There’s always room for growth

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By Stan Counsell | PREVIEW Columnist

Isn’t it amazing how our fallen nature is reliable around the clock, never taking a day off? Because that nature is our natural us, it knows each crack and gap in our thinking, emotions, actions and spiritual vision. We don’t even need to try and fall short of God’s glory — it’s as natural as breathing. So, should we just give up with God?

The Lord — ever so full of grace that we can’t see, weigh, comprehend or measure — knows all of this and so much more. If God would write a list of our shortcomings, the classic novel “War and Peace” would seem like a booklet. Wow, does that make us in pretty deep trouble? Absolutely not. 

Our gracious God has given us His very Word, the Bible, to loudly declare His love, devotion, care, concern, guidance and dependability for those who choose to follow after His son, Jesus Christ. Wow, that is awesome.

Two scriptures come to mind regarding our natural nature and how it can wreak havoc on our walk with God. Proverbs 29:18 declares, “Where there is no vision, the people of God cast off restraint.” Note that the Hebrew meaning for “vision” is a clear understanding of God’s Word. 

Pastors, elders, teachers and friends are gifted by God to minister like His anointed optometrists. They search for any ocular weaknesses, injuries or degeneration of the eye. After all, said weaknesses cause lack of visual clarity. But, within the spirit-led church, these gifted men and women also need the oversight of each other and even the concerned observation of the congregation. 

Let’s take note of the word “restraint.” With the understanding of the Hebrew, we see that it means to loosen one’s armor. Would a football player haphazardly put on the shoulder/thigh pads, shoes and helmet before a game? 

In my sophomore year of high school, I was known to have skilled hands and speed that would make me a good wide receiver. But, did I make the team? No, I didn’t because my protection didn’t fit properly. 

My helmet was too small, my shoes kept slipping off, and my shoulder/thigh pads flopped about when I was running a route because they were also too big. But what was I to do? That was the only gear left for me to wear as I joined the team too late for better-fitting gear. Even my speed and concentration were hampered by it all. 

It’s the same way with us all. Our flesh will tell us that we won’t make the team because our walk is clumsy, that people are pointing us out with sanctimonious indignation and laughter. We are even reminded of our past failures, or current situations, being just too heavy for us to be of benefit to God and His church. 

Are you considered too old or young, in poor health, lacking “proper” education, have a past that has left you feeling worthless, or you are the “wrong” gender? Gee, we need not look any further than the disciples and the other followers of Jesus: age issues, poor health, poorly educated, a scarlet past and gender hindrances.

In Hosea 4:6 we find a clarion call, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.” All of us need one another for encouragement, advice, clearer teaching and to steady a fallen one. The word “destroyed” means to be mute, to fail, be seen undone. 

When our understanding of God’s Word is myopic, convoluted or a low priority, we can lose our verbal witness, find failure around every corner and feel unprepared for anything that God calls us to do. But it needn’t be that way. 

The Lord hasn’t made understanding the Bible a hopeless endeavor. He hasn’t given up on us. Let me share a true story of a country church, in another state, that God called me and my wife to pastor. 

When accepting the call, it was obvious that some loved the Lord and wanted to serve Him. But, many saw church as a social gathering with no intention of wanting to know Jesus. Still others were loaded with past or present baggage but wanted to know and grow in service to Him. My wife and I knew our plates would be hard ones to carry, so overflowing with food.

There was an older, crusty truck driver that struggled with his language. He clearly slept during nearly all of the Bible messages. And, he had a temper that would frighten many in the congregation.

Some in leadership demanded that I dismiss him from the church. One lady openly accused him of harassing her. My wife and I attended meetings as one charge after another was pounded upon his witness and character. The woman in question even embellished her charge against him. In all, we felt the Lord’s discernment that they were being narrow-minded and dishonest.

What they did not see was that the man faithfully attended church. He always sat in the middle of the second row. And, being “long-haul,” he never used his fatigue as an excuse to stay home.

Yes, he slept during church and was crusty and imposing. But, he would voice parts of the message that really meant something to him, that even in sleep he was hearing parts of the Word being brought forth.

The icing on the cake was a feeling that prompted my heart to final action. I felt that his dismissal would destroy all that God was doing in him. He was God’s child being shepherded for growth and a calling. In short, he eventually became a deacon in another state. God’s purpose was being accomplished. 

He wants to do the same with us. Are we listening when He speaks when we appear to slumber? His calling is still on the table for us. The table is set; let’s feast with Him.

This column may include both fiction and nonfiction, and views expressed do not necessarily represent those of The SUN. Submissions can be sent to editor@pagosasun.com.