Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Learning From My Failure

This year the bible study I belong to is going through the gospel of John verse by verse, and last week we were studying Jesus' interaction with the Samaritan woman at the well.   And as I was reflecting on their exchange, I was reminded of an incident that happened about 6 months after I was saved.

I had cut my hand one evening changing a tire on my car.  It was just a little cut, maybe a quarter of an inch or less, and I thought nothing of it.  When I woke up the next morning, it was very red and quite tender, but still I thought nothing of it.  By lunch the spotty redness had moved up my arm and reached my elbow.  I showed it to my coworker, and he took out a pen, drew a line where the redness had ended, told me to check it at the end of the day, and if it crept past the line, to stop at the doctor's office on the way home.

At the end of the day I checked the redness as he had told me to, and it had moved past the line, over my shoulder, and onto my chest and back.  My coworker took one look at it and told me that he would drive me to the E.R., where the doctor looked at the streaky redness, asked me a couple of questions and then to my surprise told me I wasn't going to go home; he was calling a specialist and I would be there a couple of days.

As it turns out, that tiny cut somehow got infected.  The infection had spread to my cells and my blood, and because a minor heart condition that I have, they were quite worried about the infection spreading to my heart.  I remember the specialist telling me that he was going to start me on a high dose of I.V. antibiotics and we would have to wait and see what happened.  He had no idea what the infection was or why it was spreading so fast and he wasn't exactly reassuring that everything would be all right.  Despite all of this, I was absolutely at peace.  I was newly saved, and I trusted Jesus completely no matter what the outcome was.

In the bed next to me was a man who had just had his foot amputated due to an out-of-control infection.  The first night I was there he didn't speak much, but he did moan alot.  The next morning we ended up talking quite a bit.  He told me about his family and work and I told him about mine, and then almost out of nowhere he pointed to my bible sitting on a table next to my bed and he asked me "You're a pretty religious guy, aren't you?"

I replied "What makes you say that?" to which he quickly responded "You don't seem at all worried even though you're sitting next to a guy with no foot,  you know they can't just cut your chest off... and you have a bible you've been reading."

It's a funny thing that he brought this up because the night before I was thinking about how well my cut illustrated the gospel.  I used to think sin was no big deal,  just like I thought the cut was no big deal.  It had never crossed my mind that my little cut could lead to death if left untreated, just as it had never crossed my mind prior to being saved that my little sin could lead to death if left unresolved.  In both cases I had no idea how serious my situation was until it was pointed out to me.

However, I never shared any of that with him.  It wasn't because I was ashamed of my faith or afraid to be labeled a Jesus freak.  What happened was this: As soon as he asked me the question, I had an overwhelming feeling that I was unworthy to speak about Jesus. At the time it was as if all of my past sins were being heaped upon me all at once and I thought to myself, "Why would God ever want to use a wretch like me to proclaim Him as Savior?"  My mouth was all but shut.  I had prayed and prayed that God would present me with opportunities to share the gospel.  Now He had answered that prayer, given me a perfect opportunity and I failed with a capital 'F."

It bothered me for months that "I" had failed in faithfully proclaiming the gospel that day until I stopped wallowing in my failure and started looking for the lesson that God had intended to teach me through it. 
What was the lesson you ask?  There were several:

1:   But for the grace of God I will never be worthy to share the gospel.  I don't share the gospel because I am good or worthy, I share it because He is good and He is worthy.

2:  "Feelings" are untrustworthy guides in and of themselves, and no matter what our feelings tell us,  if it is contrary to what Jesus commands us to do (like sharing the gospel)  they are to be ignored as He is Lord and they are not.  

3:  Feelings that are contrary to what God has said do not come from God.  The adversary lies in wait for a chance to "sift us as wheat" as he did me that day. When he whispers in your ear who and what you were, quickly remind yourself who and what you are now, in Jesus Christ.

 In John Chapter 4 Jesus meets the adulteress Samaritan woman at the well.  He points out her sin, offers her living water and tells her that He is the Messiah.  Now Jesus, who knew all things, knew how she would respond:

Then, leaving her water jar, the woman went back to the town and said to the people, Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Christ?" They came out of the town and made their way toward him. (John 4:28 to 30)

Jesus allowed her, a woman steeped in sin but thirsty for truth, to proclaim to the Samaritans that Messiah stood just outside of town at the well.  How much more should those who have had their thirst satisfied drop their jars as she did and take every opportunity to proclaim Jesus as Lord and Savior.


  1. Fantastic, my friend. And God's timing, for me anyway. My feelings were starting to get the best of me. Thank you

  2. Wow....

    - from friend Suzanne

  3. my friend Suzanne passed your blog on to me...very timely word! thank you!

  4. Nice....small cuts can lead to death if left undealt with, much like our sin!

  5. First, don't beat yourself up. Learn from it! It's great that you are sensitive to the proclamation of the gospel. Sieze the opportunity next time.

    Second, I cut a lot of wood at my property for firewood and one thing I noticed early was similar to the small cut / sin connection. A gigantic tree is capable of looking strong, healthy, and solid on the outside. But when a windstorm blows in and cuts the tree in half, it reveals a deep problem: carpenter ants. It only takes a few to create a colony inside the large tree...and it doesn't take long before the tree becomes a hollow shell. Just like our unchecked sin. Great job paying attention to life-parables!