“You need to remove John from teaching the young married class,” he replied.
I faced an arduous task less than six months into ministry.
My pastor wanted me to replace seventy-five years old John. John was beloved and viewed as a grandfather like figure for a dozen young married couples.
John was also a door-to-door Bible salesman. I traveled the highways with him as he sold his Bibles and shared the gospel.
“You know Russell?”
Russell and his family recently joined the church.
He was a gifted teacher and professor of theology.
“He needs a place to teach, to use his gifts. He’s young – mid 30s – and will better relate to the young married crowd.”
“I beg to differ with you. The class loves John. He and his wife mentor them and from what I’ve seen and heard, they’re like wise grandparents to the class.”
“I didn’t ask your opinion. You were told to remove John. I’ve already told Russell he will teach the beginning of next month. Do your job. Don’t blame me for this change. Make it happen. Follow your orders.”
I took John and his wife out to dinner.
Fear and sorry overwhelmed me as I told them their services were no longer needed.
John and his wife were heartbroken.
John told me he was under my spiritual authority and would step aside. He also told me he would teach one last Sunday and tell the class goodbye. A surprise came as they informed me they would leave the church and join a sister church. A few of the couples in the class followed him to the new church. There, he taught a young adult class.
John also told me he assumed I was just following the pastor’s orders. He said he knew it wasn’t personal. After thanking me for using my day off to travel with him in the north Georgia mountains while he peddled his Bibles, he added, the book of Philemon has some principles that apply to our current situation.
He said I was his brother in Christ and despite my breaking his heart by ripping his ministry away from him; he considered me a friend.
Here’s my summation of the five principles he shared with me.
1. Christian love is thankful for the best in others.
“I thank my God, making mention of thee always in my prayers”
Philemon verse 4 KJV
John told me he would continue praying for me. He said I was his brother in Christ and considered me and my wife his friend.
“You answered God’s call, left a promising career as a US Army officer, retrained, and now are at this church. I’m thankful for your obedience to God. From what I can see, you are a good man. I believe you believe you are doing what is best for the church. I disagree.” As he shook my hand and excused himself, he said he would pray for you.
In the verse, we see that –
Paul thanked God for his friends.
Paul prayed for his friends.
Do you pray for your friends?
Are you more concerned about what you can get from your friends than what you can do for them?
Are you thankful for your Christian friends?
2. Christian love seeks the welfare of others.
“I beseech thee for my son Onesimus, whom I have begotten in my bonds:”
Philemon verse 4 KJV
Nothing I could do or say could change the situation. After the change, the class exploded with new members. New members replaced the few couples that left. Many young adult couples joined in the weeks ahead.
I also showed concern about John and his wife. They missed old friends, but God used them in their new church.
Understanding of the situation was difficult.
“You are loyal beyond your own good. It has to be your military training,” he said.
In the verse, we see that –
Onesimus was a slave.
He ran away.
Paul leads him to Christ.
He showed concern about Onesimus’ safety and welfare.
Do you seek the welfare others?
3. Christian love deals fairly with others.
“Whom I have sent again: thou therefore receive him, mine own bowels:”
Philemon verse 12
My pastor called the neighboring church. He told their pastor what an outstanding Bible teacher John was.
On the pastor’s recommendation, John taught a young adult class in his new church. It helped this church of almost all senior adults to start again reaching young marrieds.
My pastor didn’t toss John out the door. He interceded on John’s behalf.
Were we fair to John? The Lord will judge us concerning our handling the change.
In the verse, we see that –
Paul sent Onesimus back to his owner.
He interceded on Onesimus’ behalf.
He showed concern about following the law and for Onesimus’ welfare.
Do you deal fairly with others?
4. Christian love bears the problems of others.
“If he hath wronged thee, or oweth thee ought, put that on mine account;”
Philemon verse 18
Even though I apologized to John for changing the leadership, I still felt awful.
Several members of the class gave me a STRONG piece of their mind. They viewed my explanation as nothing more than an excuse to get rid of a kind old man.
In the verse, we see that –
Paul pleads for forgiveness of the offense.
Paul will take responsibility for whatever Onesimus may owe his master.
Do you bear other’s burdens?
5. Christian love believes the best in others
“Having confidence in thy obedience, I wrote unto thee, knowing that thou wilt also do more than I say.”
Philemon verse 21
When the class started growing and persons responded to the strong Biblical teaching of Russell, some of its members told me they realized the class needed the shakeup. I was even told they knew I loved and cared about them and those without Christ in the community.
In the verse, we see that –
Paul tells Onesimus that he believes in him.
He tells him he knows he will do his best.
He encourages Onesimus.
Do you encourage and believe in your friends?
I may never understand the impact my actions had on others when I made this change. All I know is many young men and women came to know Christ and became active in church. Satan wouldn’t have wanted that, so maybe we did well.
Heavenly Father, sometimes hard decisions and choices need to be made to advance your kingdom. Help us to always seek your will and your mind when faced with these challenges.
Can you recall a time when you could see the best in others or others saw the best in you in a tough situation?
What would be an example of you seeking the welfare of a brother or sister in Christ?
How can we deal fairly with others in difficult situations?
It’s easy to talk about bearing other’s problems. What are some ways we can put that talk into action?
Recall a situation when someone saw the best in you?
As you embark on the journey in the year 2022, two things you do are critical.
The CHOICES you make.
The ACTIONS you take.
One – Choices You Need To Make Everyday
1. Choose to get excited about each new day.
This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.
Psalm 118:24 English Standard Version (ESV),
Each day is a gift from God.
Make a daily choice to rejoice.
Get yourself fired up for having another day of life and be glad.
2. Choose to be thankful.
And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.
Colossians 3:15 (ESV)
Allow God’s peace both into your heart and to rule your heart.
It’s hard, if not impossible, to be thankful and miserable at the same time. Choose to be thankful.
Thank God daily for your daily bread.
3. Choose to be positive.
I can do all things through him who strengthens me.
Philippians 4:13 (ESV)
Don’t say, “Good Lord, it’s morning” but say “Good morning, Lord.”
Make sure you get up on the right side of the bed.
As the late Zig Ziglar used to say, “Get rid of your ‘stinking thinking.’”
4. Choose victory over defeat.
For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith.
1 John 5:4 (ESV)
Remember the words of the old hymn, “Faith is the victory.”
Never forget it is the Lord who goes with you to battle the daily enemies and challenges. (see – Deuteronomy 20:4)
God gives us the victory through the Lord Jesus Christ. (see – 1 Corinthians 15:57)
5. Choose to live above the level of mediocrity.
Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.
We are to work heartily.
Our work honors God.
Remember, in any endeavor of labor, our work honor’s God.
6. Choose to put the other person first.
Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.
Philippians 2:3 (ESV)
The late Christian motivational speaker, writer, and Bible teacher Zig Ziglar (a Baptist deacon and member of my church) said, “You can have everything in life you want, if you will just help other people get what they want.”
7. Choose to have hope.
Though he slay me, I will hope in him (God);
Job 13:15a (ESV)
8. Choose to keep on keeping on.
I had an Associate Pastor named John West that frequently admonished all to “keep on keeping on.” He would say, “Keep trying; keep doing what you are doing. Keep doing your best; never give up and keep on keeping on.”
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said in 1967, “You don’t get to the Promised Land without going through the Wilderness. You don’t get there without crossing over hills and mountains, but if you keep on keeping on, you can’t help but reach it.”
Two – Choose to take ACTION by accepting Christ as Savior.
The only way we can really have a winning 2022 is to know Christ as Savior. Do you know Him as your personal Savior and Lord? Here is how to be sure.
for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,
Romans 3:23 (ESV)
For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Romans 6:23 (ESV)
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.
John 3:16 (ESV)
because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.
Romans 10:9 (ESV)
To accept Christ as Savior – A Prayer of Salvation:
“Lord Jesus, I confess to you I am a sinner. I believe that you died for my sins and that God raised you from the dead. I ask you to forgive me for my sin right now. Thank you for saving me and for giving me eternal life. In your name, I pray. Amen.”
FYI – I originally wrote this last section in 1988 as an article titled “Our Need and God’s Provision” using the KJV as the Bible reference. It was published in “Motivators for Sunday School Leaders” by the Baptist Sunday School Board (now Lifeway Christian Resources).
Did you know being good doesn’t get you to heaven. Being “saved” does.
Here’s my story of “being saved.”
On July 11, 1977, my life changed. If you look up that date in history, you will find nothing historically significant happened on that Sunday. It was a noteworthy day to me. That day was the watershed event in my life.
July 1977 found me on active duty as a second lieutenant in the United States Army. I was serving as Battalion Maintenance Officer, 2nd Battalion, 47th Infantry, 3rd Brigade, 9th Infantry Division at Fort Lewis, Washington.
Life was good.
Life was good. I had a beautiful, intelligent wife. I had a new son born in January that same year. I had just gotten a commendable rating during an annual general inspection in maintenance. It was the first commendable rating since the division had returned from Vietnam. Named an Outstanding Junior Officer of the Ninth Infantry Division because of the commendable rating, I received an offer of a regular army commission. My career was going great.
I always tried being the best I could be, and doing what was right. I was a detail-oriented perfectionist, high-achieving, and a workaholic. I excelled at most things I did. However, after all of this, I still had an empty, unsatisfied, void, and alone feeling. Beginning in my college years I tried drinking adult beverages, women, materialism, partying, and hanging-out with the right crowd to fill this unexplained need I had. I knew something was missing from my life.
I was also attending church. At my church I noticed a group of men my age that seemed to have what I was missing. I attended a Bible study with them. Here I found that God has given us an important manual for life — the Bible. He has the answers to the problems and emptiness we may face. I found out I was here for a purpose, and not by accident. I learned Jesus loves me, and desires to have a personal relationship with me. However, sin separated me from Him.
I realized I had a sin problem.
The Bible says, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” – Romans 3:23 But no one is perfect! Not even a perfectionist. We have all sinned and therefore cannot save ourselves by simply living a good life. Why?
I learned there was a penalty to be paid for my sin.
The Bible says, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” – Romans 6:23
I learned God gives us a promise.
The Bible says, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him shall not perish, but have everlasting life.” John 3:16.
I learned that God made provision for me.
The Bible says, “If you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. – Romans 10:9-10
I prayed to accept the gift of eternal life through Jesus.
I prayed, “Jesus, I know that I am a sinner. I believe that You died for my sins and rose from the grave so that I might have eternal life in Heaven with You. I willingly repent of my sins and ask you to come into my heart and life. Take control of my words, thoughts, and actions. I place all of my trust in You for my salvation. I accept You as my Lord and Savior, and this free gift of eternal life. Amen.”
What came next?
Since then my life has not been perfect. It’s been far from it. I have messed up from time to time, sometimes failing miserably in my decisions and choices. However, I have had direction and purpose in my life. I know where I am headed. I have the Bible to give me the principles for daily living. I am never alone. I have had real peace for the last 44 years.
How about you?
Have you ever been “saved”? You can do like I did. Romans 10:9-10, 13 tells us, “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. … For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”