Last week as I packed for a speaking engagement in Florida my darling wife asked me a number of times, do you have your hand sanitizer? Since my heart attack a few years ago she has been lovingly protective of her sweetie… namely me! With flu season in full swing, ive thought much about the dangers of getting infected. Last year as the grass-mowing season went into full swing I did get infected, not with the flu but one of those growing up in the country kind of opportunities called Poison ivy! Could have been from pulling weeds in fencerows, or maybe trimming the front parking area. It really doesn’t matter, what matters is…I GOT IT! It started out little, almost unnoticeable on my hands. Then to my arms, shoulder and even my face! But you know, as I look back over my being reunited with this little practical joke mother nature has cooked up, I see a stark compassion to life. Poison ivy, like the flu, doesn’t stand out when you view the landscape but its hidden potential is there nonetheless. In comparison, as you view the landscape of life there are things that appear harmless, but just the least bit of contact can cause great discomfort.
So, let me pause to ask, are there things in your life that you are coming in contact with that are causing you problems, pain or peril? In the Old Testament book of Numbers is an account where the children of Israel are going in to inherit the land God has promised to them. It’s theirs; they just have to be obedient and experience God’s plan for their lives. Moses is in the process of warning them to do as the Lord commands and they will be blessed. Any deviation from what God instructs can cause missed blessings as well as great tragedy. Listen in to Moses words’ “And Moses said unto them, If ye will do this thing, if ye will go armed before the LORD to war, And will go all of you armed over Jordan before the LORD, until he hath driven out his enemies from before him, And the land be subdued before the LORD: then afterward ye shall return, and be guiltless before the LORD, and before Israel; and this land shall be your possession before the LORD. But if ye will not do so, behold, ye have sinned against the LORD: and be sure your sin will find you out.” The result of this account is that they missed the blessing God had in store for them because of disobedience, save Caleb and Joshua. Now you may be saying, how does this bible story affect my life? There is an old saying that goes like this: “It isn’t the mountain ahead that wears you out, it’s the grain of sand in your shoe.” Many a man, worried for fear he would not be able to cross a mountain, has had to stop some miles before he crossed the foothills because he had not taken time to clean out his shoes. That has been the source of failure in many Christian lives. Eager to avoid the big sins, your life may outwardly be one of extreme piety, but if there are hidden imperfections – little pebbles in your shoe – these will cause failure in your Christian life. In northern New Jersey, police picked up three suspected burglars who were believed to have left a crime scene with only $2 in change. How did the police find them? They left behind keys to their car. Police believe the suspects only got away with the money in a piggy bank. How did the keys give them away? The police used the keys to set off a car alarm. The car had the registration in the glove compartment. If the men turn out to be judged guilty, they will be living examples of the biblical principle, “Be sure your sins will find you out.”
Those three-leaf devils may not have looked harmful when I, armed with a mighty Toro trimmer stepped into the tall weeds, but alas the pain they caused. Life is more serious than weeds in one’s backyard… this is life and death we are talking about here and the danger sin causes to one’s soul is real. This was how Susannah Wesley defined “sin” to her young son, John Wesley: “If you would judge of the lawfulness or the unlawfulness of pleasure, then take this simple rule: Whatever weakens your reason, impairs the tenderness of your conscience, obscures your sense of God, and takes off the relish of spiritual things—that to you is sin.” Few college football coaches have made a point against drugs as effectively as Erik Russell of Georgia Southern College. He arranged for a couple of good ol’ country boys to burst into a routine team meeting and throw a writhing, hissing, six-foot-long rattlesnake onto a table in front of the squad. “Everyone screamed and scattered,” Russell recalls. “I told them, ‘When cocaine comes into a room, you’re not nearly as apt to leave as when that rattlesnake comes in. But they’ll both kill you!” Whatever you do, avoid the infection that sin can cause… STAY WELL!
Tim Throckmorton is the former Executive Pastor of the Plymouth Heights Church of the Nazarene in Franklin Furnace Ohio and the Portsmouth First Church of the Nazarene in Franklin Furnace, Ohio. He is currently the Senior Pastor at Crossroads Church in Circleville, Ohio.