The Anchor of Hope
An e-publication of Living Hope Presbyterian Church
Who are you to judge the servant of another? To his own master he stands or falls; and stand he will, for the Lord is able to make him stand.
The voice was not audible. But I “heard” it so clearly, it might as well have been. I had taken my car to our auto service place to have the oil changed when I saw him. He was an older man, not dressed in the best of clothes. They were of a relaxed fit, shall we say. He shuffled along the sidewalk on a main road in our town dragging a large cross with the cross bar resting on his right shoulder and the base scuffing up the ground behind him. Between the cross bar and the base flew an American flag. Internally, I scoffed at him for seeming to mix Christ with nationalism. I got up from my chair in the waiting room to go outside to take a picture of this man. I had plans to post the picture on a Facebook group, of which I am a member, to mock this man’s apparent poor theology and primitive witness.
And at that moment I heard the voice. “No, you won’t.” I stopped in my tracks. I was quite stunned. And then the above verse flashed in my mind. “Who are you to judge the servant of another? To his own master he stands or falls; and stand he will, for the Lord is able to make him stand.” Then the voice spoke again, “You will not publicly mock my servant.” O-o-o-o-K. I sat back down.
This type of divine direction was not a first for me. But it is rare. And it takes me by surprise each time I have “heard” it. No, it is not a revelation. There is no new message or prophecy. It is the Spirit applying God’s Word to my spirit in a strong, unambiguous way. Many theologians in the past called it illumination. God brings to mind something in His Word and applies it to our specific situation. In this case, the application was a rebuke and a warning not to sin further.
Why did God take that strong course this time in this seemingly minor incident when He allows me to sin in so many other ways? One answer could be, by taking my sin into the realm of social media, I would have been inviting others to join in with my sin. Social media can be useful for quickly and widely spreading communication, prayer requests, etc. But it can be just as spiritually deadly in spreading sin and humiliating others. We do not truly understand what might be occurring in the spiritual realm or how God is working. This man could have been in the midst of a spiritual battle, and instead of derision from his fellow believers, he needed prayer from the same.
I normally try to keep a devotional to one major lesson, but the lesson here I think is two-fold. First, how many battles are lost because we disapprove of someone else’s methods leaving them unprotected against spiritual attacks and discouragement? While I suspect that man has errant theology, I do not know that for sure. He did not appear to be sinning either. For all I know, he could have been faithfully expressing his witness in the most public way he knew how in a culture actively rejecting Christ and removing Christianity from the public consciousness. Thus while the Scripture contains many verses warning us to keep away from those who unrepentedly sin or promote heretical theology, for what reason would I have to judge him? I did not know enough about him to really make an evaluation.
The man’s methods were not my methods, but so long as he did not impose his methods upon me, he did not need my approval. His methods may have been primitive, but he is God’s servant, not mine. Besides, if God could only use perfected instruments, none of us – especially me – would ever be used.
Second, why should God need to use a megaphone to stop me, rather than a gentle tap on the shoulder? I guess sometimes I am too spiritually dense to hear anything but a loud “no!” But Jesus was not that way. He came to earth to do the Father’s will (Heb 10.5-10; John 4.34, 12.49). And He was perfect in doing it (John 8.29, 14.31, 15.10). We are to imitate Him. In order to do that, we must know Him – a relationship must be present. We must know His Word – it tells us what is expected of us. God would never have brought the verse to my mind, if I had not previously read it and considered its teaching. And we must converse with Him often – the line of communication should never be closed. And as we continually turn from our sin and follow Him, He may only need to apply His Word to our hearts in “a still, small voice” (1Ki 19.12, KJV).