Altar Call – Opelika-Auburn News
August 9, 2015
Better to surrender than to wallow in self-pity
People make a difference. Some people make a powerful difference. Walter and Caroline were two people who made a powerful difference in my life.
They were my parents. I owe a debt to them I can never repay. Their quiet but persistent faith influenced me to trust God. Neither Dad nor Mom talked much about God. They simply lived the faith; they walked the walk.
I never heard them discuss going to church. On Sundays we went to church except on rare occasions when “the ox was in the ditch” because of the weather or a sick animal on the farm.
As I grew up I slowly became aware that my parents were “God-fearing” people. As a result of their faith there were things our family did – and did not do. We attended church and worshiped God. Dad prayed a prayer of “blessing” before every meal. Dad and Mom worked hard; laziness was not tolerated. Dad was honest to the core and expected honesty from his children.
Neither of our parents smoked or drank alcoholic beverages. They did not use profanity. I never heard either of my parents use the “F” word that is so commonplace today. Sometimes, when Dad was very frustrated, he might say, “What in the Sam Hill did you do that for?” But that was the extent of his use of choice words.
Mon and Dad had a strict code of ethics which we were expected to abide by. We could play cards but not on Sunday. We could go to the movies, the “picture show,” on Saturday but not on Sunday. Sunday was a holy day on which some things were forbidden.
The example of my parents has a profound influence on me and my siblings. To this day I have never heard any of my siblings use profanity. And none of them has been victimized by alcohol or tobacco.
Genuine Christianity is not, of course, a list of Do’s and Don’ts. It is a relationship to Jesus Christ. Nonetheless, I am convinced the “godly” influence of our parents made it much easier for me and my siblings to embrace faith in God. And, over the years, we had the joy of seeing our parents grow beyond their devotion to a “rules” religion; they found a better way through knowing and loving Jesus.
Passing the faith on to others is the joyous privilege of every Christian. My parents passed it on to their children and it was not so much taught as it was caught. They showed us that God can use our example to help others “catch” the faith.
An effective example, of course, requires faithfulness under pressure. Trials and trouble tend to weaken our faith. Sometimes we are tempted to give up, thinking that God has forgotten about us. Instead of remaining strong in the face of hardships, we may give way to self-pity. I know that has sometimes been true for me.
One thing that has helped me get up out of the pit of self-pity has been the writing of Oswald Chambers in My Utmost for His Highest. His words often help me stop pitying myself. Perhaps his words will grip you as they do me:
“I must learn that the purpose of my life belongs to God, not me. God is using me from His great personal perspective, and all He asks of me is that I trust Him. I should never say, ‘Lord, this causes me such heartache.’ To talk that way makes me a stumbling block. When I stop telling God what I want, He can freely work His will in me without any hindrance. He can crush me, exalt me, or do anything else He chooses. He simply asks me to have absolute faith in Him and His goodness. Self-pity is of the devil, and if I wallow in it I cannot be used by God for His purpose in the world.”
This kind of surrender is never easy. But I have found help in the examples of others who refused to wilt when life was hard. One such man was Frank Pierce, a godly farmer in the first church I served as a pastor. He was superintendent of his church’s Sunday School for 50 years.
Frank was proud of having never missed a Sunday in 50 years. One Saturday it started snowing. By Sunday morning the snow was so deep that no one in this rural Alabama community could get to church. We all stayed home.
The next Sunday when we gathered, Frank Pierce shamed us all. He had walked four miles through the snow to church. He turned on the heat and stayed awhile, then returned home when no one showed up. Faithfulness meant a lot to Frank Pierce. And by his example, and the strength of his character, he influenced many to trust the Lord.
When the going gets tough it is wise to ask for grace to stay the course and not wallow in self-pity. Faithfulness can make a difference. Walter and Caroline showed me that. And if I can stay out of the pity pit, I can make a difference too. So Lord, help me to trust you, no matter what. + + +