans 14:1, "Him
that is weak in the faith receive ye, but not to doubtful disputations."
Notice especially the words, "in the faith." These are saved people about
whom the Apostle is speaking. Yet, they are weak Christians.
1. We are to receive them.
Notice the words, "receive ye." God is telling us to receive the weak in the
faith. This means that we are to welcome them. We are to have special
interest in them. We are not to remind them of their weakness, but we are to
accept them as brothers in Christ and make them feel as one of us, for, of a
fact, they are.
2. We are not to receive them
to "doubtful disputations." We are not to engage in arguments
with them about our differences. This is what preaching is for! This is what
Bible teaching is for!
This is explained in Romans 14:2
and 3, "For one believeth that he may eat all things: another, who is weak,
eateth herbs. Let not him that eateth despise him that eateth not; and let
not him which eateth not judge him that eateth: for God hath received him."
Here we have one Christian who eats meats and another who is a vegetarian.
They are not to engage in doubtful disputations.
We find another example in
verses 5 and 6, "One man esteemeth one day above another: another esteemeth
every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind. He that
regardeth the day, regardeth it unto the Lord; and he that regardeth not the
day, to the Lord he doth not regard it. He that eateth, eateth to the Lord,
for he giveth God thanks: and he that eateth not, to the Lord he eateth not,
and giveth God thanks." One Christian observes a certain day; another
Christian does not. They are not to engage in doubtful disputations
concerning this. One Christian observes Easter as a holy day. Another strong
Christian who knows the Bible knows that Easter is not a holy day.
Colossians 2:14-17, "Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was
against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it
to His cross; and having spoiled principalities and powers, He made a shew
of them openly, triumphing over them in it. Let no man therefore judge you
in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of
the sabbath days: which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of
Christ." God is telling us that we should not get with the weaker brother
and argue with him about such matters.
I preach all over America.
Nearly every week I am with someone who would disagree with me on some
matter that could be called a doubtful disputation. For example, I do not
believe a church choir should wear robes. I go to many churches whose choirs
are robed. I do not engage in doubtful disputations with the pastor
concerning this matter.
I go to churches whose music is
different from ours. It is not sinful music; it is just not what we prefer
here at First Baptist Church. I do not engage in doubtful disputations
concerning this matter.
3. We are to withdraw
ourselves from every weak brother who has a disorderly walk. II
Thessalonians 3:6, "Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord
Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh
disorderly, and not after the tradition which he received of us." This does
not mean that we are to be unkind to anyone. The Bible is very plain
concerning our grace and kindness to all, but it is also very plain
concerning the fact that we are not to engage in social life or in regular
fellowship with some Christians. I do not believe for a second that this is
talking about church membership. I do not believe it is talking about the
weak person or the disorderly person not being welcome in the church
services. I think God is telling the individual Christians to watch the
crowd with whom they run and to associate with strong Christians. The word
"withdraw" means to "bend away." Though we are to be nice to people who walk
disorderly, we are certainly not supposed to run with their crowd.
The word "disorderly" here is a
military term which means "out of step" or "out of rank." Of course, in the
light of all Scripture we are to be gracious and kind, forbearing and
patient with these weak ones, but we should not walk with them, spend long
seasons of time with them, unless, of course, we are helping them to become
stronger by teaching them the Word or explaining to them the Christian life.
This is explained again in II
Thessalonians 3:14, "And if any man obey not our word by this epistle, note
that man, and have no company with him, that he may be ashamed." Note the
words, "have no company with him." This means we are not to mingle with
them. Sure, we see them at church. We shake their hands. We welcome them. We
try to strengthen them, but we do not enter into social activities with
them. Often Christians attempt to do so in order to strengthen the weak, and
inevitably such a relationship weakens the strong!
We have the same teaching in I
Corinthians 5:11, "But now I have written unto you not to keep company, if
any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an
idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one no
not to eat." Notice especially the words, "not to keep company" Once again
we have the idea of not mixing, mingling, or socializing with them.
Some of the sins of these weak
ones are mentioned in verse 11. Of course, we all know what a fornicator is.
We all know what an idolater is. We know what a drunkard is. We know what an
extortioner is. The word "covetous" means "greedy" The word "railer" means
"an evil speaker" or "critical." It is very plain that with people who
criticize, people who are greedy, people who are fornicators, people who are
drunkards, people who are extortioners, etc., we are not to keep company!
Notice the last eight words of I
Corinthians 5:11, "with such an one no not to eat." Here we have a simple
explanation. Eating is a sign of socializing, a symbol of sharing pleasures
and fellowship. 'Ibis means that if someone is critical and asks you to go
out to eat with him, you are not supposed to go. You are supposed to be nice
to him and courteous to him and kind to him, but you are not supposed to
have time to accept his invitation and go out to eat. What God is saying is
that He does not want us to sit down and socialize with the weak Christian,
whether he be greedy, a fornicator or a critic. Now, of course, in our
Christian society the fornicator is in a class far beneath the critic, but
in God's economy they are in the same class, and though we are to be kind
and gracious to both, we are not to keep company, mix, mingle, socialize or
sit down to eat with them.
About the same thing is
mentioned in Psalm 1:1-3, "Blessed is the man that walketh not in the
counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in
the seat of the scornful. But his delight is in the law of the Lord; and in
His law doth he meditate day and night. And he shall be like a tree planted
by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his
leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper." Notice
that we are not to walk in the counsel of the ungodly We are not to stand in
the way of sinners. We are not to sit in the seat of the scornful. In other
words, we are not to run or walk with the weak Christian (that is, the
fornicator, greedy, idolater, drunkard, gossip or critic). We are not to
stand around with him. We are not to sit down to converse with him unless we
are teaching him spiritual things.
4. We are to support the
weak. I Thessalonians 5:14, "Now we exhort you, brethren, warn them that
are unruly, comfort the feebleminded, support the weak, be patient toward
all men." Acts 20:35, "I have shewed you all things, how that so labouring
ye ought to support the weak, and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus,
how He said, It is more blessed to give than to receive." This verse implies
that we are to be like an anchor. We stay the same. We are not supposed to
be pulled away from our position by them! This, in many cases, will happen
if we socialize with them, but we are to be the anchor, the unswerving,
unwavering, unchanging rock to which they can hold. We don't sip cocktails
with them so we can help them! We don't go mixed bathing with them so we can
let them know we are "good old boys." We don't use their language in order
to attempt to straighten them. We stay solid. We believe what we always
believed. We stand where we always stood. They can lean on us for support.
This does not mean that we are
to support their weakness; it means we are to support the weak by our being
strong and unwavering. The word, "support," here is used concerning a
foundation. We are to be the foundation on which the weak can stand, the
rock on which they can lean, and when they decide to come back, they will
find us where they left us, living in the same Book, walking with the same
God, standing on the same truths, living with the same convictions. If they
come back and find us gone, we cannot support them.
5. We are to bear the
infirmities of the weak. Romans 15:1, "We then that are strong ought to
bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves." This means
patience toward their weakness, but not acceptance of it. This means that we
should be longsuffering with them while they are in sin, but in no way leave
the impression that we condone the sin.
In summary, the Christian is to
receive the weak, support the weak, love the weak, be kind to the weak, help
strengthen the weak and do all within his power to lead him back to
Christian strength. On the other hand, he is not to socialize with him or
mix and mingle with him in a social manner.
As a young preacher in east
Texas many years ago I got to thinking one day, and I realized that I was
chasing off the people who were not full grown. I expected everyone to carry
the load that I carried. I was not willing to get anything from those from
whom I could not get everything. I was destroying the people who did not
give all. It was sort of an "all or nothing at all" situation. I distinctly
remember the day when I decided to accept Christians as they are and do my
best to make them what they ought to be.
At that time I sought some
answers concerning my weak people, and I came up with several reasons why
they were weak, as follows:
1. Some were carrying too
light a load. They could not become strong because they did not carry a
heavy enough load to make them strong. I read Galatians 6:1-6, "Brethren, if
a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one
in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.
Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ. For if a man
think himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceiveth himself. But
let every man prove his own work, and then shall he have rejoicing in
himself alone, and not in another. For every man shall bear his own burden.
Let him that is taught in the word communicate unto him that teacheth in all
good things." I then read Matthew 11:28-29, "Come unto Me, all ye that
labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you,
and learn of Me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest
unto your souls."
Recently I was talking to a
young man. He shared the burden of his heart with me, and believe me, he did
have a heavy burden! After we had talked for awhile, I suggested that we
pray together. He prayed first. He started off by praying, "Dear Lord, take
away my burden." Before I knew it, I had interrupted his prayer, and I said,
"Lord, don't do it." (This is so unlike me. I do not ever recall doing such
a thing before.) He looked up and said, "Brother Hyles, don't you think God
ought to take my burden away?"
I said, "No, I don't."
He then bowed his head and began
to pray again. He prayed, "Lord, then don't take my burden away. Give me
strength to bear my burden."
To my surprise I interrupted again and said, "Lord,
don't do it!"
He stopped praying again and
asked me why I had asked the Lord not to give him strength to bear his
I told him, "Son, you don't get
strength for your burdens; you get strength from your burdens. The burden is
what makes you strong. The strongest Christians are those who have the most
burdens, and they did not get strong in order to bear their burdens; they
got strong by bearing their burdens."
Suppose a young man asked his
parents for a set of weights for Christmas. Sure enough, he receives them as
a gift from his parents. The young man doesn't look at the weights and say,
"Lord, take my burden away." No, he asked for the burden; he requested it
because he wanted to be strong. Neither did the young man say, "Lord, make
me strong enough to lift these weights." Not at all! The very purpose of the
weights was to make him strong. If he were strong enough to lift the weights
before he got them, he didn't need them.
It seems that almost every time
a Christian has problems, he attributes it to the Devil. Preachers say to me
often, "The Devil sure is fighting." Now it just may be that God is giving
you a set of weights for Christmas in order to make you strong.
In cities all over America
football players are in weight rooms. They are not enjoying the perspiring,
the groaning, the grunting that they are doing, but they want to be strong.
They have a battle to fight on football fields across America. If they win
the battle, they must be strong. If they are strong, they must have burdens
to bear and weights to lift.
There are battles that the
Christian must fight. In order to win, he must be strong. If he is strong,
he has to lift some weights; he has to pump some iron; he has to have some
burdens. The more the weights and the bigger the weights, the stronger is
the man. The more the burdens and the bigger the burdens that the Christian
bears, the stronger he becomes, but many of our people are weak because they
bear too light a load.
2. Many are weak because they
bear too soon a load. A few days after someone is converted, we approach
him about teaching a Sunday school class, and before long he is so burdened
down that the load is too heavy for him to bear. Bear in mind, the weight
lifter starts off with the light weights first and gradually increases the
load that he lifts.
3. Some are weak because they
carry too heavy a load. A novice weight lifter does not start by bench
pressing 300 pounds. That is too heavy a load for him. Many Christians have
taken up a load that was too heavy instead of gradually coming to that load,
and they have been unable to lift the weights. A young man who is given a
set of weights cannot get strong by trying to pick up a weight that he
cannot lift. It is the lifting of the weight that makes one strong, and the
weight lifted must be one that can be lifted! No one gets strong pulling on
a weight that remains on the floor. Care must be taken not to overload the
Christian and give him too heavy a load. This will cause him to be weak.
4. Many are weak because they
have the wrong kind of load. Each Christian should know what type of a
load he can carry. For example, I have many assistant pastors. Their load
levels are different. Their talents and gifts are different. I must be
careful not to place them in areas where they are not capable. Many
Christians have been given tasks for which they were not suited. They became
discouraged and later, weak.
"Weak" is a relative term. There
are degrees of weakness and degrees of strength. It is easy for someone who
is strong to become impatient with one who is weak. It is also easy for the
strong ones to become critical of the weak and even to disdain them. Some in
our churches look at the weak with disgust. On the other hand, others choose
the weak as fellowsocializers and best friends. Neither of these positions
is the wise one. The wise and Scriptural position is for the strong
Christian to encourage, to support, to receive and to be kind to the weak.
On the other hand, he is not to expose himself to unnecessary interaction
with him, lest the weakness become contagious and the strong becomes weak
instead of the weak becoming strong.
Now read Romans 16:17, "Now I
beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary
to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them." The word, "avoid"
here does not mean "to shun." It does not condone the action of the
Pharisee. It simply means to "bend away" from them.
There is no doctrine in the
Bible any more plainly presented than the doctrine of separation, and the
Word of God is filled with examples of people who did not practice this
separation. Consequently, they were led to ruin. Balaam sold a nation into
intermarriage with idolaters because he ran with the wrong crowd.
Jehoshaphat destroyed his nation by running with the wrong crowd and
associating with the wicked King Ahab and his rebellious wife, Jezebel. This
association led Jehoshaphat's son to marry Athaliah, the daughter of Ahab
and Jezebel. What Jezebel did to the northern kingdom, Athaliah did to the
southern kingdom. Before Peter cursed, swore and denied the faith, he was
warming at the wrong fire and following the Lord afar off with the wrong
crowd. Choosing to run with the wrong crowd ruined Lot, turned his wife to a
pillar of salt, and wrecked the lives of his children and their children.
Running with the wrong crowd caused Abraham to father a heathen nation begun
by his illegitimate son, Ishmael.
The Bible is very plain. We are
not to run with the wrong crowd. And, yes, there is a wrong crowd in every
church and every Christian school! We are to love them, to support them, to
receive them, to be kind to them, to be gracious to them, to be patient with
them, but we are not to keep company with them, according to I Corinthians
5:11. When we embrace their weakness, we do not strengthen them; we meet
them on their level instead of on ours. We strengthen them by holding our
position and remaining strong so they will have an anchor that is firm and a
foundation that is solid when they return. Hence, they become strong because
of our strength. This is God's plan concerning our treatment of the weak.
Treatment of the Strong
In every area of our lives we
need strength around us. One of the weaknesses of our society is the attempt
by the masses to weaken the strong. Business needs strong management and
labor will be wise to keep it so. Many a business has gone under because
labor weakened management, thereby killing the goose that laid the golden
The same thing is true
concerning politics. We need a strong President, and the opposing political
party is very unwise in its attempt to weaken the power of the presidency
and of the President. He needs our support, our prayers and our
encouragement for him to be strong.
One of the sad things about the
press in our nation is its constant attempt to weaken leadership with its
constant desire to sell papers and magazines. It continues to explore and
seek the weaknesses of the strong in an effort for the spectacular to be
printed. In so doing, we are lessening our own security by weakening the
ones who offer it to us.
In professional sports we are
seeing the same thing. The athlete gets rich at the expense of the owners,
not realizing that to weaken the ownership may someday cost him his job and
destroy the sport by which he makes his livelihood.
America needs strength! Wise is
that nation that strengthens the hands of its leadership, which in turn can
offer security and protection to followship.
Thank God for strong people!
However, even in our churches they often tend to be disliked. We love to
pull for the underdog, and there is something in us that wants to see the
strong toppled, but we need the strong, and when they fall they fall on us
and rob us of a security that we need from strength.
Our nation is in desperate need
of some heroes. Baseball needs a Babe Ruth, a Dizzy Dean, a Ted Williams and
a Joe DiMaggio. Football needs a Red Grange and Bronko Nagurski. Boxing
needs a Jack Dempsey and a Joe Louis. Golf needs an Arnold Palmer, a Ben
Hogan and a Bob Jones. Politics needs a Theodore Roosevelt and a George
Washington. The military needs a Douglas MacArthur, a General George Patton.
The pulpit needs a Dwight Moody, a Billy Sunday and a Charles Spurgeon. Law
enforcement needs a J. Edgar Hoover. Coaching needs a Vince Lombardi or a
George Halas. This is not the day for the hero or the legend. We seem to
want to pull them down to our level. We want to homogenize everybody, and we
even attack the principles of the dead in order to destroy yesterday's
heroes while we destroy today's We flounder for lack of leadership and at
the same time attempt to make leadership flounder.
We should encourage strong
people. They are the most lonely people in the church. They are the most
criticized people in the church, and they need our love, respect and
confidence in order to compensate for those who are trying to shoot them
In doing this we must be careful
to understand that strength has weakness, and we must not be disenchanted
with our heroes when we discover that they too are made of flesh.
I have known personally and
intimately the greatest preachers of this and the last generation. I was a
warm personal friend to Dr. Bob Jones, Sr. I knew in a very personal way Dr.
R. G. Lee and was an honorary pallbearer at his funeral. For 22 years I
traveled with Dr. John R. Rice, and perhaps I knew him better than anybody
on earth except for his own family. I preached his funeral message. I was a
close friend of Dr. Bill Rice, and for over a third of a century I was a
good friend with Evangelist Lester Roloff. I spoke at the funeral service
for Dr. Bill Rice and also preached Dr. Roloff's funeral message. Dr. Ford
Porter was my good friend, and I preached his funeral message. Then, of
course, I shared the same platform with such men as Jacob Gartenhaus, B. R.
Lakin, G. B. Vick and others. They were all great men, and they were all my
heroes, but I was well aware that each was human and possessed weaknesses.
Some of them fought each other, thereby revealing to me their humanity, but
in no way taking from me my estimation of their greatness.
We must thank God for the
strong. We must realize their humanity, but we must not let that realization
shake our confidence in them. They are great men, not perfect men. They are
strong men, but not omnipotent men. They are wise men, but not omniscient
men. We need men of their caliber as our leaders.
Paul was a great man and Peter
was a great man; yet they had personal problems between themselves.
Galatians 2:11, "But when Peter was come to Antioch, I withstood him to the
face, because he was to be blamed."
Barnabas was a great man and
Paul was a great man, but they were human as is manifested in Acts 15:36-40,
"And some days after Paul said unto Barnabas, Let us go again and visit our
brethren in every city where we have preached the Word of the Lord, and see
how they do. And Barnabas determined to take with them John, whose surname
was Mark. But Paul thought not good to take him with them, who departed from
them from Pamphylia, and went not with them to the work. And the contention
was so sharp between them, that they departed asunder one from the other:
and so Barnabas took Mark, and sailed unto Cyprus; and Paul chose Silas, and
departed, being recommended by the brethren unto the grace of God." They had
a sharp disagreement.
John Wesley and George
Whitefield had problems getting along together. The same is true with Calvin
and Luther, Harry Truman and Douglas MacArthur and many other great men.
Though we should not deify them and should accept them as human, we still
need to exalt them, to pray for them, to honor them and to strengthen them
in order that they in turn as our leaders may give us strength and
In every church there are strong
men--men with leadership ability--men whom the church needs. Such men should
be respected, prayed for, honored and followed. They should not be open game
for criticism and gossip! Because of their strength they may not be as
likable as others in the church. Because of their strong wills, their manner
may not be as palatable as that of more gentle people, but we need them and
should hold them up before the Lord and encourage them.
Every church has some ladies who
are more zealous than others. Their manner may not be as gentle and as
appealing because they are leaders of the ladies and girls. They are needed.
Such ladies lead departments in the Sunday school, direct children's choirs,
build ladies' Sunday school classes, work as supervisors in college
dormitories, teach in the Christian school and perform multitudes of other
important tasks in the work of God. Because of their leadership abilities as
they lead other women and children, they are often the object of criticism,
especially by men, and especially by men who are not strong leaders and have
become jealous of the leadership ability of the ladies who are leaders.
Don't misunderstand me; I am not advocating that ladies lead men. The Bible
is very plain about that, but let us thank God for those ladies who are
strong and who can administrate in areas where men would not and could not
lead. May God's people look at the strong and thank God for them.
We are all flesh, and the best
of us is weak, but God has ordained that every human organization have
leadership. A city needs a mayor. A state needs a governor. A nation needs a
king or a president or a prime minister. A team needs a coach. A school
needs a principal. A church needs a pastor. A business needs an executive. A
college needs a president. A classroom needs a teacher. A dormitory needs a
supervisor. Now we must choose the strong from among us to fill these
positions. When chosen they should be admired, loved and honored. When the
team weakens the coach, games are lost. When the student weakens the
teacher, he weakens his education. When the country weakens the president,
it weakens its national security. When a church weakens a pastor, it loses
its power. When a state or a city weakens its governor or mayor, it promotes
anarchy and confusion.
Let us not fall for Satan's
method of luring the follower into criticism and jealousy of the leader. We
do not strengthen ourselves when we weaken the strong; we rather weaken
ourselves when we weaken the strong, for God has given us the strong to
strengthen us. Anarchy not only weakens the nation, but it weakens the
people of that nation, and those who are guilty of anarchy are weaker than
they would have been had they been submissive. A submissive people is a
strong people. A submissive team is a strong team. A submissive student body
forms a good school. A submissive membership makes a great church. Any other
plan is one that is derived from Satan himself when, as an archangel, he
rebelled against God and sought to exalt himself above God and set himself
on God's throne. In so doing, he hurt himself! He certainly did not hurt
God! God was still God after Satan's rebellion, but Satan was no longer an
archangel, and his angels were no longer God's angels. He and his angels
fell! Followers always fall when they topple their leaders!
At this point in American
history a tragic thing is happening. Liberal politicians seem to have more
animosity toward Mr. Reagan than they do toward Mr. Gorbachev. They spend
more time attacking American conservatism than they do attacking Russian
communism, and an excessive hatred of communism seems to be a greater crime
than communism itself. The liberal politicians seem bent on joining the
liberal press for the destruction of any conservative leader who is strong.
Then that conservative leader represents our nation at summit meetings. His
hands are tied. His power is limited. His plans are paralyzed, and the weak
leader that we have created goes to represent us. By the time he is at the
treaty table, he has been made so powerless by his own fellow Americans that
his position is weakened--not because of the attack of the enemy but because
of the attack from our own citizens!
The same is true in a church.
Parents often feel that there is some merit in criticizing the pastor.
Perhaps it gives them some sense of power if they can speak ill of a strong
leader. Their children hear this ill speaking and lose confidence in the
pastor. Then the day comes when the child needs the pastor and only the
pastor can help, but by that time the child has lost confidence in his
preacher! The parents have weakened the leader so that the leader cannot
help their own flesh and blood.
Not only are we trying to weaken
leadership and in so doing weaken ourselves, but we are trying to destroy
people who have been gone from the scene for years. Not only do we want to
tear down today's heroes; we want to destroy yesterday's heroes. Not only
does the liberal press, the liberal politician and the liberal educator seek
to homogenize all of us today and seek to bring down any strong leader, but
they unite in attacking the memory of our past heroes, so they investigate
in order to find everything negative possible about J. Edgar Hoover, George
Washington, Douglas MacArthur, Dwight Eisenhower, Babe Ruth and others.
America's youth today are
looking for heroes. Let us help them find some. Let us close ranks and thank
God for those who are strong and pray for God to give us other strong people
whom we may follow, encourage and strengthen!
Someone has said that preaching
is pouring back to the congregation in a flood what is received from them in
a vapor. Some few, thank God, can capture this vapor, translate it into a
flood and return it to the audience. Leadership is the same way. Let us
constantly send them the vapor so that they may return to us a flood!
Treatment of the Heartbroken
Ezekiel 34:3, "Ye eat the fat,
and ye clothe you with the wool, ye kill them that are fed: but ye feed not
Isaiah 61:1, "The Spirit of the
Lord God is upon me; because the Lord hath anointed me to preach good
tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to
proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that
One of the main purposes of a
church is its ministry to the heartbroken. Someone has said, "He who
preaches to broken hearts will never want for a congregation." I have often
said that behind every face there is a broken heart, and behind every smile
there is a reason to cry. As I look out over my congregation on a Sunday
morning, I see those whose hearts are broken because of incurable illnesses
in their own body or in the body of a loved one. I see those whose hearts
are broken because they are under attack; they are suffering severe
criticism or are objects of a malicious scandal. I see a couple whose
daughter has just left her husband to run off with another man. I see a lady
whose daughter is pregnant and not married. I see a lady whose husband has
just left her to rear the children alone. I see a man whose business has
just faced bankruptcy I see a family whose son has broken their hearts. I
see children whose daddy has just forsaken them, and I see multitudes of
others whose hearts are broken. God's people should take extra care in their
treatment of these brokenhearted saints.
1. Act as near normal as
possible. They want to know of your love, but they don't want to be
singled out for special attention. Just let them know that nothing has
changed. Assure them that your relationship is the same as always, but do
not do this verbally Do it by treating them as you always have. Just let
them know by your normal treatment that all is the same.
2. It is usually best not to
mention their problem. To do so may open a wound that has been closing.
It may cause a fresh hurt that is unnecessary. It is often best not to say
such things as, "I heard about your burden," "I know about your problem,"
3. Do not try to figure out
why. It is so easy for God's people to become an Eliphaz, a Zophar or a
Bildad, who were the "friends" of Job. One of them came and said, "Job, I
know why you are having your trouble; you are not spiritual enough!" Another
came and said, "Job, I know why you are having your trouble; you have left
the traditions of the fathers!" Another came and said, "Job, I know why are
having your trouble; you have sinned and are being punished!" The truth is
that none of us knows why God does what He does, and more often than not,
God's people face troubles and heartache because of reasons other than
punishment for sin. It is not our job to figure out why; it is our job to be
loving, thoughtful and helpful when our brothers and sisters have broken
4. Don't tell them of any
criticism that you have heard. Years ago we had a man in our church who
walked with me from my office to the pulpit on a regular basis. Just before
I would leave him to walk to the platform, he would put his arm around me or
take my hand and with emotion say something like this: "I'm for you,
Preacher . . . no matter what they say!" All during the service I kept
wondering, "What did they say?" The truth is, that man loved me, but he did
not comfort me.
One little girl wrote me a note
and said, "Dear Brother Hyles. I love you in spite of the fact that nobody
else does." Somehow or other that note was not as comforting to me as it was
intended to be!
Recently a member of the church
who is a very lovely Christian came to me and said, "Brother Hyles, I want
you to know that my family is for you in this battle." Then I started to
wonder, "What is the battle? What battle are they talking about?"
5. Use unsaid words to
express sympathy. Perhaps a squeeze of the hand, a pat on the back, or a
touch of the elbow is all that is necessary. With those little gestures one
is saying, "Everything is the same. Nothing has changed. I still have
confidence in you, and I still love you. I am still your friend, and I still
think you are a good Christian."
6. Show confidence in them.
Not long ago a preacher friend of mine had his heart broken by the actions
of a married child. As soon as I heard of it, I talked with him and asked
him if he would be a speaker on a program with me. This was simply an
expression of my saying, "I still have confidence in you, and I'm your
friend! Nothing has changed!"
Several years ago I had a man
lined up to come to speak for one of the ministries of our church. Between
the time that he was scheduled and the time for the speaking engagement, he
had a broken heart that could have made him fearful that some of us had lost
confidence in him. I did not write him and tell him what I had heard. I did
not call him to assure him of my love in spite of his broken heart. I simply
wrote him a little note confirming his speaking engagement with me and
telling him that I was looking forward to having him. That was all that was
necessary. His heart was broken. I did not want to remind him of the cause,
but I simply wanted him to know that nothing had changed.
Express your love and friendship
to the heartbroken. There are many ways that this could be done. Years ago
when some slander had been spoken by wicked tongues concerning my good
friend, Dr. John R. Rice, my heart was grieved! A few days later we were
speaking together. As he walked on the platform and sat down beside me, I
reached over and squeezed his knee and said simply, "I'm your friend." Years
passed. Careless lips and malicious tongues chose to speak evil of me. The
next time Dr. Rice and I were together, he reached over from his chair on
the platform and squeezed my knee and whispered, "I'm your friend." He did
not need to say any more. I knew what he meant. On one occasion Dr. Curtis
Hutson did the same thing to me, and as I remember on another occasion, I
did the same thing to him.
Many years ago Evangelist
Charles Weigle suffered the heartbreak of his life. His wife decided she did
not want to be a preacher's wife. She took their child and left him. The
great heart of Dr. Lee Roberson simply contacted Dr. Weigle and asked if he
would come and live at Tennessee Temple College and Highland Park Baptist
Church. Dr. Weigle agreed to do so. Dr. Roberson was simply saying to Dr.
Weigle and the whole world, "I have confidence in you still. I love you
still. I'm your friend still, and nothing has changed."
This love and friendship could
be expressed by a gift sent seemingly for no reason at all, or an attractive
card or a tender embrace or the touch of the hand or an arm around the
The one consoling the
heartbroken should not do it too strongly. Just let the brokenhearted one
know that all is the same; nothing has changed.
7. Try to decide for what the
heartbroken person is reaching. Some people want and feel that they need
different means of expression of confidence and love. If you know someone
well enough to know that they need more than the aforementioned reminders,
give it to them. If you feel someone reaching out for a certain kind of
assurance, give it to them.
Leaders need this kind of
assurance as well as followers. I am thinking now about one of the greatest
preachers in America whose daughter broke his heart, and he has had to rear
her son. I am thinking of another one of the greatest preachers in America
who one day on a platform pointed to the balcony and said to me, "nose two
little girls up there are my granddaughters." His son had divorced his wife;
the lady in the balcony with the two children was his former
daughter-in-law, and the children were his grandchildren.
One of the ten best known
preachers in America had a daughter who went into the world, broke his heart
and defied everything that her daddy preached. It is said that Billy Sunday
stood to speak in a great tabernacle. Just as he began to speak, someone
handed him a newspaper that told of his son committing an awful sin, and
perhaps had been arrested. Supposedly Billy Sunday grabbed his chest and
shouted, "Preach Christ," and slumped to the floor.
One of the greatest preachers in
America had a son who became a liberal and destroyed the work of his dad
after his dad passed away.
Heartbreak comes to everybody,
in every walk of life and on every scale of spiritual growth and progress.
Let us treat the heartbroken with a tender, subtle awareness that nothing
Before concluding this chapter,
I must speak a word to the heartbroken. When something happens in your life
that causes you to wonder if you will still be respected and accepted, don't
withdraw from us! We still love you! You belong to us! We still have
confidence in you! Let us have a chance to assure you of our love and
confidence! Don't leave us! Don't leave your church and go to another! Stay
with those who love you! You need them, and they need you! You need their
love! They need to love you! You need their expression of confidence, and
they need to give it!
Treatment of Followers
Ephesians 6:5-9, "Servants, be
obedient to them that are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and
trembling, in singleness of your heart, as unto Christ; not with eyeservice,
as menpleasers; but as the servants of Christ, doing the will of God from
the heart; with good will doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men:
knowing that whatsoever good thing any man doeth, the same shall he receive
of the Lord, whether he be bond or free. And, ye masters, do the same things
unto them, forbearing threatening: knowing that your Master also is in
heaven; neither is there respect of persons with Him."
Ruth 2:4, "And, behold, Boaz
came from Bethlehem, and said unto the reapers, The Lord be with you. And
they answered him, The Lord bless thee."
In the New Testament there are
three titles given for the main position in a New Testament church. One is
the title of pastor; another is the title of elder; another is the title of
bishop. All three of these titles represent the same position.
I Peter 5:14, "The elders which
are among you I exhort, who am also an elder, and a witness of the
sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be
revealed: Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight
thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a
ready mind; neither as being lords over God's heritage, but being ensamples
to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a
crown of glory that fadeth not away."
You will notice in these verses,
all three of these titles are mentioned. They all deal with the same office.
Each of these titles represents a unique treatment that the leader is to
give to his followers. For example, the title of elder represents experience
and wisdom. The leader is to give to the follower access to his wisdom. This
could come through preaching, teaching, counseling, etc.
Now consider the title of
pastor. This is another word for shepherd. The leader of the church is to
give his followers the protection that a shepherd gives to the sheep. He is
to warn the followers of things that would harm them even as the shepherd
did to the sheep, and he is to stand vigil over them to keep these things
from doing them harm.
The third title is that of
bishop. This word means overseer. This means the pastor is the overseer of
the follower. For the good of the follower, the pastor is to oversee all of
the work of the church and be sure that it is done properly and that the
follower may have the kind of church that he needs in order that he may be
all that God wants him to be.
Much is said about the way the
follower should treat the leader, and this is right. Not enough is said
concerning the way the leader should treat the follower. Oh, yes, the
follower is taught to obey his spiritual leader. Hebrews 13:7, "Remember
them which have the rule over you, who have spoken unto you the word of God:
whose faith follow, considering the end of their conversation." He is
likewise taught to submit himself to his spiritual leader. Hebrews 13:17,
"Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they
watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it
with joy, and not with grief. for that is unprofitable for you." These are
words that include having faith in, yielding to, giving in, following, etc.
There are other places in the Bible that remind us that God's people are to
follow the pastors.
Then there are Scriptures that
remind the pastors regarding their treatment of other pastors. The New
Testament church had a multiplicity of pastors. Each church would have
several pastors, just as is the case in the First Baptist Church of Hammond.
There is a certain way that these pastors are to treat each other. I Timothy
1:1-2, "Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the commandment of God our
Saviour, and Lord Jesus Christ, which is our hope; unto Timothy, my own son
in the faith: Grace, mercy, and peace, from God our Father and Jesus Christ
our Lord." I Timothy 5:17, "Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy
of double honour, especially they who labour in the word and doctrine." Read
these verses carefully. Paul is writing to one elder, or pastor, Timothy He
is telling him how to treat other elders or pastors. In I Timothy 5:19 he
reminds him that he is not to believe an accusation without witnesses. He
reminds him of the respect and honor that he is to give to other pastors.
Many pastors preach and teach from these passages in an effort to teach
their people how to treat the preacher. I do not think in so doing they do
an injustice to the Scriptures. I do believe, however, that the pastor
should pause to realize that the primary teaching of this verse deals with
the way pastors should treat each other, not only pastors within the same
church, but pastors of churches within the same community, state, nation,
Concerning this subject, I
always defend the pastor. When I hear something negative about a man of God,
I do not believe it! When there is a battle between a pastor and laymen, I
defend the pastor! I am not always right in this, but I am right more times
than wrong, and I'm right more times than if I use my own judgment and
intuition. It has been my policy through the years to defend God's man and
God's men. Sometimes I have been proven wrong, but I have never been sorry
for the policy.
I will not counsel or give an
appointment to a member of another area fundamental church without a written
note from the pastor of that church requesting that I counsel with his
I will not visit nor allow my
staff or members to visit the home of the member of another fundamental
church in the area. This is true even if this person brings his family to
visit our services. This is also true even if he checks the little square at
the bottom of the visitor's card, signifying that he is interested in
joining First Baptist Church of Hammond. I am for God's men! I know they are
not perfect, but I believe the finest group of men in the world is that
group which composes God's men. I am glad that it is still news when one
goes bad. This means that most do not!
Not only does God admonish us
concerning the way the follower should treat the pastor and the way the
pastors should treat each other, but it admonishes us concerning the way the
pastor should treat the followers, or for that matter, the way any leader
should treat any follower.
1. The leader should give the
same loyalty to the follower that he expects from the follower. Much is
said about loyalty from the bottom up. More should be said about loyalty
from the top down. Oftentimes leaders come to me expressing their dismay and
disdain because of disloyal followers. Loyalty, however, is a two-way street
and should go from the leader to the follower as well as from the follower
to the leader. This chapter is being written at the time of the
Congressional hearings and the questioning of Colonel North, Admiral
Poindexter, Mr. McFarland and others. I will not attempt to go into the pros
and cons or to be provocative concerning these hearings, but concerning the
matter of loyalty, I have been very impressed with the loyalty to each other
by the men being questioned. Subordinates have appeared to be extremely
loyal to leaders, and superiors have been extremely loyal, in my opinion, to
subordinates. This is the way it should be.
2. Leaders should accept
followers as equals. A man is not necessarily a leader because he is
superior to someone else. A man is not necessarily a follower because
he is inferior to another. The art of following is just as great as the art
of leading, and a leader who expects loyal followers should be a loyal
leader and should stand by his followers in the same manner that he expects
his followers to stand by him. The leader should certainly not look down
from a pedestal to the follower, and he should respect the art of following
as much as the follower respects the art of leading.
All of us are leaders and all of
us are followers. This is as it should be. To be a good leader, one must be
in some area of life a follower so he can know the heartbeat of the
follower. To be a good follower, one must be in some area of life a leader
so he can know the heartbeat of the leader. A man may be a leader at home,
as he heads his family, and then a follower at work; or a man may be a
leader at work and a follower at church, or a man may be a leader at work
and a follower at work. Perhaps he is a foreman who has a superintendent for
whom he works and laborers who work for him.
I have a wonderful man who works
with me named Randy Ericson. Randy is in charge of the maintenance of the
many buildings at First Baptist Church. He has several custodians who work
for him, and Randy in turn works for me. When we come to church, I am the
leader and Randy is the follower. When he takes me down to the boiler room
to look at a problem in the heating system, he is the leader and I am the
follower. There is no place in any organization for big shots and little
shots. Everybody is important. All of us should look at the rest of us as
3. Each of us should
purposely be followers in some area. There is hardly a week that passes
without my receiving a call from some pastor concerning trouble in his
church. It is almost always the same trouble. Somebody in the church who is
a leader everywhere else he goes wants to run the church and take the
pastor's position. Here is a man who owns a business, is president of a
civic club, a leader in politics, who comes to church. It is difficult for
him to follow, but it is good for him to do so, because obedience is a
quality that gives one the right to be a master. Luke 15:25-32, "Now his
elder son was in the field: and as he came and drew nigh to the house, he
heard musick and dancing. And he called one of the servants, and asked what
these things meant. And he said unto him, Thy brother is come; and thy
father hath killed the fatted calf, because he hath received him safe and
sound. And he was angry, and would not go in: therefore came his father out,
and intreated him. And he answering said to his father, Lo, these many years
do I serve thee, neither transgressed I at any time thy commandment: and yet
thou never gavest me a kid, that I might make merry with my friends: but as
soon as this thy son was come, which hath devoured thy living with harlots,
thou hast killed for him the fatted calf. And he said unto him, Son, thou
art ever with me, and all that I have is thine. It was meet that we should
make merry, and be glad: for this thy brother was dead, and is alive again;
and was lost, and is found." This is the story about the brother of the
prodigal son. This is the brother who stayed at home and worked for his
father. Notice the two things that the son said in verse 29. What a
wonderful pair of statements! Now notice later on in verse 31 the father
says, "Son, all that I have is thine." Note that the father said to the son
that everything he had was his. How did the son get this mastery over his
father? He got it because he said, "Neither transgressed I at any time thy
commandment." He said, "Dad, I never disobeyed you." His dad said, "Then all
that I have is yours." Obedience is the way to mastery. Obedience causes the
one who is the servant to be the master over the one who is the served and
makes the master a servant to the servant.
Obedience is the key that
unlocks the door to authority For example, I am now driving a car through
the mountains of northern California. I got in the car and the car said to
me, "Obey me. Put the key in the place prepared for it and turn the key to
the right. If you will obey me, I will let you master me." Now I could have
said to the car, "Nobody is going to tell me what to do. I don't believe in
obedience." The car would have said to me, "Then you will never master me,
for the way to master me is to obey me. You put the key where I say to put
it and twist it like I say to twist it, and you may have me as your
servant." I did this in obedience to the command of the car. Immediately I
became master of the car. I am driving it now. I am turning to the right a
little bit. I decide which way the car turns. I can play the radio if I want
to. I can turn it down; I can turn it up; I can turn it on; I can turn it
off. I can turn it to any station that I choose. I can turn on the air
conditioning. I can set it where I want to set it, or I can turn it off, or
I can turn on the heater if I choose. I can turn on the outside lights, the
inside lights, the parking lights, the flashing lights and do as I will. I
can make the car go faster or slower, or I can stop it. I can turn it to the
right or I can turn it to the left. How did I get this command over the car?
By obeying. Obedience is the way to mastery.
A wall socket in the house says
to me, "Obey me, and I will serve you." I say to the wall socket, "Nobody is
going to tell me what to do." The wall socket says, "'Then I will not give
you my power." I finally decide to yield and obey the wall socket. When I do
so, it will play a radio for me; it will operate an electric shaver, waffle
iron, television, iron, washing machine, dishwasher, or whatever I decide.
All I have to do is obey the wall socket, and then I become its master.
Obedience is not the bad word that our generation has made it. It is the way
to mastery, not the way to slavery.
Read. Psalm 1:1-3, "Blessed is
the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the
way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful. But his delight is
in the law of the Lord; and in His law doth he meditate day and night. And
he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth
his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he
doeth shall prosper."
God gives us five things here
that will make Him a servant to us. He says if we walk not in the counsel of
the ungodly and do not stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of the
scornful but delight in the law of the Lord and meditate therein day and
night, He will see to it that we prosper. He says, "You do these five things
in obedience to Me, and I will obey you."
II Chronicles 7:14, "If My
people, which are called by My name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and
seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven,
and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land."
God says to us that if His
people, called by His name, will humble themselves, pray, seek His face,
turn from their wicked ways, that He will hear from Heaven, forgive their
sins. He says, "If you will obey Me, I'll obey you. The way to mastery over
Me is to obey Me."
John 15:7, "If ye abide in Me,
and My words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done
God says to us, "Abide in Me;
let My words abide in you. Then I will obey you. Ask what ye will." God
reminds us, "Command ye Me."
Psalm 37:4, "Delight thyself
also in the Lord; and He shall give thee the desires of thine heart."
God says, "Delight yourself in
Me, and I'll give you the desires of your heart." Ah, what a blessed,
blessed truth! Obedience is the way to mastery. Followship is the way to
leadership, and no one should lead who hasn't followed; no one will lead
successfully who has not followed; and no one can be a master until he has
Matthew 28:19, 20,
"GO ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing
them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:
teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and,
lo, I am with you alway even unto the end of the world. Amen." Notice the
words in verse 18, "All power is given unto Me in heaven and in earth." This
is followed by a command, "Go, teach, baptize, and teach others."' These
commands are followed by a promise, "Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the
end of the world."' What a blessed truth! He goes back to that "all power"
before the commands. He says, "All power is given unto Me. I will give you
that power and give you the right to have that power if you will obey Me. In
other words, you obey Me, and you can be the master." Obedience is the way
The earth says to the tree,
"Obey me. Place in me your roots, and all of my wealth will come to your
growth." The teacher says to the student, "Obey me, and all of my knowledge
will be at your disposal." The parent says to the child, "Obey me, and all
that I have can be yours," such as is seen in the story of the prodigal
son's brother in Luke 15.
4. The leader should try to
learn the needs of each follower. Bear in mind that the leader has
access to powers not accessible to the follower. These powers should be used
in order to help the follower, so the leader should be very sensitive to the
5. The leader should try to
meet the needs of each follower. What a blessed truth! Since the leader
has the wherewithal that the follower often does not have, and since the
leader is supposed to have discernment concerning the needs of the follower,
he then should use that wherewithal to satisfy the needs that are known by
6. The leader should get
ideas from the follower. My definition of leadership perhaps is
oversimplified, but here it is: A leader is one who goes to all of his
followers to learn from them; he compiles a list of all he has learned and
gives each follower a copy As has been said, preaching is pouring back to
the congregation in a flood what the congregation sends to the preacher in a
vapor. Leading is collecting the knowledge of the followers and making each
follower aware of the knowledge of all the rest.
I travel every week. I go to
every part of the country. I learn everywhere I go, and then I take what I
learn from each part of the country and try to teach those who look to me in
some way as a leader.
7. The leader should give
strength to the follower. This is much the same as the preaching. Each
follower gives a little strength to the leader, making him stronger. The
leader then uses this strength received from the followers to give strength
and security to the followers who made him strong.
8. The leader should be a
servant of the follower. Did not the Master say that the servant is
greatest of all? The way that we become leaders and have the right to be
leaders is by serving. In so serving he convinces his followers of his
sincerity, concern, willingness and ability to lead. Coerced followship is
dictatorship. Earned followship is leadership.
Earlier in this chapter mention
was made about loyalty. Loyalty is one of the most misunderstood traits and
graces. In concluding this chapter, I would like for you to consider the
following about loyalty.
Loyalty is not the absence of
disloyalty. It is a positive trait, not the absence of a negative one. In
other word, a person is not necessarily loyal because he is not disloyal.
There is some ground between loyalty and disloyalty. Perhaps we could say
there is loyalty, aloyalty and disloyalty. Disloyalty criticizes, aloyalty
is silent, but loyalty defends! Both loyalty and disloyalty are vocal.
Aloyalty is silent. Loyalty never allows one word of criticism about the
leader. It is complete defense and support. It not only never says, "Did you
hear about . . . ?" but also it does not listen to, "Did you hear about ?"
It does not participate in criticism with the tongue or the ear. It does not
give itself the satisfaction of criticizing nor does it give a sympathetic
ear which gives others the satisfaction of criticizing.
Everyone cannot be talented;
everyone can be loyal. Loyalty is one trait that is attainable by all.
Disloyalty is the one trait that is not excusable! It is the unpardonable
sin! It is the most detestable and deplorable trait that a follower can
have. It has caused heartbreak to many leaders. It has caused heartbreak to
more followers. It has ruined the reputation of many leaders. It has ruined
the character of many followers. To those who possess disloyalty, it has
become a terminal cancer and professional suicide.
Loyalty is the complete
support and defense of a leader. There are several reasons why it should be
1. Respect for the work.
A few days ago I received a call from a pastor whose church operates a grade
school and a high school. This pastor told me a sad story about his
principal becoming disloyal. He had gone from class to class announcing his
resignation and giving the reasons why he was leaving.
Many years ago this pastor
bought some property and began a church. He cleared off the property with
his own hands and with blood, sweat and toil. Over many years he had seen
the church, under his leadership, grow to a membership of several thousand,
while the school had grown to an enrollment of several hundred. The pastor
then employed this principal. The pastor gave to the principal the buildings
which he had helped to build with his own hands, pupils whom he had won to
Christ, supplies and equipment purchased with money that he had raised and
much of which he had sacrificially given. Hence, the principal assumed
responsibility over children whom he had not won in buildings he had not
built using equipment he had not purchased. He had no moral right to damage
the work on the altar of his own hurt feelings. If and when he felt he could
no longer work happily in the situation, he should have courteously resigned
and never offered or listened to any criticism of the pastor.
2. Respect for success.
When one is a follower to a successful leader, the very success of that
leader should command loyalty. For example, I am on the board of the SWORD
OF THE LORD, a weekly publication edited by Dr. Curtis Hutson. I have been
on this board for many years. Now suppose that I disagree with Dr. Hutson on
some issue. I feel and have always felt that as a member of the board I
should prefer his feelings above my own. I have never edited a newspaper; he
has been an editor for many years. His success measured by the one third of
a million subscribers, or by almost any other criterion, should lead the
wise follower to have complete confidence in the wisdom of the leader.
It is amazing how that in this
revolutionary generation young people who have never built a chicken coop
rebel against master builders, who have never led a squad think they can
lead an army, who have never had a savings account think they can run a
bank, and who have never been a dog catcher think they can improve the
presidency, have absolutely no respect for success!
At this writing I know of a
young man who has just assumed the responsibility of becoming principal of a
school operated by a church and led by a pastor who founded the school, was
its first principal and has overseen the work for years. This young man who
is fresh out of college feels that the diploma he holds in his hands has
given him the right and equipment to know more about Christian education
than this pastor of many years' experience. He is manifesting a disloyalty
which is disgraceful. Someone in school should have taught him "Loyalty
13:1, "and if for no other reason, this loyalty should be manifested because
of respect for the success of the pastor. He should be seeking the pastor's
counsel instead of shunning it. He should be asking for the pastor's counsel
instead of abhorring it.
3. Respect for knowledge.
There are some things that the leader knows that no one else can know. This
not only pertains to facts, talent, etc., but it also pertains to knowledge
of people and circumstances which he, for obvious reasons, cannot divulge to
the followers. In other words, the follower does not always have all of the
facts. There are some things that only a leader can know. Hence, it may
appear to the follower that the leader is taking a wrong course of action,
causing the follower to oppose him vehemently However, if the follower knew
the facts that the leader cannot divulge to him, he would no doubt arrive at
the same conclusion to which the leader has arrived. This means that the
follower should trust the leader even if his judgment seems unwise,
realizing that the leader possesses many facts that only he knows and that
if he, the follower, were acquainted with the entire case, he would probably
arrive at the same conclusion.
If, for any reason, the follower
cannot give this trust and confidence to the leader, he should never under
any condition rebel or revolt. He should very quietly and ethically tiptoe
out. He has no right whatsoever to talk to anyone about his differences with
the leader, and he should leave without causing as much as a ripple on the
4. Respect for the system.To
be sure, we are all human beings stranded on a planet whirling through
space. Since there is no one here but us, we have to govern ourselves. This
means we have to choose leaders who will govern us. This is why in our
system a country has a king or a president, a state has a governor, a city
has a mayor, a family has a father, a church has a pastor, and an employee
has a boss. Someone must be at the top. The system itself should require
loyalty from the follower to the leader. When this system breaks down,
anarchy follows the breakdown, and chaos follows the anarchy. This is why we
are reminded again and again in the Bible to respect our leaders, obey those
who are over us and follow those who lead us. Oftentimes the leader is not
of God, but the system is of God and the position is of God. This is why God
admonishes children to obey their parents, servants to obey their masters,
wives to obey their husbands, citizens to obey their governments, etc. The
system is God's plan. We must not rebel against it.
5. Respect for your future.
Disloyal followers are seldom given loyal followers when they become
leaders. Disloyal followers make poor leaders.
I have known hundreds of
assistant pastors, music directors and education directors to be disloyal
and to cause trouble in the church by trying to unseat the pastor or spread
rumors about him. I have known very few who have won, and in practically
every case, the damage to the disloyal follower is far greater than the
damage to the criticized leader. Criticism always hurts the critic more than
the criticized. Hatred always hurts the hater more than the hated. Gossip
always hurts the gossiper more than the one about whom he gossips. The
disloyal follower always stands to lose more than he takes from, the accused
There is also a law of sowing
and reaping. In the Bible we are reminded that everything is reproduced
after its own kind. Over and over again in the book of Genesis we find
everything has in itself its own seed to bring forth its own kind. Ibis is
true not only in the physical but also in the emotional, in the personality
and in the character. The pastor who criticizes other pastors will have
people who criticize him. The teacher who criticizes the principal will have
pupils who criticize him. God has a way of "letting our chickens come home
Not only does the subordinate
usually lose, but he is also forming a habit of being disloyal that will
hound him the rest of his life. Look at Abraham and Lot. Lot and his
herdsmen became disloyal to Abraham. Lot chose for himself the best land,
but look at the life of heartache that followed. I have lived long enough to
see how battles turn out. I have watched young men become disloyal to
leaders. I have watched these young men become middle aged men. I have
scrutinized their careers carefully When as a follower one is disloyal, he
is usually as a leader suspicious of those who work under him, for he has
developed a life pattern which leads to failure and stifles success.
It has also been interesting
through the years to watch the development of the children of disloyal
people. It is interesting, tragic and almost unbelievable to see how
disloyalty in the life of a parent affects the children. Through the years I
have made surveys of the children of people who have become disloyal and
have left churches that I have pastored. In not one case has a single child
gone into full-time service for God, and in most cases, they have become
adults who do not even attend church. A part of this is because of their
secret and maybe even subconscious disgust for the disloyal parents. Part of
it is because the kind of churches chosen later by these people does not
turn out the best product. A part of it is God's judgment and the law of
sowing and reaping doing its work.
6. Respect for the unsaved.
When Abraham and Lot and their herdsmen had trouble, there is a statement
which is brief but arresting which says simply, "And the Canaanite and the
Perizzite dwelled then in the land." (Genesis 13:7b) In other words, others
saw the strife. They heard the bickering. They observed the disloyalty. One
wonders how many people will spend eternity in Hell because of disloyalty
which results in bickering, gossip, slander, criticism, vindication,
retaliation and other traits spawned in Hell by Lucifer and his angels.
Treatment of Those Who Have Qualities That Are
Genesis 13:5-11, "And Lot also,
which went with Abram, had flocks, and herds, and tents. And the land was
not able to bear them, that they might dwell together: for their substance
was great, so that they could not dwell together. And there was strife
between the herdmen of Abram's cattle and the herdmen of Lot's cattle: and
the Canaanite and the Perizzite dwelled then in the land. And Abram said
unto Lot, Let there be no strife, I pray thee, between me and thee, and
between my herdmen and thy herdmen; for we be brethren. Is not the whole
land before thee? separate thyself, I pray thee, from me: if thou wilt take
the left hand, then I will go to the right; or if thou depart to the right
hand, then I will go to the left. And Lot lifted up his eyes, and beheld all
the plain of Jordan, that it was well watered every where, before the Lord
destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah, even as the garden of the Lord, like the land
of Egypt, as thou comest unto Zoar. Then Lot chose him all the plain of
Jordan; and Lot journeyed east: and they separated themselves the one from
Romans 16:17, "Now I beseech
you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the
doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them."
As is often said on these pages,
faithful fundamentalist people are interwoven into a family like situation
for many hours a week. Now any two people who are closely associated will
have qualities that irritate each other. There are some people who leave a
ring around the bathtub. Others leave the pickle jar lid unscrewed. Still
others squeeze the toothpaste from the top of the tube. In our fundamental
churches we are going to find habits and qualities in other people that are
irritating to us. In our effort to keep peace, we must find ways to prevent
this irritation. Of necessity, this happens in homes, churches, jobs, school
and at play. In order for peace to prevail and unity to reign, this problem
must be solved, as follows:
1. Do not rely on doing
better. Especially is this true in the case of adults. Fire and gasoline
will always explode when united. The gasoline can vow to do better, and the
fire can promise to improve, but it will not be done; explosion is
inevitable. Oil and water will never mix. Oil may promise to mix with water,
and water may make a resolution to mix with oil, but they will never mix.
Because of this, it is usually best for other measures to be taken.
2. Discover what it is about
you that irritates your friend and what it is about your friend that
irritates you. Face it with frank reality.
3. Stay away from
circumstances that cause this irritation. Abraham was Lot's uncle. When
Abraham left the Ur of the Chaldees, he took his nephew with hi m and reared
him as if he were his own son. When a famine came in the land, Abraham took
his family to Egypt. There he and Lot both became wealthy, and as is often
the case, their wealth caused problems between them. Their employees began
to war with each other. Something had to be done! Abraham approached Lot and
suggested that Lot choose whatever land he wanted for himself Abraham then
agreed to take what was left. He was simply saying, "Lot, let's not allow
strife between us. Let us alleviate that which causes the strife. It is best
that we not own the same land and share the same property. Let us circumvent
the circumstances that cause the friction and the things that are irritants
to each of us. In other words, let us stay away from what irritates us and
causes us trouble."
There are some people that you
can work with, but you cannot play with them. In such cases, do work
together, but do not play together.
Then there are some people with
whom you can play but with whom you cannot work. In such cases, have social
life with them, but do not bear the yoke of work together.
There are some people that you
can be with for a short time but not for a long time. To be together for
awhile is pleasant and delightful, but after awhile irritation comes. In
such cases, discover how long you can be together before a problem arises,
and limit yourself to that amount of time.
There are some people with whom
certain subjects cause strife and stress. In such cases, avoid those
subjects. Recently I was fellowshipping with a young man. We probably agree
on most everything, but there is one subject about which we cannot agree. We
were having a wonderful time. Then he brought up the subject. I suggested
that since we were having such a good time together we not allow ourselves
to enter into an area where we disagree. He agreed that we should stay
within the boundaries of those things and not to enter into that subject
which would cause us irritation.
There are certain people who
make certain statements that irritate us. Discover those statements and
avoid them. Far too many of us want to irritate each other, and at certain
times in order to do so, we will use statements that we know will cause
I know one man who, when he is
angry at his wife, inevitably uses the statement, "You are just like your
mother!" He knows that that statement will hurt his wife, and when he wants
to hurt her, he uses it. Why should any of us want to hurt any of the rest
of us! In order for churches to stay united, its members need to use extra
care not to say things that will cause another to hurt.
There are some people who work
better when communication is by memo, and there are others who work better
when communication is by conversation. The wise person will learn the
preferences of his friend and act wisely.
There are some things that two
people cannot share. The wise people will discover them and avoid them.
Years ago when our children were small, Mrs. Hyles and I took the children
to visit their maternal grandparents. At that time we lived only about 20
miles from them, and one night a week we went over to their house for a
meal. One evening while we were there, I became a little nauseated. I went
to Mrs. Hyles' mother, whom we call MaMaw Slaughter, and said, "MaMaw, I'm
not feeling well. Do you have any Alka Seltzer?"
She said that she did not.
I said, "I always thought you
kept Alka Seltzer."
She said, "Well, I'm out now." I
don't know why, but I had some suspicion that she was not telling me the
truth. A while later I was in the kitchen and I saw a bottle of Alka Seltzer
on the windowsill. I went to the other room and told MaMaw. I reminded her
that I had asked her if she had any Alka Seltzer and that she had told me
that she had not. Then I told her that I had seen those in the kitchen.
She replied, "Oh, those are
PaPaw's (her husband's)." I then learned that they had had some disagreement
about how tight the lid should be placed on Alka Seltzer bottles, so in
order to prevent being irritated with each other, they had decided that each
would have his own bottle of Alka Seltzers.
At first thought, one may think
that this is being a little picky, but I like it! They did not want to fuss
or irritate each other. They had found one area that caused friction, and
they had circumvented that area. They detoured around the Alka Seltzers in
order to avoid tension between themselves.
When our children were small,
Mrs. Hyles and I had some difference of opinion in how we should discipline
them. (Of course, I was right!) This could have caused real friction, but we
detoured around the friction and agreed that when one of us was disciplining
the children, the other would leave the room. Many times one of us would be
disciplining the children and the other would take a walk around the block
or go out in the yard for a few minutes. This kept me from having to witness
her excessive leniency, and it kept her from having to witness the execution
when I was the disciplinarian.
There are some people who are
strongly opinionated. Occasionally two such people marry or two such people
share the same bus route or are on the same staff. When strongly opinionated
people share in the same work, it is usually best for the opinion not to be
expressed. Once again, we are circumventing areas of friction and tension.
It is usually best for people
who are together a lot not to speak often of ailments. To most people,
constant complaining about a headache, a toothache, weariness, etc. is
irritating. If such is the case, people would be wise to suffer alone rather
than to fight together. The wise people will find those conditions,
circumstances and habits that gender strife between them and avoid them.
The wise teacher will eliminate
the exposure of unnecessary things that are irritating to the students.
Likewise, the wise husband, wife, father, mother, son, daughter, coach,
athlete, pastor, staff members, employer, employee and friends in all areas
of life will be careful to avoid those events, times, subjects, activities
and words which can do nothing but harm.
Maybe the couple should have two
Alka Seltzer bottles or two ketchup bottles. Perhaps they should agree not
to watch the other discipline the children. Care should be taken to find the
things that are irritating. Ask each other. Be frank with each other.
Instead of scolding one another because of an idiosyncrasy and instead of
giving accusations of stubbornness, why not try to avoid the things that
To be sure, there should be a
constant effort by both parties to correct the things that cause a problem,
but until that correction is complete, the irritants should be avoided. This
is what Abraham did.
Treatment of Your Friends' Enemies
Let it be established first,
however, that kindness should be exerted to everybody, but let it also be
established that though we are not to defend ourselves when attacked, we
are, however, to defend our friends when they are attacked. This is to be
done only in defense of our friends.
1. You will not criticize my
friend in my presence. In fact, I will ask you not to be critical at all
in my presence, but I definitely will not remain with you if you are
criticizing my friend. I will ask you to cease the criticism, or I will
remove myself from your presence.
Several years ago I was sharing
a taxicab with a well known preacher who began to criticize my friend, John
R. Rice. Immediately I asked the taxi driver to stop, and in plain words I
defended my friend and warned his attacker.
I was prevailed upon in a
southern city to eat out after a service one night. The pastor, the other
guest speaker, the guest soloist, two of my friends and I were sitting
around the table when suddenly the singer spoke an unkind word about one of
my friends who was not present. Immediately I said, "That isn't so! You are
talking about my friend, and he isn't that kind of a person, and I will not
sit here and listen to you attack him!" I will not retaliate if you attack
me, but I will not allow you in my presence to attack those whom I love.
2. I will not socialize with
the enemies of my friends. I will not be unkind to them as long as they
sheathe their swords, but I will not socialize with them. I will feed them
if they are hungry; I will clothe them if they are cold; I will put shoes on
their bare feet, but I will not socialize with them. I do not require my
friends to follow the same policy, nor do I ask my friends to assume my
enemies, but my in-evocable policy is to love those who are enemies to my
friends, to help them if they need help, but not to enter into a social time
For many years Dr. John Rice and
I traveled often together. We shared pulpits across America at least once a
month, sometimes twice a month, and on rare occasions three or four times a
month. I was his friend.
For a number of years we had
preached together at the same church. Then the time came when the pastor
made an attack against Dr. Rice. The pastor was a good man and his attack
was not vicious, but nevertheless, it was an attack. Dr. Rice was no longer
welcome to preach in his pulpit. Because of this, I refused to return to
that church when I was invited the next time. The pastor asked for my
reason. I explained to him that John Rice is my friend, and that if he did
not choose to have John Rice, I would still come; but when he chooses to
attack John Rice and then decide not to have him again, I would not come. I
explained to him that this policy would be in effect until such time when he
would have Dr. Rice and me come back together for a meeting. To the credit
of that good man, not many months passed until he realized what he should
do. He wrote me and told me that he would have Dr. Rice to return. Dr. Rice
and I did return to his church and preach together again. From that day
until the day that John Rice went to Heaven, he and this pastor were dear
friends. Now I never chose to fight this beloved pastor, nor did I explain
to anyone anywhere the position that I was taking. I certainly did not
become his enemy; I just simply could not preach in his pulpit until his
attack against my friend was withdrawn and reconciliation was sought. If,
during this time, this dear pastor would have had a need of which I knew, I
would have been among the first to come to his side, but I would not have
socialized with him because I wanted my friendship to be obvious to my
Maybe Peter was right when he
rose to the defense of Jesus at the time of betrayal, and certainly Jesus
was right when he replaced the ear of his enemy.
Several years ago one of our
parking lot attendants was helping park cars in the church parking lot. It
was the evening of the Hammond Baptist High School commencement exercises. A
guest got out of his car and, while walking past the attendant, cursed me.
My parking lot attendant instinctively "decked" the man. Now I told my
friend that he shouldn't have done what he did, but under my breath I
couldn't help but smile a bit not because I wanted someone hurt, but because
I appreciated the zeal of my friend in defending his pastor, even though his
zeal was perhaps somewhat misguided.
Maybe Abishai was right when he
drew his sword in defense of his friend King David, and certainly David was
right when he told Abishai to sheathe his sword.
3. When both the attacker and
the attacked are my friends and I am theirs, I defend the accused.
Jonathan was certainly a loyal son to his father, King Saul. He was likewise
a loyal friend to David. When King Saul attacked David, Jonathan was not
defending David against Saul; he was defending the attacked. I have no doubt
in my mind but that had David attacked Saul, Jonathan would have defended
Saul as quickly as he defended David when Saul had attacked him.
I have many wonderful staff
members, and have had many wonderful people work for me through these 40
years of pastoring. Occasionally, however, one of my staff members will
become critical of another staff member. I always defend the one who is the
accused. I do not know if the accused has done what the accuser said he did,
so I do not know of the innocence or guilt of the accused. However, I DO
know of the guilt of the accuser, because it is wrong to accuse.
I was preaching on the subject
of false accusations. During the message I reminded my people that if they
falsely accuse someone, they are doing the work of the Devil, because he is
a false accuser, when suddenly a truth hit me of which I had never thought
before! The Devil is not a false accuser; he is a true accuser! He accuses
me to God and tells Him of my weaknesses, and what he says is true. So, when
I enter into true accusation, I am wrong and I am entering into the work of
the evil one.
I was in a hotel room with two
of my preacher friends, both are well known, famous preachers. They asked me
if I had heard rumors about a certain preacher who also was well known and
famous. I immediately answered that I had not heard such rumors and that I
would not listen to them, and I defended the absent brother vigorously To
the credit of the two men who were being critical, they both apologized and
admitted that their words were unwise, and they vowed not to speak them
I was in a certain city
preaching. As soon as the pastor and I got in the car to leave the airport,
he began to tell me of a friend who had gone astray. Before he could tell me
what had happened, I requested that he refrain from doing so. He insisted on
telling me. I asked him then to stop the car and let me out. I told him that
I was going to take the next plane right back to Chicago, and that I was not
going to listen to criticism of my friend.
Quite often when I am preaching
somewhere, a layman in the church will approach me about his pastor. Not
only do I defend the pastor, but I will not listen to the criticism.
In summary, I am not to fight my
enemy; I am to love him, pray for him, bless him and do good to him. I will
assume my friends' enemies, though I will not require them to do the same to
mine. If the accused is my friend and the accuser is my friend, and I am the
friend of both, I will defend the accused. I will not socialize with enemies
of my friends, though I will be unkind to no one.
Treatment of Enemies (1)
A Sermon Preached
on a Sunday Evening at the First
Baptist Church of Hammond, Indiana
Mark 8:27-33, "And Jesus went
out, and His disciples, into the towns of Caesarea Philippi: and by the way
He asked His disciples, saying unto them, Whom do men say that I am? And
they answered, John the Baptist: but some say, Elias; and others, One of the
prophets. And He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am? And Peter
answereth and saith unto Him, Thou art the Christ. And He charged them that
they should tell no man of Him. And He began to teach them, that the Son of
man must suffer many things, and be rejected of the elders, and of the chief
priests, and scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. And He
spake that saying openly. And Peter took Him, and began to rebuke Him. But
when He had turned about and looked on His disciples, He rebuked Peter,
saying, Get thee behind me, Satan: for thou savourest not the things that be
of God, but the things that be of men."
Matthew 26:47-50, "And while He
yet spake, lo, Judas, one of the twelve, came, and with him a great
multitude with swords and staves, from the chief priests and elders of the
people. Now he that betrayed Him gave them a sign, saying, Whomsoever I
shall kiss, that same is He: hold Him fast. And forthwith he came to Jesus,
and saith, Hail, master; and kissed Him. And Jesus said unto him, Friend,
wherefore art thou come? Then came they, and laid hands on Jesus, and took
Enemies of Forty Years
"And whosoever shall compel thee
to go a mile, go with him twain. Give to him that asketh thee, and from him
that would borrow of thee turn not thou away. Ye have heard that it hath
been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say
unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that
hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;
that ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for He maketh
His sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just
and on the unjust. For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye?
do not even the publicans the same? And if ye salute your brethren only,
what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so? Be ye therefore
perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect." (Matthew
Tonight I want to speak on a
very unusual subject. I want to speak on the subject, "To My Enemies of
Forty Years." I want you to think of your enemies as I think of those people
who for forty years have come and gone and been enemies of this preacher.
"Our Heavenly Father, I pray
tonight You would help us to enter into New Testament Christianity. Help us
to be Christians in the New Testament sense. Give us, I pray, the attention
of all the people tonight. Amen."
Tonight I would like to address
a group of people that are scattered across many miles, people I'm sure some
of whom live in every state of the union. Tonight I would like to address a
group of people who are not only scattered across many miles but across many
years. Forty years as a preacher of the Gospel I have lived with the
awareness that some people hate me. I have lived with the awareness that
this hatred is nationwide and almost in every state of the union. Tonight I
would like to address those who are my enemies, not those who are in this
room. No preacher has more people who are kind and gracious to him than I
do! I do not feel at all that the people in this room need what I am going
to say, but I was in east Texas recently, and I got to thinking while I was
there for a couple of days about my young ministry and I got to thinking
about some of the people in east Texas who are my enemies. As I flew into
the Dallas-Fort Worth airport, I got to looking down and thinking of people
in the great Dallas-Fort Worth area who were my enemies. Tonight I would
like to address all of those people who for forty years have been my
enemies. Some will hear me from Heaven. Others will hear me on tape as they
hear this sermon played. Still others will hear by word of mouth, and maybe
perchance, there are some in this room tonight.
What I will say tonight can be
summarized by these words: I thank God for my enemies! I thank God for those
who for all these years have been my enemies. No, I do not say that I enjoy
having enemies, and I think it is easier thanking God for my friends, and I
do thank God for my friends. No one has been blessed with as many close,
dear precious friends as this preacher. Nobody has ever pastored a church of
people who are more thoughtful than are the people of this church, and no
preacher ever hears the words, "I love you," or reads the words, "I love
you," more than I do. No preacher has a finer group of people.
Not only do I have many
wonderful friends in this church, but all over America and all over the
world God has given me a group of people who love me and who are my friends.
Almost everywhere I go people say, "Look at all that hair!" and words of
affection and "hurt." Almost everywhere I go, people walk up and say, "Show
us your muscle," and some even say, "Reverend Boopsie-Woopsie!" It is almost
cultish. I mean by that, there is almost a loyalty around the nation of
literally hundreds of thousands of people to this church. This church is the
headquarters of fundamentalism in America. I mean old-fashioned, Hell-fire
and brimstone, rock-rib, black-is-black, white-is-white, the Bible is the
Word of God, "Ye must be born again," separated- from-the-world
fundamentalism! This church is the headquarters of it in this nation. No
doubt about it! People look to us. I thank God tonight, not only for the
dear friends that I have here for whom and with whom I have labored these
many years, but I thank God tonight for that great legion of friends all
over the nation and around the world.
Tonight, however, I want to turn
from that crowd of loyal people who love me. I want to thank God tonight for
another group of people. I want to thank God for my enemies for these forty
years. I speak to you as a group, you in Heaven, and I think there are a few
of you who didn't quite make it! I thank God tonight for my enemies. Now I
speak to all of you, both to you who hear me from Heaven, to you who hear me
on tape and perchance to you who hear me in this room tonight, though I do
not know who you are.
At first you surprised me. I did
not know in those early days that you existed. I wasn't expecting you. I'll
be quite frank with you, when I entered the ministry I did not know that
preachers had enemies. I was a young man. I was naive. I remember when the
first of you came to me in east Texas, I did not know how to react. I did
not know the Scriptures, "Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do
good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you."
"Whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also."
"If any man take away thy coat, let him have thy cloke also." I did not know
these Scriptures. I'll be quite frank with you. In those early days I did
not know the Scriptural way to react to you, my enemies. I'm afraid in those
early days I often fought you back, and I'm sorry. I'm afraid in those early
days I even preached against you from the pulpit, and I'm sorry. I'm afraid
in those early days I did not turn the other cheek, and I'm sorry. I'm
afraid in those early days I did not bless you when you cursed me, and I'm
sorry. I'm afraid in those early days I did not love you when you hated me,
and I'm sorry. I'm afraid in those early days I did not pray for you when
you despitefully used me, and I'm sorry.
The other day I was asked at a
question answer session, "Dr. Hyles, if you had your life to live over
again, can you think of any changes you'd make?"
I said quickly, "Yes, I can
think of one. If I had my life to live over again I'd like to take back some
of the things I said to my enemies many years ago. I would like to take back
some of the things I did to my enemies many years ago. If I had my life to
live over, I would like to live over some of those days when I did not know
that the Bible teaches me to love those that hate me, to do good to those
that do evil to me, to bless those that curse me, and to pray for those that
despitefully use me. If I had my life to live over, I'd like to live over
the early days of my ministry when I retaliated, when I sought revenge. I
was sincere; God knows that I was, but I did not understand it, and so I'd
like to say this tonight to my enemies of over 40 years of my ministry: I
have not always enjoyed you, but tonight I thank God for you.
Thank you for hating me, for had
you not hated me I could never have obeyed God's command to love those that
hate me. Thank you for cursing me, for had you not cursed me I could not
have obeyed the command of God to bless those that curse me. Thank you for
despitefully using me, for had you not despitefully used me, I could not
have prayed for those who despitefully use me. Thank you for smiting me, my
enemies, for had you not smitten me, I could not have turned the other
cheek. Thank you for taking my coat, for had you not taken my coat I could
not have heeded the admonition of the Scripture, "If any man take away thy
coat, let him have thy cloke also." Thank you for making me go a mile, for
had you not forced me to go a mile, I could not have gone two miles with
you. May I say this. That is what I've done for 24 years. I have not always
turned the other cheek, but I have for 24 years. I have not always blessed
those that curse me, but I have for 24 years. I have not always loved those
that hated me, but I have for 24 years. I am not lying to you. I'd rather
die now than lie behind the sacred desk. I may sometimes tell you something
that's not true, but not to my knowledge. I would rather die tonight than to
stand behind this pulpit and tell you something that isn't true. I say this
tonight with one hand on this Book and my heart laid bare, for 24 years I
have not had bitterness in my heart toward anybody. For 24 years I have not
hated anybody. For 24 years I have tried to love those that hate me, I have
prayed for those that despitefully use me, and I have blessed those that
curse me. I do not claim to have apprehended. I do not claim even to be a
good Christian, but I do say this: On my face in a little hospital room in
Dyer, Indiana, when our little girl
Linda was at the brink of death, I got on my knees and
I promised God that I would love my enemies from that day until this.
Tonight I want to thank my
enemies. I want to thank God for you because you have caused me to have the
opportunity to obey the command of my Lord in my relationship with you. I'm
sorry that before 24 years ago I often smote you back. I'm sorry that before
24 years ago I maybe wanted to smite you back. I'm sorry for the six months
of bitterness I had toward you when I was about 30 years of age. In one of
the darkest hours of my life when I thought my ministry was gone, I became
bitter, and for six months of my life bitterness filled my soul when I was
about 30 years of age. I apologize tonight to my enemies for allowing
bitterness to come into my heart, because if I'm bitter toward you, it is
not you who loses; it is I who lose! If I shoot you, the bullet boomerangs
and hits me also. I am sorry that on occasion when you hated me, I hated
you. I am sorry that on occasion when you wronged me, I wronged you. I am
sorry that on occasion when you did me evil, I did you evil back.
From the moment 24 years ago I
knelt in Dyer Mercy Hospital on the third floor of a little dark hospital
room and said, "Dear God, take this bitterness out of my heart," until this
moment, I have never harbored bitterness in my heart toward anybody, and
there is not a human who lives tonight, not a one, but if he stabs me in the
breast I'll take the knife and give it back to him and buy him a new knife
if he needs it. There is not a man in this world whom I wouldn't feed
tonight if he were hungry. There is not a person living tonight whom I would
not clothe if he were naked. There is not a person living tonight whom I
would not help if he needed help.
I'm simply saying tonight, thank
God for my enemies, for I would not have known to love you if I had not had
you. I could not have turned the other cheek had you not smitten one. I
could not have blessed you had you not cursed me. There is no preacher alive
who is criticized more than I am. I do not know why Maybe it's because of
the size of the church; I do not know why. I refuse tonight to live with
revenge in my heart. I refuse tonight to live with vengeance in my soul. I
refuse tonight to curse those that curse me and hate those that hate me. I
refuse! I cannot make you love me, but you cannot keep me from loving you. I
wish I could show you my heart. I often feel when I am preaching around the
country that I would like to take this little pocket knife which I always
carry (I'm a Switchblader from Hammond City Baptist High School) and cut my
heart open and let you see it. You would find a heart of love. That's the
truth. My sword is sheathed. My tongue is bridled. My guns are stacked. My
arsenal is empty. My quiver is bare.
I speak to my enemies all over
the world tonight. I cannot criticize you, and I will not knowingly hurt
you. If I had David's sword at the cave where thou art sleeping, I would not
smite thee. In these 24 years I have not allowed others to speak ill of thee
in my presence. I have not asked my friends to shun thee. I desire my
friends to be your friends, even though you are my enemy I do not say that
you are all bad because you are my enemies. No doubt I have on occasion
deserved you. Perhaps I have left the wrong impression at times, or perhaps
you did not totally understand. And though I have never wanted you to be my
enemy, I have always needed you. Without thee, I would not have known God as
well. You have allowed me to spend more time with Him and for us to get to
know each other better. You have taught me to love those that hate me. Thank
you for teaching me. You have taught me to pray for those that despitefully
use me. You have taught me to bless those that curse me. Thank you for
making it possible. I am grateful. Though I have not totally been able to
rejoice and be exceeding glad as I am commanded to in the Scriptures, I am
grateful, and I love you.
If you desire an enemy, you must
look elsewhere. If you desire a fight, I will not oblige you. If you hate
me, I will love you back, and you can't keep me from it! You curse me, and I
will bless you back, and you can't keep me from it. You take my coat, and
I'll give you my cloke, and you can't keep me from it. You smite me, and
I'll turn the other cheek, and you can't keep me from it.
You say, Preacher, how is this
possible? How is it possible for you to speak to hordes of enemies over 40
years around the world and say to people that hate you, "I love you"? How
could you say to people that curse you, "I'll bless you"? How could you say
to people who despitefully use you, "I'll pray for you"? How could you say
to people who have smitten your cheek, "I'll turn the other cheek"? How
could you sheathe your sword and stack your arms and bridle your tongue and
empty your arsenal and bare your quiver? How could you do it?
This is how. You see, I once did
evil to a Man myself. I once took a hammer and drove nails into a Man's
hands. You have not done to me what I've done to a Man. I once said,
"Crucify Him! Crucify Him!" I once delivered Him to the hands of an angry
mob. I once placed the kiss of betrayal on His brow. I once stood and warmed
my feet by the fire and followed from afar as they took the lovely Lord away
to Calvary. I took the cat-o'-nine tails in my hand and beat His back beyond
recognition. I joined the crowd that said, "Release Barabbas! Release
Barabbas! Crucify Jesus! Crucify Him! Crucify Him!" My voice joined that
crowd, and my sin put Him naked at the mercy of the scourges. I held the
coats of those who nailed His hands and feet to the cross. I put nails in
His hands. I put nails in His feet. I put a crown of thorns on His brow. I
put a spear in His side. I mocked Him, treated Him as a mock king and put a
sign over Him that said, "THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS!" I did it, and while
I did it, He opened His mouth and said, "Father, forgive them; for they know
not what they do."
If He Who knew no sin could
forgive me who is sin, I can forgive you, my brother sinner. If He Whose
feet never walked a crooked path, Whose mind never had an evil thought,
Whose hands never did an evil deed, Whose heart never had an evil motive,
Whose lips never spoke an evil word, if He after I have crucified Him could
say, "Father forgive him, he knows not what he does," I do not understand to
save my life why those of us sinners saved by His grace have to harbor ill
will toward each other.
But He did more than that! He
forgave me, and He justified me! He pronounced me as if I had never sinned,
and though I was a part and parcel in crucifying Him, and though these hands
drove nails in His and though this tongue and this sin from body, life,
heart and mind put Him on the cross, not only did He forgive me, but when I
trusted Him, He erased from His judicial record in glory every sin I ever
"I'm justified! I'm happy in
The sins I've committed, they're
all in the past;
They've all been forgiven, and
He holds me fast!
I'm justified! I'm justified!
I'm happy in Jesus today."
That isn't all He did! Not only
did He forgive me, and not only did He justify me, but He saved me! He wrote
my name in the Book of Life! He delivered me from the fires of Hell! Tonight
He is preparing a home in the Gloryland, where I can live forever, not
because I am righteous, for I am not! I am unrighteous! I'm a sinner saved
by His grace, forgiven by His love, justified by His justice, saved by His
mercy, redeemed by His blood, indwelt by His Spirit, led by His Word, saved
by His Son and headed for Heaven by His amazing grace! I didn't deserve a
bit of it! You are looking tonight at a man who deserves to go to Hell. I am
looking at thousands of folks tonight who deserve to bum in Hell. I don't
understand it. If He could forgive us after all we've done to Him, then we
ought to forgive each other for what mistakes others have made toward us.
I always wanted to go to the
Holy Land. (Not many folks want to go now they're chicken!) I always wanted
to go to the place where they took His little body and wrapped it in
swaddling clothes and laid Him in a manger. I always wanted to go to the
place where He knelt and prayed on the mountain. I always wanted to go to
the place where He was baptized in Jordan. I always wanted to go to the
place where He turned the water into wine. I always wanted to go to the
place where He fed the 5,000. I always wanted to go to the place where He
was tried wrongly in Pilate's Hall. I always wanted to go to the place where
He was crucified--Calvary! I always wanted to see the empty tomb! (I did
see, and the tomb is empty!) I always wanted to go. I dreamed of going.
Finally one year we got to go. We went the first time with a Bob Jones tour.
There were about 23 of us, I think, on the tour. We stopped in Paris, but I
wanted to see Calvary. We stopped in Rome, but I wanted to see Calvary. We
stopped in Greece, but I wanted to see Calvary. We saw the Parthenon, but I
wanted to see Calvary. We saw Corinth, but I wanted to see Calvary. We saw
the Colosseum, but I wanted to see Calvary. We saw the catacombs, but I
wanted to see Calvary. We went to Egypt and saw the pyramids, but I wanted
to see Calvary. We saw the tombs of the kings, but I wanted to see Calvary.
We saw the museum of Egypt with King Tut's possessions displayed, but I
wanted to see Calvary. We saw the sphinx, but I wanted to see Calvary. We
went to the Promised Land. I walked one day where Jesus walked. We saw the
place where He was baptized, and I baptized several people in the Jordan
River while a crowd on the bank sang, "On Jordan's stormy banks I stand and
cast a wishful eye, to Canaan's fair and happy land where my possessions
lie." We went to the Sea of Galilee. We saw that hill where He preached His
sermon to the 5,000 and multiplied the loaves and fishes and fed them
miraculously. We saw the synagogue in Capernaum, where Peter attended when
he was growing up. We went to Bethlehem and sang, "0 little town of
Bethlehem, how still we see thee lie!"
Then one day we went to Calvary!
It is a little place. There is a bus station now at the bottom of that
little hill, but there was none there then. It is a hill that looks just
like a face. It is sort of an embankment. It is not very high. I do not
think it is as high as this auditorium. On top there is a cemetery. There
are layers of stone, and you can see two places that probably represent
sunken eyes and a place that looks like a mouth and the place above the eyes
that looks like the place of a skull. We knelt. I had always dreamed of
I had sung as a child, "Years I
spent in vanity and pride, caring not my Lord was crucified, knowing not it
was for me He died on Calvary." I had sung, "On a hill far away, stood an
old rugged cross, the emblem of suffering and shame." I had sung, "At the
cross, at the cross, where I first saw the light, and the burden of my heart
rolled away," and finally I was there! I looked at Calvary, weeping
uncontrollably! People left, but I couldn't leave! I was there alone! All of
our crowd had gone back and gotten on the bus, but I couldn't go! That is
where it happened! That is where my sin debt was paid! That is where my
Saviour died! That's it! I began to sing and cry and cry and sing!
I can still see Dr. Bob Jones,
Jr., coming back a little upset with me. He said, "Dr. Hyles, we've got to
go! Everyone is waiting on you!"
I said, "I can't go yet! I can't
I told that story once, and
someone asked me what I was thinking about as I looked at Calvary. This is
what I said: "I thought, 'If He could do that for me, I don't ever want to
hate anybody again as long as I live! I don't ever want to speak unkindly
about anybody as long as I live!' "
Ladies and gentlemen, you have
enemies like I have. There are those who would do you ill, and those who
have and will try to do you ill, but my Bible tells me to love them, and
your Bible tells you to love them. My Bible tells me to bless them, and your
Bible tells you to bless them. My Bible tells me to pray for them, and your
Bible tells you to pray for them.
I wish tonight every person in
this room could lie down to rest and sing, "Nothing between my soul and the
Saviour, naught of this world's delusive dream."
Treatment of Enemies (2)
In an institution as complex in
its program as the fundamental New Testament church (which is composed of
frail humanity) it is almost impossible for one to escape the distasteful
position of having enemies. As we mingle within this little society within a
society called the New Testament church, most if not all of us will accrue
people who are our enemies. Though the sermon that you have just read covers
much of the information and method of dealing with such people, it is
perhaps wise that we enlarge at least somewhat upon it.
Romans 12:14, "Bless them which
persecute you: bless, and curse not."
Romans 12:17-21, "Recompense to
no man evil for evil. Provide things honest in the sight of all men. If it
be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men. Dearly
beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is
written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord. Therefore if thine
enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou
shalt heap coals of fire on his head. Be not overcome of evil, but overcome
evil with good."
Matthew 5:4347, "Ye have heard
that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy.
But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to
them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and
persecute you; that ye may be the children of your Father which is in
heaven: for He maketh His sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and
sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. For if ye love them which love
you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same? And if ye
salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the
I Corinthians 6:7, "Now
therefore there is utterly a fault among you, because ye go to law one with
another. Why do ye not rather take wrong? why do ye not rather suffer
yourselves to be defrauded?"
From these and other passages we
arrive at the following conclusions:
1. We are to love those that
hate us. What a perfect example of this our Saviour left for us! He has
been scourged by the cat-o'nine-tails. His body has been beaten beyond
recognition. He has been wrongly tried. He has been nailed to a cross. He
has been the object of jeers, profanity, hatred, malice and unbelievable
persecution and suffering. He opens His mouth from the cross and what are
His first words? "Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do."
What a tremendous example of loving those who hated Him! The Scriptures
plainly teach us that we are to be like Him.
I John 4:17, "Herein is our love
made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: because as
He is, so are we in this world."
John 14:12, "Verily, verily, I
say unto you, He that believeth on Me, the works that I do shall he do also;
and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto My Father."
Philippians 2:5, "Let this mind
be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus."
John 20:21, "Then said Jesus to
them again, Peace be unto you: as My Father hath sent Me, even so send I
In order to be like Him, we must
grow to the place in our Christian lives where we love those that hate us.
In other words, though we cannot avoid having enemies, we are to be no man's
enemy In other words, though people are offended toward us, we are to be
offended toward no one. The Psalmist tells us, "Great peace have they which
love Thy law: and nothing shall offend them." (Psalm 119:165)
2. We are not to retaliate.
Romans 12:14, 17-21. Vengeance is the Lord's. He will care for that
which is necessary. However, the spiritual Christian will not want vengeance
to be given to his enemy unless the vengeance that God executes is for the
enemy's good. In other words, we should not want the enemy to suffer because
he has made us to suffer, unless that suffering can help him. At any rate,
we are to leave that vengeance in the hands of God.
3. We are to bless those that
curse us and do good to those who do evil to us. This admonishes us to
actively do good to those who are our enemies. In other words, deeds and
acts of kindness should be showered upon those who hate us. It may be that
such deeds and acts must be done anonymously, but nevertheless, they should
be done. We should never fight malice with malice. We should not use the
methods of the demons to fight the demons. Our weapons are spiritual ones.
We are to fight hatred with love, selfishness with unselfishness, cursing
with blessing, greed with generosity, unkindness with kindness, criticism
with prayer, and bad with good.
This author is far from perfect,
neither has he yet apprehended, but I can honestly say that for 24
years I have not had bitterness in my heart toward any human being, and for
those 24 years I have loved my enemies. The lesson I learned was a hard one
and a costly one. When I was pastoring in Garland, Texas, I was a young man,
and the growth of the church had perhaps exceeded my ability to handle the
There was a man in the church
with whom I shared some unkind words. Some were spoken from me to him and
some from him to me. I allowed a bad spirit toward him to enter into my
heart and mind. He left the church and, to be quite frank, we would not
speak to each other. Not long after that, I was called to pastor the First
Baptist Church of Hammond. For about three years it seemed that the church
could not get moving. Of course, I was not willing to admit the fact that at
least pail of the cause and blame should be laid at my feet because of my
feelings toward the aforementioned man. One morning we took our little girl,
Linda, who at the time was four years old, to the Mercy Hospital in Dyer,
Indiana, for what we thought would be a routine tonsillectomy The
tonsillectomy was performed, and I was sitting beside Linda in a hospital
room. The nurse assured me everything was all right. I was reading the
newspaper and suddenly I looked at Linda and saw her little head was in a
pool of blood. We did not know that she was a free bleeder, but obviously
she was. I rushed out of the room into the corridor of the hospital calling
for the nurse and the doctor. The nurse came quickly, saw her condition,
picked her little body up and ran down the hospital corridor, carrying Linda
to emergency surgery. As the nurse disappeared through the double doors on
which a sign had been placed which said, "No Admittance," I retreated down
the hallway of the hospital to find an empty room where I could pray. I
finally saw a room that was dark in which there were no patients. I went to
a bedside and knelt and began to pray for God to spare the life of our
little girl. The last words I heard the nurse say as she carried Linda down
the hallway were, "Call the doctor! She is dying! She is bleeding to death!
Call the doctor! Call Dr. Friedman!" With these words ringing in my mind, I
knelt to pray for Linda. Then I said to God, "Before I pray, I want to be
sure that You hear me and that You answer me, and I want you to let me know
if there is anything between You and me that would hinder my prayers being
answered." Suddenly I saw the face of that man in Texas against whom I had
ill will. I realized that there was something in my heart that must be
removed before Linda could be spared. I rushed out in the hallway, grabbed a
telephone to call the man. The operator told me that he had moved. I called
a friend of his to find his address and phone number. For a long time in
that hallway I frantically tried to find the man so I could apologize, but
my efforts failed. I returned to the room to pray. Though I had not
accomplished my mission of apologizing, the Lord had removed bitterness from
my heart, and I was sure that He would hear me and answer me. Praise His
name, Linda did live, and she is now a wife and mother of two children.
I continued my search for the
man. I could not find him. Months later I was preaching in a small church in
east Texas. As I walked onto the platform, I looked and to my delight and
surprise, that man and his wife were sitting a few seats from me in front of
the pulpit. My heart began to beat faster, and I said to God, "If You will
let me live through this sermon, I promise You I'll go back and apologize to
that man and tell him I love him as soon as the sermon is over." I finished
the sermon and during the closing prayer I started back to the man's seat,
when suddenly I bumped into somebody I looked up and it was this deacon. We
met in the aisle, and while the closing prayer was still being prayed I
looked up and said two words. Now these are the hardest words I say. For
many years I have been preaching; in fact, I have preached over 45,000
sermons, and yet there is one little sermon of two words that is the hardest
for me to preach. Those two words are the words I knew I had to say to this
man, and so with the same awkwardness of a little child making his first
speech in school, I looked up through tears and said, "I'm sorry!"
He looked at me and said,
"Pastor, I'm sorry! It was my fault that we had the trouble!"
I said, "No, it was my fault."
He said, "No, Pastor, you were
tired and weary and I shouldn't have provoked you to say what you said."
"But," I said, "sir, I should
not have said what I said and I am sorry!"
He said, "Well, it was my
fault," and I said, "No, it was my fault." He said, "It was my fault," and I
said, "No, it was my fault." And so we argued for awhile over whose fault it
was, as the Lord in Heaven smiled and saw two of His children making it
right with each other. That night I went back to my hotel room, took off my
shoes and got up on the bed and made a trampoline out of the bed and jumped
up and down most of the night and sang, "Nothing between my soul and the
Saviour, naught of this world's delusive dreams; I have renounced all sinful
pleasure, Jesus is mine, there's nothing between!"
From that moment until this
moment I have had many enemies, but I have never been an enemy I am
commanded by God to bless those that curse me, to pray for those that
despitefully use me, to do good to those who do evil to me, to love those
who hate me.
4. I am not to attack, nor am
I to defend. A good motto for any Christian would be, "No attack; no
defense." By that I mean, I am not to attack my enemies. I am not to return
evil for evil. Then, when attacked by my enemies, I make no defense. Now I
will defend my Saviour, and I will defend others, but I will not defend
myself. I fight His battles; He fights my battles.
5. I am not to go to court
with a Christian brother or sister.I Corinthians 6:7, "Now therefore
there is utterly a fault among you, because ye go to law one with another.
Why do ye not rather take wrong? why do ye not rather suffer yourselves to
Psalm 119:165, "Great peace have
they which love Thy law: and nothing shall offend them."
Our churches and schools are
plagued by people who are easily offended. Each of us should constantly be
on guard against this deadly enemy of the church, the school, the Christian
and the Saviour.
6. Stay in the Word of
God. Psalm 119:165 teaches us that there is a way that we can rise
above being offended. Notice the words, "Nothing shall offend them." Read
the Word, memorize the Word, love the Word, meditate upon the Word, live in
the Word, and victory can be had over this adversary.
7. Do not look at criticism
as being personal. Years ago I learned a little exercise that has helped
me tremendously I decided to look upon my critics as broken rather than as
bad. When my watch breaks, I do not fight back and throw it against the
wall. When my radio breaks, I do not become angry at it. I decided that when
people criticize me, it is not because they are bad; it is because there is
a broken part. This does not mean that they should be discarded any more
than the radio should be discarded. They need to be fixed. Then I also
realize that I too sometimes am broken.
8. Do not love because of the
object. Love should be caused by the condition of the heart of the
lover, not the attributes of the loved. God does not love us because of what
we are; He loves us because of what He is. May He help us to be like Him in
Being human, it may be somewhat
difficult for us to love the unlovely as much as we love the lovely, and the
degree of our love may be determined by the degree of loveliness; however,
the presence of our love should not be so determined.
9. Do not want things or
position. Most of our hurt feelings are caused by disappointments in not
receiving things, acclaim or position that we want or crave. The less one
wants the less he will be offended. The more one wants for others, the less
he will be offended. The only real want or craving a Christian should have
toward others is an intense desire to help others. Remember, Christ has no
alternative but to love the unlovely, the unloving and often the unloved.
10. If your critic is your
inferior, allow that he has not been privileged to know what you know.
Give him some leeway.
I am a very criticized man, probably one of the most
criticized preachers of this generation. I try to allow that a person can
dislike me and still not be bad. We are so constructed that a person can be
mean to the rest of the world and good to us and we think he is good, or he
can be good to the rest of the world and mean to us and we think he is bad.
There are many people who have not had the teachings that you and I have
had. They do not even know the truths that we are now sharing. No one
criticizes a baby because he cannot ride a bicycle or a child because he
doesn't know trigonometry Why should we have our feelings hurt by those who
have not been privileged to learn not to be critical?
11. Do not have a lot of
unplanned fellowship. Do not just sit around and talk. Soon it will lead
to talking about people. Someone has said that great minds talk about ideas,
good minds talk about things, and weak minds talk about people. When
planning to get together with other Christians, plan the activities. Do not
sit idly and talk idly. There is a grave temptation to talk too much about
people. Maybe this talk is not bad, but once we idly talk, we are tempted to
talk about people, and once we start talking about people, we are tempted to
say bad things about them.
12. Do not retaliate to those
who try to offend you, who are unkind to you or who criticize you.
Memorize Psalm 119:165. Believe
it. Practice it and let nothing offend you.
Would you rather for two people
to hurt or one? Of course, the answer is that all of us would rather one
person hurt than two.
Would it matter who these two
people were? Why initially we would answer the question, "No, it doesn't
matter who they are. I would rather for only one person to hurt than two."
The next question comes, what if
one of those two people is you? Then, will it matter? In other words, would
you rather only one to hurt or two to hurt if you are the one that is hurt,
or would you rather someone else hurt because you hurt?
Now ask yourself this next
question, would it matter how the other person felt about you? In other
words, if you are hurting because another person has hurt you and that other
person hates you, would you still rather one person to hurt than two? When
our answer to this question can become "Yes," then we are approaching what
Christianity is all about and the type of life that God's people are
supposed to live. Probably the Ph.D. of Christianity is earned when a person
can treat his enemies as Jesus treated His. Perhaps the most difficult and
last step of Christian maturity is when the Christian learns to love those
who hate him, pray for those who despitefully use him, bless those who curse
him and do good to those who do evil to him.
Someone very dear to me who had
been my friend for years launched a brief but fierce attack my way. I could
not believe he did it. When I realized he did, I could not believe he meant
to do me harm. Through tears I wrote these words:
You did not mean to loose the bow
That launched the arrow toward my breast;
Nor did you plan to shake the limb
That so disturbed my downy nest.
'Twas not your
will to hurl the stones
That hailed upon me like a storm;
'Twas not your quill that penned the darts
That railed upon my inner form.
You did not make
the venom that
Your tongue so quickly shot my way;
Nor did you mean to loosen all
The fiery snakes I fled today.
You did not weigh
the giant stone
Hewn by the words you spoke to me.
'Twould not be there had you but known
The load with which I came to thee.
I know, for I
have hurled some stones,
I vainly tried to have returned.
My quiver's empty far too oft;
My fiery darts too much have burned.
I own some venom
and a bow
Which oft unite in deadly flight
To far exceed in damage done
The arrow's wound and serpent's bite.
I know the empty
When kneeling o'er my fallen prey.
I've held the sword when blood was spilt,
While joys of winning fled away.
So may I love you
when you hate,
And may I bless you when you curse.
I cannot now retaliate,
For yesterday 'twas in reverse.
May I return an
To turn away thy hasty wrath;
For I have tasted far too oft
The bitter herb my friend now hath.
Six critical letters came in one
day's mail, five of the letters criticizing someone else! I find myself
having a difficult time believing that God's people can be so critical of
each other. Spontaneously I shouted while alone in my study, "Could we not
love each other?" I then used the following words to plead with fellow
Christians to love our brothers and sisters in Christ:
Could We Not
Love Each Other?
Could we not love each other?
The place prepared for me
Is near the one for thee.
Hence, neighbors we will be.
Come! Be my brother.
Could we not love
The Hand that gives thee bread
Is the One that keeps me fed.
Let harsh words be unsaid.
You are my brother.
Could we not love
The load your heart doth bear
Is one that we could share.
We both dwell 'neath His care,
Could we not love
I have stood in your place,
And you my path oft traced,
So let us offer grace
Could we not love
The One Who died for you
Is my dear Saviour too.
Is it too much to do
To love our brother?
Could we not love
That selfsame throne of grace
Where thou dost seek His face
Is my abiding place
Beside you, brother.
Could we not
love each other?
The letter was filled with
hatred, insults and satire. It was from one who admitted hatred for me. I
called him on the telephone to seek conciliation. This attempt simply turned
written words to spoken ones. All efforts for a Christian understanding
failed and he hung up the phone. I wrote the following words and mailed them
You Are My
You are my enemy
So I must love you more
Than those who love me most,
And, who, upon me pour
The best of friendship's wine.
I must not taste the sour grape
From vindication's vine.
You are my enemy
'Twill not be always so;
For I will drown thy hate
Within the loving flow
Of calm, forgiving seas;
And use thy saber's sharpest blows
To knock me to my knees.
You are my enemy
I must take care to bless
Thee through thy cursings oft!
And hold within my breast
That restless, unkind word;
For I must keep in hidden sheath
You are my enemy
I cannot quench the scorn
That you have rushed my way;
Yet something hath been born,
Begotten from above;
No shield you hold can deftly block
The arrows of my love.
You are my enemy
And so I more must pray
For God to do thee good,
And take my spite away;
And warm the biting chill
That cometh to the both of us
Should I but do thee ill.
One day, upon hearing of an
attack on me and my ministry, I was tempted to retaliate and to steal from
the Lord His work of vengeance. I began to think, however, of the times when
I had been critical and unkind. Hence, I could not retaliate. Rather than
give vengeance, I must offer compassion, love, and understanding. The
following stanzas came to my mind:
I once retrieved an angry stone,
Still warm from resting in thine hand,
To boomerang it back to thee,
As vengeful reprimand.
To even up the score;
Then saw the rock
I grimly held,
Was one I'd seen before.
Oh, my! It had my
Beloved, could it be . . .
That this same stone that came my way,
Was one I hurled at thee?
Hence, I'll not
aim its point thy way,
Nor hurl it back to thee;
I'll bury it and ask our God
To forgive both thee and me.
Treatment of Those Who Are Stumblingblocks
Matthew 18:7, "Woe unto the
world because of offences! for it must needs be that offences come; but woe
to that man by whom the offence cometh!" Notice the word "offence." Simply
stated, an offence is a stumblingblock. It is the leading or attempting to
lead another to do wrong, or to prevent another from doing right. This may
be done purposely or it may be a stumblingblock that is dropped by
negligence or carelessness. In any case, our Lord plainly teaches that to
leave stumblingblocks is a fault. In some cases, it may be a grievous fault;
in other cases, a slight one. Nevertheless, it is wrong to lead another into
sin or to prevent another from doing good. These are called stumblingblocks.
These obstacles to good are
found in every church in America and every organization of every church.
They are found on Sunday school faculties, on Christian school faculties, on
deacon boards, in Christian school classrooms, church choirs, church staffs
and even in Christian colleges. Those who place purposely or carelessly drop
these stumblingblocks will attempt to lead the Christian into wrong by
offering them everything from a joint of marijuana to a juicy bit of gossip.
Let us notice how they operate.
1. They will lead you to do
wrong when they know it is wrong. This is the worst form of
stumblingblocks. There are those who know something is wrong, who will
attempt to lead you to do that wrong. It is done most commonly by those who
are doing wrong themselves and do not want to be alone in their wrongdoing.
The tragedy of it all is that it is often done in the name of friendship,
which God meant to be one of the greatest blessings of the Christian life.
What a tragedy when such a great blessing is perverted into a curse!
Sometimes the tempter will even
demand the price of losing his friendship if temptation is rejected and
resisted. He is leading you to believe that you may purchase his friendship
at this ridiculously high price! If this were possible, such is far from
being worth the purchase! A so-called friend who wishes his solaced friend
to do wrong in order to keep his friendship is no friend at all! When you
attempt to purchase friendship, it is always counterfeit. This tempting may
be done by someone who is addicted to narcotics attempting to ensnare
another in his habit. It may be done by a young person demanding proof of
the love of a member of the opposite sex by insisting that person join him
in immorality. It may be done by one who is disloyal to leadership
attempting to lead another to share his disloyalty.
Nearly every week I receive
phone calls from pastors having internal problems in their churches. The
story is always the same; it never varies. When a pastor tells me he is
having trouble in his church, I can write the script. For that matter, the
script is already written. Some man of prominence in the church is
attempting to hurt the pastor, his ministry and his leadership. He is not
satisfied with his own sin; he wants others to join him and so he places
stumblingblocks in the path of the loyalty of others. Many sincere people
have stumbled over these blocks and have been caused much grief in days to
This behavior is as old as
mankind. Moses and Aaron faced the same thing that the sincere pastors face
today. Numbers 16:1-3, "Now Korah, the son of Izhar, the son of Kohath, the
son of Levi, and Dathan and Abiram, the sons of Eliab, and On, the son of
Peleth, sons of Reuben, took men: and they rose up before Moses, with
certain of the children of Israel, two hundred and fifty princes of the
assembly, famous in the congregation, men of renown: and they gathered
themselves together against Moses and against Aaron, and said unto them, Ye
take too much upon you, seeing all the congregation are holy, every one of
them, and the Lord is among them: wherefore then lift ye up yourselves above
the congregation of the Lord?"
Notice in verse 2, "And they
rose up before Moses." Notice in verse 3, "And they gathered themselves
together against Moses and against Aaron."
Now notice in verse 2 who they
were. Look at the words, "two hundred and fifty princes of the assembly,
famous in the congregation, men of renown." The Devil hasn't changed his
methods, has he? The same thing happens today as it did over three
Now notice their charges in
verse 3, "Ye take too much upon you, seeing all the congregation are holy."
Notice later on in verse 3, "Wherefore then lift ye up yourselves above the
congregation of the Lord?" Everything that goes around comes around, and
Satan is not very original. His methods are the same from generation to
2. They will lead you to do
what they do not think is wrong but what you think is wrong. They want
to convince you that you should go against your conscientious convictions,
and they want to persuade you to disobey your scruples. "Nothing is wrong
with that!" is never spoken by a true friend. A true friend will allow you
to have your own convictions and will want you to abide by them and live by
them. He will respect your convictions and not attempt to lower yours to
3. They will lead you not to
do right. It is wrong if we make Christian duty and the Christian life
difficult to our fellow Christians when we should do our best to make it
easy We have tremendous power over each other. Our personalities, our
conversation and our habits are almost sure in some degree either to help or
hinder each other. One may encourage and tempt another to do wrong by
good-natured behavior when his friend is doing wrong, or he may prove his
friendship by being disagreeable when his friend is about to do wrong. What
I am saying is that we may try to help a friend in such a way as to provoke
him or perplex him, so we are not only to refrain from leading another to
doing wrong, but we should actively encourage him to do right.
How then should the one be
treated who becomes a stumblingblock and who places stumblingblocks in our
path of righteousness?
1. Do not become a
stumblingblock to him by stumbling over his stumblingblock. The tempter
sins against the tempted, but when the tempted yields, he likewise sins
against the tempter. He has placed a crown of evil on the other man's sin of
being the tempter. He has completed the job attempted by the tempter, and
just as the one who is tempting him has aided in his sin, his committing the
sin has also added to the sin of the one who tempted him.
If we refuse to stumble over the
stumblingblock, we save the one who placed it there from committing an even
greater evil and, for that matter, another evil. The tempter cannot become
the accomplice to a crime that has not been committed, so in a sense when we
yield to his temptation, we sin against him, even as he sinned against us.
The tempter sins when placing the stumblingblock in the path of the tempted.
The tempted sins when he stumbles. He also causes the tempter to sin twofold
because the tempter's sin is now completed and doubled.
Let us illustrate. A man who is
drinking offers another a drink. He has sinned in so doing because he has
placed a stumblingblock in the path of righteousness of the one who is
offered the drink. When the one who is tempted takes the drink, he sins; but
he has also sinned against the one who offered him the drink, who sinned in
drinking, who sinned in tempting his neighbor to drink, and has now become
an accomplice in his neighbor's sin of drink. He now is guilty of three sins
instead of two.
A young man tries to seduce a
young woman into immorality He sins in so doing, but the young woman who
yields has completed his sin and the seducer's sin is now twofold.
2. Refuse immediately.
Psalm 119:60, "I made haste, and delayed not to keep Thy commandments." The
easiest time to refuse evil is NOW. It is often very hard not only to do
what is right, but to do it at the time that right should be done. This
Psalm not only exalts the doing of right but the doing of right immediately
Every Christian is bound not only to be obedient to the call of duty but to
be instantly obedient to that call. There is a tremendous difference between
the beauty of obedience, which has the spontaneity of a little child running
to do something for Mother who finds a delightful pleasure in the sense of
obedience, and that obedience which comes unwillingly and which is done
slowly as if it is no more than an absolute MUST.
In practically every case of
obedience, delay makes it more difficult. Nothing can be gained by cautious
procrastinating obedience. That obedience does not become easier but harder.
There is no obedience as delightful as ready obedience. It brings a charm
with it. It prevents many temptations by simply giving them no time to do
their work. It conquers many difficulties by its own impulse, and it leaves
us with a warm awareness that we belong to God and we are wanting to please
Him. It also saves us oftentimes from committing sin because as has been
stated, the easiest time to refuse is NOW!
When such instant refusal is
performed enough times, it will become instinctive. It will become a part of
the subconscious and hence, becomes character. Character is the subconscious
doing of right. It is the doing of right by reflex. It is resisting
temptation by instinct.
3. Do not travel with those
who carry stumbling blocks. In every church and church organization,
there are such people. It is not difficult for us to know who they are. If
we are wise, we will be nice to them, courteous to them and gracious to
them, but we will not travel with them.
There is a divided four lane
interstate highway leading from the Hammond area to Indianapolis, Indiana.
It is Interstate 65. This highway goes through no towns, has few if any
stops and is, of course, divided four lane all the way. Then there is the
old highway that leads to Indianapolis. It is Highway 41. Leaving the
Hammond area on Highway 41, one must go through Highland, Indiana, Where
there are at least five or six stoplights; Schererville, Indiana, where
there are two more stoplights. He must then go through St. John, Indiana;
Cedar Lake, Indiana; and other small towns and cities along the way. The
person who wants to take the fastest and safest trip to Indianapolis will
certainly choose Interstate 65. He will not condemn Highway 41, criticize
Highway 41 or gossip about Highway 41; he will simply forget Highway 41.
Highway 41 will not be a part of his thinking processes as he journeys to
Indianapolis; he simply takes the road without the stumblingblocks. The wise
Christian will do the same thing. He will take the road not traveled by the
one who lays stumblingblocks in his way. He will not criticize him or
attempt to hurt him; he will simply not be aware that he exists. He is too
busy traveling with those who want to help him in righteousness and not be
his accomplice in sin!
Why We Have Strife in Our Churches
Why do Christian people (or for
that matter, any people) have strife between themselves? The answer plainly
and simply is, "unfulfilled appetites." We had a desire or appetite to
receive something which we did not receive. We had a desire or an appetite
to be treated in a certain way, and the desired treatment never came. In
other words, we did not get the thing or the treatment that we wanted. Of
course, the secret to avoiding the strife caused by these unfulfilled
appetites is to have sanctified appetites and to keep our wants and desires
within the limits of our ability to have.
A good definition of riches
would be as follows: "the balancing of wants and possessions." So, there are
two ways to be rich. One is being able to afford what one wants, and the
other is wanting only what one can afford. The secret is the balancing of
the wants and the possessions. I am rich if I can get what I want. I am rich
if I want what I have.
Most of us will never be able to
get what an unrestrained appetite would want us to have, but all of us can
balance the equation and become rich by asking God to sanctify our appetites
and our wants. Psalm 37:4, "Delight thyself also in the Lord; and He shall
give thee the desires of thine heart." The average casual reader of the
Bible could misunderstand this passage. We could mistakenly think that God
is telling us that if we want a Rolls Royce car, we can have it; if we want
a half million dollar house, we can have it; if we want a $25,000 diamond
ring, we can have it. This application is totally contrary to the teaching
of the Scripture. In the first place, if we delight ourselves in the Lord,
our desires can be sanctified and we can grow to want what we have. God is
not saying here that He will increase what we have to fulfill the lust of
the carnal nature. He is saying that if we delight ourselves in Him, our
desires will become equal with our possessions.
Some interpret the Scripture to
mean that if we delight ourselves in the Lord, He will give us what we want.
I rather prefer to believe that God is saying if we delight ourselves in the
Lord, He will give us what TO want, and when He is saying He will give us
our desires, I feel that He is saying that He will give us our appetites as
well as the fulfillment of our appetites. It may be in that some cases He
will increase our possessions to equal our desires. It may be that other
cases He will lower our desires to equal our possessions. Whichever it is,
it is simply the balancing of the equation, which in the end makes one rich,
for he has what he wants and wants what he has.
This is the same thing that God
is telling us in John 15:7, "If ye abide in Me, and My words abide in you,
ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you." We emphasize the
part of that verse which tells us to ask what we want and we can get it. God
is emphasizing the part that says, "If ye abide in Me, and My words abide in
you." The word "abide" implies "to live." If we live in and for and through
Christ and His Word lives in and through us, our appetites become sanctified
and God can give us carte blanche and power of attorney to ask what we will
because He trusts what we WILL ask. We cannot be so trusted unless we abide
in Him and His words abide in us.
Romans 8:28 would certainly shed
some light on this truth: "And we know that all things work together for
good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His
purpose." Once again God is reminding us that spiritual people may feel free
to ask what they want because God can trust their wants. We like to think
that if we love God and are in His will, everything will work out for our
good, and this certainly is true. However, what we think of as being good
changes when we love God and are living in His will. The very same thing
that was going to happen to us becomes for our good if we love Him and if we
are in His will.
Let's suppose that a Christian
is not living in the will of God and is not filled with love for Christ. The
events that come his way do not work for his good. However, take those same
events and put them in his path under different conditions, those conditions
being that he now loves God and is in the will of God, and they will work
for his good. Once again, the difference is in the appetite. When a person
delights himself in the Lord as in Psalm 37:4, and abides in Christ and
God's words abide in him, and he loves God and lives in the will of God, he
then has sanctified appetites that make it possible for his desires and
possessions to be equal, which is in the final analysis the definition of
The wise Christian will not
allow himself to possess appetites that cannot be filled. It is a blessed
truth that if he meets the conditions of the aforementioned Scriptures, his
appetites will be inside the will of God; and any appetite that is inside
the will of God will be filled by God, for He promises to give us the
desires of our hearts if those desires have been purified and sanctified.
This leads us to another
thought, and that is, WE WANT WHAT WE GIVE.
1. We want the same type love
that we give. Even our Lord came to Peter and asked, "Lovest thou Me?"
The word here for love is the word that is used for God's love. It is a
deep, abiding love. Peter answered, "Thou knowest that I love Thee," but
Peter's word for love was the love that we would call something like
fondness. Jesus was saying, "Peter, do you deeply love Me?" and Peter was
saying, "Lord, Thou knowest that I am fond of Thee." Jesus, in using the
word for deep love, was actually saying, "Peter, do you love Me like I love
you?" Jesus can make such a request because His love is perfect, but for us
to want to be loved like we love can create an unfulfilled appetite. Our
appetite should be to love deeply rather than to be loved deeply.
Years ago when our son, David,
was Youth Director at First Baptist Church, an interesting thing happened.
It was commencement night for Hammond Baptist High School. After
commencement had ended, I had an appointment with one of our ladies. While I
was counseling with her, there was a knock on my door. I went to the door
and David was at the door crying uncontrollably and asking for me to speak
with him for a few moments. I told him that I had an appointment, and he
said, "Dad, I've got to see you right now! It's an emergency! It can't
I asked the little lady with
whom I was counseling if she would wait, and I stepped across the hallway
into my secretary's office so Dave and I could be alone. I said, "What's the
He said, "Dad, it just dawned on
me that those young people that just graduated are no longer in our youth
department. I have lost them!" (I think this was the first group that David
had lost since being Youth Director.) "I love them, Dad! It just dawned on
me that I don't have them any more, and Dad, I just had to get with somebody
who could love me like I love them. That's why, Dad, I had to be with you."
I said, "You found him, Doc,"
and I hugged him and we shared some tender moments together.
Now the truth is that Dave's
appetite was filled, but suppose that he had had that appetite hundreds of
miles from his dad. He would have had a tough evening, because there would
have been no fulfillment of his appetite.
The wise Christian will let his
appetite be to love. That can always be fulfilled because it is within the
grasp of his will. Don't misunderstand this. I am not saying that we should
not want to be loved, but I am saying we should not want to be loved exactly
like we love, because no one loves exactly alike, which is why God made us
all different. Each of us has a unique way of loving Christ that no one else
has, and since each love, though given by God and with God as its source, is
different, it is impossible for us to be loved exactly like we love. So, if
someone doesn't love us like we want to be loved, and if we want to be loved
like we love, it is easy to be upset.
There are few things that hurt
as much as wanting to be loved like we love and not being loved that way.
This hurt is increased the more deeply one loves, because the more refined
one's love is, the harder it is to find reciprocation. This also makes it
easier to be lonely What I am saying is that the Christian should find the
presence of his joy in loving, and then perhaps he can find the degree of
that joy in being loved. In other words, I have joy simply because I love
you. Now if you return that love, it increases my JOY,
but if you do not, my joy is still present.
So whether it be possessions or
treatment, there is an atmosphere conducive to strife if I want something
and do not receive it. You did not treat me the way I wanted you to treat
me. You did not say what I wanted you to say. You did not do what I wanted
you to do. You did not give me what I wanted you to give me. You did not
express to me what I wanted you to express to me. In other words, you did
not fulfill my appetites.
2. We want the same type
expressions of love that we give. There are certain ways that each of us
says, "I love you," and most of us want love to be expressed the same way we
express love. We want to get what we give. For example, men and women do not
express love the same way. Many marriages have to endure strife because the
husband wants the wife to love him the same way that he loves her and to
express it the same way. Now to be sure, the wise wife will try to find the
expressions of her love that her husband would desire, but the basic fact is
that men and women do not express their love to each other in the same way.
The man may just want a quick hug and kiss. The woman may want soft music
and atmosphere. The man calls the woman unaffectionate, and the woman calls
the man unromantic. This is because the appetites have conformed to each
one's own expressions of love. A certain expression of love is wanted and
though the love may be expressed, since it is not what was wanted, it often
In a sense, this is almost what
could be called mental homosexuality. For example, a man may want a woman's
love, but he may want it to be mentally the same love that he gives her. In
other words, he wants her to love him emotionally and mentally like a man,
but she is not a man! She is a woman, and she must love him emotionally and
mentally as a woman would love him. So, instead of wanting his love
returned, it is much better for him simply to want whatever type love that
God has given her for him to be expressed in her own way, not in his!
This same thing could be true
between the young and the old. This is one reason that teenagers and adults
have a difficult time understanding each other. The parent kisses the
teenager. The teenager seems indifferent, which causes the parent to be
displeased and causes strife. The wise parent will let the teenager love
like the teenager loves. Teenagers cannot return adult love to adults. They
can only give teenage love. The wise parent will accept it with rejoicing
and gratitude in whatever manner of expression the teenager uses.
3. We want the same type
logic that we give. We want others to logic like we logic, and an
appetite is created for us to receive that kind of logic. Since all people
do not logic alike, that appetite is often unsatisfied, and strife is a
result! A man may want a woman to logic like he does, while a woman may want
a man to logic like she does. An adult may want a teenager to logic as an
adult, and the teenager may want the adult to logic like a teenager. When
such appetites are created or allowed to exist, they are often unfulfilled
and cause strife. In other words, I want you to see things exactly as I see
them. When you do not see things exactly as I see them, my appetite is
Recently I was preaching in
another state. I told the people that I would appreciate it if they would
help me to be heard by helping to prevent any unnecessary interruptions in
the service. I was to be there for only two nights, and certainly I would
not want, for example, a crying baby to limit the effectiveness of my
message. I wanted to help the people! After I had preached a few minutes, a
baby began to cry (at least I thought it was a baby) in the back of the
auditorium. The people in that section were disturbed and unable to follow
the message. I stopped the service and asked whoever had the baby to take it
to the nursery Someone got up and left, and I thought that they had granted
my request. The disturbance was stopped and we had a wonderful service.
After the service, a lady came to talk to me who was very disturbed! She
told me that she was the one who had the child who misbehaved, but that the
child was not a baby! The "child" was an afflicted teenager, and the lady
was very disturbed that I had asked her to remove her daughter. I went out
to the car where the daughter and the rest of the family were waiting for
the lady, and I saw the child. It was a tragic thing! Though she was in her
late teen years, her little body was deformed, and it was a heartbreak to
It was obvious that the lady was
wanting me to apologize for asking her to take the child out of the service
when she was causing a disturbance. I certainly expressed my compassion, my
sympathy and my love, but I could not tell her that I would not do the same
thing again. As a preacher, I had a message to deliver! It was to me the
most important thing in the world! As a mother, she had a child that she
felt had been mistreated, and that was the most important thing to her! It
would have been totally impossible for us to logic the same way. Because of
that, I was not offended in the least. I had no appetite for her to logic as
I did. Because of that, I had nothing but love toward her. On the other
hand, the dear lady wanted me to logic as she did. She had an appetite for
me to do so, and it was impossible for me to satisfy this appetite. Of
course, her family shared her feelings, and they had ill will toward me. The
reason for this ill will was that they had a desire for me to logic as they
did. I had no ill will toward them because I did not have a desire for them
to see it my way. I didn't blame them at all for seeing it their way.
Consequently, she had a want that could not be balanced with a possession. I
had no such want.
Now let us suppose for a moment
that I had the same appetite that she had had. Suppose that I just could not
understand it because she couldn't see it my way. Why couldn't she
understand that a preacher's message is so important! Why couldn't she
understand because that I had traveled 700 miles to bring two messages, I
certainly wanted to be heard and must be heard! Why couldn't she understand
that I was not being selfish in the matter! I was wanting to help people,
and there were hundreds of people there who needed to be helped, and the
disturbance caused by her child was preventing them from receiving that
If I had insisted in my own mind
that our logic be reconciled, I would have been as disturbed with her as she
was with me. This is where strife originates. "Why can't you see it my way?"
"I just don't understand you." "You're not making sense." These are
statements that represent the cause of strife. I think the way we put it
usually is that we just don't see it eye to eye. If we don't see eye to eye,
and if both of us insist that we see eye to eye, there is strife. On the
other hand, if both of us could express our opinions, not desiring a
reconciling of logic, we can disagree and not have strife.
This is what causes strife in
our churches. Far too many of us have appetites that warrant certain
treatment. When that treatment does not come, there is strife. The same
thing causes strife at home, at work and at play. On the other hand, if our
appetite is to love others, to express that love to others, and to help
others, then that appetite can be fulfilled.
Do not want to be treated in a
certain way; rather, want to treat the other person properly Do not want
expressions of gratitude; rather, want to express gratitude. Do not want
folks to appreciate you; just want to appreciate them. Most of our problems
in our churches would be solved if our desires, wants and appetites were
purified and sanctified!
Act, Don't React!
In an athletic contest the
offense always has the advantage because the offense knows the play. They
determine the action. The defense reacts to the action of the offense, which
places them at a severe handicap. For example, in football a wide receiver
runs down the field to catch a pass. He knows whether he is going to stop
abruptly, cut to the right, cut to the left or run full speed ahead. He
knows where the ball is to be thrown and where he is to be when the ball is
thrown. The defensive man has no idea. He simply has to react to the actions
of the offensive player.
The Christian should stay on the
offense! Reaction means that someone else is determining your behavior. Only
you can destroy yourself No one else can destroy you unless you allow him to
do so. The only thing that can destroy a person is self destruction, and
self destruction is caused by improper reaction. Consequently, one can be
destroyed by another only when the actions of the enemy cause an improper
One of the interesting and sad
things about improper reaction is that we react to our reaction. In other
words, if someone provokes another to improper reaction, he then reacts to
his own reaction and digs a deeper hole. Reaction takes a person away from
the control of his own destiny. There are several things that should be
considered concerning action and reaction.
1. Do not spend casual time
with people who entice you to react wrongly. There are people whose
behavior causes an unwise reaction. They may "rub you the wrong way." Find
out who these people are and don't let them rub you. There are some people
whose actions may cause one to react with quick temper. There are people
whose actions would cause one to react with slothfulness. There are people
whose actions would cause one to react with yielding to temptation. There
are people whose actions would cause one to react with bitterness. Be nice
to these people. Work with them if you must, but do not spend casual time
with them. Everything should be planned when you are together so as not to
give the person a chance to exhibit his behavior or actions that would cause
an unwise reaction on your part.
2. Do not read materials that
make you react unwisely. I grew up in Dallas, Texas. Because of that I
grew up following the Dallas sports teams. This has made me a rabid Dallas
Cowboy fan, a Dallas Maverick fan and a fan of nearly all the sports teams
in and around Dallas. Then, too, I am interested in the news of my hometown.
Because of this, for years I have taken a Dallas newspaper. At first I
subscribed to one of the two newspapers, but there is a sports writer in one
of those papers who has a terrible habit of unnecessary and extreme
criticism of the local sports teams. He is so cynical that just to read his
column stirs me to anger and almost contempt. One day I reminded myself that
I did not have to subscribe to that newspaper, so I changed my subscription
to the other Dallas paper. This was done because I did not want to read that
which made me react unwisely. The same would apply to radio talk shows,
television talk shows, television preachers, etc. There are some talk shows
that I know will provoke me to anger and disgust and will cause me to react
unwisely. Since I do not want my behavior controlled by liberals, humanists,
modernists and critics, I do not listen to them, read their articles or
subscribe to their publications.
I know many preachers whose
preaching is simply that of reaction. They read things all week that make
them mad, and then they preach on Sunday against those things. This makes
for interesting preaching and will keep a good crowd coming for a little
while, but it is preaching that is simply reacting to improper stimuli and
will not build great Christians. Do not misunderstand me. I believe in
preaching against sin, but one is supposed to hate sin, not because an
undesirable creature is for it; he is supposed to hate sin because it is
contrary to the will of God and the good of man. The right kind of a
preacher will not need the enemy to provoke him to anger. He can provoke
himself to anger by the realization of the awfulness of the sin. Much of our
preaching against sin is not preaching against sin; it is preaching against
The wise Christian will not
allow himself to be exposed to those things that take his initiative away
and enable his behavior to simply be a series of reactions to someone else
who has turned him on by their actions.
3. Be oblivious to what makes
you react unwisely. I travel every week. I preach hundreds of sermons a
year all over America. (In fact, this chapter is being dictated as I drive
down the side of a mountain in the northwest part of our country.) I
sometimes have to sit through music that could cause me to react. When such
is the case, I become oblivious to that music, and during the song service
and during the special music I discipline my mind to be on something else,
usually on the message I am to preach and the truth I am to present.
Occasionally a preacher who speaks before me will say things contrary to the
truth. The temptation is for me to leave what God has given me for the
congregation and to start chasing that preacher. In so doing, I get to blow
off some steam and get to tell the preacher and the people what I thought
about the first sermon, and the people go without what God had given me for
them! Normally I simply think of the great truth that I am going to present
and become oblivious to the first preacher.
On two occasions in my ministry
after I preached a sermon, the pastor of the church where I preached stood
to tell the people that he did not agree with my sermon and he took several
minutes expressing points of disagreement and reasons for the disagreement!
In one instance I had to preach again within 15 minutes. The other time I
had to preach again that evening. Of course, the natural tendency is for me
to make my rebuttal in the next message, but the natural tendency is not
usually right, so in both cases I proceeded to preach the message that I was
going to preach without making a rebuttal at all. Why should I cause the
people to suffer because I had been injured! Why should I preach a
reactionary sermon when I had already decided the course of action that I
felt the Holy Spirit wanted me to follow!
4. Plan your reactions.
By that I mean, foresee battles that may arise and times when you will be
compelled by conviction and circumstances to respond to someone else's
behavior. Take some time. Sit down for awhile. Think of possible actions
that you may have to follow and to which you may have to respond. Decide
beforehand what you are going to say and do. Do not let the spur of the
moment cause you to react unwisely but in the prayerful quiet of your own
study or room, decide yourself what your reaction will be to certain forms
of behavior. This changes your reaction to action, since you have decided
what you are going to do before the other person has done it. This enables
you to have more time to decide. It enables you to decide before the heat of
the battle, and it enables you to decide without emotion.
Twenty-eight years ago I became
Pastor of the First Baptist Church of Hammond. The first year was a hectic
one. People set themselves against my ministry and made serious attempts to
force my resignation. A special night was set when we would thrash out the
problems and the people would be allowed to ask me questions from the floor.
For hours I sat in the basement of our parsonage and tried to predict what
questions would be asked. I came to the conclusion that each question that
would be asked me would be one of seventeen. I wrote these seventeen
questions and made a full page outline as to how I would answer each
question when and if it were asked. Though all the questions were not asked
at this special meeting, there were no questions asked that were not on my
list. Consequently, when each question was asked, I did not have to react,
for I had planned my reaction beforehand, making it an action. So when the
question was asked, I simply pulled out the prepared answer and read it.
This was done calmly without emotion and not in a reactionary spirit. Ibis
probably saved the First Baptist Church of Hammond for the cause of
fundamentalism and probably for the cause of usefulness. Any time one
expects behavior that would tempt to improper reaction, he would be wise to
plan his reactions to that behavior, making his reactions not reactions at
all but actions because they were planned before the behavior was planned.
1) Plan your reaction to
criticism. The flesh hates to be criticized, and when criticism comes,
it is often prompt in retaliating with unwise reaction. The wise Christian
will have a course of action already planned that he may follow when
2) Plan your reaction to
things that anger you. Each of us knows things that more readily provoke
him. When such actions occur, the temptation is greater to react unwisely.
The wise Christian will list these -provocative things and will prepare in
advance his reaction to them.
3) Plan the things for which
you would fight. No one should fight impulsively Consequently, the
person with character will plan the things for which he would fight and will
plan the manner of the fight. He will not fight in response to temporary
provocation; he will fight only for those things that are predetermined and
in a manner that is predetermined.
I have a list of things written
down and placed in a drawer in my office for which I would fight. I have a
list of things for which I would die. Consequently, I will not fight or die
in a quick response to an impulse. My fighting, even unto the death, will be
predetermined in the prayerful quiet of my office.
Someone perhaps would say, "I
just don't believe in turning it on and off like that." Nor do I believe
that. I find it impossible to turn it on and off, but I find it possible to
turn on what turns it on and turn off what turns it off. In other words, I
can control what controls me and not allow myself to be controlled by the
passion of an immediate response to a stimulus that causes me to react
I do this concerning the church
services. I prayerfully decide in the quiet of my study what my reaction
would be when a baby begins to cry in the service. I likewise decide what my
action would be if baby continues to cry in the service. I have planned
action that I carry out when I am disturbed briefly in a service and other
planned action for disturbances I know will not end without my help. This
prevents me from acting impulsively and doing something for which I will be
sorry later. The people in the audience may or may not agree with my
response to the disturbance, but I will have done what I think is best
because it is what I thought was best in the quiet of my study before the
5. Learn to whom you can
trust your reactions. There are some people with whom you can feel
perfectly comfortable and whom you can completely trust not to lead you to
unwise reaction. Know these people. They are usually people who think,
philosophize and would rather speak of ideas than of people. Someone has
said, "Great minds speak about ideas; good minds speak about things; weak
minds speak about people."
I am thinking now of a dear
friend, Pastor Bruce Porter, in Islamorada, Florida. For many years I have
preached for him. I have learned that I can trust my reactions to him. He
will not provoke me to unwise reactions. He wants to learn. He wants to talk
about ideas that are constructive. He does not indulge in people-talk, so I
feel perfectly at ease to have a casual conversation with him. In fact, I
enjoy doing so. He meets me at the airport when I make my annual visit to
his church. I do not make plans concerning our conversation. I do not need
to, for I know he will provoke me to good thoughts and not to unwise
On the contrary, there are other
people to whom I cannot trust my reactions. I would find myself on the
defensive. I would find myself not wanting to talk about other people, and I
have learned that their conversation would tempt me to reactions that would
be unwise and perhaps even divisive.
The wise person will discover
such people in order to find out to whom he can and cannot trust his
reactions. In the case of the latter, you might want to plan the
conversation and think of some questions that you could ask him in order
that you may control the conversation, making it necessary for him to react
to your behavior rather than your reacting to his behavior.
6. Spread the word that you
do not participate in criticism. Let it be known that you are not
interested in character assassinations nor personality critiques. Word will
soon get around, and you will have the reputation for not being critical.
People will either respect what they know is your desire or they will be
fearful of approaching you with negative subjects,
For years I have traveled the
length and breadth of this nation. It is understood all across America that
there are certain subjects about which I do not speak. My reputation
precedes me, which makes it much easier for me to avoid situations that
would be tempting to unwise reaction.
7. Do not live in unplanned
situations. Idle time is one of the great causes for unnecessary and
unwise reaction. Just sitting around and talking with nothing planned leads
to differences, arguments, fusses and reactionary conversation.
One of the great problems of our
society is that it is built on critique. It is falsely assumed by many that
the ability to critique someone is a sign of strength. Nothing could be
farther from the truth! To attack the strong is not a sign of strength. To
do nothing but critique those who do something is certainly not a sign of
strength. The time was, for example, when the local sports writer was a
cheerleader for the local team. He has now become the Devil's advocate and
is considered somewhat of a successful sports writer if he can criticize the
coach. Men who have never carried a football, thrown a pass, kicked a field
goal or made a tackle seem to know more about coaching than men who have
coached for a lifetime. The pew critiques the pulpit. The student critiques
the teacher, and the press critiques everybody! One can hardly listen to a
radio station without finding movie critics, restaurant critics and a bevy
of other self-styled experts whose only talent is criticizing talent, whose
only strength is criticizing strength, whose only accomplishment is shooting
at those who have accomplished.
God, give us men who act, not
men who react! Give us men with the character to determine their behavior
and who decide their own course of action!
Leaders and Followers
Ephesians 5:21-29, "Submitting
yourselves one to another in the fear of God. Wives, submit yourselves unto
your own husbands, as unto the Lord. For the husband is the head of the
wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and He is the saviour of the
body. Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to
their own husbands in every thing. Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ
also loved the church, and gave Himself for it; that He might sanctify and
cleanse it with the washing of water by the Word, that He might present it
to Himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such
thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish. So ought men to love
their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself. For
no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even
as the Lord the church."
Ephesians 6:1, 4, 5, "Children,
obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right. And, ye fathers, provoke
not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition
of the Lord. Servants, be obedient to them that are your masters according
to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in singleness of your heart, as unto
Ephesians 5:21 is a startling
verse, "Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God." In a
church or a family or a business or in any group relationship, each of us at
some time is a leader and at some time a follower. Joe may be Bill's Sunday
school teacher, but Bill may be the deacon chairman while Joe is a deacon.
Joe may be manager of the softball team, while Bill may be Joe's choir
director. One of the great necessities of a successful church is that each
member realize the area in which he is a leader and the area in which he is
a follower and learn to fill each position with grace, propriety and
In any organization there are
several groups of people, as follows:
1. Followers of leaders.
I Corinthians 4: 10, "We are fools for Christ's sake, but ye are wise in
Christ; we are weak, but ye are strong; ye are honourable, but we are
I Corinthians 11:1, "Be ye
followers of me, even as I also am of Christ."
Philippians 3:7, "But what
things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ."
In any organization this is the
mass of the members. One of the great weaknesses rising on the scene in
America is that so few people are trained to be followers. There is nothing
undignified about being a follower. The follower is as important as the
leader. Athletic contests are won by athletes who know how to follow and are
trained to do so. America used to win wars when we trained our young men to
We say we believe in majority
rule, and this is right. However, majority rule does not mean majority
opinion. Following majority opinion is anarchy Following majority rule is
democracy We choose people to lead us and make important decisions for us.
An athletic team has a captain who calls the plays. The captain may be
chosen by the team, but the captain calls the plays. On a football team, the
quarterback calls the plays, or in some cases, the plays are called by the
coach. There would be neither time nor proper organization if the team voted
in the huddle what play to run. Imagine how long it would take for someone
to make a motion that we throw a pass to the right wide receiver, someone
else makes a motion that the fullback carries the ball through the center of
the line, someone else makes a motion for a quick kick, and the quarterback
asks then if there is any discussion! Each member of the team is allowed to
discuss the motion. Then the quarterback calls for a vote, and the majority
opinion decides on the play. A long time before the decision was made, the
team would have been penalized for delay of game. You can't run a team that
way; you can't run a nation that way, and you can't run a church that way
(though this seems to be the way the Congress wants to run our foreign
Once the leader is chosen, then
the followers follow him. This does not mean that the leader is stronger
than the follower; it simply means that in this particular area, he would
have more ability to make the fight decisions. Of course, the wise leader
will often seek the advice and counsel of followers before making his
decision, but the decision should be his. The follower should be loyal to
that decision. This is the way wars are won, championships are won, and
souls are won! Let the church choose a choir director and let him make the
decisions for the choir. Don't saddle him with a music committee to nip at
his heels. Let the choir follow.
Let the youth director make the
decisions about the youth program. Choose one and follow him. Don't saddle
him with a youth committee as an albatross around his neck.
In some churches it takes seven
days for a committee of five to decide what kind and color of flowers to put
on the communion table on Sunday. Let someone be chosen to be in charge of
the flowers and send the committee out soul winning! If a business were run
like the average church, it would go bankrupt. If a nation were run like the
average church, it would go under. (In some ways it seems like our nation is
run almost that way now.)
Choose a bus director and let
that bus director make the decisions concerning the bus ministry. Do not
appoint a bus committee to hinder the progress. Democracy is not voting on
every issue but choosing our leaders and letting them lead. Of course, there
are times for the need of a public referendum, but these are rare occasions
and for special purposes.
A church should choose a pastor,
vote him in democratically and then let him be the pastor. Do not appoint a
committee to approve who fills the pulpit in his absence. Let the pastor
choose. Do not have a board or a committee to approve his speaking
engagements outside the church and to approve whatever advisory boards he
sits on outside the church. Choose the pastor and let him be the pastor.
There are three words in the
Bible all of which deal with the same office, pastor, elder and bishop. The
title of pastor means that God's man should be careful to protect his people
from false doctrine and heresy, as the shepherd protected his sheep from
serpents and wild beasts and as he fed them. The title of elder signifies
experience and wisdom as the pastor guides his people with the decisions of
life. The title of bishop means overseer. A pastor is chosen democratically
by the people, not to lead the church by majority opinion, but by wise
leadership after having been chosen by majority vote.
Let no one mistake this for the
pastor borrowing money for the church or building a building without a
church vote, but the people should follow pastoral leadership. He is trained
for the job and has been democratically voted to the job.
Years ago a deacon in a certain
church informed me that the deacons of the church were not pleased with my
preaching and asked if a meeting could be held to discuss my preaching. I
agreed to such a meeting. The time was set for Monday night at 7:00 in one
of the Sunday school rooms at the church. About 10:00 that night the deacon
called me and asked me where I was. I said, "I'm at home."
He said, "Why didn't you come to
I said, "What meeting?"
He said, "You told me we could
have a meeting to discuss your preaching," and I said, "You can. You can
have a meeting every night if you want to discuss my preaching, but I won't
be there. That's between me and God, not between me and the deacon board."
Years ago a deacon said to me,
"Pastor, concerning your preaching . . . ."
I said, "Hold it. When we build
a building, you get one vote. When we borrow money, you get one vote, but
when I walk in the pulpit, you don't get no vote! Two and two is four; the
sun rises in the east and sets in the west; the pope is a Catholic; and my
preaching is between me and God."
This group that we call
followers of leaders is only such in one particular phase of the work, but
each organization needs people who love to follow and who are self confident
enough to yield, who are loyal and faithful.
The wise follower loves
strength. He will be happy to follow strength and would be wise to study the
leader to find the qualities he possesses in order for him to know those
qualities if he is chosen someday to lead in some endeavor.
2. Leaders of followers.
This is the second group.
1) These people come from
good followers. No one will I make a good leader unless he has first
been a follower. He must know the heartbeat of the follower. He must have
compassion and empathy toward the follower.
2) He does not want power; he
just wants to get things done. He has no desire to lead or to have
people subservient to him. He is lost in the necessity to accomplish a task.
He realizes that he has been chosen to a place of leadership that will
require him to lead in this task.
3) He doesn't feel above the
followers. He feels that the position of leadership is not a position
that is exalted above that of the follower. He realizes that somebody has to
lead, and he has been chosen to do so. Perhaps another could have been
chosen who could have done the job as well as he, but he realizes that he
has been chosen for the job, so he accepts the responsibility, realizing
that the followers are his equals, not his inferiors.
4) He does not seek
leadership. This is one of the weaknesses of our system. Leadership is
sought. The husband reminds his wife of Ephesians 5:22, "Wives, submit
yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord," and oftentimes that is
his only right to be the leader. To be sure, the wife should obey because
the Bible says to, but far be it from me to believe that a weak man should
take that Scripture and use it as a club! He should become strong and earn
his wife's followship, convincing her that he is capable of leading. Now
don't misunderstand me. She should follow whether he is capable or not. The
Bible gives her that command, but at no place in the Bible does it say,
"Husbands, command your wives. Husbands, boss your wives. Husbands, dictate
to your wives." Why couldn't a husband be the kind of man that his wife
would want to follow! What a delightful buffer this would give as Ephesians
5:22 is carried out!
There is nothing more disgusting
than for some little milquetoast to say in an effeminate way, "Matilda, you
are supposed to obey me; the Bible says you are!"
Yes, Matilda, you should obey
little milquetoast, but there is nothing in the Bible that says you have to
enjoy it, and there is nothing in the Bible that says he deserves it!
There are few things more
disgusting than for some little effeminate, papa called, mama fed, seminary
bred preacher to open the Bible to Hebrews 13:7 and 17 and remind his people
that they are supposed to follow him. Hebrews 13:7, 17, "Remember them which
have the rule over you, who have spoken unto you the Word of God: whose
faith follow, considering the end of their conversation. Obey them that have
the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as
they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with
grief: for that is unprofitable for you." Now, it is true that they are
supposed to follow, and the argument that I am presenting now gives no
member a right to rebel against his pastor, but it is far better when God's
man works to become capable of leadership! Through loving his people,
working for their benefit, serving them, caring for them and ministering to
them, he convinces them that he is capable of being their leader. They, in
turn, follow him because they believe he is capable. Oh, yes, the letter of
the law says that they are supposed to obey him, but how much more beautiful
it is when God's man loves his people and does not want to be a dictator and
has no desire to rule them. He simply realizes that he has been chosen as
their leader and feels that he is capable of doing it with God's help. He
goes about doing his duty of leading them; and they, believing that he can
lead them, follow him.
5) He delivers followers to
other leaders. For example, if a man leads the church choir, he is a
leader of followers, but he also has a pastor whom he is to follow. He is to
lead the church choir to follow the pastor. If a man is the principal of a
school which is operated by a church, he should increase the loyalty of
those whom he leads to the pastor whom he follows. The wise and capable
leader will realize that there are leaders above him, and he should present
his followers as the most loyal followers of his leaders.
One of the sad things in our
system is that so many of our national leaders have never led anything. So
many of our congressmen graduated from college with a law degree or some
other degree that put them in a position in business where they built
nothing. They run for office on the basis of their charisma, charm and smile
and are then elected as leaders. These are not officers who are commissioned
on the battlefield because they have proven themselves as leaders, but
rather chosen by a popular vote. These men sit in the halls of Congress, but
they have never led a corporation; they have never built a business; they
have never built a church; they simply went to a liberal university, kissed
a few babies, shook several thousand hands, made a few television
commercials and then assumed a place of leadership without ever having been
On the other hand, the President
appoints his staff and his cabinet. He chooses men for his staff and cabinet
who have been successful as leaders in America. He chooses men who have
headed great corporations, men who have headed great armies, or men who have
built empires. On one side you have the President's staff, chosen from the
field of leadership, business and success. On the other side you have a
Congress where many of its members have never built or led at all. We have
seen in our generation how easy it is for the President's staff and cabinet
to become impatient with the other side. The followers are leading leaders;
novices are placed over successful men. Sometimes these men who have led in
great corporations step over the line and make some mistakes. They
immediately are investigated by the weaker ones who assert their right to
leadership because the Constitution and the laws give it to them. They are
right, but they are also weak. The temptation to do wrong was partially or
maybe totally caused by their ineptness, and so they (like the husband who
takes Ephesians 5:22 and waves it in front of his wife and the pastor who
takes Hebrews 13:7 and 17 and waves it before his people) take the
Constitution and wave it before the successful men who have crossed over a
line because of their impatience in waiting for the inept ones to do
something! Then a committee is formed so there can be a hearing where
followship can interrogate leadership, where failure can interrogate
success, and where weakness can interrogate strength!
It is not hard to understand why
a strong man who is a leader steps across the line in an effort to do
something to defend America from Communism, when the often inept and weak
people sit on their hands while Communism invades our hemisphere.
We have seen in our day how
colonels and admirals who have been trained at West Point and Annapolis and
who have been taught how to be followers and how to be leaders are quizzed,
disciplined and censored by men who were trained in liberal, undisciplined
state universities and have been spawned by the permissive society and the
situation ethics of our generation. While these weak men in strong positions
point the finger of accusation at impatient and perhaps even erring strong
men, somebody should point the finger at these men whose "donothingness"
left the vacuum that was filled by the strong men who got out of bounds.
Many of these men who have gotten out of bounds in their over-zealousness to
keep America free, have been pushed out of bounds or pulled out of bounds
because no one in bounds was doing anything! I am not condoning lawbreaking,
nor am I condoning those who entice law-breaking. There are laws in our
country against rioting. There are also laws in our country against those
who incite a riot. There are laws in our country against certain crimes, and
there are also laws against those who aid those crimes and incite those
crimes. I contend that the people who are letting Communism take over
America while they preach their doctrine of disarmament and pacifism from
college desks, senate seats, congressional rostrums and even pulpits are
just as guilty as the patriots who are excessive in their defense of
America. I am not acquitting anyone; I am simply indicting some others!
3. Leaders of leaders.
Deuteronomy 10:17, "For the Lord your God is God of gods, and Lord of lords,
a great God, a mighty, and a terrible, which regardeth not persons, nor
taketh reward." I Timothy 6:15, "Which in His times He shall shew, Who is
the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings, and Lord of lords."
It is very interesting that
Jesus is called King of kings and Lord of lords. Not only is He a King of
subjects, but He is King over kings. Not only is He a Lord over followers,
but He is Lord over lords. There are some people who have been chosen by
leaders to be their leaders. Pastors who lead churches have men to whom they
look for leadership. Men who lead corporations have men to whom they look
Here is where many churches stop
growing. The pastor is a leader of followers, and he takes the church as far
as one leader can take a church. Here is the place where he must become a
leader of leaders. He must choose men under him to lead different
departments of the church. He must delegate to them responsibility and some
authority. He must learn to share with these leaders his people and a part
of his domain. Of course, these leaders whom he leads should be fanatically
loyal to the pastor and should not steal any of the love that the people
have for the pastor. When a church reaches a certain size, its continued
growth numerically will depend upon the ability of the pastor to become a
leader of leaders. This is not easy. Some of the nice things the people have
done for the pastor, they will now do for the other leaders. The pastor will
have to share the banana puddings, the pecan pies and the pineapple upside
down cakes with those who work as his followers and as leaders of a portion
of his people.
1) This position should not
be sought. All true leadership should come from one who is so busy
helping followers that they will want him to be the leader. This is true
with the leader of leaders. He should be chosen by the leaders. This does
not mean that he will be elected; it means that he just unknowingly becomes
the kind of person to whom leaders look. The position is not sought; it just
happens, or in some cases of organizational structure, he is chosen without
his applying for the position.
Twenty-five years ago a man came
to the First Baptist Church of Hammond and told me that he was a pastor and
that he had heard of our church and wanted to learn something about the
ministry of our church. We put him in a guest room, kept him for the entire
week and let each staff member talk to him for one hour. His ministry was
transformed. He went back to his church in the western part of our nation,
and his church was transformed. He told a friend what had happened to him.
The friend contacted me and asked if he could come and spend a week learning
from our staff members concerning our work. We allowed him to do so. He had
a friend, and he came. He had a friend who came, and he had a friend who
came, until we were spending far too much time individually with pastors
each coming to spend a week. I got with the staff and we decided we would
have one week and announce it so that all who wanted to come could come. It
was to be a one-time situation. We simply got word around the country that
any pastor who wanted to come and spend a week and spend an hour with each
of our staff members could do so, but it would all happen at the same time.
To our total shock, 167 pastors from 19 states came. When that week was over
we never intended to do it again. Then requests came from all over America
concerning a repeat. Other pastors wanted to spend the same week, so we did
it the second year. For twenty-five consecutive years we have had what we
call our nationwide Pastors' School, where pastors and Christian workers
come from all over America and from around the world. Five to six thousand
come each year to spend a week of training. (Last year over 6,000 came from
48 states and 19 foreign countries.) We start on Monday night, have sessions
all day Tuesday and Tuesday night, all day Wednesday and Wednesday night,
all day Thursday and Thursday night, and most of Friday.
Now I did not sit in my office
one day and say, "I would like to become a leader of leaders, and I've got
to figure out some way where I can have leaders to come here so I can be
their leader." It never works that way! The position of becoming a leader of
leaders just happens.
The truth is, I don't enjoy
being an administrator or an executive. I was reared a poor boy and had no
intention at all of ever being any kind of an executive. In fact, I didn't
like that word. I was pastoring the Miller Road Baptist Church of Garland,
Texas. We had about 300 in attendance, and I was doing everything! I was
leading the choir, printing the church bulletin, turning on the lights and
the heat, typing letters to the visitors and new members, mimeographing the
Sunday school outline for the teachers and officers in addition to my
pastoral duties. I hired a secretary, and I had a hard time relinquishing
the things I was doing. This little secretary's name was Jo Strickland. She
did me a favor, for which I could never adequately repay her. One day this
little short gal said to me, "Pastor, I have been a secretary for an
insurance executive, and you need to learn how to delegate responsibility
and be an executive." I told her I didn't even like the word. I wasn't a big
shot, and I didn't want to become one! She looked at me and very sincerely
said, "Pastor, I believe you could be a great preacher someday, but you are
going to limit yourself if you don't learn to delegate responsibility. You
will never be able to build a big church unless you can administrate." (What
she was saying was it was time for me to become a leader of leaders!) She
looked up at me and said, "Say this to me: 'I am an executive!'"
I don't know why I did, but I
She said, "Say it over ten
times," and to my shock I did it. Every morning when I came to work, she met
me at the door and required me to look down at her and say that phrase ten
times: "I am an executive! I am an executive! I am an executive! I am an
executive! I am an executive! I am an executive! I am an executive! I am an
executive! I am an executive! I am an executive!" What she was doing was
helping me to become a leader of leaders. This was a pivotal time in my
ministry. Every leader reaches the place on the ladder of success where he
can no longer continue to prosper or grow by just being a leader of
followers. He must become a leader of leaders.
2) The leader of leaders must
learn to delegate. This is hard for a zealous leader to do. Something
that has helped me tremendously is the awareness that if I have ten men who
work for me, and if I think I can do the job that each is doing better than
he is doing it, I still can get more done by letting him do his own job.
Let's suppose I have ten men working for me, and that each of those ten men
can only do his job 90% as effectively as I could do it. (Of course, this is
not always the case. Some of the men who work for me can do their jobs far
better than I could do them.) However, it dawned on me one day that I would
get more done by letting these men do their jobs, even though they could do
them only 90% as well as I could. It is simply a matter of mathematics. I
cannot do all the jobs, so I would rather have 10 men working at 90%
efficiency than one man working at 100% efficiency It is a mathematical fact
of 900 to 100, so the leader of leaders must learn to delegate!
3) The leader of leaders must
learn to share glory. He must honor the leaders whom he leads. He must
exalt them in the minds of the followers.
Let me stop to say this: The
leaders who are led by the leader of leaders should not demand this kind of
treatment. This is an exhortation to the leader of leaders to share the
glory; it is not an exhortation or a license given to the leaders who follow
the leader of leaders to demand such glory. God would not honor this kind of
a spirit. However, the wise leader of leaders will give credit where credit
is due, honor where honor is due and will exalt in the presence of the
followers those leaders whom he leads.
4) The leader of leaders must
learn to share the spoils with the leaders who follow him.
The first time I ever had a
leader under me was in the early 1950's. His name was Bob Keyes. Until that
time, I had gotten all the cakes, pies, turnip greens, green beans and other
nice things that people give to and do for the pastor. The first week that
Bob Keyes worked for me, I went by his house. He and his family were eating
a meal of freshly cooked vegetables. I walked in, smelled the meal, coveted
the vegetables and told them it sure smelled good and looked good.
Bob said, "Yes, these are fresh
out of the garden."
That green eyed monster came
inside my heart and I said, "You don't have a garden! Whose garden?"
He said, "Well, some members of
the church brought these by to us today," and I said to myself, "They didn't
bring me any!" I was learning that I must share with my followers the leader
whom I was leading.
Evangelist Jim Lyons at one time
was my associate pastor. One cold winter day I was backing out of my
driveway (it is a curved driveway), and I got off of the drive into a
snowbank. I tried to get out and couldn't. I gunned the engine, went forward
a bit, backward a bit, forward a bit, backward a bit, and then I smelled
something! I knew what I had done. I had burned up the transmission. There I
was, sitting in a snowbank with no transmission, realizing that it would
cost me hundreds of dollars to have it fixed or replaced, when suddenly Jim
Lyons and his wife drove up in front of our house. He shouted, "Preacher,
are you having trouble?"
I replied something like this,
"No, Jim. I just come out here every day and try to find a snowbank where I
can put my car and bum up my transmission!"
Jim said, "Well, why don't you
get some snow tires?"
I said, "I don't have any money
to buy snow tires. Do you have snow tires?"
He said, "Yes."
I said, "Where did you get
He said, "The Cliftons gave them
Oh boy, that green eyed monster
came to me again! I was learning again that in order to have leaders whom I
lead, I must share with them the spoils from the followers.
5) The leader of leaders must
oftentimes accept being misunderstood. His life is a lonely life. The
people to whom he was once close are now led on a personal basis by other
leaders whom he leads. He will be misunderstood. This goes back to what
President Harry Truman said, "If you can't stand the heat, don't get in the
kitchen." A part of the heat of being a leader of leaders is sharing the
glory and the spoils with the leaders whom the leader leads.
6) The leader of leaders must
oftentimes give up closeness that he would like to have. I would
like to be as close to our young people as our youth director is, but I
cannot. The church is too big. I would like to be as close to our senior
citizens as the director of our senior citizens ministry is, but I cannot.
The church is too big. I would like to be as close to those in the hospital
as my associate pastor John Colsten is, but I cannot. The church is too big.
I would like to be as close to the football team at Hammond Baptist High
School as the coach is, but I cannot. The church is too big. I would like to
be as close to the school teachers as the principals are, but I cannot. The
church is too big. I would like to be as close to the bus workers as the bus
directors are, but I cannot. The church is too big. I would like to be as
close to the college students at Hyles-Anderson College as the teachers are,
but I cannot. The church is too big. This is a price to pay, but it is well
worth it in order to reach more people. This means the leader of leaders
must walk with God in a closer way than do his followers and leaders whom he
When the Israelites came into
the promised land, God divided the land and gave a portion to 11 of the 12
tribes. The tribe of Levi received no such portion of land. They asked God
what their portion would be. He replied, "I am your portion." This is true
in a church concerning a pastor who has become a leader of leaders.
7) The leader of leaders must
be willing to be second or third in the minds of some of the people. I
have a large staff. There are many men who work for me. I often tell my
congregation that I do not expect them to put me first on their love list;
just put me somewhere on the list. In the minds of some I will be number
one; in the minds of others I will be number two or number three, number
four, number five. That doesn't matter, as long as I am on the list. I
simply ask them to love me; not to love me first or love me most. There are
some people in my church who love Brother John Colsten more than they love
me. That's all right as long as they love me. There are some who love
Brother Roy Moffitt more than they love me. There are some who love Brother
Elmer Fernandez more than they love me. There are some who have more love
for other members of the staff such as Bob Auclair, Eddie Lapina, Keith
McKinney, Bill Schutt, Ray Young, Wendell Evans, Mike Sisson, Greg Weber,
Tom Vogel, etc. I want some people to put each of these men first (though
the loyal man will not seek such love for himself).
Leaders are reading this
chapter. Do not seek to be a leader of leaders in non organizational areas.
Some doctors simply are highly respected and regarded by other doctors and
become leaders of leaders. Some lawyers just happen to rise to a place of
similar respectability. The same is true with preachers, and with leaders in
every other field.
However, in an organizational
structure such as a church, the wise pastor will have people who follow him,
but who lead segments of the congregation in various ministries. The work of
the church can be multiplied many times if such a relationship can be one of
grace, love, admiration and acceptance.
4. A follower of followers.
Matthew 15:14, "Let them alone: they be blind leaders of the blind. And if
the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch." In every church,
and for that matter, in every organization, there are people who do not
follow the designated leadership. Some of these people perhaps are jealous
of strength because they are almost always weak themselves. These people may
be those who wanted to lead and failed, and so they do not like to follow
leadership. These are people who are critics of leaders. They usually hate
strong people, or at least, they do not like them. They are often one issue
people and have one doctrine that they advocate, one project that they
promote, or one conviction that they advocate above others. These are they
who often have tried to lead and failed, and so they pick away at
leadership. No matter what organization they are in, they do not follow. If
they are choir members, they do not cooperate with the choir director. They
do not come to choir practice, and if they do, they try to aggravate the
choir director. If they are bus captains, they will not cooperate in the bus
meetings, either by causing a problem when they are there or by not
attending the meetings at all (which is a blessing to the director!).
The tragic thing is the fact
that there are many who follow these followers. They preach their sermons
from restaurant tables as they promote their opposition to the chosen
leadership. They are followers of followers. How tragic this is! These
followers are often lovely people who are misled by those whose only ability
to lead is to lead someone against the leader. Their only achievement is to
criticize achievers, and their only success is to lead others in opposition
to the successful. These followers usually are lovely people who are misled
by a warm personality of a follower who wants to lead and can lead only
those whom he can get disgruntled.
Let God's people beware of
followers whose only leadership is that of rebellion, criticism and
All over America churches have
been split by these followers who lead followers, and so many of these
followers who follow followers have gone with them to start other churches,
and all over America there are little groups of people who are living in
failure because they have followed a follower instead of a leader. Many
young people have lost confidence in leadership because of these misguided
souls. Thank God for those who are followers, but let all followers be
careful to follow those who are leaders and not those whose only
accomplishment is to fight leadership and to gather around themselves a few
followers who became disgruntled and usually, sad to say, come to naught.
5. Followers of leaders of
leaders. This is that type of Christian who wants to follow the famous
name. He will support financially a leader of leaders, perhaps through some
kind of nationwide ministry, but he is not willing to follow and support his
own leader, the faithful pastor of his own church. He is enchanted by a
personality, infected with hero worship, and will often drive hundreds of
miles to hear a famous name but is seldom interested in supporting the
leader nearest him. It is also true that if this follower of a leader of
leaders were to become acquainted on a day-to-day basis with his hero, he
would probably become disenchanted. He can follow only at a distance and not
One of these such followers of
the leader of leaders came to me when I was preaching in a distant state. He
told me that he certainly was pleased to hear me and that he wished that
they had a seasoned pastor at their church instead of the young man that God
had given them. He was much chagrined because his young pastor made foolish
mistakes. He tried to build himself in my estimation (and failed) by telling
me that he wished he had a pastor like me that would not be susceptible to
mistakes of youth.
The next night when I stood to
speak, I told of this man's statement to me (though I did not imply at all
or even give a hint as to the man's name). I then proceeded to tell the
audience of a mistake that I had made just a few years before, after I had
been in Hammond for about 20 years. Our church is a downtown church. We have
purchased many buildings in the downtown area of Hammond. We bought a
department store building, a drug store, a restaurant, four furniture
companies, a lodge building, four small stores, a cleaners, a barber shop, a
beauty shop and several apartment buildings.
On this particular occasion we
had purchased a three story building behind our auditorium. One night at
deacons' meeting a motion was made and seconded that we tear down the
building and use it for parking. One deacon included in his motion that we
appoint a committee to have the building torn down. I immediately suggested
that it was foolish to appoint a committee; I could take care of it. All I
had to do was simply call the demolition company and tell them to tear the
building down. The deacons agreed to do so.
I did call the demolition
company, but I failed to give them proper instructions! They did tear the
building down that we had purchased. They also tore down the three-story
building next door that we did not own. Boy, was I ever shocked and
surprised to find that we had torn down a building that we did not own! How
would you like to come to work some morning and find your building gone,
especially if you were the owner of the building! I called a meeting of my
deacons for Saturday night. They did not know what had happened. I
immediately started the meeting by saying, "Fellows, did you ever hear of
the Scripture that says, 'If a man asks you to go a mile, go with him two'?
Well, I had the building torn down just as you requested, but I also tore
the one down next door." I told them that I would not blame them if they
asked the church to fire me.
One deacon kiddingly said,
"Well, we don't pay much; we don't expect much!"
I kiddingly replied, "One more
crack out of you, and your house comes down tonight!"
A deacon across the room shouted
to him in jest, "Don't worry, he'll get the one next door instead!"
One deacon stood and said,
"You've been my pastor for all these years, and I love you and am going to
follow you regardless. As far as I'm concerned you can tear down the whole
city of Hammond, and you are still my preacher."
I then began to think of other
buildings that could come down! How about the adult bookstore? How about the
movie houses and the liberal churches? (Of course, this was all in humor.)
One by one our deacons stood to
tell me of their love and loyalty What could have been serious trouble
turned into a little revival meeting.
I told this story to the people
where I was preaching and reminded them that leaders of leaders make foolish
mistakes and errors just like leaders do and that older more seasoned
preachers are prone to mistakes also.
What I am saying is this: The
member of the church should follow the pastor, his own pastor. The pastor
may not be as glamorous as some nationally known figure, but he is God's man
for that place, and he should be followed. Yes, we ought to love the leaders
of leaders, but we also ought to love, appreciate and follow that one that
God has given us to lead us on a local scale.
Are you a follower of leaders?
Then be a faithful, loyal one. Are you a leader of followers? Then be a
considerate, compassionate one. Are you a leader of leaders? Then be an
unselfish, sharing one. Are you a follower of followers? Then turn from
following discontents and disgruntles, and follow God's chosen leader. Are
you a follower of leaders of leaders? Then add to that your followship of
your own leader. May God make us to be in any capacity what He would have us
My Ten Commandments When Sinned Against
I refuse to allow the existence
of my happiness to depend upon the actions of others. I will allow the
degree of my happiness to depend on the actions of others. I will not allow
myself to be unhappy or to lose my joy because of the behavior of someone
else. I will allow myself to have joy and happiness only because of
conditions within my ability to determine. If my joy is dependent upon your
treatment of me, I can have joy only when you decide for me to have joy. If
my joy is dependent upon my treatment of you, then I may have that joy any
time I choose. If my joy is dependent upon my relationship with God, then I
may have joy when I choose to do so. If my joy is dependent upon my service
for others, then I may have that joy any time I choose to serve others. So
the presence of my joy must not be dependent upon the actions of others and
their behavior toward me. However, the degree of that joy may be so
determined. In other words, I will not let you make me happy, but I will let
you make me happier.
Even in church life the carnal
sometimes prevails over the spiritual, and Christians sin against each
other. The purpose of this chapter is to give instruction to the one who is
sinned against. For years I have had what I call, "My Ten Commandments When
Sinned Against." These are ten things that I do when I find that someone has
sinned against me.
Before entering the discussion
of these ten commandments, we must make it clear that there is no selfish
purpose or motive involved in these actions and reactions. The one supreme
motive is TO RESTORE THE ONE WHO HAS SINNED AGAINST ME. I must look upon him
as I would look upon any Christian who has committed any other sin. I must
be grieved because it has strained his relationship with God. I must not
allow my grief to exist because I have been wounded or offended. The truth
is, if I love the Word of God and the God of the Word as I should, there is
no way that I can be offended. Psalm 119:165, "Great peace have they which
love Thy law: and nothing shall offend them."
As we enter into these ten
commandments, we will always keep before us that our purpose is to restore
the offender. If you have sinned against me, I want you to have the joy that
has been taken from you because of your offense. My purpose is to help you
and, by God's grace, to help you be restored!
I will have forgiveness in readiness before you sin
against me. Ephesians 4:32, "And be ye kind one to another,
tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath
forgiven you." I will always keep a reservoir of forgiveness so that it can
be used immediately when sinned against. I will not allow myself the
indulgence of the time that often transpires between being sinned against
and offering forgiveness. That forgiveness will always be available and in
abundant readiness immediately when the sin against me has been committed.
I will not impute your sin to you. Ephesians
4:32, "And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another,
even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you." Notice here that I am to
forgive those who offend me just exactly as God forgives those who offend
Him. God not only forgives our sins, but He also justifies us. In other
words, God keeps in readiness "justified forgiveness," which means that God
does not charge us with the sin. He does not record it against us. When a
Christian is saved, he is justified by the faith which is placed in Christ.
Romans 5:1, "Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God
through our Lord Jesus Christ." If, therefore, I forgive you as God for
Christ's sake has forgiven me, I must not only forgive you, but I must not
charge you with the offense. In my mind, you never sinned against me. I call
that "justified forgiveness." Not only do I forgive you for what you've
done, but I do not record what you have done. I do not think of you as one
forgiven, but I think of you as one who has not sinned at all.
I will grieve for you, but not for what you have
done to me. I will not grieve because I have an enemy; I will grieve
because you are an enemy I will not grieve because I have been sinned
against; I will grieve because you have sinned. I want you to have a good
relationship with Christ. I want you to have peace. I want you to have
fullness of joy, and you can have none of these when being offensive, so my
grief is not for the wounded but for the wounder. My grief is not for the
criticized but for the critic. My grief is not for myself, though I
certainly want your love. My grief is for you because I want the best for
you, and you cannot have the best when you have sinned against another.
I will do all that I can to help you remedy your
situation. I will not retaliate. I will not be critical of you. I will
not even share with others what you have done against me. My entire course
of action will be that of seeking your restoration. I want you restored to
fellowship with Christ. I want your joy restored, your peace restored and
your happiness restored, so nothing that I do in the following commandments
will be done to try to hurt you but to help you. I will not want for your
hurt unless God chooses that method to bring you back to Himself. I will
want the best for you and will do all that I can for that best to come your
I will ask God to let me suffer for you. I
Corinthians 6:6-8, "But brother goeth to law with brother, and that before
the unbelievers. Now therefore there is utterly a fault among you, because
ye go to law one with another. Why do ye not rather take wrong? why do ye
not rather suffer yourselves to be defrauded? Nay, ye do wrong, and defraud,
and that your brethren." Not only will my forgiveness be justified
forgiveness, but it will be vicarious forgiveness. I will ask God to punish
me instead of you if that can best serve to bring about your restoration. I
must not forget that the entire purpose of these commandments is for you to
be restored, and I must do all I can to bring that restoration about. Isn't
that the way that Jesus cared for our sins? He bore the suffering for us
vicariously Do not forget that I am to forgive as God forgives, so if God
took upon Himself the suffering for our sins, even so I must take upon
myself the suffering for your sins if God will but let me do so. I have
forgiven you. I have offered you with that forgiveness a justified
forgiveness, and now I offer to you a vicarious forgiveness.
Certainly by now I want you to
be restored. However, if you are not yet restored, I must continue to do
what I can to help you find the peace you once had and the joy you once knew
in Christ. If at any time while I am obeying these ten commandments, you are
restored, then the use of the balance of the commandments will not be
necessary. However, if having had forgiveness in readiness for you, having
offered you justified forgiveness, having grieved for you, having decided to
do all that I can to remedy your situation and having offered you a
vicarious forgiveness with a willingness to suffer your penalty, I find that
you are not yet restored, I must proceed to the next commandment.
I will turn you over to God for justice. Romans
12:17-20, "Recompense to no man evil for evil. Provide things honest in the
sight of all men. If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably
with all men. Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place
unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is Mine; I will repay, saith the
Lord. Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him
drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head." Do not
forget that this justice that I seek for you from God is for your
Far too often I have heard this
passage explained in a way to describe the Christian as one who wants his
offender to be hurt and that God is certainly a better executor of this hurt
than we can be. So it is taught that if you really want to hurt somebody,
let God do it, and even blessing those that curse us is supposedly done in
an effort to heap coals of fire upon his head. What a tragic teaching! How
sad it is for us to teach God's people to be good to somebody because it
will make them feel bad, to love somebody because it will make them hurt.
God teaches no such thing! We must never forget that the purpose for all of
this is for restoration. We are not trying to see to it that someone gets
punished for his sin unless that punishment will help to restore him.
We simply treat him with love.
If he hates us, we love him. If he despises us, we pray for him. If he does
ill to us, we do good to him and turn him over to the Lord for justice,
hoping that that justice will lead him to restoration. We would rather that
he not suffer at all, but if God chooses to use the tool of suffering to
bring him back to joy, peace and restoration, we will be happy for that, but
we will never be happy because he suffers. We are pleased only if that
suffering leads to restoration. All of this must be remedial.
The word "vengeance" here has to
do with justice, and the justice has to do with chastening, and the
chastening we hope and trust will lead to repentance, and repentance will
lead to a restoration of fellowship with God, and a restoration of that
fellowship will lead the offender to regain his joy and peace.
Why should we want to use the
same tactics he used? Why should we borrow Satan's weapons to punish those
who have punished us? Do not forget! The purpose of these ten commandments
is restoration. If forgiving immediately brings it about, Commandment I is
all that is necessary. If that fails, we will offer justified forgiveness
and let our offender know that we are not charging the sin to him at all.
Then we will attempt restoration by grieving for him and then doing all we
can to remedy his situation, and then by asking God to let us suffer for
him, and when all of those commandments have failed, we then turn him over
to the Lord so God may use justice upon him in order that that justice may
lead him back to his original fellowship and relationship with his God. If
our brother is still not restored, we go to the next commandment.
I will turn you over to the Lord for chastening.
Hebrews 12:10-12, "For they verily for a few days chastened us after their
own pleasure; but He for our profit, that we might be partakers of His
holiness. Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but
grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of
righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby. Wherefore lift up the
hands which hang down, and the feeble knees." In other words, I will ask God
to chasten you, but I must remember through it all that I am not wanting you
to be hurt. I am wanting you to be restored, and if asking God to chasten
you leads to this restoration, I will be pleased to do so. I will not enjoy
your suffering or your pain any more than a loving parent enjoys the
suffering of the child he is spanking, but I will wish for it if it will
lead to your restoration. Of course, the word "chastening" implies training
or educating. God does not punish His children for sin. His measures of
inflicting pain upon us are not vindictive. They are punitive and corrective
and done in love. The loving parent has in mind training his child,
improving his child, educating his child, and in doing this, oftentimes must
use the inflicting of pain. Never forget, the purpose is remedial!
I would much prefer that my
forgiveness in itself would bring you to restoration. I would love for my
justifying you as if you had never sinned against me to accomplish this. I
would hope that a long time before we get to Commandment 7, you have been
restored to fellowship with your God and have received once again the sweet
peace and joy that comes with that fellowship, and only for your restoration
to that place will I want you to be chastened.
As has been implied, God does
not punish Christians; He chastens them. Now it may look the same way and it
may, as a fact, be the same action. God may do exactly the same thing to a
saved man that He does to an unsaved man, but to the unsaved it is
punishment; to the saved man it is chastening. He chastens those whom He
loves. To the one who is not His child, He may inflict punishment for sin,
and though He may use that same act upon the Christian, it will not be
punishment; it will be chastening. It will be done for training, for
educating and for restoring His child to Himself
Certainly we trust that by now
the one who has sinned against us has been restored, but if not, there is
I will turn you over to Satan for the destruction
of the flesh. I Corinthians 5:1-5, "It is reported commonly that there
is fornication among you, and such fornication as is not so much as named
among the Gentiles, that one should have his father's wife. And ye are
puffed up, and have not rather mourned, that he that hath done this deed
might be taken away from among you. For I verily, as absent in body, but
present in spirit, have judged already, as though I were present, concerning
him that hath so done this deed. In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when
ye are gathered together, and my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus
Christ, to deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh,
that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus." Notice
especially the first part of verse 5, "to deliver such an one unto Satan for
the destruction of the flesh," but don't stop there. Notice the rest of the
verse, "that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus." It is
folly for us to think that we are to say, "I tried to hurt him, and God
tried to hurt him; now Devil, you hurt him." This is contrary to the whole
spirit of the Bible. It is contrary to the attitude of God toward His
children. God is not talking here about a judgmental deliverance of the
sinner to the executioner. God is simply saying He will exhaust every
measure in order to restore the offender to Himself.
Another error that is taught
concerning this subject is that this means we are to turn someone over to
the Devil and say, "Devil, kill him!" That is not taught here. Notice that
the destruction is of the flesh, the destruction of the carnality, the
destruction of the methods that caused him to sin. God oftentimes will let
the Devil use his weapons on us, but even then the purpose is for our
restoration. I do not come with a vindictive spirit in a hateful manner and
almost with delight saying to the Devil, "You can have him. Kill him."
Turn to I Timothy 1:19-20,
"Holding faith, and a good conscience; which some having put away concerning
faith have made shipwreck. Of whom is Hymenaeus and Alexander; whom I have
delivered unto Satan, that they may learn not to blaspheme." Now notice
especially verse 20 where the Apostle says, "whom I have delivered unto
Satan, THAT THEY MAY LEARN not to blaspheme." What is the purpose of turning
one over to Satan? THAT HE MAY LEARN. This is the same as the chastening in
Commandment 7. Even in this action we are seeking restoration. This one,
like all the commandments above, is for the good of the offender that he
might be led to know once again the peace and joy he knew before he sinned
against me. Even in turning him over to Satan for the destruction of the
flesh, I am still interested in corrective measures, or as John Calvin said
concerning this truth, "for medicinal purposes." This is just another
medicine that I will use in an effort for your spirit to be healed.
I will bless you, do good to you, pray for you and
love you. Matthew 5:43, 44, "Ye have heard that it hath been said, "Thou
shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love
your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and
pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you." Romans 12:20,
21, "Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him
drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head. Be not
overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good." I will not combat hatred
with hatred, but I will combat hatred with love. I will not combat cursing
with cursing, but I will combat cursing with blessing. I will not combat
spite with spite, but I will combat spite with prayer, hoping still that the
weapons of love, blessing, prayer and kindness will lead to your restoration
because I love you. I loved you before you sinned against me. I love you
more now because you need me more. You need my love more, my blessings more,
my prayer more.
I will not socialize with you. I Corinthians
5:9-11, "I wrote unto you in an epistle not to company with fornicators: yet
not altogether with the fornicators of this world, or with the covetous, or
extortioners, or with idolaters; for then must ye needs go out of the world.
But now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is
called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer,
or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one no not to eat." II
Thessalonians 3:14, "And if any man obey not our word by this epistle, note
that man, and have no company with him, that he may be ashamed."
Perhaps you are saying, "Now you
are showing some hatred at last. You finally came to a commandment that is
vindicative!" No, quite to the contrary. Even this commandment is remedial
and medicinal as a last resort. I will not socialize with you, hoping that
you will miss my fellowship. Of course, I am commanded in the Scriptures
above not to socialize with you, but even this is an effort for you to be
restored. I trust that you will miss my fellowship and that my withdrawal
from socializing with you will lead to your restoration.
This does not mean that I will
not be nice to you. I will speak to you, I will help you, I will bless you,
I will pray for you, I will be kind to you, I will be gracious to you, I
will feed you if you are hungry, I will clothe you if you are cold. I will
do anything I can for you, but I will not socialize with you because I am
commanded not to do so and because again I am using a tool that I trust and
pray unto God will restore you to fellowship with God and to your
relationship with Him that brought you peace and joy, and as a blessed
by-product, restore you to myself.
In conclusion, if you are my
enemy and if you have sinned against me, I love you and I want you restored.
The commandments that I have listed above are simply different medicines in
the apothecary that I trust will heal your wounded spirit and bring you back
to your God and to me, your friend. Perhaps these medicines taste
progressively worse, and I certainly trust that before the more drastic ones
are needed, you will be restored. I do not want you to suffer. I do not want
you to hurt, but far above that, I want you restored to your God and to your
joy. If therefore, a little suffering and a little pain will be remedial and
medicinal, I will want it for you, not so you can hurt, but so the joy of
fellowship you once knew can be yours, because you see, my dear enemy, I
Choosing Your Friends in the Church
In any church, there are several
groups of people. That fact is the very purpose of the writing of this book.
There is a group of the weak, a group of the fallen, a group of the strong,
a group of the critical, etc. Of course, this is true in any group of people
or cross section of society. Each Christian must decide which group he wants
to join and who his choice of friends will be.
1. You must first decide what
you want to be. Do you want to be strong? Do you want to be weak? Do you
want to be fallen? Do you want to be critical? Do you want to be loyal? Do
you want to be disloyal? This decision must precede all others.
2. You must then associate
yourself with the group of people who are like that. You will be like
your associations. You will not regularly associate with the disloyal and
continue to be loyal. Neither will you regularly associate yourself with the
loyal and continue to be disloyal. You will not regularly associate yourself
with the strong and continue to be weak. You will not regularly associate
yourself with the weak and continue to be strong.
You have first decided what you
want to be. Then you have found the group that is composed of people like
your goal, and you have associated yourself with them.
3. Do not try to copy them,
and do not try not to copy them. All of us have heard sermons
innumerable, warning us not to be somebody else, but to be ourselves.
Christian colleges especially are bombarded with such statements, and there
is a bit of truth in the statement, but it does not go far enough. Just as
the Christian is not to TRY to copy his associates, even so he should not
NOT TRY to copy his associates. The mistake is the TRYING. Get with the
right crowd. Do not force becoming like them. Do not attempt to keep your
uniqueness; just be with them. Of course, we are assuming that you have
chosen the right crowd. In other words, do not try to be anyone else, and do
not NOT TRY to be anyone else.
It was my fortune as a young
preacher in my late 20's to begin associating with and preaching with the
greatest preachers of the former generation. As a young man not yet 30 years
of age, I began preaching on the same platform with such men as Dr. John R.
Rice, Dr. Bob Jones, Sr., Dr. R. G. Lee, Dr. Lee Roberson, Dr. Lester Roloff,
Dr. Bill Rice, Dr. Ford Porter and others. I made no attempt to copy these
men. I tried to be myself, but I made no attempt not to copy these men. I
simply was with them, hoping that some of their greatness would rub off on
me. I watched them preach. I watched them walk. I watched them sit on the
platform. I prayed with them. I preached with them. I studied with them. I
traveled with them, and on occasion, I even shared the same motel room with
them. It would have been a tragedy for me to have copied any of them. It
would have been just as tragic for me to have refused to allow them to
influence me. Occasionally one of my members will come to me after a message
and say, "You reminded me today of Dr. John R. Rice." It is not unusual for
someone to inform me that they saw Dr. Bill Rice in me while I was
preaching. The same can be said of Dr. Bob Jones, Sr., Dr. G. B. Vick, Dr.
Roloff and others. When I was a younger preacher one of my members told me
one time that they could always tell on Wednesday night with whom I had
preached on Monday and Tuesday. I assure you there was no purposeful effort
for me to preach like any one of these men. Neither was there a purposeful
effort for me not to preach like any one of these men. I simply let them
influence me by osmosis, not encouraging or fighting that influence.
The wise Christian will first
decide what he wants to be like. Then he will associate himself with that
crowd. If you want to be a critical person, do it on purpose. Find the
critical crowd and run with them. You will be successful in your goal. If
you want to be a weak Christian, do it on purpose. Find the weak Christians
and run with them. Likewise, if you want to be a strong Christian, do it on
purpose. Find the strong Christians and run with them. Once you have decided
what you want to be and have found the crowd that can influence you to be
that, get with that crowd and relax!
4. Weakness and strength
should never be equal. II Corinthians 6:14-17, "Be ye not unequally
yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with
unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? And what
concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an
infidel? And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are
the temple of the living God: as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and
walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.
Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and
touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you." Notice especially the
words, "Be ye not unequally YOKED together with unbelievers." Now a yoke
holds two together. It may be a team of mules, a team of oxen, but a yoke is
made for a pair. God does not want His people pairing off one-on-one with
the weak. One critic plus one non critic equals two critics. One gossip plus
one non-gossip equals two gossips. One disloyal plus one loyal equals two
disloyals. God does not want us to give the weak Christian the home court
advantage. A strong Christian will not change the crowd that is weak.
However, a crowd of strong Christians can change a weak Christian.
I think there is a real weakness
taught in many of our fundamental circles, and that is what we normally call
the "buddy system." I do not think the buddy system is a good idea. In other
words, one stronger Christian becomes a buddy with a weaker Christian in
order to strengthen him. Most of the time this will weaken the strong
Christian. The wise plan is to have a group of strong Christians with the
weak Christian. Have the weak Christian join five strong Christians so that
strength can be in the majority.
5. Do not choose a crowd or a
person that is not what you would like to become and then decide what good
you can learn from them. The truth is that we do not know what we learn.
We do not choose what we learn. There are so many things we learn that we do
not know we are learning.
I am thinking of a dear friend
of mine who has pastored for many years. He decided to go to different
pastors' schools, conferences, conventions, etc. of all persuasions to
choose the best of each. He chose one such meeting conducted by a very well
known pastor who would not be considered by fundamentalists to be
fundamental. He went to this meeting to choose the good and refuse the bad.
Since this is impossible, he was influenced by the charisma of the pastor
and began to embrace and endorse things that were contrary to his former
ministry. He gave the other side home court advantage, and in so doing,
accepted practices that previously he never would have accepted!
Now let us suppose that same
brother had come to the Pastors' School at First Baptist Church of Hammond
where the fundamental position has home court advantage. If the same
statements contrary to his former position had been made by someone in
conversation, he would have refuted them, at least in his own mind, and
certainly would not have embraced or endorsed them. However, he allowed
himself to be outnumbered by weakness and in so doing, accepted things he
never would have accepted otherwise. Do not let strength go to the weak
group to try to help, but form a strong group to invite the weak one that he
may be helped. DO NOT GIVE WEAKNESS THE HOME COURT ADVANTAGE.
6. Remember, it is the
personality that changes you. The same thing can be done by television.
When one watches a television program, he is giving the program home court
advantage. The television personality is not brought into your living room;
you are brought into his setting. In your mind, you are sitting with him at
his place. You are in his crowd. This is why television can be so deadly!
For example, when you watch a talk show whose guests hold an opinion
contrary to yours, you are allowing yourself to come under the influence of
their charisma in their setting with their having the home court advantage.
If that same person came to your home with the same philosophy, you would
not allow it! This is because when he comes to your home, you then have the
home court advantage, and you refuse to be influenced in such a manner. This
is the power of television. The world decides the crowd with whom you will
run, and likewise decides the conditions and environment surrounding you and
those who want to influence you.
The wise Christian will decide
what he wants to be and will avoid watching personalities on television who
are not what he wants to be.
The same is true with radio. If
you want to be a separated, fundamentalist Christian, then listen only to
separated, fundamentalist preachers. If you want to become a charismatic,
then listen to charismatic preachers. If you want to become a liberal, then
listen to liberal preachers, for sooner or later you will become that which
influences you. You will not have the radio on to compromisers all day long
and still become a strong, separated Christian.
The same is true concerning
books. Many Christians become rabid followers of authors they have never
met, of preachers whose churches they have never visited, and of men and
women about whom they know nothing. They allow themselves to be unequally
yoked with a personality that will influence them but about which they know
little or nothing!
Let's go back to the original
purpose of this chapter. First, we decide what we want to be. Then we find
the influence that is like that and we position ourselves in its presence,
in order that we may be influenced accordingly.
Years ago a young man heard me
preach on several occasions. He decided he wanted to be the kind of preacher
that Brother Hyles is, so he moved to Hammond. (At the time he was single.)
When he got to our area, he then enrolled in a college whose philosophies
basically are contrary to ours. The time spent in that college each week was
far greater than the time spent under my influence, but he felt he could go
to that college, choose what was good and leave the bad. He did not realize
that no one can do this! There is no way that a person can disassociate
himself from being influenced by his environment. This was the case. Years
have passed. He is now a pastor with no desire at all to be like Brother
The issue here is not that he
should want to be or not want to be like Brother Hyles. The issue is that he
wanted to be one thing and chose an environment that influenced him to be
7. Have a degree of closeness
to all church members. This does not mean that you should be socially
involved with all church members. It does mean, however, that within a
church each member should have a positive feeling toward every other member.
Instead of having a positive and a negative, have degrees of positive.
For example, I am an
independent, fundamental Baptist. I certainly feel kindly toward all of that
group. However, within that group there are different degrees of acceptance.
There are some preachers within that group that I would have preach for me,
I would preach for them, and I would preach with them. There are others
within that group for whom I would preach and with whom I would preach, but
I would not have preach for me. There are others in that group with whom I
would preach, but I would not have them preach for me, nor would I preach
for them. There are still others in that group whom I would not have preach
for me, for whom I would not preach and with whom I would not preach, but I
would certainly be willing to sit down and have a cup of tea and some warm
fellowship with them. I do not feel negatively toward any of them, but there
are degrees of my positive feeling.
Concerning fundamental colleges,
there are numbers of colleges in America that I would consider fundamental.
I am for them all, but I am more for some than for others. It may be that I
would recommend a student to attend my first choice. If that student felt
negative about that recommendation, I would then recommend my second choice,
then my third, etc. This does not mean that my first choice is always the
same. It may be that for one young person I would have a different first
choice than for another.
Then there are other young
people who I feel would not consider going to my first choice for them. I
would be pleased and somewhat surprised to have them even choose my last
choice among the colleges that are acceptable to me.
This is the way it should be in
a church. The Bible says we are to love one another, to prefer one another,
to forgive one another, to be kind to one another, and to be forbearing with
8. Then choose from the
church a circle of companions and fellowship. This circle should be
composed of those who are already what you want yourself to become. While
the Christian is supposed to love all fellow Christians and fellow church
members, there are those in that group whom he should not choose as his
closest associates and the crowd with whom he is going to run. A good rule
of thumb is that you be in the minority when wanting to be helped and that
you be in the majority when wanting to help. If there is a weak Christian
whom you want to help, by all means be sure that you have other strong
Christians that form the majority. You should be in the minority only when
you yourself are trying to become strong, and therefore associate yourself
with such a crowd.
So we have chosen a large
circle, composed of all the church members about whom we are to feel
positive. Then we have chosen a smaller circle with whom we are to be
9. Then choose an even
smaller circle to whom you will be good friends. Here are several
observations about this small circle to whom you give your friendship:
1) God must lead you in the
choosing of those to whom you will be a friend. This is a knitting done
by God as was the case of Jonathan toward David. I Samuel 18: 1, "And it
came to pass, when he had made an end of speaking unto Saul, that the soul
of Jonathan was knit with the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his
own soul." God must lead you in becoming such a friend.
We are using the word "friend"
here in the sense it is meant to be used. Occasionally someone will say,
"She is a true friend." There is no other kind of friend. The word "friend"
in the Bible is a very important and serious word. It is a relationship that
is akin to brother, father, mother, sister, son, daughter. Proverbs 18:24,
"A man that hath friends must shew himself friendly: and there is a friend
that sticketh closer than a brother." Proverbs 27: 10, "Thine own friend,
and thy father's friend, forsake not; neither go into thy brother's house in
the day of thy calamity: for better is a neighbour that is near than a
brother far off." Proverbs 17:17, "A friend loveth at all times, and a
brother is born for adversity."
2) This friendship is for
life. You cannot lose a friend. There is no such statement that can be
truthfully uttered as, "He was my friend," "I was his friend," "We used to
be good friends." The wise man said that a friend loveth at all times.
3) This friendship need not
be returned. Now to be sure, anyone who chooses to be the friend of
another would prefer that that person also become his friend, but if it is
Bible friendship, it need not be returned, and nothing can stop or quench
it. It is best for the Christian to become the friend of another without
expecting that friendship to be reciprocated or returned. Then there is no
hurt that can come. The wise Christian will not allow the presence of
happiness to be determined by others. He will, however, allow the degree of
that happiness to be determined by others. This friendship is for life. If
it is not returned, it is still alive. If its object becomes your enemy, you
are still his friend.
Perhaps the true test of real
friendship is, "Does it have to be returned?"
Many years ago God knitted my
soul to that of Dr. John R. Rice. I became his friend. Now I never gave much
thought as to whether he was my friend. I enjoyed every kindness that he
ever sent my way and every gracious thing that he ever did for me, but that
was not necessary. I was his friend. If he was my friend, wonderful. If not,
my friendship would not be affected.
4) You can be close to the
one to whom you are a friend by unilateral action; by that I mean, you may
choose to be close to anyone to whom you want to be close. The other
person need not move toward you. (Of course, I am talking about heart
closeness which, of course, is the best.) If I choose to get close to an
object, there is nothing that object can do about it, and if I want in my
heart to feel close to someone, I can do so. They need not even know about
it. I can pray for them regularly, take time to love them in my heart, think
of their burdens, and be compassionate toward them, and all of this will
need no reciprocation whatsoever.
Recently I was in a distant
state. When I finished preaching on Monday night, a pastor came and waited
in line for about 30 minutes to talk to me. When his turn came, he sincerely
and warmly looked me in the eye and told me that he loved me and that I had
no idea how much. Now I did not even know the brother, but it was obvious
that he loved me and that he felt close to me, and though to my knowledge I
had never seen him, I somehow felt that he was my friend. So, no doubt there
are some to whom I feet close who do not feel close to me. There are some
who feel close to me whom I do not even know. Both do not have to move.
Often someone will say, "I just
can't get close to him." Oh, yes, you can! What you are saying is that you
can't get him to feet close to you, but you can come as close to him as you
want. He cannot do a thing to prevent your love or your friendship.
5) Retain a bit of formality
even with your closest friends. I have known personally and often
intimately the greatest Christians of the last 100 years. I have noticed
something very interesting. All of the great men retain a little mystique
and a touch of formality even with their closest friends. For example, Dr.
John R. Rice and Dr. Bob Jones, Sr. were very close friends, and I knew them
both well. In spite of their close friendship, there was a bit of dignity in
their manner toward each other. I have preached with them so many times I
can almost hear their conversation, as follows:
"Hello, Dr. Bob. Nice to see you
"Hello, Dr. John. How's Mrs.
Rice and the family?"
"They are well, thank you, and
how's Mrs. Jones, and how's the work at the university doing?"
"We are having a good year, Dr.
Rice. Is the Sword of the Lord doing well?"
Of course, they had their time
of levity and warm expressions, but it was always seasoned with a refreshing
touch of dignity and class.
I believe that this should exist
even among family members. The word might be mystique. Any relationship, no
matter how close, certainly should include propriety, manners, grace and
kindness and gentleness.
This certainly should be
manifest concerning one's person. The father who allows his children to see
him around the house in his underclothing will not develop a proper
relationship with his children. Even husbands and wives should take care to
behave in the same manner. Our children, for example, have never seen their
dad's bare feet. They have never seen me in my pajamas or underclothing. I
feel very close to my children, and when they were at home we were all good
buddies and very expressive of our love and closeness, but Dad was always
Dad, and he always dressed like Dad. I always came to the table fully
clothed. Bear in mind that I was more than their father; I was also their
pastor, their school superintendent, and later on, their college chancellor.
Friendship is a wonderful
relationship, but it should not be taken for granted, and certainly a friend
should be treated with the same courtesy and grace that is offered to a
casual acquaintance and even to a stranger.
So we have accepted all the
members of the church family with a positive outlook, loving them all. This
is the great wide circle. From that wide circle we have chosen a group that
is a smaller circle with whom we fellowship, and from that smaller circle
there is yet a much smaller circle of those to whom God has led us to be
friends. I have often said, "Happy is a person who has a friend. Happier is
the person who is a friend. Happiest is the person who has a friend and is a
friend." What a relationship! Put it right up there beside the closest
relationships of life, that relationship of friendship!
The End Result of Improper Relationships
Hebrews 10:29, "Of how much
sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden
under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant,
wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the
Spirit of grace?"
Acts 7:51, "Ye stiffnecked and
uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost: as your
fathers did, so do ye.
I Thessalonians 5:19, "Quench
not the Spirit."'
Ephesians 4:30, "And grieve not
the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption."
The reader will be near the end
of the chapter before fully realizing its purpose and its right to be in
There are several sins
against the Holy Spirit mentioned in the Bible. Four of these sins can be
committed by the child of God.
1. Insulting the Holy Spirit.
Hebrews 10:29, "Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be
thought worthy,, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath
counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy
thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace?" "Insulting the Holy
Spirit" simply means "to leave Him alone." This is the Christian who will
not do what He says. To understand this Christian, you have to understand
the book of Hebrews. The book of Hebrews was written to Hebrew Christians.
God is admonishing them not to neglect their salvation, but to continue
growing in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus. He likens the land of
Egypt to the condition of the natural man. I Corinthians 2:14, "But the
natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are
foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually
discerned." God compares the wilderness to the carnal Christian and the
promised land to the Spirit filled Christian. God is telling the person who
has been saved, that he is out of Egypt and on his way to the promised land,
going through the wilderness; he is to continue on into the promised land
and live the Spirit filled life. The Israelites are used as an example. They
left the land of Egypt because of God's deliverance through the passover
lamb. They went into the wilderness and across the wilderness as God led
them. They came to the door of the promised land at Kadesh-barnea. They sent
twelve spies to check out the promised land. They came back with glowing
reports of its beauty and of its fruitfulness but told the people that they
could not go in. The people decided not to go in, and because they made this
decision, God sent them back into the wilderness and told them that not one
adult would see or enter into the promised land, except Caleb and Joshua,
who were the two spies who voted to go into the land. The people paid no
attention to God's command. They had not listened to God's order, and in so
doing, they committed the awful sin of insulting the Holy Spirit!
2. Resisting the Holy Spirit.
Acts 7:51, "Ye stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do
always resist the Holy Ghost: as your fathers did, so do ye." "Resisting" is
the sin of listening to the Holy Spirit but disobeying Him. They did not
insult Him, for they did give Him a hearing, but having heard, they refused
to obey. However, this sin is committed before the previous one. Nobody
insults the Holy Spirit by refusing to listen to Him until they have
listened to Him and disobeyed. Ananias and Sapphira listened to Him and
disobeyed. This is not as great a sin as insulting Him. It is on the road to
insulting Him, and they never would have insulted Him had they not resisted
Him. In other words, if they had not refused to do what He said to do, they
would never have gone on to refuse to listen. The order is: First, resist by
listening and not doing, and then later, why listen? They didn't obey
3. Quenching the Holy Spirit.
I Thessalonians 5:19, "Quench not the Spirit." This is the sin of listening,
considering what He says, and obeying some of what He says and disobeying
the rest. In other words, quenching is the screening of what the Holy Spirit
says. The Christian hears the Holy Spirit and reads the Book the Holy Spirit
authored. He gives serious consideration to obedience. In some areas he
obeys; in some areas he disobeys. This is a terrible sin, but not as bad as
resisting. Resisting is a terrible sin, but not as bad as insulting. It is
better to listen to the Holy Spirit, consider what He says and do some of it
than it is to listen to Him and reject. It is better to listen and reject
than it is to refuse to listen. It is interesting to note this order: First,
quenching-listening and screening, obeying some and disobeying some; second,
resisting-listening and refusing; third, insulting-refusing to listen.
The quenching of the Holy Spirit
is the condition of most Christians. We read the Bible, decide what sounds
reasonable to us and obey that which is reasonable. We hear the preacher
preach and screen what he says, decide what sounds logical to us and decide
on that basis what to obey. The average Christian sits in the pew and
quenches or screens the Holy Spirit. The average Christian reads the Bible
and does likewise.
4. Grieving the Holy Spirit.
Ephesians 4:30, "And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are
sealed unto the day of redemption." Now notice what grieves Him. Very
carefully read the verses adjacent to Ephesians 4:30. It grieves the Holy
Spirit when His children do not get along with each other. It grieves Him
when we fuss, when we fight. It grieves Him when we criticize each other. It
grieves Him when His children are improperly related one to the other.
These sins are a downhill slide.
First the Christian grieves the Holy Spirit, then he quenches the Holy
Spirit, then he resists the Holy Spirit, then he insults the Holy Spirit. If
he can have the victory over resisting the Holy Spirit, he will not insult
Him. If he can have the victory over quenching, he will not resist or insult
Him. If he can have the victory over grieving the Holy Spirit, he will not
quench Him or resist Him or insult Him. In other words, the first step down
is grieving the Holy Spirit. After we grieve Him by being improperly related
to God's people, we then begin to quench Him, by listening to Him but not
accepting all He commands us to do. Once that is done, we continue downhill
to resisting Him, which means that we listen to what He says but refuse to
do it. Once that is done, we continue our downhill trek to come to the depth
of the Christian sin against the Holy Spirit, that of insulting Him, or not
listening at all.
This shows the importance of our
proper treatment of God's people. This is why we ought to relate ourselves
properly to the fallen, the weak, the strong, the brokenhearted and others
in God's family. If somehow we could win the victory over grieving the Holy
Spirit, we could certainly win the victory over quenching Him, resisting Him
and insulting Him.
This means that the one who does
the grieving is the loser. He grieves the Holy Spirit and because he does,
he qualifies himself to quench the Holy Spirit, resist the Holy Spirit and
insult the Holy Spirit, and soon the Christian life is wasted and rather
useless. The one whom he hates is not the loser; the hater is the loser. The
one who is the object of bitterness is not the loser; the bitter one is the
loser. I have often said I would rather be the hated than the hater, the
object of gossip rather than the gossiper, the rebuked rather than the
Oh, people of God, let us not
grieve the Holy Spirit by improper relationships with each other and bad
attitudes toward each other.
The same is true in all of
life's relationships. Ask any pastor. He looks out in the congregation and
sees one of his members with "that look" on his face. Any pastor knows what
I am talking about. It is that look of discontent, a look of
uncooperativeness. Some thing is wrong between that person and the pastor or
the church or something about the church program.
It isn't long until he begins to
screen what is said from the pulpit. The pastor he once trusted, he no
longer trusts. He begins to quench what is said from the pulpit. He screens
what is preached. He no longer gives himself to the pastor. His loyalty is
Then comes the next step. He has
grieved, he has quenched, and now he resists. He listens to what the pastor
says with no intention at all of responding. He now has a look of resistance
on his face. Every pastor has seen it over and over again. The person
listens with rebellion and resistance.
Then comes the last stage. He
insults the pastor by not even listening. He pays him no mind at all. It is
as if the pastor does not exist. The tragedy is that the member is the
loser. Of course, the godly pastor is grieved and disappointed, but if he
has the right attitude and the right love in his heart toward the member, he
will not be damaged, except by disappointment.
Usually after the cycle is run,
the disenchanted, then disgruntled, then rebellious church member goes
somewhere else. He soon finds that the new pastor and the new church are not
perfect either. He finds the same conditions there that embittered him
before, and after a few months or years, the imperfections of the new pastor
and church are discovered. Then comes the same disenchantment, followed by
the quenching or the screening, followed by the listening but resisting,
then followed by the insulting or not listening at all.
Not long ago I was talking to a
pastor in the area. I asked him how a certain family was doing that at one
time had been members of First Baptist Church of Hammond. They had gone
through the aforementioned cycle and had left our church. When I asked the
pastor how they were doing, he said, "Oh, they left our church a long time
ago." Then he asked me about a couple who had come to our church from his
after having gone through the cycle at his church. I replied that that
couple had already come and gone at First Baptist Church and that they had
left us also. This is not saying that every one who leaves a church goes
through that cycle, but every man of God who has ever pastored a church
knows what I am talking about. The people would not have refused to listen
had they not first listened and resisted. They would not have listened and
resisted had they not first quenched or screened the messages. They would
not have quenched had they not become disenchanted with the pastor and/or
The same thing is true with
friends. A person becomes enchanted with another person and what is called a
friendship is started. It is usually a fast and strong relationship, but
soon the imperfections of the friend begin to show. Perhaps the parties got
too close to each other. At any rate, there was some disappointment,
followed by disenchantment, followed by quenching, followed by resisting,
followed by an ignoring and the so-called friendship has been severed. Then
there comes along another attractive personality, and the same cycle is
followed again and again and again.
The secret is, do not be
grieved. Don't take the first step down. The entire purpose of this chapter
is to lead us to realize the destination of a trip that is started by
improper relationships with our brothers and sisters in Christ. Don't get on
the highway. Don't start the slide down. Keep your heart right with God's
people. Not doing so is the initial sin a Christian can commit against the
Holy Spirit. Once that sin is committed, the quenching follows. Once the
quenching, then comes the resisting, followed by the insulting. The result
is a hard, cold Christian who has arrived at a destination of which he had
never thought and for which he had never planned. And to think, it all
started because of improper treatment of fellow Christians.
The Principle of Waiting
Isaiah 40:31, "But they that
wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with
wings as eagles, they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and
One of the most important
qualities dealing with human relationships is the quality of waiting. There
are times in our relationships when it is best to do nothing and wait. The
wise Christian will discover these times.
1. Act swiftly, but do not
decide swiftly. There is certainly nothing wrong with swift action, but
let it not be hasty action. In other words, let us wait until the decision
is clear, until the solution is obvious. Once this has come, let swift
2. It is usually wise for the
pastor to wait before giving marital counseling. Most wounds heal
themselves if left alone. If picked at, they can become infected. Most
problems solve themselves, and many small problems become big problems
because they are attacked too soon and picked at too often. I found, for
example, that when a husband and wife contact me for marital counseling, it
is best to wait two or three days before actually having the counseling
session. Most of the problems will solve themselves or be solved by the
couple within two or three days. A little wait is often wise.
3. It is wise to wait before
hiring employees. Most pastors and churches hire too quickly We become
enchanted with someone who has talent and ability and hire him before making
a thorough investigation. A five-and-ten-cent-store clerk is usually
investigated more carefully than is an assistant pastor, and sad to say,
sometimes even more carefully than the pastor! No pastor in the world has a
finer staff than do I, and no pastor in the world has had through the years
finer people to work with him than has this preacher. I have never had a
serious problem with a staff member, and certainly some of the finest men
and women in the world are those who have worked for me and with me through
these 40 years of pastoring. I am convinced that one reason for this record
is that I wait carefully and watch carefully before hiring a staff member.
This is especially true concerning assistant pastors and full-time male
staff members. In some cases I have watched a man for three years or more
before hiring him. In many cases, I have considered employing a man when at
first I felt that he was the answer, and had a tremendous urge and desire to
hire him immediately; however, I have always waited and have always been
glad. In some cases, the time of waiting proved the man's integrity, value
and loyalty In other cases, waiting proved that the man was not what I
believe God wanted. The same pastor who advises his young people to wait
until they know someone before marriage will quickly hire a staff member in
an hour or two with whom he wants to have a lifetime ministry!
4. Wait before making a
significant purchase. Much of the financial problem in America has been
caused by impulsive buying! We see it; we want it; we buy it! It is amazing
how quickly we become disenchanted with most of our purchases. Such
purchases as houses, cars, furnishings, appliances, and even clothing should
not be made hastily.
Just yesterday I received a
letter from a young lady who has grown up in our church. She is one of my
favorites, and she is married to a fine young man who is a graduate of
Hyles-Anderson College. In the note that she wrote me just yesterday, she
told me about a piece of furniture that they had seen for which they had
fallen, and which they were going to buy. Its price was $1200. They agreed
to purchase it, but just before the purchase, the young man said to his
wife, "You know, we have always taken Brother Hyles' advice, and Brother
Hyles has advised us to wait before making large purchases in order to be
sure that we are doing the right thing." What he was saying was the Brother
Hyles has warned his people against compulsive buying! They agreed to wait,
and during the waiting period, they found that neither of them thought it
was wise to purchase the $1200 piece of furniture. Soon there came a letter
of thanks to me in appreciation for this very truth that I have taught
through these years in First Baptist Church.
5. Wait before dismissing an
employee. Many churches have been seriously damaged because of a hasty
dismissal of a staff member. In 40 years of pastoring, I have never "fired"
a staff member. There have been times when I was tempted to do so, but I
always waited and an answer always came. Sometimes the answer was to
transfer the person to another area of the ministry Sometimes the answer was
to wait patiently, and on occasion the answer came when I felt that perhaps
I myself was the problem and not the employee.
When someone is employed to work
with me, the decision is a twofold one. It is a decision that I make and a
decision that he makes. Now if later I find that it was a mistake, is it
fair for only one of us to suffer when both of us sinned? I think not. Since
the decision for his coming to work with me was mine as well as his, and in
most cases it was a decision that I made first, for I had approached him
about coming to work with me, I have found it difficult in light of this
fact to dismiss an employee quickly Shall he suffer, his wife suffer, his
children suffer because he and I shared in a mistake that was first my idea?
Suppose with me for a moment
that I dismiss an assistant pastor or another male staff member. Notice all
the losses that are incurred. He loses his job, he loses his church, he
loses his pastor, he loses his friends, he loses his house, he loses his
office, he loses his work. His wife loses her house, her kitchen, her Sunday
school class, her friends, her church and her pastor. His children lose
their school, their house, their room, their friends, their Sunday school
class, their Sunday school teacher, their pastor and many other things. What
do I lose'? I lose nothing, and if I want him to leave, I actually gain. So
because of an action that I initiated and in which I shared equally, I gain
and everybody else loses. Most of these unfortunate occurrences can be
prevented by the simple act of waiting before hiring and, yes, waiting
6. Wait before spanking a
child. Most of our disciplining of children is simply the parent
throwing a temper tantrum because the child threw a temper tantrum. Add to
this the fact that no person should ever spank a child in the heat of
passion and anger, and you will be led to wait before spanking a child. As
our children were growing up, I always spanked them in the privacy of their
rooms. I did not spank them in the presence of other family members or
guests in our home. When the crime was committed, I simply told the child to
go to her room. She would go there and wait for me, and I would wait before
inflicting the punishment. I wanted to be sure that I was doing the right
thing, and I wanted to be sure that I was not punishing under the emotion of
anger or temper. After I was convinced that the thing to do was to spank the
child, and after I had calmed down sufficiently to do it in love, I went to
the room where the child was waiting, I sat down beside her on the bed, told
her that I loved her and asked her if she knew what she did that was wrong.
She explained to me what infraction she had committed, and then I explained
to her that God had told me in the Bible I was supposed to spank her. I
explained that I did not want to, but that I had to, and that it was not
because I was angry but because I wanted her to grow up to be the right kind
of person. I then asked her to bend over my knee, and I spanked her.
Following the spanking, I prayed for God to bless her, and I thanked Him for
her. Then I assured her of my love and suggested that she stay in the room
for awhile to think about what she had done. I left the room and usually
returned in about five minutes. I hugged her, kissed her and told her she
could leave her room.
I did not tell her when she was
sent to her room that I was going to spank her. I simply said, "Go to your
room." If I told her I was going to spank her and then felt later that I was
making a mistake, I would have broken my word, so I simply sent her to her
room to wait. This waiting time was for Daddy more than for daughter-a time
for me to decide what course of action to take and a time for me to prepare
to take that course of action in the right spirit and with the right
7. Wait before accepting a
resignation. Through 40 years of pastoring I have found wisdom in asking
people to wait before finalizing the decision to resign. This applies to any
office of the church, whether paid or volunteer. Many people resign under
the emotion of anger, discouragement, weariness or any one of many other
emotions. I almost always ask the person to do me a favor and wait for 30
days before finalizing his decision to resign. Perhaps the anger will have
subsided, the body will be stronger, the illness will be cured or the
discouragement will be passed within the 30-day waiting period. I do not beg
them to stay unless I feel very, very strongly that they are leaving the
will of God, but I do ask them to wait for 30 days. At least half of the
time their minds have changed, which means that they would have been
disappointed had they been allowed to resign immediately
8. Wait before giving a
resignation. The wise person will not submit a resignation immediately
upon feeling that he should do so. He should give himself at least 30 days
before resigning. I do not mean that he should resign and give a 30-day
notice. I mean that he should give himself a 30day notice before resigning,
and no one but he himself should be aware of the decision that he is
considering. Many employers are so wounded when they find that an employee
is considering leaving that the wound of disappointment is never healed,
even though the employee remains.
I have a dear friend who many
years ago was pastoring a church. He was being blessed of God in a wonderful
way and had one of the fastest growing churches in our area. One Sunday
morning the song leader was late, the pianist hadn't arrived, and it seemed
like everything that could go wrong did go wrong! He got up in the pulpit,
he was discouraged and a bit angry, and simply announced that next Sunday
would be his last Sunday! Next Sunday was his last Sunday, but he has never
had the ministry anywhere else that he had there. He left something at that
church, and I am convinced that he believes he made the mistake of his
lifetime. No one should ever resign under emotion.
I have a sermon that I have
preached a time or two entitled, "Don't Make a Decision When Your
Decision-Maker Is Broken." Most of life's biggest decisions are made without
a sound decisionmaker. A decision affecting one's life should never be made
when discouraged, sick, defeated, lonely, sad, angry, etc. Wait until the
decision-maker is fixed before making the decision, and if the decision must
be made before the decision-maker is repaired, take the decision to someone
who has a good sound decisionmaker and have that person make the decision
9. Wait before mailing a
letter of rebuttal. All of us have become angered because of an unkind
letter and have responded with an unkind answer. We have failed to remember
that a soft answer turneth away wrath. We have answered hastily and angrily
only to wish later that we could retrieve the letter, but it is too late.
The letter is gone. Through these years I have written many such letters
myself, but it has been my policy to write them immediately but wait at
least seven days before mailing them. Most of them are never mailed, and my
desire to have that letter back can be granted. Of course, if one could wait
seven days to write the letter, he would be even wiser, but most of us want
to write it now! If this is the case, give it to someone whom you trust,
seal it so they cannot read it, and ask them to hold it for you for seven
days. After seven days, go get it and then decide, without emotion of any
kind, whether it is wise to mail it. Upon rare occasions, after seven days
have passed, I go ahead and mail the letter. On other occasions, I tear it
up and then sometimes I dispose of it and write another that is kind and
10. Wait before making a
verbal rebuttal. The old saying of, "Count to ten before answering," is
still a wise one. A word cannot be retrieved. You can write a letter and
hold it before mailing; you cannot do that with a word. It is forever gone,
has forever done its damage, and can never be retrieved! Because of this,
every Christian should develop the habit of waiting before answering if it
is a rebuttal that he is making. Oh, the words that we have said that we
would love to retrieve, but that is impossible. All of the "I'm sorry's" and
"Forgive me's" cannot retract a word said in haste.
Someone asked me at a
question-answer session recently what changes I would make if I had my life
to live over. I immediately replied that I would like to have an opportunity
to relive times when I had said some things I shouldn't have said. The wise
Christian will oftentimes say such things as, "Give me a chance to think
about that for awhile," or "Let me chew on that for a little while." May God
teach us to wait!
11. Wait before disagreeing
with your mate. If there is a disagreement, there is no law that
requires you to make it known. It is not always completely necessary that
you express your opinion. The wise husband, for example, will not make a
rebuttal in disagreement with his wife, and 90% of the time would be wise
not to even express his opinion if it is contrary to hers. She should be
allowed to have opinions, activities and friends of her own. Thousands of
hours of grief could be avoided if family members just realized that most of
the times they needlessly express opinions and that they need not conform
miscellaneous opinions with each other. If we could just learn not to speak
but to wait!
12. Wait before fighting.
This is true in the church, the home or the business. Most battles could be
avoided if they were preceded by a waiting period. Thousands of churches
have been divided because of hasty battles. Thousands of relationships have
been damaged because of quick confrontations. Elsewhere in this manuscript
it has been mentioned that a wonderful little slogan would be, "No attack;
no defense." Perhaps we could add to that, "In case of disagreement, no
expression of opinion." Much heartache has come to many people because at
times of idle talk there is disagreement on some little insignificant issue.
Wait. Be quiet. Make no rebuttal. If there is something that you should say,
you will still be able to say it later. The words that you use so quickly
will still be understandable after you have waited awhile.
13. Wait be re borrowing
money or before building. This applies to a business, to a home, and
especially to a church. That new shiny building that you covet may be your
biggest enemy, especially if you are meeting in it and wondering how you are
going to pay for it. Most churches spend their happiest years in small
inadequate facilities. The journey is more fun than the destination, and
once the church has arrived, it often loses something for which it would
gladly trade its new building. Now the pastor may come to the people and ask
them to follow him, and they may be willing to do so, but a long time before
he comes to the people, he should have prayed, meditated, planned, thought,
and yes, waited.
14. Wait before making a
decision. Especially is this true concerning a decision of any
magnitude. Take your time. Let the decision-making process cover most of
your emotions in life. A hasty decision is usually a wrong decision; and if
the hasty decision is the right decision, the door will still be open to
make that decision after you have waited awhile.
For seven months I wrestled with
the possibility of coming to Hammond. I can recall going into the children's
bedrooms while they were asleep, getting on my knees and begging God not to
let me make a mistake. I reminded God that the selection of their mates
would depend on the decision that I was facing. Their schools, their friends
and probably their life's work was in the balance. I felt that I simply
could not make a hasty decision, so for seven months I wrestled, prayed,
thought, cried, meditated and agonized!
When the decision was made, I
did not change my mind. The truth is that there were times between the time
I resigned the Miller Road Baptist Church in Garland, Texas, and the time
that I left that I felt I had made a mistake, but I had made my decision
over a period of seven months. I could not undo in doubt what I had done in
faith, and I could not undo hastily what I had done carefully. Just as I had
not made the decision to leave hastily, I should not hastily make the
decision to change my mind. Again I say, wait!
15. Wait before allowing your
mind to condemn people who have left your fellowship. It is easy to
criticize hastily the people who leave your church. To be quite frank with
you, I have never understood how people could share with a church and pastor
years of blessing, sorrows, joys, victories, defeats, tears and laughter and
then leave! It is totally beyond my comprehension! But it DOES happen, and
when it does, the Christian spirit is to still love the people who have
disappointed you. Look upon them as being alumni that are welcome to come
back home to visit. Do not allow yourself to become bitter or wounded. Look
upon them as you would look upon a son or daughter who has left home to go
to college or into military service or to marry. Love them as you always
loved them. If they do not love you, that doesn't keep you from being able
to love them.
I have heard some preachers talk
about the "back door revival" that they had. They often say it was the best
thing that ever happened to the church. Well, if it was the best thing, it
certainly was not the best thing for you to say it was the best thing! I
have heard preachers say concerning members who left their church, "Good
riddance; bad rubbish." I have never believed that, nor do I believe it now,
and I pray God never to let me succomb to the temptation of having anything
but love for people with whom I have served and whom I have loved through
the years. Again, you will be glad if you simply wait before passing
16. Wait before giving your
opinion, even when asked. Of course, as we mentioned elsewhere, it is
usually wise not to give an opinion unless asked, but even when asked, it is
usually wise to wait before giving an opinion. Often I say when asked for
advice, "Let me think on that awhile," "Let me pray about that for awhile,"
"Let me meditate about that for awhile," or "Give me a few days to think
about it." As a pastor, I am often asked to advise people concerning
decisions that affect many lives and entire lives. I constantly feel the
weight of responsibility on my shoulders and constantly plead with God for
wisdom to give the advice that Jesus would give. There are many times when I
feel before such advice is given there must be a time of waiting.
17. In a church, wait before
starting a new ministry. Now this wait is somewhat different from the
others. For example, a pastor and church can become enchanted with a
particular ministry such as starting a class for Spanish-speaking people.
This can be so exciting to them as they look forward to it that they can too
hastily choose the leader. I found it wise to let the right leader determine
the ministry that is started. I wait before I start a ministry until God
sends the right leader who has a burden for that ministry.
I was Pastor of the First
Baptist Church of Hammond for 11 years before I started a school. For some
time I felt I should start such a ministry, but I felt that I should wait
until the time was right.
Some pastors make unwise
decisions to start bus ministries too soon. Others start schools too soon,
and in so doing, time is used for these ministries that should be used for
the regular work of the church, and many churches have been damaged because
ministries were started before waiting.
Let me say a word of warning to
church members. This advice is not being given to you to cause you to start
trouble in the church. If the pastor has waited and then presents the
program, it is almost always best for you to go along with him, and even if
you do not go along with him, it is never wise to cause trouble! Follow
God's man! Moses waited a long time before he led the children of Israel out
of Egypt, but they did not know he was waiting. To them it may have appeared
to be a hasty decision, but to Moses it was after a time of waiting. Paul
appeared to be a bit impetuous in many of his decisions, but he. had waited
three years in the deserts of Arabia. Again I say, wait.
Jesus said to the apostles,
"Tarry ye in Jerusalem." The prophet Isaiah reminded us to wait upon the
Lord. Jesus admonished us concerning His return to watch and wait.
Wait until you are sure, and be
sure to wait! When a solid assurance comes to act and when this assurance
comes after a period of waiting, make haste to implement the work that God
has led you to do and the thing that God has called you to do. Let not the
waiting be done concerning the work which you know you are to do. Let the
waiting be done in making the decision that it is His will that the work be
Dying for Fellow Christians
I Corinthians 15:31, "I protest
by your rejoicing which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die daily."
Romans 8:36, "As it is written,
For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for
Galatians 2:20, "I am crucified
with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and
the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of
God, Who loved me, and gave Himself for me."
I love the woods! I spend much
of my time alone with God in them. I have a little place in the woods where
I go daily just for the purpose of praising God. I spend 15 minutes at that
sacred little spot. For 60 seconds I write on a card or a paper the things
that God has done for me recently. After I have made the list, I then go
back through the list and praise God for each of them. It is not unusual for
me to clap my hands, even take off my shoes and have a little spell as I
praise God for what He has done for me.
I then leave that little spot in
the woods and go to another. Though the branches at the first spot seem to
clap themselves together when I arrive for my praise time, the branches at
the second spot seem to bow themselves reverently, because this is where I
go to worship. I take 60 seconds to list the things that God is, such as,
God is merciful, God is gracious, God is longsuffering, God is forbearing,
God is love. Then I go back through the list of what God is and worship Him
for what He is. I spend 15 minutes at this worship place.
I then go to another little
place in the woods where I confess my sins. This is done beneath a weeping
willow tree, because I do not want to be the only one weeping when I
confess. I begin by taking about 60 seconds and listing my sins. Then I go
back through the list and plead for forgiveness and strength over
temptation. I do this for about 15 minutes.
Then I go to a little place in
the woods that is the most sacred of all. It is a place where I pray and
present my petitions to God. It is where I plead for power. It is where I
plead for His mercy, His guidance, His leadership. It is here where I pray
for each member of my family by name and ask God's blessings upon them. This
is my prayer place and the fourth stop in my daily journey through the
woods. I usually spend a minimum of an hour at this place. One day a week I
spend about 3 hours there and still another day a week I spend from 4 to
51/2 hours there. Because of this, the woods are very dear to me.
My favorite time of the year in
the woods is the wintertime, while the trees are bare. The reason this is my
favorite season is that this is the time when the trees are alive. This is
not the usual opinion. Most people would say that the trees are alive in the
spring and the summer, but quite to the contrary! The trees are dying in the
spring, the summer and the fall. They are alive in the winter. This is when
life is coming into them that will be spent in the spring and summer and
finally in the fall, so the trees are living while the branches are bare.
New life is entering. The trees are dying when covered with leaves, for then
the life is being spent.
Each evening I take my cordless
electric shaver and plug it into the wall socket. Through the night it is
being charged. It is living. Life is entering. Then I take it with me the
next day and use it. While it is being used, it is dying. It is using up the
life that it got through the night. This is the way the trees are. They are
living in the wintertime as they gather life. They are dying in the spring,
summer and fall as they are giving up that life.
This is what Paul meant when he
said in Romans 8:36, "For thy sake we are killed all the day long." Notice
it is "all the DAY long." He tells us why he is killed all the day long. It
is for the sake of God's people.
Now read I Corinthians 15:31, "I
protest by your rejoicing which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die
daily." Notice especially the three words, "I die daily." Give special
attention to the word DAILY. Actually he is saying, "I serve daily," because
serving is dying. Living is time spent with God when new life is received.
Dying is time spent with our fellow Christians in service to them and for
them. Paul could not say that he died daily if he had not spent time living
daily So really what we think is death is life, and what we think is life is
death. Paul wrote to Timothy and said, "But she that liveth in pleasure is
dead while she liveth." John wrote the church at Sardis to tell them that
they had a name that they were alive, but they were dead. What man thinks is
life is death, and what man thinks is death is life! Death is the
expenditure of life that is received while alone with God.
So the Christian life really has
two major parts, living and dying. The living part is that time when we are
plugged into Heaven. Dying is that time when we serve our fellowman as we
expend the life we received while we were plugged into Heaven.
Hence, there are two tragedies
in the Christian life. Some try to die all the time, but it doesn't work.
Only that which is alive can die, and until a person is alive in Christ by
communion with Him, he has no death to die. This is the reason for our
futility in service for God. This is the reason for our powerless Christian
lives. We go, go, go, serve, serve, serve, work, work, work, but we cannot
die because we have no life to give. It is just routine with no blessing
from Heaven and no power of God.
Another tragedy is the person
who spends all of his time living. He never dies. He becomes so enchanted
with the prayer closet and with the study that he spends all his time being
plugged in and becomes much like a monk in a monastery. He is of no value to
his fellowman because he is not willing to die. He gets to the place where
he enjoys living so much that he refuses to go out into the highways and
hedges to die for others.
The balanced Christian life is
that life that spends hours alone with God living, then leaves the prayer
closet and study to spend hours with man dying. To leave off the living
means there is nothing that can die. To leave off the dying nullifies the
purpose for living. What value is it if the tree receives life all winter
only to refuse to give fruit, blossoms and leaves in the spring and summer
and fall. On the other hand, the tree that receives no life will have
nothing to die, and there can be no foliage.
One of the main reasons why
Christian people cannot get along with each other is that we cannot die for
each other or that we refuse to do so. Either we have no life to die for
others because we have not spent time with God in securing a life to give,
or we spend so much time securing life that we refuse to die for others, and
they go unloved and unserved.
Yes, I love the woods. I love
them in the spring when life springs forth and begins to die. I love them in
the summer as they spend the life they gathered in the winter. I love them
in the autumn when they are the most beautiful of all in death, and the
dying process that started at birth is completed. I love them most in the
wintertime, for though they lack the beauty and luster of the spring, summer
and fall, nevertheless, I am aware that they are living and gaining life in
order that they may die for us when spring comes.
Everything is born dying. When a
baby is born, what really happens is that death is born. As soon as the cord
is cut, the baby begins to die. They die at birth, or at least they begin to
die at birth. What we want to do as human beings is postpone death as long
as possible. We know that death is inevitable, but through diet, exercise,
medicine, etc. we are trying to prolong the inevitable as long as possible.
This is true with institutions. I am aware that someday Hyles-Anderson
College will be in the hands of liberals, and I am aware that it is now
dying. However, there are ways that that death can be prolonged and that its
usefulness may continue for a longer period of time when it would without
nurture and care.
May God help me to go to Him
that I might live and go to others that I might die, and then go to Him that
I might live and go to others that I might die. May I walk with Him in such
a close communion that I will have a life to die for my brothers and sisters
in Christ. May God help you, dear reader, to abide in Him that you may live
and to spend that life dying for others. This is why Paul could write in
Galatians 2:20a, "I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live." He lived
and died and lived and died and lived and died. If there is no living, there
is nothing to die, and if there is no dying, then there is no purpose in
living. As the old man 88 years of age said on his deathbed as I held his
bony hand, "Thank you, Preacher, for walking with God six days a week and
for telling me on the seventh what God said."
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