How To Treat Different Types Of Church Members - Chapters 11-19

Dr. Jack Hyles
1988 Hyles-Anderson Publications

Click Here for Chapters 1-10

Table Of Contents (Continued)

11. Treatment of Those Who Are Stumbling Blocks
12. Why We Have Strife in Our Churches
13. Act, Don't React!
14. Leaders and Followers
15. My Ten Commandments When Sinned Against
16. Choosing Your Friends in the Church
17. The End Result of Improper Relationships
18. The Principle of Waiting
19. Dying for Fellow Christians

Chapter 11
Treatment of Those Who Are Stumblingblocks

Matthew 18:7, "Woe unto the world because of offences! for it must needs be that offences come; but woe to that man by whom the offence cometh!" Notice the word "offence." Simply stated, an offence is a stumblingblock. It is the leading or attempting to lead another to do wrong, or to prevent another from doing right. This may be done purposely or it may be a stumblingblock that is dropped by negligence or carelessness. In any case, our Lord plainly teaches that to leave stumblingblocks is a fault. In some cases, it may be a grievous fault; in other cases, a slight one. Nevertheless, it is wrong to lead another into sin or to prevent another from doing good. These are called stumblingblocks.

These obstacles to good are found in every church in America and every organization of every church. They are found on Sunday school faculties, on Christian school faculties, on deacon boards, in Christian school classrooms, church choirs, church staffs and even in Christian colleges. Those who place purposely or carelessly drop these stumblingblocks will attempt to lead the Christian into wrong by offering them everything from a joint of marijuana to a juicy bit of gossip. Let us notice how they operate.

1. They will lead you to do wrong when they know it is wrong. This is the worst form of stumblingblocks. There are those who know something is wrong, who will attempt to lead you to do that wrong. It is done most commonly by those who are doing wrong themselves and do not want to be alone in their wrongdoing. The tragedy of it all is that it is often done in the name of friendship, which God meant to be one of the greatest blessings of the Christian life. What a tragedy when such a great blessing is perverted into a curse!

Sometimes the tempter will even demand the price of losing his friendship if temptation is rejected and resisted. He is leading you to believe that you may purchase his friendship at this ridiculously high price! If this were possible, such is far from being worth the purchase! A so-called friend who wishes his solaced friend to do wrong in order to keep his friendship is no friend at all! When you attempt to purchase friendship, it is always counterfeit. This tempting may be done by someone who is addicted to narcotics attempting to ensnare another in his habit. It may be done by a young person demanding proof of the love of a member of the opposite sex by insisting that person join him in immorality. It may be done by one who is disloyal to leadership attempting to lead another to share his disloyalty.

Nearly every week I receive phone calls from pastors having internal problems in their churches. The story is always the same; it never varies. When a pastor tells me he is having trouble in his church, I can write the script. For that matter, the script is already written. Some man of prominence in the church is attempting to hurt the pastor, his ministry and his leadership. He is not satisfied with his own sin; he wants others to join him and so he places stumblingblocks in the path of the loyalty of others. Many sincere people have stumbled over these blocks and have been caused much grief in days to come.

This behavior is as old as mankind. Moses and Aaron faced the same thing that the sincere pastors face today. Numbers 16:1-3, "Now Korah, the son of Izhar, the son of Kohath, the son of Levi, and Dathan and Abiram, the sons of Eliab, and On, the son of Peleth, sons of Reuben, took men: and they rose up before Moses, with certain of the children of Israel, two hundred and fifty princes of the assembly, famous in the congregation, men of renown: and they gathered themselves together against Moses and against Aaron, and said unto them, Ye take too much upon you, seeing all the congregation are holy, every one of them, and the Lord is among them: wherefore then lift ye up yourselves above the congregation of the Lord?"

Notice in verse 2, "And they rose up before Moses." Notice in verse 3, "And they gathered themselves together against Moses and against Aaron."

Now notice in verse 2 who they were. Look at the words, "two hundred and fifty princes of the assembly, famous in the congregation, men of renown." The Devil hasn't changed his methods, has he? The same thing happens today as it did over three millenniums ago.

Now notice their charges in verse 3, "Ye take too much upon you, seeing all the congregation are holy." Notice later on in verse 3, "Wherefore then lift ye up yourselves above the congregation of the Lord?" Everything that goes around comes around, and Satan is not very original. His methods are the same from generation to generation.

2. They will lead you to do what they do not think is wrong but what you think is wrong. They want to convince you that you should go against your conscientious convictions, and they want to persuade you to disobey your scruples. "Nothing is wrong with that!" is never spoken by a true friend. A true friend will allow you to have your own convictions and will want you to abide by them and live by them. He will respect your convictions and not attempt to lower yours to his.

3. They will lead you not to do right. It is wrong if we make Christian duty and the Christian life difficult to our fellow Christians when we should do our best to make it easy We have tremendous power over each other. Our personalities, our conversation and our habits are almost sure in some degree either to help or hinder each other. One may encourage and tempt another to do wrong by good-natured behavior when his friend is doing wrong, or he may prove his friendship by being disagreeable when his friend is about to do wrong. What I am saying is that we may try to help a friend in such a way as to provoke him or perplex him, so we are not only to refrain from leading another to doing wrong, but we should actively encourage him to do right.

How then should the one be treated who becomes a stumblingblock and who places stumblingblocks in our path of righteousness?

1. Do not become a stumblingblock to him by stumbling over his stumblingblock. The tempter sins against the tempted, but when the tempted yields, he likewise sins against the tempter. He has placed a crown of evil on the other man's sin of being the tempter. He has completed the job attempted by the tempter, and just as the one who is tempting him has aided in his sin, his committing the sin has also added to the sin of the one who tempted him.

If we refuse to stumble over the stumblingblock, we save the one who placed it there from committing an even greater evil and, for that matter, another evil. The tempter cannot become the accomplice to a crime that has not been committed, so in a sense when we yield to his temptation, we sin against him, even as he sinned against us. The tempter sins when placing the stumblingblock in the path of the tempted. The tempted sins when he stumbles. He also causes the tempter to sin twofold because the tempter's sin is now completed and doubled.

Let us illustrate. A man who is drinking offers another a drink. He has sinned in so doing because he has placed a stumblingblock in the path of righteousness of the one who is offered the drink. When the one who is tempted takes the drink, he sins; but he has also sinned against the one who offered him the drink, who sinned in drinking, who sinned in tempting his neighbor to drink, and has now become an accomplice in his neighbor's sin of drink. He now is guilty of three sins instead of two.

A young man tries to seduce a young woman into immorality He sins in so doing, but the young woman who yields has completed his sin and the seducer's sin is now twofold.

2. Refuse immediately. Psalm 119:60, "I made haste, and delayed not to keep Thy commandments." The easiest time to refuse evil is NOW. It is often very hard not only to do what is right, but to do it at the time that right should be done. This Psalm not only exalts the doing of right but the doing of right immediately Every Christian is bound not only to be obedient to the call of duty but to be instantly obedient to that call. There is a tremendous difference between the beauty of obedience, which has the spontaneity of a little child running to do something for Mother who finds a delightful pleasure in the sense of obedience, and that obedience which comes unwillingly and which is done slowly as if it is no more than an absolute MUST.

In practically every case of obedience, delay makes it more difficult. Nothing can be gained by cautious procrastinating obedience. That obedience does not become easier but harder. There is no obedience as delightful as ready obedience. It brings a charm with it. It prevents many temptations by simply giving them no time to do their work. It conquers many difficulties by its own impulse, and it leaves us with a warm awareness that we belong to God and we are wanting to please Him. It also saves us oftentimes from committing sin because as has been stated, the easiest time to refuse is NOW!

When such instant refusal is performed enough times, it will become instinctive. It will become a part of the subconscious and hence, becomes character. Character is the subconscious doing of right. It is the doing of right by reflex. It is resisting temptation by instinct.

3. Do not travel with those who carry stumbling blocks. In every church and church organization, there are such people. It is not difficult for us to know who they are. If we are wise, we will be nice to them, courteous to them and gracious to them, but we will not travel with them.

There is a divided four lane interstate highway leading from the Hammond area to Indianapolis, Indiana. It is Interstate 65. This highway goes through no towns, has few if any stops and is, of course, divided four lane all the way. Then there is the old highway that leads to Indianapolis. It is Highway 41. Leaving the Hammond area on Highway 41, one must go through Highland, Indiana, Where there are at least five or six stoplights; Schererville, Indiana, where there are two more stoplights. He must then go through St. John, Indiana; Cedar Lake, Indiana; and other small towns and cities along the way. The person who wants to take the fastest and safest trip to Indianapolis will certainly choose Interstate 65. He will not condemn Highway 41, criticize Highway 41 or gossip about Highway 41; he will simply forget Highway 41. Highway 41 will not be a part of his thinking processes as he journeys to Indianapolis; he simply takes the road without the stumblingblocks. The wise Christian will do the same thing. He will take the road not traveled by the one who lays stumblingblocks in his way. He will not criticize him or attempt to hurt him; he will simply not be aware that he exists. He is too busy traveling with those who want to help him in righteousness and not be his accomplice in sin!

Chapter 12
Why We Have Strife in Our Churches

Why do Christian people (or for that matter, any people) have strife between themselves? The answer plainly and simply is, "unfulfilled appetites." We had a desire or appetite to receive something which we did not receive. We had a desire or an appetite to be treated in a certain way, and the desired treatment never came. In other words, we did not get the thing or the treatment that we wanted. Of course, the secret to avoiding the strife caused by these unfulfilled appetites is to have sanctified appetites and to keep our wants and desires within the limits of our ability to have.

A good definition of riches would be as follows: "the balancing of wants and possessions." So, there are two ways to be rich. One is being able to afford what one wants, and the other is wanting only what one can afford. The secret is the balancing of the wants and the possessions. I am rich if I can get what I want. I am rich if I want what I have.

Most of us will never be able to get what an unrestrained appetite would want us to have, but all of us can balance the equation and become rich by asking God to sanctify our appetites and our wants. Psalm 37:4, "Delight thyself also in the Lord; and He shall give thee the desires of thine heart." The average casual reader of the Bible could misunderstand this passage. We could mistakenly think that God is telling us that if we want a Rolls Royce car, we can have it; if we want a half million dollar house, we can have it; if we want a $25,000 diamond ring, we can have it. This application is totally contrary to the teaching of the Scripture. In the first place, if we delight ourselves in the Lord, our desires can be sanctified and we can grow to want what we have. God is not saying here that He will increase what we have to fulfill the lust of the carnal nature. He is saying that if we delight ourselves in Him, our desires will become equal with our possessions.

Some interpret the Scripture to mean that if we delight ourselves in the Lord, He will give us what we want. I rather prefer to believe that God is saying if we delight ourselves in the Lord, He will give us what TO want, and when He is saying He will give us our desires, I feel that He is saying that He will give us our appetites as well as the fulfillment of our appetites. It may be in that some cases He will increase our possessions to equal our desires. It may be that other cases He will lower our desires to equal our possessions. Whichever it is, it is simply the balancing of the equation, which in the end makes one rich, for he has what he wants and wants what he has.

This is the same thing that God is telling us in John 15:7, "If ye abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you." We emphasize the part of that verse which tells us to ask what we want and we can get it. God is emphasizing the part that says, "If ye abide in Me, and My words abide in you." The word "abide" implies "to live." If we live in and for and through Christ and His Word lives in and through us, our appetites become sanctified and God can give us carte blanche and power of attorney to ask what we will because He trusts what we WILL ask. We cannot be so trusted unless we abide in Him and His words abide in us.

Romans 8:28 would certainly shed some light on this truth: "And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose." Once again God is reminding us that spiritual people may feel free to ask what they want because God can trust their wants. We like to think that if we love God and are in His will, everything will work out for our good, and this certainly is true. However, what we think of as being good changes when we love God and are living in His will. The very same thing that was going to happen to us becomes for our good if we love Him and if we are in His will.

Let's suppose that a Christian is not living in the will of God and is not filled with love for Christ. The events that come his way do not work for his good. However, take those same events and put them in his path under different conditions, those conditions being that he now loves God and is in the will of God, and they will work for his good. Once again, the difference is in the appetite. When a person delights himself in the Lord as in Psalm 37:4, and abides in Christ and God's words abide in him, and he loves God and lives in the will of God, he then has sanctified appetites that make it possible for his desires and possessions to be equal, which is in the final analysis the definition of riches.

The wise Christian will not allow himself to possess appetites that cannot be filled. It is a blessed truth that if he meets the conditions of the aforementioned Scriptures, his appetites will be inside the will of God; and any appetite that is inside the will of God will be filled by God, for He promises to give us the desires of our hearts if those desires have been purified and sanctified.

This leads us to another thought, and that is, WE WANT WHAT WE GIVE.

1. We want the same type love that we give.Even our Lord came to Peter and asked, "Lovest thou Me?" The word here for love is the word that is used for God's love. It is a deep, abiding love. Peter answered, "Thou knowest that I love Thee," but Peter's word for love was the love that we would call something like fondness. Jesus was saying, "Peter, do you deeply love Me?" and Peter was saying, "Lord, Thou knowest that I am fond of Thee." Jesus, in using the word for deep love, was actually saying, "Peter, do you love Me like I love you?" Jesus can make such a request because His love is perfect, but for us to want to be loved like we love can create an unfulfilled appetite. Our appetite should be to love deeply rather than to be loved deeply.

Years ago when our son, David, was Youth Director at First Baptist Church, an interesting thing happened. It was commencement night for Hammond Baptist High School. After commencement had ended, I had an appointment with one of our ladies. While I was counseling with her, there was a knock on my door. I went to the door and David was at the door crying uncontrollably and asking for me to speak with him for a few moments. I told him that I had an appointment, and he said, "Dad, I've got to see you right now! It's an emergency! It can't wait!"

I asked the little lady with whom I was counseling if she would wait, and I stepped across the hallway into my secretary's office so Dave and I could be alone. I said, "What's the trouble, Doc?"

He said, "Dad, it just dawned on me that those young people that just graduated are no longer in our youth department. I have lost them!" (I think this was the first group that David had lost since being Youth Director.) "I love them, Dad! It just dawned on me that I don't have them any more, and Dad, I just had to get with somebody who could love me like I love them. That's why, Dad, I had to be with you."

I said, "You found him, Doc," and I hugged him and we shared some tender moments together.

Now the truth is that Dave's appetite was filled, but suppose that he had had that appetite hundreds of miles from his dad. He would have had a tough evening, because there would have been no fulfillment of his appetite.

The wise Christian will let his appetite be to love. That can always be fulfilled because it is within the grasp of his will. Don't misunderstand this. I am not saying that we should not want to be loved, but I am saying we should not want to be loved exactly like we love, because no one loves exactly alike, which is why God made us all different. Each of us has a unique way of loving Christ that no one else has, and since each love, though given by God and with God as its source, is different, it is impossible for us to be loved exactly like we love. So, if someone doesn't love us like we want to be loved, and if we want to be loved like we love, it is easy to be upset.

There are few things that hurt as much as wanting to be loved like we love and not being loved that way. This hurt is increased the more deeply one loves, because the more refined one's love is, the harder it is to find reciprocation. This also makes it easier to be lonely What I am saying is that the Christian should find the presence of his joy in loving, and then perhaps he can find the degree of that joy in being loved. In other words, I have joy simply because I love you. Now if you return that love, it increases my JOY, but if you do not, my joy is still present.

So whether it be possessions or treatment, there is an atmosphere conducive to strife if I want something and do not receive it. You did not treat me the way I wanted you to treat me. You did not say what I wanted you to say. You did not do what I wanted you to do. You did not give me what I wanted you to give me. You did not express to me what I wanted you to express to me. In other words, you did not fulfill my appetites.

2. We want the same type expressions of love that we give. There are certain ways that each of us says, "I love you," and most of us want love to be expressed the same way we express love. We want to get what we give. For example, men and women do not express love the same way. Many marriages have to endure strife because the husband wants the wife to love him the same way that he loves her and to express it the same way. Now to be sure, the wise wife will try to find the expressions of her love that her husband would desire, but the basic fact is that men and women do not express their love to each other in the same way. The man may just want a quick hug and kiss. The woman may want soft music and atmosphere. The man calls the woman unaffectionate, and the woman calls the man unromantic. This is because the appetites have conformed to each one's own expressions of love. A certain expression of love is wanted and though the love may be expressed, since it is not what was wanted, it often causes strife.

In a sense, this is almost what could be called mental homosexuality. For example, a man may want a woman's love, but he may want it to be mentally the same love that he gives her. In other words, he wants her to love him emotionally and mentally like a man, but she is not a man! She is a woman, and she must love him emotionally and mentally as a woman would love him. So, instead of wanting his love returned, it is much better for him simply to want whatever type love that God has given her for him to be expressed in her own way, not in his!

This same thing could be true between the young and the old. This is one reason that teenagers and adults have a difficult time understanding each other. The parent kisses the teenager. The teenager seems indifferent, which causes the parent to be displeased and causes strife. The wise parent will let the teenager love like the teenager loves. Teenagers cannot return adult love to adults. They can only give teenage love. The wise parent will accept it with rejoicing and gratitude in whatever manner of expression the teenager uses.

3. We want the same type logic that we give. We want others to logic like we logic, and an appetite is created for us to receive that kind of logic. Since all people do not logic alike, that appetite is often unsatisfied, and strife is a result! A man may want a woman to logic like he does, while a woman may want a man to logic like she does. An adult may want a teenager to logic as an adult, and the teenager may want the adult to logic like a teenager. When such appetites are created or allowed to exist, they are often unfulfilled and cause strife. In other words, I want you to see things exactly as I see them. When you do not see things exactly as I see them, my appetite is unfulfilled!

Recently I was preaching in another state. I told the people that I would appreciate it if they would help me to be heard by helping to prevent any unnecessary interruptions in the service. I was to be there for only two nights, and certainly I would not want, for example, a crying baby to limit the effectiveness of my message. I wanted to help the people! After I had preached a few minutes, a baby began to cry (at least I thought it was a baby) in the back of the auditorium. The people in that section were disturbed and unable to follow the message. I stopped the service and asked whoever had the baby to take it to the nursery Someone got up and left, and I thought that they had granted my request. The disturbance was stopped and we had a wonderful service. After the service, a lady came to talk to me who was very disturbed! She told me that she was the one who had the child who misbehaved, but that the child was not a baby! The "child" was an afflicted teenager, and the lady was very disturbed that I had asked her to remove her daughter. I went out to the car where the daughter and the rest of the family were waiting for the lady, and I saw the child. It was a tragic thing! Though she was in her late teen years, her little body was deformed, and it was a heartbreak to see.

It was obvious that the lady was wanting me to apologize for asking her to take the child out of the service when she was causing a disturbance. I certainly expressed my compassion, my sympathy and my love, but I could not tell her that I would not do the same thing again. As a preacher, I had a message to deliver! It was to me the most important thing in the world! As a mother, she had a child that she felt had been mistreated, and that was the most important thing to her! It would have been totally impossible for us to logic the same way. Because of that, I was not offended in the least. I had no appetite for her to logic as I did. Because of that, I had nothing but love toward her. On the other hand, the dear lady wanted me to logic as she did. She had an appetite for me to do so, and it was impossible for me to satisfy this appetite. Of course, her family shared her feelings, and they had ill will toward me. The reason for this ill will was that they had a desire for me to logic as they did. I had no ill will toward them because I did not have a desire for them to see it my way. I didn't blame them at all for seeing it their way. Consequently, she had a want that could not be balanced with a possession. I had no such want.

Now let us suppose for a moment that I had the same appetite that she had had. Suppose that I just could not understand it because she couldn't see it my way. Why couldn't she understand that a preacher's message is so important! Why couldn't she understand because that I had traveled 700 miles to bring two messages, I certainly wanted to be heard and must be heard! Why couldn't she understand that I was not being selfish in the matter! I was wanting to help people, and there were hundreds of people there who needed to be helped, and the disturbance caused by her child was preventing them from receiving that help!

If I had insisted in my own mind that our logic be reconciled, I would have been as disturbed with her as she was with me. This is where strife originates. "Why can't you see it my way?" "I just don't understand you." "You're not making sense." These are statements that represent the cause of strife. I think the way we put it usually is that we just don't see it eye to eye. If we don't see eye to eye, and if both of us insist that we see eye to eye, there is strife. On the other hand, if both of us could express our opinions, not desiring a reconciling of logic, we can disagree and not have strife.

This is what causes strife in our churches. Far too many of us have appetites that warrant certain treatment. When that treatment does not come, there is strife. The same thing causes strife at home, at work and at play. On the other hand, if our appetite is to love others, to express that love to others, and to help others, then that appetite can be fulfilled.

Do not want to be treated in a certain way; rather, want to treat the other person properly Do not want expressions of gratitude; rather, want to express gratitude. Do not want folks to appreciate you; just want to appreciate them. Most of our problems in our churches would be solved if our desires, wants and appetites were purified and sanctified!

Chapter 13
Act, Don't React!

In an athletic contest the offense always has the advantage because the offense knows the play. They determine the action. The defense reacts to the action of the offense, which places them at a severe handicap. For example, in football a wide receiver runs down the field to catch a pass. He knows whether he is going to stop abruptly, cut to the right, cut to the left or run full speed ahead. He knows where the ball is to be thrown and where he is to be when the ball is thrown. The defensive man has no idea. He simply has to react to the actions of the offensive player.

The Christian should stay on the offense! Reaction means that someone else is determining your behavior. Only you can destroy yourself No one else can destroy you unless you allow him to do so. The only thing that can destroy a person is self destruction, and self destruction is caused by improper reaction. Consequently, one can be destroyed by another only when the actions of the enemy cause an improper reaction.

One of the interesting and sad things about improper reaction is that we react to our reaction. In other words, if someone provokes another to improper reaction, he then reacts to his own reaction and digs a deeper hole. Reaction takes a person away from the control of his own destiny. There are several things that should be considered concerning action and reaction.

1. Do not spend casual time with people who entice you to react wrongly. There are people whose behavior causes an unwise reaction. They may "rub you the wrong way." Find out who these people are and don't let them rub you. There are some people whose actions may cause one to react with quick temper. There are people whose actions would cause one to react with slothfulness. There are people whose actions would cause one to react with yielding to temptation. There are people whose actions would cause one to react with bitterness. Be nice to these people. Work with them if you must, but do not spend casual time with them. Everything should be planned when you are together so as not to give the person a chance to exhibit his behavior or actions that would cause an unwise reaction on your part.

2. Do not read materials that make you react unwisely. I grew up in Dallas, Texas. Because of that I grew up following the Dallas sports teams. This has made me a rabid Dallas Cowboy fan, a Dallas Maverick fan and a fan of nearly all the sports teams in and around Dallas. Then, too, I am interested in the news of my hometown. Because of this, for years I have taken a Dallas newspaper. At first I subscribed to one of the two newspapers, but there is a sports writer in one of those papers who has a terrible habit of unnecessary and extreme criticism of the local sports teams. He is so cynical that just to read his column stirs me to anger and almost contempt. One day I reminded myself that I did not have to subscribe to that newspaper, so I changed my subscription to the other Dallas paper. This was done because I did not want to read that which made me react unwisely. The same would apply to radio talk shows, television talk shows, television preachers, etc. There are some talk shows that I know will provoke me to anger and disgust and will cause me to react unwisely. Since I do not want my behavior controlled by liberals, humanists, modernists and critics, I do not listen to them, read their articles or subscribe to their publications.

I know many preachers whose preaching is simply that of reaction. They read things all week that make them mad, and then they preach on Sunday against those things. This makes for interesting preaching and will keep a good crowd coming for a little while, but it is preaching that is simply reacting to improper stimuli and will not build great Christians. Do not misunderstand me. I believe in preaching against sin, but one is supposed to hate sin, not because an undesirable creature is for it; he is supposed to hate sin because it is contrary to the will of God and the good of man. The right kind of a preacher will not need the enemy to provoke him to anger. He can provoke himself to anger by the realization of the awfulness of the sin. Much of our preaching against sin is not preaching against sin; it is preaching against sinners!

The wise Christian will not allow himself to be exposed to those things that take his initiative away and enable his behavior to simply be a series of reactions to someone else who has turned him on by their actions.

3. Be oblivious to what makes you react unwisely. I travel every week. I preach hundreds of sermons a year all over America. (In fact, this chapter is being dictated as I drive down the side of a mountain in the northwest part of our country.) I sometimes have to sit through music that could cause me to react. When such is the case, I become oblivious to that music, and during the song service and during the special music I discipline my mind to be on something else, usually on the message I am to preach and the truth I am to present. Occasionally a preacher who speaks before me will say things contrary to the truth. The temptation is for me to leave what God has given me for the congregation and to start chasing that preacher. In so doing, I get to blow off some steam and get to tell the preacher and the people what I thought about the first sermon, and the people go without what God had given me for them! Normally I simply think of the great truth that I am going to present and become oblivious to the first preacher.

On two occasions in my ministry after I preached a sermon, the pastor of the church where I preached stood to tell the people that he did not agree with my sermon and he took several minutes expressing points of disagreement and reasons for the disagreement! In one instance I had to preach again within 15 minutes. The other time I had to preach again that evening. Of course, the natural tendency is for me to make my rebuttal in the next message, but the natural tendency is not usually right, so in both cases I proceeded to preach the message that I was going to preach without making a rebuttal at all. Why should I cause the people to suffer because I had been injured! Why should I preach a reactionary sermon when I had already decided the course of action that I felt the Holy Spirit wanted me to follow!

4. Plan your reactions. By that I mean, foresee battles that may arise and times when you will be compelled by conviction and circumstances to respond to someone else's behavior. Take some time. Sit down for awhile. Think of possible actions that you may have to follow and to which you may have to respond. Decide beforehand what you are going to say and do. Do not let the spur of the moment cause you to react unwisely but in the prayerful quiet of your own study or room, decide yourself what your reaction will be to certain forms of behavior. This changes your reaction to action, since you have decided what you are going to do before the other person has done it. This enables you to have more time to decide. It enables you to decide before the heat of the battle, and it enables you to decide without emotion.

Twenty-eight years ago I became Pastor of the First Baptist Church of Hammond. The first year was a hectic one. People set themselves against my ministry and made serious attempts to force my resignation. A special night was set when we would thrash out the problems and the people would be allowed to ask me questions from the floor. For hours I sat in the basement of our parsonage and tried to predict what questions would be asked. I came to the conclusion that each question that would be asked me would be one of seventeen. I wrote these seventeen questions and made a full page outline as to how I would answer each question when and if it were asked. Though all the questions were not asked at this special meeting, there were no questions asked that were not on my list. Consequently, when each question was asked, I did not have to react, for I had planned my reaction beforehand, making it an action. So when the question was asked, I simply pulled out the prepared answer and read it. This was done calmly without emotion and not in a reactionary spirit. Ibis probably saved the First Baptist Church of Hammond for the cause of fundamentalism and probably for the cause of usefulness. Any time one expects behavior that would tempt to improper reaction, he would be wise to plan his reactions to that behavior, making his reactions not reactions at all but actions because they were planned before the behavior was planned.

1) Plan your reaction to criticism. The flesh hates to be criticized, and when criticism comes, it is often prompt in retaliating with unwise reaction. The wise Christian will have a course of action already planned that he may follow when criticism arises.

2) Plan your reaction to things that anger you. Each of us knows things that more readily provoke him. When such actions occur, the temptation is greater to react unwisely. The wise Christian will list these -provocative things and will prepare in advance his reaction to them.

3) Plan the things for which you would fight. No one should fight impulsively Consequently, the person with character will plan the things for which he would fight and will plan the manner of the fight. He will not fight in response to temporary provocation; he will fight only for those things that are predetermined and in a manner that is predetermined.

I have a list of things written down and placed in a drawer in my office for which I would fight. I have a list of things for which I would die. Consequently, I will not fight or die in a quick response to an impulse. My fighting, even unto the death, will be predetermined in the prayerful quiet of my office.

Someone perhaps would say, "I just don't believe in turning it on and off like that." Nor do I believe that. I find it impossible to turn it on and off, but I find it possible to turn on what turns it on and turn off what turns it off. In other words, I can control what controls me and not allow myself to be controlled by the passion of an immediate response to a stimulus that causes me to react unwisely

I do this concerning the church services. I prayerfully decide in the quiet of my study what my reaction would be when a baby begins to cry in the service. I likewise decide what my action would be if baby continues to cry in the service. I have planned action that I carry out when I am disturbed briefly in a service and other planned action for disturbances I know will not end without my help. This prevents me from acting impulsively and doing something for which I will be sorry later. The people in the audience may or may not agree with my response to the disturbance, but I will have done what I think is best because it is what I thought was best in the quiet of my study before the disturbance arose.

5. Learn to whom you can trust your reactions. There are some people with whom you can feel perfectly comfortable and whom you can completely trust not to lead you to unwise reaction. Know these people. They are usually people who think, philosophize and would rather speak of ideas than of people. Someone has said, "Great minds speak about ideas; good minds speak about things; weak minds speak about people."

I am thinking now of a dear friend, Pastor Bruce Porter, in Islamorada, Florida. For many years I have preached for him. I have learned that I can trust my reactions to him. He will not provoke me to unwise reactions. He wants to learn. He wants to talk about ideas that are constructive. He does not indulge in people-talk, so I feel perfectly at ease to have a casual conversation with him. In fact, I enjoy doing so. He meets me at the airport when I make my annual visit to his church. I do not make plans concerning our conversation. I do not need to, for I know he will provoke me to good thoughts and not to unwise reactions.

On the contrary, there are other people to whom I cannot trust my reactions. I would find myself on the defensive. I would find myself not wanting to talk about other people, and I have learned that their conversation would tempt me to reactions that would be unwise and perhaps even divisive.

The wise person will discover such people in order to find out to whom he can and cannot trust his reactions. In the case of the latter, you might want to plan the conversation and think of some questions that you could ask him in order that you may control the conversation, making it necessary for him to react to your behavior rather than your reacting to his behavior.

6. Spread the word that you do not participate in criticism. Let it be known that you are not interested in character assassinations nor personality critiques. Word will soon get around, and you will have the reputation for not being critical. People will either respect what they know is your desire or they will be fearful of approaching you with negative subjects,

For years I have traveled the length and breadth of this nation. It is understood all across America that there are certain subjects about which I do not speak. My reputation precedes me, which makes it much easier for me to avoid situations that would be tempting to unwise reaction.

7. Do not live in unplanned situations. Idle time is one of the great causes for unnecessary and unwise reaction. Just sitting around and talking with nothing planned leads to differences, arguments, fusses and reactionary conversation.

One of the great problems of our society is that it is built on critique. It is falsely assumed by many that the ability to critique someone is a sign of strength. Nothing could be farther from the truth! To attack the strong is not a sign of strength. To do nothing but critique those who do something is certainly not a sign of strength. The time was, for example, when the local sports writer was a cheerleader for the local team. He has now become the Devil's advocate and is considered somewhat of a successful sports writer if he can criticize the coach. Men who have never carried a football, thrown a pass, kicked a field goal or made a tackle seem to know more about coaching than men who have coached for a lifetime. The pew critiques the pulpit. The student critiques the teacher, and the press critiques everybody! One can hardly listen to a radio station without finding movie critics, restaurant critics and a bevy of other self-styled experts whose only talent is criticizing talent, whose only strength is criticizing strength, whose only accomplishment is shooting at those who have accomplished.

God, give us men who act, not men who react! Give us men with the character to determine their behavior and who decide their own course of action!

Chapter 14
Leaders and Followers

Ephesians 5:21-29, "Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God. Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and He is the saviour of the body. Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing. Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave Himself for it; that He might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the Word, that He might present it to Himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish. So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself. For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church."

Ephesians 6:1, 4, 5, "Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right. And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. Servants, be obedient to them that are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in singleness of your heart, as unto Christ."

Ephesians 5:21 is a startling verse, "Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God." In a church or a family or a business or in any group relationship, each of us at some time is a leader and at some time a follower. Joe may be Bill's Sunday school teacher, but Bill may be the deacon chairman while Joe is a deacon. Joe may be manager of the softball team, while Bill may be Joe's choir director. One of the great necessities of a successful church is that each member realize the area in which he is a leader and the area in which he is a follower and learn to fill each position with grace, propriety and dispatch.

In any organization there are several groups of people, as follows:

1. Followers of leaders. I Corinthians 4: 10, "We are fools for Christ's sake, but ye are wise in Christ; we are weak, but ye are strong; ye are honourable, but we are despised."

I Corinthians 11:1, "Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ."

Philippians 3:7, "But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ."

In any organization this is the mass of the members. One of the great weaknesses rising on the scene in America is that so few people are trained to be followers. There is nothing undignified about being a follower. The follower is as important as the leader. Athletic contests are won by athletes who know how to follow and are trained to do so. America used to win wars when we trained our young men to be followers.

We say we believe in majority rule, and this is right. However, majority rule does not mean majority opinion. Following majority opinion is anarchy Following majority rule is democracy We choose people to lead us and make important decisions for us. An athletic team has a captain who calls the plays. The captain may be chosen by the team, but the captain calls the plays. On a football team, the quarterback calls the plays, or in some cases, the plays are called by the coach. There would be neither time nor proper organization if the team voted in the huddle what play to run. Imagine how long it would take for someone to make a motion that we throw a pass to the right wide receiver, someone else makes a motion that the fullback carries the ball through the center of the line, someone else makes a motion for a quick kick, and the quarterback asks then if there is any discussion! Each member of the team is allowed to discuss the motion. Then the quarterback calls for a vote, and the majority opinion decides on the play. A long time before the decision was made, the team would have been penalized for delay of game. You can't run a team that way; you can't run a nation that way, and you can't run a church that way (though this seems to be the way the Congress wants to run our foreign policy).

Once the leader is chosen, then the followers follow him. This does not mean that the leader is stronger than the follower; it simply means that in this particular area, he would have more ability to make the fight decisions. Of course, the wise leader will often seek the advice and counsel of followers before making his decision, but the decision should be his. The follower should be loyal to that decision. This is the way wars are won, championships are won, and souls are won! Let the church choose a choir director and let him make the decisions for the choir. Don't saddle him with a music committee to nip at his heels. Let the choir follow.

Let the youth director make the decisions about the youth program. Choose one and follow him. Don't saddle him with a youth committee as an albatross around his neck.

In some churches it takes seven days for a committee of five to decide what kind and color of flowers to put on the communion table on Sunday. Let someone be chosen to be in charge of the flowers and send the committee out soul winning! If a business were run like the average church, it would go bankrupt. If a nation were run like the average church, it would go under. (In some ways it seems like our nation is run almost that way now.)

Choose a bus director and let that bus director make the decisions concerning the bus ministry. Do not appoint a bus committee to hinder the progress. Democracy is not voting on every issue but choosing our leaders and letting them lead. Of course, there are times for the need of a public referendum, but these are rare occasions and for special purposes.

A church should choose a pastor, vote him in democratically and then let him be the pastor. Do not appoint a committee to approve who fills the pulpit in his absence. Let the pastor choose. Do not have a board or a committee to approve his speaking engagements outside the church and to approve whatever advisory boards he sits on outside the church. Choose the pastor and let him be the pastor.

There are three words in the Bible all of which deal with the same office, pastor, elder and bishop. The title of pastor means that God's man should be careful to protect his people from false doctrine and heresy, as the shepherd protected his sheep from serpents and wild beasts and as he fed them. The title of elder signifies experience and wisdom as the pastor guides his people with the decisions of life. The title of bishop means overseer. A pastor is chosen democratically by the people, not to lead the church by majority opinion, but by wise leadership after having been chosen by majority vote.

Let no one mistake this for the pastor borrowing money for the church or building a building without a church vote, but the people should follow pastoral leadership. He is trained for the job and has been democratically voted to the job.

Years ago a deacon in a certain church informed me that the deacons of the church were not pleased with my preaching and asked if a meeting could be held to discuss my preaching. I agreed to such a meeting. The time was set for Monday night at 7:00 in one of the Sunday school rooms at the church. About 10:00 that night the deacon called me and asked me where I was. I said, "I'm at home."

He said, "Why didn't you come to the meeting?"

I said, "What meeting?"

He said, "You told me we could have a meeting to discuss your preaching," and I said, "You can. You can have a meeting every night if you want to discuss my preaching, but I won't be there. That's between me and God, not between me and the deacon board."

Years ago a deacon said to me, "Pastor, concerning your preaching . . . ."

I said, "Hold it. When we build a building, you get one vote. When we borrow money, you get one vote, but when I walk in the pulpit, you don't get no vote! Two and two is four; the sun rises in the east and sets in the west; the pope is a Catholic; and my preaching is between me and God."

This group that we call followers of leaders is only such in one particular phase of the work, but each organization needs people who love to follow and who are self confident enough to yield, who are loyal and faithful.

The wise follower loves strength. He will be happy to follow strength and would be wise to study the leader to find the qualities he possesses in order for him to know those qualities if he is chosen someday to lead in some endeavor.

2. Leaders of followers.This is the second group.

1) These people come from good followers. No one will I make a good leader unless he has first been a follower. He must know the heartbeat of the follower. He must have compassion and empathy toward the follower.

2) He does not want power; he just wants to get things done. He has no desire to lead or to have people subservient to him. He is lost in the necessity to accomplish a task. He realizes that he has been chosen to a place of leadership that will require him to lead in this task.

3) He doesn't feel above the followers.He feels that the position of leadership is not a position that is exalted above that of the follower. He realizes that somebody has to lead, and he has been chosen to do so. Perhaps another could have been chosen who could have done the job as well as he, but he realizes that he has been chosen for the job, so he accepts the responsibility, realizing that the followers are his equals, not his inferiors.

4) He does not seek leadership. This is one of the weaknesses of our system. Leadership is sought. The husband reminds his wife of Ephesians 5:22, "Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord," and oftentimes that is his only right to be the leader. To be sure, the wife should obey because the Bible says to, but far be it from me to believe that a weak man should take that Scripture and use it as a club! He should become strong and earn his wife's followship, convincing her that he is capable of leading. Now don't misunderstand me. She should follow whether he is capable or not. The Bible gives her that command, but at no place in the Bible does it say, "Husbands, command your wives. Husbands, boss your wives. Husbands, dictate to your wives." Why couldn't a husband be the kind of man that his wife would want to follow! What a delightful buffer this would give as Ephesians 5:22 is carried out!

There is nothing more disgusting than for some little milquetoast to say in an effeminate way, "Matilda, you are supposed to obey me; the Bible says you are!"

Yes, Matilda, you should obey little milquetoast, but there is nothing in the Bible that says you have to enjoy it, and there is nothing in the Bible that says he deserves it!

There are few things more disgusting than for some little effeminate, papa called, mama fed, seminary bred preacher to open the Bible to Hebrews 13:7 and 17 and remind his people that they are supposed to follow him. Hebrews 13:7, 17, "Remember them which have the rule over you, who have spoken unto you the Word of God: whose faith follow, considering the end of their conversation. Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you." Now, it is true that they are supposed to follow, and the argument that I am presenting now gives no member a right to rebel against his pastor, but it is far better when God's man works to become capable of leadership! Through loving his people, working for their benefit, serving them, caring for them and ministering to them, he convinces them that he is capable of being their leader. They, in turn, follow him because they believe he is capable. Oh, yes, the letter of the law says that they are supposed to obey him, but how much more beautiful it is when God's man loves his people and does not want to be a dictator and has no desire to rule them. He simply realizes that he has been chosen as their leader and feels that he is capable of doing it with God's help. He goes about doing his duty of leading them; and they, believing that he can lead them, follow him.

5) He delivers followers to other leaders.For example, if a man leads the church choir, he is a leader of followers, but he also has a pastor whom he is to follow. He is to lead the church choir to follow the pastor. If a man is the principal of a school which is operated by a church, he should increase the loyalty of those whom he leads to the pastor whom he follows. The wise and capable leader will realize that there are leaders above him, and he should present his followers as the most loyal followers of his leaders.

One of the sad things in our system is that so many of our national leaders have never led anything. So many of our congressmen graduated from college with a law degree or some other degree that put them in a position in business where they built nothing. They run for office on the basis of their charisma, charm and smile and are then elected as leaders. These are not officers who are commissioned on the battlefield because they have proven themselves as leaders, but rather chosen by a popular vote. These men sit in the halls of Congress, but they have never led a corporation; they have never built a business; they have never built a church; they simply went to a liberal university, kissed a few babies, shook several thousand hands, made a few television commercials and then assumed a place of leadership without ever having been a leader.

On the other hand, the President appoints his staff and his cabinet. He chooses men for his staff and cabinet who have been successful as leaders in America. He chooses men who have headed great corporations, men who have headed great armies, or men who have built empires. On one side you have the President's staff, chosen from the field of leadership, business and success. On the other side you have a Congress where many of its members have never built or led at all. We have seen in our generation how easy it is for the President's staff and cabinet to become impatient with the other side. The followers are leading leaders; novices are placed over successful men. Sometimes these men who have led in great corporations step over the line and make some mistakes. They immediately are investigated by the weaker ones who assert their right to leadership because the Constitution and the laws give it to them. They are right, but they are also weak. The temptation to do wrong was partially or maybe totally caused by their ineptness, and so they (like the husband who takes Ephesians 5:22 and waves it in front of his wife and the pastor who takes Hebrews 13:7 and 17 and waves it before his people) take the Constitution and wave it before the successful men who have crossed over a line because of their impatience in waiting for the inept ones to do something! Then a committee is formed so there can be a hearing where followship can interrogate leadership, where failure can interrogate success, and where weakness can interrogate strength!

It is not hard to understand why a strong man who is a leader steps across the line in an effort to do something to defend America from Communism, when the often inept and weak people sit on their hands while Communism invades our hemisphere.

We have seen in our day how colonels and admirals who have been trained at West Point and Annapolis and who have been taught how to be followers and how to be leaders are quizzed, disciplined and censored by men who were trained in liberal, undisciplined state universities and have been spawned by the permissive society and the situation ethics of our generation. While these weak men in strong positions point the finger of accusation at impatient and perhaps even erring strong men, somebody should point the finger at these men whose "donothingness" left the vacuum that was filled by the strong men who got out of bounds. Many of these men who have gotten out of bounds in their over-zealousness to keep America free, have been pushed out of bounds or pulled out of bounds because no one in bounds was doing anything! I am not condoning lawbreaking, nor am I condoning those who entice law-breaking. There are laws in our country against rioting. There are also laws in our country against those who incite a riot. There are laws in our country against certain crimes, and there are also laws against those who aid those crimes and incite those crimes. I contend that the people who are letting Communism take over America while they preach their doctrine of disarmament and pacifism from college desks, senate seats, congressional rostrums and even pulpits are just as guilty as the patriots who are excessive in their defense of America. I am not acquitting anyone; I am simply indicting some others!

3. Leaders of leaders. Deuteronomy 10:17, "For the Lord your God is God of gods, and Lord of lords, a great God, a mighty, and a terrible, which regardeth not persons, nor taketh reward." I Timothy 6:15, "Which in His times He shall shew, Who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings, and Lord of lords."

It is very interesting that Jesus is called King of kings and Lord of lords. Not only is He a King of subjects, but He is King over kings. Not only is He a Lord over followers, but He is Lord over lords. There are some people who have been chosen by leaders to be their leaders. Pastors who lead churches have men to whom they look for leadership. Men who lead corporations have men to whom they look for leadership.

Here is where many churches stop growing. The pastor is a leader of followers, and he takes the church as far as one leader can take a church. Here is the place where he must become a leader of leaders. He must choose men under him to lead different departments of the church. He must delegate to them responsibility and some authority. He must learn to share with these leaders his people and a part of his domain. Of course, these leaders whom he leads should be fanatically loyal to the pastor and should not steal any of the love that the people have for the pastor. When a church reaches a certain size, its continued growth numerically will depend upon the ability of the pastor to become a leader of leaders. This is not easy. Some of the nice things the people have done for the pastor, they will now do for the other leaders. The pastor will have to share the banana puddings, the pecan pies and the pineapple upside down cakes with those who work as his followers and as leaders of a portion of his people.

1) This position should not be sought.All true leadership should come from one who is so busy helping followers that they will want him to be the leader. This is true with the leader of leaders. He should be chosen by the leaders. This does not mean that he will be elected; it means that he just unknowingly becomes the kind of person to whom leaders look. The position is not sought; it just happens, or in some cases of organizational structure, he is chosen without his applying for the position.

Twenty-five years ago a man came to the First Baptist Church of Hammond and told me that he was a pastor and that he had heard of our church and wanted to learn something about the ministry of our church. We put him in a guest room, kept him for the entire week and let each staff member talk to him for one hour. His ministry was transformed. He went back to his church in the western part of our nation, and his church was transformed. He told a friend what had happened to him. The friend contacted me and asked if he could come and spend a week learning from our staff members concerning our work. We allowed him to do so. He had a friend, and he came. He had a friend who came, and he had a friend who came, until we were spending far too much time individually with pastors each coming to spend a week. I got with the staff and we decided we would have one week and announce it so that all who wanted to come could come. It was to be a one-time situation. We simply got word around the country that any pastor who wanted to come and spend a week and spend an hour with each of our staff members could do so, but it would all happen at the same time. To our total shock, 167 pastors from 19 states came. When that week was over we never intended to do it again. Then requests came from all over America concerning a repeat. Other pastors wanted to spend the same week, so we did it the second year. For twenty-five consecutive years we have had what we call our nationwide Pastors' School, where pastors and Christian workers come from all over America and from around the world. Five to six thousand come each year to spend a week of training. (Last year over 6,000 came from 48 states and 19 foreign countries.) We start on Monday night, have sessions all day Tuesday and Tuesday night, all day Wednesday and Wednesday night, all day Thursday and Thursday night, and most of Friday.

Now I did not sit in my office one day and say, "I would like to become a leader of leaders, and I've got to figure out some way where I can have leaders to come here so I can be their leader." It never works that way! The position of becoming a leader of leaders just happens.

The truth is, I don't enjoy being an administrator or an executive. I was reared a poor boy and had no intention at all of ever being any kind of an executive. In fact, I didn't like that word. I was pastoring the Miller Road Baptist Church of Garland, Texas. We had about 300 in attendance, and I was doing everything! I was leading the choir, printing the church bulletin, turning on the lights and the heat, typing letters to the visitors and new members, mimeographing the Sunday school outline for the teachers and officers in addition to my pastoral duties. I hired a secretary, and I had a hard time relinquishing the things I was doing. This little secretary's name was Jo Strickland. She did me a favor, for which I could never adequately repay her. One day this little short gal said to me, "Pastor, I have been a secretary for an insurance executive, and you need to learn how to delegate responsibility and be an executive." I told her I didn't even like the word. I wasn't a big shot, and I didn't want to become one! She looked at me and very sincerely said, "Pastor, I believe you could be a great preacher someday, but you are going to limit yourself if you don't learn to delegate responsibility. You will never be able to build a big church unless you can administrate." (What she was saying was it was time for me to become a leader of leaders!) She looked up at me and said, "Say this to me: 'I am an executive!'"

I don't know why I did, but I said it.

She said, "Say it over ten times," and to my shock I did it. Every morning when I came to work, she met me at the door and required me to look down at her and say that phrase ten times: "I am an executive! I am an executive! I am an executive! I am an executive! I am an executive! I am an executive! I am an executive! I am an executive! I am an executive! I am an executive!" What she was doing was helping me to become a leader of leaders. This was a pivotal time in my ministry. Every leader reaches the place on the ladder of success where he can no longer continue to prosper or grow by just being a leader of followers. He must become a leader of leaders.

2) The leader of leaders must learn to delegate.This is hard for a zealous leader to do. Something that has helped me tremendously is the awareness that if I have ten men who work for me, and if I think I can do the job that each is doing better than he is doing it, I still can get more done by letting him do his own job. Let's suppose I have ten men working for me, and that each of those ten men can only do his job 90% as effectively as I could do it. (Of course, this is not always the case. Some of the men who work for me can do their jobs far better than I could do them.) However, it dawned on me one day that I would get more done by letting these men do their jobs, even though they could do them only 90% as well as I could. It is simply a matter of mathematics. I cannot do all the jobs, so I would rather have 10 men working at 90% efficiency than one man working at 100% efficiency It is a mathematical fact of 900 to 100, so the leader of leaders must learn to delegate!

3) The leader of leaders must learn to share glory. He must honor the leaders whom he leads. He must exalt them in the minds of the followers.

Let me stop to say this: The leaders who are led by the leader of leaders should not demand this kind of treatment. This is an exhortation to the leader of leaders to share the glory; it is not an exhortation or a license given to the leaders who follow the leader of leaders to demand such glory. God would not honor this kind of a spirit. However, the wise leader of leaders will give credit where credit is due, honor where honor is due and will exalt in the presence of the followers those leaders whom he leads.

4) The leader of leaders must learn to share the spoils with the leaders who follow him.

The first time I ever had a leader under me was in the early 1950's. His name was Bob Keyes. Until that time, I had gotten all the cakes, pies, turnip greens, green beans and other nice things that people give to and do for the pastor. The first week that Bob Keyes worked for me, I went by his house. He and his family were eating a meal of freshly cooked vegetables. I walked in, smelled the meal, coveted the vegetables and told them it sure smelled good and looked good.

Bob said, "Yes, these are fresh out of the garden."

That green eyed monster came inside my heart and I said, "You don't have a garden! Whose garden?"

He said, "Well, some members of the church brought these by to us today," and I said to myself, "They didn't bring me any!" I was learning that I must share with my followers the leader whom I was leading.

Evangelist Jim Lyons at one time was my associate pastor. One cold winter day I was backing out of my driveway (it is a curved driveway), and I got off of the drive into a snowbank. I tried to get out and couldn't. I gunned the engine, went forward a bit, backward a bit, forward a bit, backward a bit, and then I smelled something! I knew what I had done. I had burned up the transmission. There I was, sitting in a snowbank with no transmission, realizing that it would cost me hundreds of dollars to have it fixed or replaced, when suddenly Jim Lyons and his wife drove up in front of our house. He shouted, "Preacher, are you having trouble?"

I replied something like this, "No, Jim. I just come out here every day and try to find a snowbank where I can put my car and bum up my transmission!"

Jim said, "Well, why don't you get some snow tires?"

I said, "I don't have any money to buy snow tires. Do you have snow tires?"

He said, "Yes."

I said, "Where did you get them?"

He said, "The Cliftons gave them to me."

Oh boy, that green eyed monster came to me again! I was learning again that in order to have leaders whom I lead, I must share with them the spoils from the followers.

5) The leader of leaders must oftentimes accept being misunderstood. His life is a lonely life. The people to whom he was once close are now led on a personal basis by other leaders whom he leads. He will be misunderstood. This goes back to what President Harry Truman said, "If you can't stand the heat, don't get in the kitchen." A part of the heat of being a leader of leaders is sharing the glory and the spoils with the leaders whom the leader leads.

6) The leader of leaders must oftentimes give up closeness that he would like to have. I would like to be as close to our young people as our youth director is, but I cannot. The church is too big. I would like to be as close to our senior citizens as the director of our senior citizens ministry is, but I cannot. The church is too big. I would like to be as close to those in the hospital as my associate pastor John Colsten is, but I cannot. The church is too big. I would like to be as close to the football team at Hammond Baptist High School as the coach is, but I cannot. The church is too big. I would like to be as close to the school teachers as the principals are, but I cannot. The church is too big. I would like to be as close to the bus workers as the bus directors are, but I cannot. The church is too big. I would like to be as close to the college students at Hyles-Anderson College as the teachers are, but I cannot. The church is too big. This is a price to pay, but it is well worth it in order to reach more people. This means the leader of leaders must walk with God in a closer way than do his followers and leaders whom he leads.

When the Israelites came into the promised land, God divided the land and gave a portion to 11 of the 12 tribes. The tribe of Levi received no such portion of land. They asked God what their portion would be. He replied, "I am your portion." This is true in a church concerning a pastor who has become a leader of leaders.

7) The leader of leaders must be willing to be second or third in the minds of some of the people. I have a large staff. There are many men who work for me. I often tell my congregation that I do not expect them to put me first on their love list; just put me somewhere on the list. In the minds of some I will be number one; in the minds of others I will be number two or number three, number four, number five. That doesn't matter, as long as I am on the list. I simply ask them to love me; not to love me first or love me most. There are some people in my church who love Brother John Colsten more than they love me. That's all right as long as they love me. There are some who love Brother Roy Moffitt more than they love me. There are some who love Brother Elmer Fernandez more than they love me. There are some who have more love for other members of the staff such as Bob Auclair, Eddie Lapina, Keith McKinney, Bill Schutt, Ray Young, Wendell Evans, Mike Sisson, Greg Weber, Tom Vogel, etc. I want some people to put each of these men first (though the loyal man will not seek such love for himself).

Leaders are reading this chapter. Do not seek to be a leader of leaders in non organizational areas. Some doctors simply are highly respected and regarded by other doctors and become leaders of leaders. Some lawyers just happen to rise to a place of similar respectability. The same is true with preachers, and with leaders in every other field.

However, in an organizational structure such as a church, the wise pastor will have people who follow him, but who lead segments of the congregation in various ministries. The work of the church can be multiplied many times if such a relationship can be one of grace, love, admiration and acceptance.

4. A follower of followers. Matthew 15:14, "Let them alone: they be blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch." In every church, and for that matter, in every organization, there are people who do not follow the designated leadership. Some of these people perhaps are jealous of strength because they are almost always weak themselves. These people may be those who wanted to lead and failed, and so they do not like to follow leadership. These are people who are critics of leaders. They usually hate strong people, or at least, they do not like them. They are often one issue people and have one doctrine that they advocate, one project that they promote, or one conviction that they advocate above others. These are they who often have tried to lead and failed, and so they pick away at leadership. No matter what organization they are in, they do not follow. If they are choir members, they do not cooperate with the choir director. They do not come to choir practice, and if they do, they try to aggravate the choir director. If they are bus captains, they will not cooperate in the bus meetings, either by causing a problem when they are there or by not attending the meetings at all (which is a blessing to the director!).

The tragic thing is the fact that there are many who follow these followers. They preach their sermons from restaurant tables as they promote their opposition to the chosen leadership. They are followers of followers. How tragic this is! These followers are often lovely people who are misled by those whose only ability to lead is to lead someone against the leader. Their only achievement is to criticize achievers, and their only success is to lead others in opposition to the successful. These followers usually are lovely people who are misled by a warm personality of a follower who wants to lead and can lead only those whom he can get disgruntled.

Let God's people beware of followers whose only leadership is that of rebellion, criticism and division.

All over America churches have been split by these followers who lead followers, and so many of these followers who follow followers have gone with them to start other churches, and all over America there are little groups of people who are living in failure because they have followed a follower instead of a leader. Many young people have lost confidence in leadership because of these misguided souls. Thank God for those who are followers, but let all followers be careful to follow those who are leaders and not those whose only accomplishment is to fight leadership and to gather around themselves a few followers who became disgruntled and usually, sad to say, come to naught.

5. Followers of leaders of leaders. This is that type of Christian who wants to follow the famous name. He will support financially a leader of leaders, perhaps through some kind of nationwide ministry, but he is not willing to follow and support his own leader, the faithful pastor of his own church. He is enchanted by a personality, infected with hero worship, and will often drive hundreds of miles to hear a famous name but is seldom interested in supporting the leader nearest him. It is also true that if this follower of a leader of leaders were to become acquainted on a day-to-day basis with his hero, he would probably become disenchanted. He can follow only at a distance and not up close.

One of these such followers of the leader of leaders came to me when I was preaching in a distant state. He told me that he certainly was pleased to hear me and that he wished that they had a seasoned pastor at their church instead of the young man that God had given them. He was much chagrined because his young pastor made foolish mistakes. He tried to build himself in my estimation (and failed) by telling me that he wished he had a pastor like me that would not be susceptible to mistakes of youth.

The next night when I stood to speak, I told of this man's statement to me (though I did not imply at all or even give a hint as to the man's name). I then proceeded to tell the audience of a mistake that I had made just a few years before, after I had been in Hammond for about 20 years. Our church is a downtown church. We have purchased many buildings in the downtown area of Hammond. We bought a department store building, a drug store, a restaurant, four furniture companies, a lodge building, four small stores, a cleaners, a barber shop, a beauty shop and several apartment buildings.

On this particular occasion we had purchased a three story building behind our auditorium. One night at deacons' meeting a motion was made and seconded that we tear down the building and use it for parking. One deacon included in his motion that we appoint a committee to have the building torn down. I immediately suggested that it was foolish to appoint a committee; I could take care of it. All I had to do was simply call the demolition company and tell them to tear the building down. The deacons agreed to do so.

I did call the demolition company, but I failed to give them proper instructions! They did tear the building down that we had purchased. They also tore down the three-story building next door that we did not own. Boy, was I ever shocked and surprised to find that we had torn down a building that we did not own! How would you like to come to work some morning and find your building gone, especially if you were the owner of the building! I called a meeting of my deacons for Saturday night. They did not know what had happened. I immediately started the meeting by saying, "Fellows, did you ever hear of the Scripture that says, 'If a man asks you to go a mile, go with him two'? Well, I had the building torn down just as you requested, but I also tore the one down next door." I told them that I would not blame them if they asked the church to fire me.

One deacon kiddingly said, "Well, we don't pay much; we don't expect much!"

I kiddingly replied, "One more crack out of you, and your house comes down tonight!"

A deacon across the room shouted to him in jest, "Don't worry, he'll get the one next door instead!"

One deacon stood and said, "You've been my pastor for all these years, and I love you and am going to follow you regardless. As far as I'm concerned you can tear down the whole city of Hammond, and you are still my preacher."

I then began to think of other buildings that could come down! How about the adult bookstore? How about the movie houses and the liberal churches? (Of course, this was all in humor.)

One by one our deacons stood to tell me of their love and loyalty What could have been serious trouble turned into a little revival meeting.

I told this story to the people where I was preaching and reminded them that leaders of leaders make foolish mistakes and errors just like leaders do and that older more seasoned preachers are prone to mistakes also.

What I am saying is this: The member of the church should follow the pastor, his own pastor. The pastor may not be as glamorous as some nationally known figure, but he is God's man for that place, and he should be followed. Yes, we ought to love the leaders of leaders, but we also ought to love, appreciate and follow that one that God has given us to lead us on a local scale.

Are you a follower of leaders? Then be a faithful, loyal one. Are you a leader of followers? Then be a considerate, compassionate one. Are you a leader of leaders? Then be an unselfish, sharing one. Are you a follower of followers? Then turn from following discontents and disgruntles, and follow God's chosen leader. Are you a follower of leaders of leaders? Then add to that your followship of your own leader. May God make us to be in any capacity what He would have us be.

Chapter 15
My Ten Commandments When Sinned Against

I refuse to allow the existence of my happiness to depend upon the actions of others. I will allow the degree of my happiness to depend on the actions of others. I will not allow myself to be unhappy or to lose my joy because of the behavior of someone else. I will allow myself to have joy and happiness only because of conditions within my ability to determine. If my joy is dependent upon your treatment of me, I can have joy only when you decide for me to have joy. If my joy is dependent upon my treatment of you, then I may have that joy any time I choose. If my joy is dependent upon my relationship with God, then I may have joy when I choose to do so. If my joy is dependent upon my service for others, then I may have that joy any time I choose to serve others. So the presence of my joy must not be dependent upon the actions of others and their behavior toward me. However, the degree of that joy may be so determined. In other words, I will not let you make me happy, but I will let you make me happier.

Even in church life the carnal sometimes prevails over the spiritual, and Christians sin against each other. The purpose of this chapter is to give instruction to the one who is sinned against. For years I have had what I call, "My Ten Commandments When Sinned Against." These are ten things that I do when I find that someone has sinned against me.

Before entering the discussion of these ten commandments, we must make it clear that there is no selfish purpose or motive involved in these actions and reactions. The one supreme motive is TO RESTORE THE ONE WHO HAS SINNED AGAINST ME. I must look upon him as I would look upon any Christian who has committed any other sin. I must be grieved because it has strained his relationship with God. I must not allow my grief to exist because I have been wounded or offended. The truth is, if I love the Word of God and the God of the Word as I should, there is no way that I can be offended. Psalm 119:165, "Great peace have they which love Thy law: and nothing shall offend them."

As we enter into these ten commandments, we will always keep before us that our purpose is to restore the offender. If you have sinned against me, I want you to have the joy that has been taken from you because of your offense. My purpose is to help you and, by God's grace, to help you be restored!

I will have forgiveness in readiness before you sin against me. Ephesians 4:32, "And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you." I will always keep a reservoir of forgiveness so that it can be used immediately when sinned against. I will not allow myself the indulgence of the time that often transpires between being sinned against and offering forgiveness. That forgiveness will always be available and in abundant readiness immediately when the sin against me has been committed.

I will not impute your sin to you. Ephesians 4:32, "And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you." Notice here that I am to forgive those who offend me just exactly as God forgives those who offend Him. God not only forgives our sins, but He also justifies us. In other words, God keeps in readiness "justified forgiveness," which means that God does not charge us with the sin. He does not record it against us. When a Christian is saved, he is justified by the faith which is placed in Christ. Romans 5:1, "Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ." If, therefore, I forgive you as God for Christ's sake has forgiven me, I must not only forgive you, but I must not charge you with the offense. In my mind, you never sinned against me. I call that "justified forgiveness." Not only do I forgive you for what you've done, but I do not record what you have done. I do not think of you as one forgiven, but I think of you as one who has not sinned at all.

I will grieve for you, but not for what you have done to me. I will not grieve because I have an enemy; I will grieve because you are an enemy I will not grieve because I have been sinned against; I will grieve because you have sinned. I want you to have a good relationship with Christ. I want you to have peace. I want you to have fullness of joy, and you can have none of these when being offensive, so my grief is not for the wounded but for the wounder. My grief is not for the criticized but for the critic. My grief is not for myself, though I certainly want your love. My grief is for you because I want the best for you, and you cannot have the best when you have sinned against another.

I will do all that I can to help you remedy your situation. I will not retaliate. I will not be critical of you. I will not even share with others what you have done against me. My entire course of action will be that of seeking your restoration. I want you restored to fellowship with Christ. I want your joy restored, your peace restored and your happiness restored, so nothing that I do in the following commandments will be done to try to hurt you but to help you. I will not want for your hurt unless God chooses that method to bring you back to Himself. I will want the best for you and will do all that I can for that best to come your way.

I will ask God to let me suffer for you. I Corinthians 6:6-8, "But brother goeth to law with brother, and that before the unbelievers. Now therefore there is utterly a fault among you, because ye go to law one with another. Why do ye not rather take wrong? why do ye not rather suffer yourselves to be defrauded? Nay, ye do wrong, and defraud, and that your brethren." Not only will my forgiveness be justified forgiveness, but it will be vicarious forgiveness. I will ask God to punish me instead of you if that can best serve to bring about your restoration. I must not forget that the entire purpose of these commandments is for you to be restored, and I must do all I can to bring that restoration about. Isn't that the way that Jesus cared for our sins? He bore the suffering for us vicariously Do not forget that I am to forgive as God forgives, so if God took upon Himself the suffering for our sins, even so I must take upon myself the suffering for your sins if God will but let me do so. I have forgiven you. I have offered you with that forgiveness a justified forgiveness, and now I offer to you a vicarious forgiveness.

Certainly by now I want you to be restored. However, if you are not yet restored, I must continue to do what I can to help you find the peace you once had and the joy you once knew in Christ. If at any time while I am obeying these ten commandments, you are restored, then the use of the balance of the commandments will not be necessary. However, if having had forgiveness in readiness for you, having offered you justified forgiveness, having grieved for you, having decided to do all that I can to remedy your situation and having offered you a vicarious forgiveness with a willingness to suffer your penalty, I find that you are not yet restored, I must proceed to the next commandment.

I will turn you over to God for justice. Romans 12:17-20, "Recompense to no man evil for evil. Provide things honest in the sight of all men. If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men. Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is Mine; I will repay, saith the Lord. Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head." Do not forget that this justice that I seek for you from God is for your restoration.

Far too often I have heard this passage explained in a way to describe the Christian as one who wants his offender to be hurt and that God is certainly a better executor of this hurt than we can be. So it is taught that if you really want to hurt somebody, let God do it, and even blessing those that curse us is supposedly done in an effort to heap coals of fire upon his head. What a tragic teaching! How sad it is for us to teach God's people to be good to somebody because it will make them feel bad, to love somebody because it will make them hurt. God teaches no such thing! We must never forget that the purpose for all of this is for restoration. We are not trying to see to it that someone gets punished for his sin unless that punishment will help to restore him.

We simply treat him with love. If he hates us, we love him. If he despises us, we pray for him. If he does ill to us, we do good to him and turn him over to the Lord for justice, hoping that that justice will lead him to restoration. We would rather that he not suffer at all, but if God chooses to use the tool of suffering to bring him back to joy, peace and restoration, we will be happy for that, but we will never be happy because he suffers. We are pleased only if that suffering leads to restoration. All of this must be remedial.

The word "vengeance" here has to do with justice, and the justice has to do with chastening, and the chastening we hope and trust will lead to repentance, and repentance will lead to a restoration of fellowship with God, and a restoration of that fellowship will lead the offender to regain his joy and peace.

Why should we want to use the same tactics he used? Why should we borrow Satan's weapons to punish those who have punished us? Do not forget! The purpose of these ten commandments is restoration. If forgiving immediately brings it about, Commandment I is all that is necessary. If that fails, we will offer justified forgiveness and let our offender know that we are not charging the sin to him at all. Then we will attempt restoration by grieving for him and then doing all we can to remedy his situation, and then by asking God to let us suffer for him, and when all of those commandments have failed, we then turn him over to the Lord so God may use justice upon him in order that that justice may lead him back to his original fellowship and relationship with his God. If our brother is still not restored, we go to the next commandment.

I will turn you over to the Lord for chastening. Hebrews 12:10-12, "For they verily for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure; but He for our profit, that we might be partakers of His holiness. Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby. Wherefore lift up the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees." In other words, I will ask God to chasten you, but I must remember through it all that I am not wanting you to be hurt. I am wanting you to be restored, and if asking God to chasten you leads to this restoration, I will be pleased to do so. I will not enjoy your suffering or your pain any more than a loving parent enjoys the suffering of the child he is spanking, but I will wish for it if it will lead to your restoration. Of course, the word "chastening" implies training or educating. God does not punish His children for sin. His measures of inflicting pain upon us are not vindictive. They are punitive and corrective and done in love. The loving parent has in mind training his child, improving his child, educating his child, and in doing this, oftentimes must use the inflicting of pain. Never forget, the purpose is remedial!

I would much prefer that my forgiveness in itself would bring you to restoration. I would love for my justifying you as if you had never sinned against me to accomplish this. I would hope that a long time before we get to Commandment 7, you have been restored to fellowship with your God and have received once again the sweet peace and joy that comes with that fellowship, and only for your restoration to that place will I want you to be chastened.

As has been implied, God does not punish Christians; He chastens them. Now it may look the same way and it may, as a fact, be the same action. God may do exactly the same thing to a saved man that He does to an unsaved man, but to the unsaved it is punishment; to the saved man it is chastening. He chastens those whom He loves. To the one who is not His child, He may inflict punishment for sin, and though He may use that same act upon the Christian, it will not be punishment; it will be chastening. It will be done for training, for educating and for restoring His child to Himself

Certainly we trust that by now the one who has sinned against us has been restored, but if not, there is another commandment.

I will turn you over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh. I Corinthians 5:1-5, "It is reported commonly that there is fornication among you, and such fornication as is not so much as named among the Gentiles, that one should have his father's wife. And ye are puffed up, and have not rather mourned, that he that hath done this deed might be taken away from among you. For I verily, as absent in body, but present in spirit, have judged already, as though I were present, concerning him that hath so done this deed. In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when ye are gathered together, and my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, to deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus." Notice especially the first part of verse 5, "to deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh," but don't stop there. Notice the rest of the verse, "that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus." It is folly for us to think that we are to say, "I tried to hurt him, and God tried to hurt him; now Devil, you hurt him." This is contrary to the whole spirit of the Bible. It is contrary to the attitude of God toward His children. God is not talking here about a judgmental deliverance of the sinner to the executioner. God is simply saying He will exhaust every measure in order to restore the offender to Himself.

Another error that is taught concerning this subject is that this means we are to turn someone over to the Devil and say, "Devil, kill him!" That is not taught here. Notice that the destruction is of the flesh, the destruction of the carnality, the destruction of the methods that caused him to sin. God oftentimes will let the Devil use his weapons on us, but even then the purpose is for our restoration. I do not come with a vindictive spirit in a hateful manner and almost with delight saying to the Devil, "You can have him. Kill him."

Turn to I Timothy 1:19-20, "Holding faith, and a good conscience; which some having put away concerning faith have made shipwreck. Of whom is Hymenaeus and Alexander; whom I have delivered unto Satan, that they may learn not to blaspheme." Now notice especially verse 20 where the Apostle says, "whom I have delivered unto Satan, THAT THEY MAY LEARN not to blaspheme." What is the purpose of turning one over to Satan? THAT HE MAY LEARN. This is the same as the chastening in Commandment 7. Even in this action we are seeking restoration. This one, like all the commandments above, is for the good of the offender that he might be led to know once again the peace and joy he knew before he sinned against me. Even in turning him over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, I am still interested in corrective measures, or as John Calvin said concerning this truth, "for medicinal purposes." This is just another medicine that I will use in an effort for your spirit to be healed.

I will bless you, do good to you, pray for you and love you. Matthew 5:43, 44, "Ye have heard that it hath been said, "Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you." Romans 12:20, 21, "Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head. Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good." I will not combat hatred with hatred, but I will combat hatred with love. I will not combat cursing with cursing, but I will combat cursing with blessing. I will not combat spite with spite, but I will combat spite with prayer, hoping still that the weapons of love, blessing, prayer and kindness will lead to your restoration because I love you. I loved you before you sinned against me. I love you more now because you need me more. You need my love more, my blessings more, my prayer more.

I will not socialize with you. I Corinthians 5:9-11, "I wrote unto you in an epistle not to company with fornicators: yet not altogether with the fornicators of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or with idolaters; for then must ye needs go out of the world. But now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one no not to eat." II Thessalonians 3:14, "And if any man obey not our word by this epistle, note that man, and have no company with him, that he may be ashamed."

Perhaps you are saying, "Now you are showing some hatred at last. You finally came to a commandment that is vindicative!" No, quite to the contrary. Even this commandment is remedial and medicinal as a last resort. I will not socialize with you, hoping that you will miss my fellowship. Of course, I am commanded in the Scriptures above not to socialize with you, but even this is an effort for you to be restored. I trust that you will miss my fellowship and that my withdrawal from socializing with you will lead to your restoration.

This does not mean that I will not be nice to you. I will speak to you, I will help you, I will bless you, I will pray for you, I will be kind to you, I will be gracious to you, I will feed you if you are hungry, I will clothe you if you are cold. I will do anything I can for you, but I will not socialize with you because I am commanded not to do so and because again I am using a tool that I trust and pray unto God will restore you to fellowship with God and to your relationship with Him that brought you peace and joy, and as a blessed by-product, restore you to myself.

In conclusion, if you are my enemy and if you have sinned against me, I love you and I want you restored. The commandments that I have listed above are simply different medicines in the apothecary that I trust will heal your wounded spirit and bring you back to your God and to me, your friend. Perhaps these medicines taste progressively worse, and I certainly trust that before the more drastic ones are needed, you will be restored. I do not want you to suffer. I do not want you to hurt, but far above that, I want you restored to your God and to your joy. If therefore, a little suffering and a little pain will be remedial and medicinal, I will want it for you, not so you can hurt, but so the joy of fellowship you once knew can be yours, because you see, my dear enemy, I love you!

Chapter 16
Choosing Your Friends in the Church

In any church, there are several groups of people. That fact is the very purpose of the writing of this book. There is a group of the weak, a group of the fallen, a group of the strong, a group of the critical, etc. Of course, this is true in any group of people or cross section of society. Each Christian must decide which group he wants to join and who his choice of friends will be.

1. You must first decide what you want to be. Do you want to be strong? Do you want to be weak? Do you want to be fallen? Do you want to be critical? Do you want to be loyal? Do you want to be disloyal? This decision must precede all others.

2. You must then associate yourself with the group of people who are like that. You will be like your associations. You will not regularly associate with the disloyal and continue to be loyal. Neither will you regularly associate yourself with the loyal and continue to be disloyal. You will not regularly associate yourself with the strong and continue to be weak. You will not regularly associate yourself with the weak and continue to be strong.

You have first decided what you want to be. Then you have found the group that is composed of people like your goal, and you have associated yourself with them.

3. Do not try to copy them, and do not try not to copy them. All of us have heard sermons innumerable, warning us not to be somebody else, but to be ourselves. Christian colleges especially are bombarded with such statements, and there is a bit of truth in the statement, but it does not go far enough. Just as the Christian is not to TRY to copy his associates, even so he should not NOT TRY to copy his associates. The mistake is the TRYING. Get with the right crowd. Do not force becoming like them. Do not attempt to keep your uniqueness; just be with them. Of course, we are assuming that you have chosen the right crowd. In other words, do not try to be anyone else, and do not NOT TRY to be anyone else.

It was my fortune as a young preacher in my late 20's to begin associating with and preaching with the greatest preachers of the former generation. As a young man not yet 30 years of age, I began preaching on the same platform with such men as Dr. John R. Rice, Dr. Bob Jones, Sr., Dr. R. G. Lee, Dr. Lee Roberson, Dr. Lester Roloff, Dr. Bill Rice, Dr. Ford Porter and others. I made no attempt to copy these men. I tried to be myself, but I made no attempt not to copy these men. I simply was with them, hoping that some of their greatness would rub off on me. I watched them preach. I watched them walk. I watched them sit on the platform. I prayed with them. I preached with them. I studied with them. I traveled with them, and on occasion, I even shared the same motel room with them. It would have been a tragedy for me to have copied any of them. It would have been just as tragic for me to have refused to allow them to influence me. Occasionally one of my members will come to me after a message and say, "You reminded me today of Dr. John R. Rice." It is not unusual for someone to inform me that they saw Dr. Bill Rice in me while I was preaching. The same can be said of Dr. Bob Jones, Sr., Dr. G. B. Vick, Dr. Roloff and others. When I was a younger preacher one of my members told me one time that they could always tell on Wednesday night with whom I had preached on Monday and Tuesday. I assure you there was no purposeful effort for me to preach like any one of these men. Neither was there a purposeful effort for me not to preach like any one of these men. I simply let them influence me by osmosis, not encouraging or fighting that influence.

The wise Christian will first decide what he wants to be like. Then he will associate himself with that crowd. If you want to be a critical person, do it on purpose. Find the critical crowd and run with them. You will be successful in your goal. If you want to be a weak Christian, do it on purpose. Find the weak Christians and run with them. Likewise, if you want to be a strong Christian, do it on purpose. Find the strong Christians and run with them. Once you have decided what you want to be and have found the crowd that can influence you to be that, get with that crowd and relax!

4. Weakness and strength should never be equal. II Corinthians 6:14-17, "Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God: as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you." Notice especially the words, "Be ye not unequally YOKED together with unbelievers." Now a yoke holds two together. It may be a team of mules, a team of oxen, but a yoke is made for a pair. God does not want His people pairing off one-on-one with the weak. One critic plus one non critic equals two critics. One gossip plus one non-gossip equals two gossips. One disloyal plus one loyal equals two disloyals. God does not want us to give the weak Christian the home court advantage. A strong Christian will not change the crowd that is weak. However, a crowd of strong Christians can change a weak Christian.

I think there is a real weakness taught in many of our fundamental circles, and that is what we normally call the "buddy system." I do not think the buddy system is a good idea. In other words, one stronger Christian becomes a buddy with a weaker Christian in order to strengthen him. Most of the time this will weaken the strong Christian. The wise plan is to have a group of strong Christians with the weak Christian. Have the weak Christian join five strong Christians so that strength can be in the majority.

5. Do not choose a crowd or a person that is not what you would like to become and then decide what good you can learn from them. The truth is that we do not know what we learn. We do not choose what we learn. There are so many things we learn that we do not know we are learning.

I am thinking of a dear friend of mine who has pastored for many years. He decided to go to different pastors' schools, conferences, conventions, etc. of all persuasions to choose the best of each. He chose one such meeting conducted by a very well known pastor who would not be considered by fundamentalists to be fundamental. He went to this meeting to choose the good and refuse the bad. Since this is impossible, he was influenced by the charisma of the pastor and began to embrace and endorse things that were contrary to his former ministry. He gave the other side home court advantage, and in so doing, accepted practices that previously he never would have accepted!

Now let us suppose that same brother had come to the Pastors' School at First Baptist Church of Hammond where the fundamental position has home court advantage. If the same statements contrary to his former position had been made by someone in conversation, he would have refuted them, at least in his own mind, and certainly would not have embraced or endorsed them. However, he allowed himself to be outnumbered by weakness and in so doing, accepted things he never would have accepted otherwise. Do not let strength go to the weak group to try to help, but form a strong group to invite the weak one that he may be helped. DO NOT GIVE WEAKNESS THE HOME COURT ADVANTAGE.

6. Remember, it is the personality that changes you. The same thing can be done by television. When one watches a television program, he is giving the program home court advantage. The television personality is not brought into your living room; you are brought into his setting. In your mind, you are sitting with him at his place. You are in his crowd. This is why television can be so deadly! For example, when you watch a talk show whose guests hold an opinion contrary to yours, you are allowing yourself to come under the influence of their charisma in their setting with their having the home court advantage. If that same person came to your home with the same philosophy, you would not allow it! This is because when he comes to your home, you then have the home court advantage, and you refuse to be influenced in such a manner. This is the power of television. The world decides the crowd with whom you will run, and likewise decides the conditions and environment surrounding you and those who want to influence you.

The wise Christian will decide what he wants to be and will avoid watching personalities on television who are not what he wants to be.

The same is true with radio. If you want to be a separated, fundamentalist Christian, then listen only to separated, fundamentalist preachers. If you want to become a charismatic, then listen to charismatic preachers. If you want to become a liberal, then listen to liberal preachers, for sooner or later you will become that which influences you. You will not have the radio on to compromisers all day long and still become a strong, separated Christian.

The same is true concerning books. Many Christians become rabid followers of authors they have never met, of preachers whose churches they have never visited, and of men and women about whom they know nothing. They allow themselves to be unequally yoked with a personality that will influence them but about which they know little or nothing!

Let's go back to the original purpose of this chapter. First, we decide what we want to be. Then we find the influence that is like that and we position ourselves in its presence, in order that we may be influenced accordingly.

Years ago a young man heard me preach on several occasions. He decided he wanted to be the kind of preacher that Brother Hyles is, so he moved to Hammond. (At the time he was single.) When he got to our area, he then enrolled in a college whose philosophies basically are contrary to ours. The time spent in that college each week was far greater than the time spent under my influence, but he felt he could go to that college, choose what was good and leave the bad. He did not realize that no one can do this! There is no way that a person can disassociate himself from being influenced by his environment. This was the case. Years have passed. He is now a pastor with no desire at all to be like Brother Hyles.

The issue here is not that he should want to be or not want to be like Brother Hyles. The issue is that he wanted to be one thing and chose an environment that influenced him to be another.

7. Have a degree of closeness to all church members. This does not mean that you should be socially involved with all church members. It does mean, however, that within a church each member should have a positive feeling toward every other member. Instead of having a positive and a negative, have degrees of positive.

For example, I am an independent, fundamental Baptist. I certainly feel kindly toward all of that group. However, within that group there are different degrees of acceptance. There are some preachers within that group that I would have preach for me, I would preach for them, and I would preach with them. There are others within that group for whom I would preach and with whom I would preach, but I would not have preach for me. There are others in that group with whom I would preach, but I would not have them preach for me, nor would I preach for them. There are still others in that group whom I would not have preach for me, for whom I would not preach and with whom I would not preach, but I would certainly be willing to sit down and have a cup of tea and some warm fellowship with them. I do not feel negatively toward any of them, but there are degrees of my positive feeling.

Concerning fundamental colleges, there are numbers of colleges in America that I would consider fundamental. I am for them all, but I am more for some than for others. It may be that I would recommend a student to attend my first choice. If that student felt negative about that recommendation, I would then recommend my second choice, then my third, etc. This does not mean that my first choice is always the same. It may be that for one young person I would have a different first choice than for another.

Then there are other young people who I feel would not consider going to my first choice for them. I would be pleased and somewhat surprised to have them even choose my last choice among the colleges that are acceptable to me.

This is the way it should be in a church. The Bible says we are to love one another, to prefer one another, to forgive one another, to be kind to one another, and to be forbearing with one another.

8. Then choose from the church a circle of companions and fellowship. This circle should be composed of those who are already what you want yourself to become. While the Christian is supposed to love all fellow Christians and fellow church members, there are those in that group whom he should not choose as his closest associates and the crowd with whom he is going to run. A good rule of thumb is that you be in the minority when wanting to be helped and that you be in the majority when wanting to help. If there is a weak Christian whom you want to help, by all means be sure that you have other strong Christians that form the majority. You should be in the minority only when you yourself are trying to become strong, and therefore associate yourself with such a crowd.

So we have chosen a large circle, composed of all the church members about whom we are to feel positive. Then we have chosen a smaller circle with whom we are to be companions.

9. Then choose an even smaller circle to whom you will be good friends. Here are several observations about this small circle to whom you give your friendship:

1) God must lead you in the choosing of those to whom you will be a friend. This is a knitting done by God as was the case of Jonathan toward David. I Samuel 18: 1, "And it came to pass, when he had made an end of speaking unto Saul, that the soul of Jonathan was knit with the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul." God must lead you in becoming such a friend.

We are using the word "friend" here in the sense it is meant to be used. Occasionally someone will say, "She is a true friend." There is no other kind of friend. The word "friend" in the Bible is a very important and serious word. It is a relationship that is akin to brother, father, mother, sister, son, daughter. Proverbs 18:24, "A man that hath friends must shew himself friendly: and there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother." Proverbs 27: 10, "Thine own friend, and thy father's friend, forsake not; neither go into thy brother's house in the day of thy calamity: for better is a neighbour that is near than a brother far off." Proverbs 17:17, "A friend loveth at all times, and a brother is born for adversity."

2) This friendship is for life. You cannot lose a friend. There is no such statement that can be truthfully uttered as, "He was my friend," "I was his friend," "We used to be good friends." The wise man said that a friend loveth at all times.

3) This friendship need not be returned. Now to be sure, anyone who chooses to be the friend of another would prefer that that person also become his friend, but if it is Bible friendship, it need not be returned, and nothing can stop or quench it. It is best for the Christian to become the friend of another without expecting that friendship to be reciprocated or returned. Then there is no hurt that can come. The wise Christian will not allow the presence of happiness to be determined by others. He will, however, allow the degree of that happiness to be determined by others. This friendship is for life. If it is not returned, it is still alive. If its object becomes your enemy, you are still his friend.

Perhaps the true test of real friendship is, "Does it have to be returned?"

Many years ago God knitted my soul to that of Dr. John R. Rice. I became his friend. Now I never gave much thought as to whether he was my friend. I enjoyed every kindness that he ever sent my way and every gracious thing that he ever did for me, but that was not necessary. I was his friend. If he was my friend, wonderful. If not, my friendship would not be affected.

4) You can be close to the one to whom you are a friend by unilateral action; by that I mean, you may choose to be close to anyone to whom you want to be close. The other person need not move toward you. (Of course, I am talking about heart closeness which, of course, is the best.) If I choose to get close to an object, there is nothing that object can do about it, and if I want in my heart to feel close to someone, I can do so. They need not even know about it. I can pray for them regularly, take time to love them in my heart, think of their burdens, and be compassionate toward them, and all of this will need no reciprocation whatsoever.

Recently I was in a distant state. When I finished preaching on Monday night, a pastor came and waited in line for about 30 minutes to talk to me. When his turn came, he sincerely and warmly looked me in the eye and told me that he loved me and that I had no idea how much. Now I did not even know the brother, but it was obvious that he loved me and that he felt close to me, and though to my knowledge I had never seen him, I somehow felt that he was my friend. So, no doubt there are some to whom I feet close who do not feel close to me. There are some who feel close to me whom I do not even know. Both do not have to move.

Often someone will say, "I just can't get close to him." Oh, yes, you can! What you are saying is that you can't get him to feet close to you, but you can come as close to him as you want. He cannot do a thing to prevent your love or your friendship.

5) Retain a bit of formality even with your closest friends. I have known personally and often intimately the greatest Christians of the last 100 years. I have noticed something very interesting. All of the great men retain a little mystique and a touch of formality even with their closest friends. For example, Dr. John R. Rice and Dr. Bob Jones, Sr. were very close friends, and I knew them both well. In spite of their close friendship, there was a bit of dignity in their manner toward each other. I have preached with them so many times I can almost hear their conversation, as follows:

"Hello, Dr. Bob. Nice to see you again."

"Hello, Dr. John. How's Mrs. Rice and the family?"

"They are well, thank you, and how's Mrs. Jones, and how's the work at the university doing?"

"We are having a good year, Dr. Rice. Is the Sword of the Lord doing well?"

Of course, they had their time of levity and warm expressions, but it was always seasoned with a refreshing touch of dignity and class.

I believe that this should exist even among family members. The word might be mystique. Any relationship, no matter how close, certainly should include propriety, manners, grace and kindness and gentleness.

This certainly should be manifest concerning one's person. The father who allows his children to see him around the house in his underclothing will not develop a proper relationship with his children. Even husbands and wives should take care to behave in the same manner. Our children, for example, have never seen their dad's bare feet. They have never seen me in my pajamas or underclothing. I feel very close to my children, and when they were at home we were all good buddies and very expressive of our love and closeness, but Dad was always Dad, and he always dressed like Dad. I always came to the table fully clothed. Bear in mind that I was more than their father; I was also their pastor, their school superintendent, and later on, their college chancellor.

Friendship is a wonderful relationship, but it should not be taken for granted, and certainly a friend should be treated with the same courtesy and grace that is offered to a casual acquaintance and even to a stranger.

So we have accepted all the members of the church family with a positive outlook, loving them all. This is the great wide circle. From that wide circle we have chosen a group that is a smaller circle with whom we fellowship, and from that smaller circle there is yet a much smaller circle of those to whom God has led us to be friends. I have often said, "Happy is a person who has a friend. Happier is the person who is a friend. Happiest is the person who has a friend and is a friend." What a relationship! Put it right up there beside the closest relationships of life, that relationship of friendship!

Chapter 17
The End Result of Improper Relationships

Hebrews 10:29, "Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace?"

Acts 7:51, "Ye stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost: as your fathers did, so do ye.

I Thessalonians 5:19, "Quench not the Spirit."'

Ephesians 4:30, "And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption."

The reader will be near the end of the chapter before fully realizing its purpose and its right to be in this book.

There are several sins against the Holy Spirit mentioned in the Bible. Four of these sins can be committed by the child of God.

1. Insulting the Holy Spirit. Hebrews 10:29, "Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy,, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace?" "Insulting the Holy Spirit" simply means "to leave Him alone." This is the Christian who will not do what He says. To understand this Christian, you have to understand the book of Hebrews. The book of Hebrews was written to Hebrew Christians. God is admonishing them not to neglect their salvation, but to continue growing in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus. He likens the land of Egypt to the condition of the natural man. I Corinthians 2:14, "But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned." God compares the wilderness to the carnal Christian and the promised land to the Spirit filled Christian. God is telling the person who has been saved, that he is out of Egypt and on his way to the promised land, going through the wilderness; he is to continue on into the promised land and live the Spirit filled life. The Israelites are used as an example. They left the land of Egypt because of God's deliverance through the passover lamb. They went into the wilderness and across the wilderness as God led them. They came to the door of the promised land at Kadesh-barnea. They sent twelve spies to check out the promised land. They came back with glowing reports of its beauty and of its fruitfulness but told the people that they could not go in. The people decided not to go in, and because they made this decision, God sent them back into the wilderness and told them that not one adult would see or enter into the promised land, except Caleb and Joshua, who were the two spies who voted to go into the land. The people paid no attention to God's command. They had not listened to God's order, and in so doing, they committed the awful sin of insulting the Holy Spirit!

2. Resisting the Holy Spirit. Acts 7:51, "Ye stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost: as your fathers did, so do ye." "Resisting" is the sin of listening to the Holy Spirit but disobeying Him. They did not insult Him, for they did give Him a hearing, but having heard, they refused to obey. However, this sin is committed before the previous one. Nobody insults the Holy Spirit by refusing to listen to Him until they have listened to Him and disobeyed. Ananias and Sapphira listened to Him and disobeyed. This is not as great a sin as insulting Him. It is on the road to insulting Him, and they never would have insulted Him had they not resisted Him. In other words, if they had not refused to do what He said to do, they would never have gone on to refuse to listen. The order is: First, resist by listening and not doing, and then later, why listen? They didn't obey anyway.

3. Quenching the Holy Spirit. I Thessalonians 5:19, "Quench not the Spirit." This is the sin of listening, considering what He says, and obeying some of what He says and disobeying the rest. In other words, quenching is the screening of what the Holy Spirit says. The Christian hears the Holy Spirit and reads the Book the Holy Spirit authored. He gives serious consideration to obedience. In some areas he obeys; in some areas he disobeys. This is a terrible sin, but not as bad as resisting. Resisting is a terrible sin, but not as bad as insulting. It is better to listen to the Holy Spirit, consider what He says and do some of it than it is to listen to Him and reject. It is better to listen and reject than it is to refuse to listen. It is interesting to note this order: First, quenching-listening and screening, obeying some and disobeying some; second, resisting-listening and refusing; third, insulting-refusing to listen.

The quenching of the Holy Spirit is the condition of most Christians. We read the Bible, decide what sounds reasonable to us and obey that which is reasonable. We hear the preacher preach and screen what he says, decide what sounds logical to us and decide on that basis what to obey. The average Christian sits in the pew and quenches or screens the Holy Spirit. The average Christian reads the Bible and does likewise.

4. Grieving the Holy Spirit. Ephesians 4:30, "And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption." Now notice what grieves Him. Very carefully read the verses adjacent to Ephesians 4:30. It grieves the Holy Spirit when His children do not get along with each other. It grieves Him when we fuss, when we fight. It grieves Him when we criticize each other. It grieves Him when His children are improperly related one to the other.

These sins are a downhill slide. First the Christian grieves the Holy Spirit, then he quenches the Holy Spirit, then he resists the Holy Spirit, then he insults the Holy Spirit. If he can have the victory over resisting the Holy Spirit, he will not insult Him. If he can have the victory over quenching, he will not resist or insult Him. If he can have the victory over grieving the Holy Spirit, he will not quench Him or resist Him or insult Him. In other words, the first step down is grieving the Holy Spirit. After we grieve Him by being improperly related to God's people, we then begin to quench Him, by listening to Him but not accepting all He commands us to do. Once that is done, we continue downhill to resisting Him, which means that we listen to what He says but refuse to do it. Once that is done, we continue our downhill trek to come to the depth of the Christian sin against the Holy Spirit, that of insulting Him, or not listening at all.

This shows the importance of our proper treatment of God's people. This is why we ought to relate ourselves properly to the fallen, the weak, the strong, the brokenhearted and others in God's family. If somehow we could win the victory over grieving the Holy Spirit, we could certainly win the victory over quenching Him, resisting Him and insulting Him.

This means that the one who does the grieving is the loser. He grieves the Holy Spirit and because he does, he qualifies himself to quench the Holy Spirit, resist the Holy Spirit and insult the Holy Spirit, and soon the Christian life is wasted and rather useless. The one whom he hates is not the loser; the hater is the loser. The one who is the object of bitterness is not the loser; the bitter one is the loser. I have often said I would rather be the hated than the hater, the object of gossip rather than the gossiper, the rebuked rather than the rebuker.

Oh, people of God, let us not grieve the Holy Spirit by improper relationships with each other and bad attitudes toward each other.

The same is true in all of life's relationships. Ask any pastor. He looks out in the congregation and sees one of his members with "that look" on his face. Any pastor knows what I am talking about. It is that look of discontent, a look of uncooperativeness. Some thing is wrong between that person and the pastor or the church or something about the church program.

It isn't long until he begins to screen what is said from the pulpit. The pastor he once trusted, he no longer trusts. He begins to quench what is said from the pulpit. He screens what is preached. He no longer gives himself to the pastor. His loyalty is waning.

Then comes the next step. He has grieved, he has quenched, and now he resists. He listens to what the pastor says with no intention at all of responding. He now has a look of resistance on his face. Every pastor has seen it over and over again. The person listens with rebellion and resistance.

Then comes the last stage. He insults the pastor by not even listening. He pays him no mind at all. It is as if the pastor does not exist. The tragedy is that the member is the loser. Of course, the godly pastor is grieved and disappointed, but if he has the right attitude and the right love in his heart toward the member, he will not be damaged, except by disappointment.

Usually after the cycle is run, the disenchanted, then disgruntled, then rebellious church member goes somewhere else. He soon finds that the new pastor and the new church are not perfect either. He finds the same conditions there that embittered him before, and after a few months or years, the imperfections of the new pastor and church are discovered. Then comes the same disenchantment, followed by the quenching or the screening, followed by the listening but resisting, then followed by the insulting or not listening at all.

Not long ago I was talking to a pastor in the area. I asked him how a certain family was doing that at one time had been members of First Baptist Church of Hammond. They had gone through the aforementioned cycle and had left our church. When I asked the pastor how they were doing, he said, "Oh, they left our church a long time ago." Then he asked me about a couple who had come to our church from his after having gone through the cycle at his church. I replied that that couple had already come and gone at First Baptist Church and that they had left us also. This is not saying that every one who leaves a church goes through that cycle, but every man of God who has ever pastored a church knows what I am talking about. The people would not have refused to listen had they not first listened and resisted. They would not have listened and resisted had they not first quenched or screened the messages. They would not have quenched had they not become disenchanted with the pastor and/or church members.

The same thing is true with friends. A person becomes enchanted with another person and what is called a friendship is started. It is usually a fast and strong relationship, but soon the imperfections of the friend begin to show. Perhaps the parties got too close to each other. At any rate, there was some disappointment, followed by disenchantment, followed by quenching, followed by resisting, followed by an ignoring and the so-called friendship has been severed. Then there comes along another attractive personality, and the same cycle is followed again and again and again.

The secret is, do not be grieved. Don't take the first step down. The entire purpose of this chapter is to lead us to realize the destination of a trip that is started by improper relationships with our brothers and sisters in Christ. Don't get on the highway. Don't start the slide down. Keep your heart right with God's people. Not doing so is the initial sin a Christian can commit against the Holy Spirit. Once that sin is committed, the quenching follows. Once the quenching, then comes the resisting, followed by the insulting. The result is a hard, cold Christian who has arrived at a destination of which he had never thought and for which he had never planned. And to think, it all started because of improper treatment of fellow Christians.

Chapter 18
The Principle of Waiting

Isaiah 40:31, "But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles, they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint."

One of the most important qualities dealing with human relationships is the quality of waiting. There are times in our relationships when it is best to do nothing and wait. The wise Christian will discover these times.

1. Act swiftly, but do not decide swiftly. There is certainly nothing wrong with swift action, but let it not be hasty action. In other words, let us wait until the decision is clear, until the solution is obvious. Once this has come, let swift action follow.

2. It is usually wise for the pastor to wait before giving marital counseling. Most wounds heal themselves if left alone. If picked at, they can become infected. Most problems solve themselves, and many small problems become big problems because they are attacked too soon and picked at too often. I found, for example, that when a husband and wife contact me for marital counseling, it is best to wait two or three days before actually having the counseling session. Most of the problems will solve themselves or be solved by the couple within two or three days. A little wait is often wise.

3. It is wise to wait before hiring employees. Most pastors and churches hire too quickly We become enchanted with someone who has talent and ability and hire him before making a thorough investigation. A five-and-ten-cent-store clerk is usually investigated more carefully than is an assistant pastor, and sad to say, sometimes even more carefully than the pastor! No pastor in the world has a finer staff than do I, and no pastor in the world has had through the years finer people to work with him than has this preacher. I have never had a serious problem with a staff member, and certainly some of the finest men and women in the world are those who have worked for me and with me through these 40 years of pastoring. I am convinced that one reason for this record is that I wait carefully and watch carefully before hiring a staff member. This is especially true concerning assistant pastors and full-time male staff members. In some cases I have watched a man for three years or more before hiring him. In many cases, I have considered employing a man when at first I felt that he was the answer, and had a tremendous urge and desire to hire him immediately; however, I have always waited and have always been glad. In some cases, the time of waiting proved the man's integrity, value and loyalty In other cases, waiting proved that the man was not what I believe God wanted. The same pastor who advises his young people to wait until they know someone before marriage will quickly hire a staff member in an hour or two with whom he wants to have a lifetime ministry!

4. Wait before making a significant purchase. Much of the financial problem in America has been caused by impulsive buying! We see it; we want it; we buy it! It is amazing how quickly we become disenchanted with most of our purchases. Such purchases as houses, cars, furnishings, appliances, and even clothing should not be made hastily.

Just yesterday I received a letter from a young lady who has grown up in our church. She is one of my favorites, and she is married to a fine young man who is a graduate of Hyles-Anderson College. In the note that she wrote me just yesterday, she told me about a piece of furniture that they had seen for which they had fallen, and which they were going to buy. Its price was $1200. They agreed to purchase it, but just before the purchase, the young man said to his wife, "You know, we have always taken Brother Hyles' advice, and Brother Hyles has advised us to wait before making large purchases in order to be sure that we are doing the right thing." What he was saying was the Brother Hyles has warned his people against compulsive buying! They agreed to wait, and during the waiting period, they found that neither of them thought it was wise to purchase the $1200 piece of furniture. Soon there came a letter of thanks to me in appreciation for this very truth that I have taught through these years in First Baptist Church.

5. Wait before dismissing an employee. Many churches have been seriously damaged because of a hasty dismissal of a staff member. In 40 years of pastoring, I have never "fired" a staff member. There have been times when I was tempted to do so, but I always waited and an answer always came. Sometimes the answer was to transfer the person to another area of the ministry Sometimes the answer was to wait patiently, and on occasion the answer came when I felt that perhaps I myself was the problem and not the employee.

When someone is employed to work with me, the decision is a twofold one. It is a decision that I make and a decision that he makes. Now if later I find that it was a mistake, is it fair for only one of us to suffer when both of us sinned? I think not. Since the decision for his coming to work with me was mine as well as his, and in most cases it was a decision that I made first, for I had approached him about coming to work with me, I have found it difficult in light of this fact to dismiss an employee quickly Shall he suffer, his wife suffer, his children suffer because he and I shared in a mistake that was first my idea?

Suppose with me for a moment that I dismiss an assistant pastor or another male staff member. Notice all the losses that are incurred. He loses his job, he loses his church, he loses his pastor, he loses his friends, he loses his house, he loses his office, he loses his work. His wife loses her house, her kitchen, her Sunday school class, her friends, her church and her pastor. His children lose their school, their house, their room, their friends, their Sunday school class, their Sunday school teacher, their pastor and many other things. What do I lose'? I lose nothing, and if I want him to leave, I actually gain. So because of an action that I initiated and in which I shared equally, I gain and everybody else loses. Most of these unfortunate occurrences can be prevented by the simple act of waiting before hiring and, yes, waiting before firing!

6. Wait before spanking a child. Most of our disciplining of children is simply the parent throwing a temper tantrum because the child threw a temper tantrum. Add to this the fact that no person should ever spank a child in the heat of passion and anger, and you will be led to wait before spanking a child. As our children were growing up, I always spanked them in the privacy of their rooms. I did not spank them in the presence of other family members or guests in our home. When the crime was committed, I simply told the child to go to her room. She would go there and wait for me, and I would wait before inflicting the punishment. I wanted to be sure that I was doing the right thing, and I wanted to be sure that I was not punishing under the emotion of anger or temper. After I was convinced that the thing to do was to spank the child, and after I had calmed down sufficiently to do it in love, I went to the room where the child was waiting, I sat down beside her on the bed, told her that I loved her and asked her if she knew what she did that was wrong. She explained to me what infraction she had committed, and then I explained to her that God had told me in the Bible I was supposed to spank her. I explained that I did not want to, but that I had to, and that it was not because I was angry but because I wanted her to grow up to be the right kind of person. I then asked her to bend over my knee, and I spanked her. Following the spanking, I prayed for God to bless her, and I thanked Him for her. Then I assured her of my love and suggested that she stay in the room for awhile to think about what she had done. I left the room and usually returned in about five minutes. I hugged her, kissed her and told her she could leave her room.

I did not tell her when she was sent to her room that I was going to spank her. I simply said, "Go to your room." If I told her I was going to spank her and then felt later that I was making a mistake, I would have broken my word, so I simply sent her to her room to wait. This waiting time was for Daddy more than for daughter-a time for me to decide what course of action to take and a time for me to prepare to take that course of action in the right spirit and with the right attitude.

7. Wait before accepting a resignation. Through 40 years of pastoring I have found wisdom in asking people to wait before finalizing the decision to resign. This applies to any office of the church, whether paid or volunteer. Many people resign under the emotion of anger, discouragement, weariness or any one of many other emotions. I almost always ask the person to do me a favor and wait for 30 days before finalizing his decision to resign. Perhaps the anger will have subsided, the body will be stronger, the illness will be cured or the discouragement will be passed within the 30-day waiting period. I do not beg them to stay unless I feel very, very strongly that they are leaving the will of God, but I do ask them to wait for 30 days. At least half of the time their minds have changed, which means that they would have been disappointed had they been allowed to resign immediately

8. Wait before giving a resignation. The wise person will not submit a resignation immediately upon feeling that he should do so. He should give himself at least 30 days before resigning. I do not mean that he should resign and give a 30-day notice. I mean that he should give himself a 30day notice before resigning, and no one but he himself should be aware of the decision that he is considering. Many employers are so wounded when they find that an employee is considering leaving that the wound of disappointment is never healed, even though the employee remains.

I have a dear friend who many years ago was pastoring a church. He was being blessed of God in a wonderful way and had one of the fastest growing churches in our area. One Sunday morning the song leader was late, the pianist hadn't arrived, and it seemed like everything that could go wrong did go wrong! He got up in the pulpit, he was discouraged and a bit angry, and simply announced that next Sunday would be his last Sunday! Next Sunday was his last Sunday, but he has never had the ministry anywhere else that he had there. He left something at that church, and I am convinced that he believes he made the mistake of his lifetime. No one should ever resign under emotion.

I have a sermon that I have preached a time or two entitled, "Don't Make a Decision When Your Decision-Maker Is Broken." Most of life's biggest decisions are made without a sound decisionmaker. A decision affecting one's life should never be made when discouraged, sick, defeated, lonely, sad, angry, etc. Wait until the decision-maker is fixed before making the decision, and if the decision must be made before the decision-maker is repaired, take the decision to someone who has a good sound decisionmaker and have that person make the decision for you.

9. Wait before mailing a letter of rebuttal. All of us have become angered because of an unkind letter and have responded with an unkind answer. We have failed to remember that a soft answer turneth away wrath. We have answered hastily and angrily only to wish later that we could retrieve the letter, but it is too late. The letter is gone. Through these years I have written many such letters myself, but it has been my policy to write them immediately but wait at least seven days before mailing them. Most of them are never mailed, and my desire to have that letter back can be granted. Of course, if one could wait seven days to write the letter, he would be even wiser, but most of us want to write it now! If this is the case, give it to someone whom you trust, seal it so they cannot read it, and ask them to hold it for you for seven days. After seven days, go get it and then decide, without emotion of any kind, whether it is wise to mail it. Upon rare occasions, after seven days have passed, I go ahead and mail the letter. On other occasions, I tear it up and then sometimes I dispose of it and write another that is kind and conciliatory.

10. Wait before making a verbal rebuttal. The old saying of, "Count to ten before answering," is still a wise one. A word cannot be retrieved. You can write a letter and hold it before mailing; you cannot do that with a word. It is forever gone, has forever done its damage, and can never be retrieved! Because of this, every Christian should develop the habit of waiting before answering if it is a rebuttal that he is making. Oh, the words that we have said that we would love to retrieve, but that is impossible. All of the "I'm sorry's" and "Forgive me's" cannot retract a word said in haste.

Someone asked me at a question-answer session recently what changes I would make if I had my life to live over. I immediately replied that I would like to have an opportunity to relive times when I had said some things I shouldn't have said. The wise Christian will oftentimes say such things as, "Give me a chance to think about that for awhile," or "Let me chew on that for a little while." May God teach us to wait!

11. Wait before disagreeing with your mate. If there is a disagreement, there is no law that requires you to make it known. It is not always completely necessary that you express your opinion. The wise husband, for example, will not make a rebuttal in disagreement with his wife, and 90% of the time would be wise not to even express his opinion if it is contrary to hers. She should be allowed to have opinions, activities and friends of her own. Thousands of hours of grief could be avoided if family members just realized that most of the times they needlessly express opinions and that they need not conform miscellaneous opinions with each other. If we could just learn not to speak but to wait!

12. Wait before fighting. This is true in the church, the home or the business. Most battles could be avoided if they were preceded by a waiting period. Thousands of churches have been divided because of hasty battles. Thousands of relationships have been damaged because of quick confrontations. Elsewhere in this manuscript it has been mentioned that a wonderful little slogan would be, "No attack; no defense." Perhaps we could add to that, "In case of disagreement, no expression of opinion." Much heartache has come to many people because at times of idle talk there is disagreement on some little insignificant issue. Wait. Be quiet. Make no rebuttal. If there is something that you should say, you will still be able to say it later. The words that you use so quickly will still be understandable after you have waited awhile.

13. Wait be re borrowing money or before building. This applies to a business, to a home, and especially to a church. That new shiny building that you covet may be your biggest enemy, especially if you are meeting in it and wondering how you are going to pay for it. Most churches spend their happiest years in small inadequate facilities. The journey is more fun than the destination, and once the church has arrived, it often loses something for which it would gladly trade its new building. Now the pastor may come to the people and ask them to follow him, and they may be willing to do so, but a long time before he comes to the people, he should have prayed, meditated, planned, thought, and yes, waited.

14. Wait before making a decision. Especially is this true concerning a decision of any magnitude. Take your time. Let the decision-making process cover most of your emotions in life. A hasty decision is usually a wrong decision; and if the hasty decision is the right decision, the door will still be open to make that decision after you have waited awhile.

For seven months I wrestled with the possibility of coming to Hammond. I can recall going into the children's bedrooms while they were asleep, getting on my knees and begging God not to let me make a mistake. I reminded God that the selection of their mates would depend on the decision that I was facing. Their schools, their friends and probably their life's work was in the balance. I felt that I simply could not make a hasty decision, so for seven months I wrestled, prayed, thought, cried, meditated and agonized!

When the decision was made, I did not change my mind. The truth is that there were times between the time I resigned the Miller Road Baptist Church in Garland, Texas, and the time that I left that I felt I had made a mistake, but I had made my decision over a period of seven months. I could not undo in doubt what I had done in faith, and I could not undo hastily what I had done carefully. Just as I had not made the decision to leave hastily, I should not hastily make the decision to change my mind. Again I say, wait!

15. Wait before allowing your mind to condemn people who have left your fellowship. It is easy to criticize hastily the people who leave your church. To be quite frank with you, I have never understood how people could share with a church and pastor years of blessing, sorrows, joys, victories, defeats, tears and laughter and then leave! It is totally beyond my comprehension! But it DOES happen, and when it does, the Christian spirit is to still love the people who have disappointed you. Look upon them as being alumni that are welcome to come back home to visit. Do not allow yourself to become bitter or wounded. Look upon them as you would look upon a son or daughter who has left home to go to college or into military service or to marry. Love them as you always loved them. If they do not love you, that doesn't keep you from being able to love them.

I have heard some preachers talk about the "back door revival" that they had. They often say it was the best thing that ever happened to the church. Well, if it was the best thing, it certainly was not the best thing for you to say it was the best thing! I have heard preachers say concerning members who left their church, "Good riddance; bad rubbish." I have never believed that, nor do I believe it now, and I pray God never to let me succomb to the temptation of having anything but love for people with whom I have served and whom I have loved through the years. Again, you will be glad if you simply wait before passing judgment.

16. Wait before giving your opinion, even when asked. Of course, as we mentioned elsewhere, it is usually wise not to give an opinion unless asked, but even when asked, it is usually wise to wait before giving an opinion. Often I say when asked for advice, "Let me think on that awhile," "Let me pray about that for awhile," "Let me meditate about that for awhile," or "Give me a few days to think about it." As a pastor, I am often asked to advise people concerning decisions that affect many lives and entire lives. I constantly feel the weight of responsibility on my shoulders and constantly plead with God for wisdom to give the advice that Jesus would give. There are many times when I feel before such advice is given there must be a time of waiting.

17. In a church, wait before starting a new ministry. Now this wait is somewhat different from the others. For example, a pastor and church can become enchanted with a particular ministry such as starting a class for Spanish-speaking people. This can be so exciting to them as they look forward to it that they can too hastily choose the leader. I found it wise to let the right leader determine the ministry that is started. I wait before I start a ministry until God sends the right leader who has a burden for that ministry.

I was Pastor of the First Baptist Church of Hammond for 11 years before I started a school. For some time I felt I should start such a ministry, but I felt that I should wait until the time was right.

Some pastors make unwise decisions to start bus ministries too soon. Others start schools too soon, and in so doing, time is used for these ministries that should be used for the regular work of the church, and many churches have been damaged because ministries were started before waiting.

Let me say a word of warning to church members. This advice is not being given to you to cause you to start trouble in the church. If the pastor has waited and then presents the program, it is almost always best for you to go along with him, and even if you do not go along with him, it is never wise to cause trouble! Follow God's man! Moses waited a long time before he led the children of Israel out of Egypt, but they did not know he was waiting. To them it may have appeared to be a hasty decision, but to Moses it was after a time of waiting. Paul appeared to be a bit impetuous in many of his decisions, but he. had waited three years in the deserts of Arabia. Again I say, wait.

Jesus said to the apostles, "Tarry ye in Jerusalem." The prophet Isaiah reminded us to wait upon the Lord. Jesus admonished us concerning His return to watch and wait.

Wait until you are sure, and be sure to wait! When a solid assurance comes to act and when this assurance comes after a period of waiting, make haste to implement the work that God has led you to do and the thing that God has called you to do. Let not the waiting be done concerning the work which you know you are to do. Let the waiting be done in making the decision that it is His will that the work be done!

Chapter 19
Dying for Fellow Christians

I Corinthians 15:31, "I protest by your rejoicing which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die daily."

Romans 8:36, "As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter."

Galatians 2:20, "I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, Who loved me, and gave Himself for me."

I love the woods! I spend much of my time alone with God in them. I have a little place in the woods where I go daily just for the purpose of praising God. I spend 15 minutes at that sacred little spot. For 60 seconds I write on a card or a paper the things that God has done for me recently. After I have made the list, I then go back through the list and praise God for each of them. It is not unusual for me to clap my hands, even take off my shoes and have a little spell as I praise God for what He has done for me.

I then leave that little spot in the woods and go to another. Though the branches at the first spot seem to clap themselves together when I arrive for my praise time, the branches at the second spot seem to bow themselves reverently, because this is where I go to worship. I take 60 seconds to list the things that God is, such as, God is merciful, God is gracious, God is longsuffering, God is forbearing, God is love. Then I go back through the list of what God is and worship Him for what He is. I spend 15 minutes at this worship place.

I then go to another little place in the woods where I confess my sins. This is done beneath a weeping willow tree, because I do not want to be the only one weeping when I confess. I begin by taking about 60 seconds and listing my sins. Then I go back through the list and plead for forgiveness and strength over temptation. I do this for about 15 minutes.

Then I go to a little place in the woods that is the most sacred of all. It is a place where I pray and present my petitions to God. It is where I plead for power. It is where I plead for His mercy, His guidance, His leadership. It is here where I pray for each member of my family by name and ask God's blessings upon them. This is my prayer place and the fourth stop in my daily journey through the woods. I usually spend a minimum of an hour at this place. One day a week I spend about 3 hours there and still another day a week I spend from 4 to 51/2 hours there. Because of this, the woods are very dear to me.

My favorite time of the year in the woods is the wintertime, while the trees are bare. The reason this is my favorite season is that this is the time when the trees are alive. This is not the usual opinion. Most people would say that the trees are alive in the spring and the summer, but quite to the contrary! The trees are dying in the spring, the summer and the fall. They are alive in the winter. This is when life is coming into them that will be spent in the spring and summer and finally in the fall, so the trees are living while the branches are bare. New life is entering. The trees are dying when covered with leaves, for then the life is being spent.

Each evening I take my cordless electric shaver and plug it into the wall socket. Through the night it is being charged. It is living. Life is entering. Then I take it with me the next day and use it. While it is being used, it is dying. It is using up the life that it got through the night. This is the way the trees are. They are living in the wintertime as they gather life. They are dying in the spring, summer and fall as they are giving up that life.

This is what Paul meant when he said in Romans 8:36, "For thy sake we are killed all the day long." Notice it is "all the DAY long." He tells us why he is killed all the day long. It is for the sake of God's people.

Now read I Corinthians 15:31, "I protest by your rejoicing which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die daily." Notice especially the three words, "I die daily." Give special attention to the word DAILY. Actually he is saying, "I serve daily," because serving is dying. Living is time spent with God when new life is received. Dying is time spent with our fellow Christians in service to them and for them. Paul could not say that he died daily if he had not spent time living daily So really what we think is death is life, and what we think is life is death. Paul wrote to Timothy and said, "But she that liveth in pleasure is dead while she liveth." John wrote the church at Sardis to tell them that they had a name that they were alive, but they were dead. What man thinks is life is death, and what man thinks is death is life! Death is the expenditure of life that is received while alone with God.

So the Christian life really has two major parts, living and dying. The living part is that time when we are plugged into Heaven. Dying is that time when we serve our fellowman as we expend the life we received while we were plugged into Heaven.

Hence, there are two tragedies in the Christian life. Some try to die all the time, but it doesn't work. Only that which is alive can die, and until a person is alive in Christ by communion with Him, he has no death to die. This is the reason for our futility in service for God. This is the reason for our powerless Christian lives. We go, go, go, serve, serve, serve, work, work, work, but we cannot die because we have no life to give. It is just routine with no blessing from Heaven and no power of God.

Another tragedy is the person who spends all of his time living. He never dies. He becomes so enchanted with the prayer closet and with the study that he spends all his time being plugged in and becomes much like a monk in a monastery. He is of no value to his fellowman because he is not willing to die. He gets to the place where he enjoys living so much that he refuses to go out into the highways and hedges to die for others.

The balanced Christian life is that life that spends hours alone with God living, then leaves the prayer closet and study to spend hours with man dying. To leave off the living means there is nothing that can die. To leave off the dying nullifies the purpose for living. What value is it if the tree receives life all winter only to refuse to give fruit, blossoms and leaves in the spring and summer and fall. On the other hand, the tree that receives no life will have nothing to die, and there can be no foliage.

One of the main reasons why Christian people cannot get along with each other is that we cannot die for each other or that we refuse to do so. Either we have no life to die for others because we have not spent time with God in securing a life to give, or we spend so much time securing life that we refuse to die for others, and they go unloved and unserved.

Yes, I love the woods. I love them in the spring when life springs forth and begins to die. I love them in the summer as they spend the life they gathered in the winter. I love them in the autumn when they are the most beautiful of all in death, and the dying process that started at birth is completed. I love them most in the wintertime, for though they lack the beauty and luster of the spring, summer and fall, nevertheless, I am aware that they are living and gaining life in order that they may die for us when spring comes.

Everything is born dying. When a baby is born, what really happens is that death is born. As soon as the cord is cut, the baby begins to die. They die at birth, or at least they begin to die at birth. What we want to do as human beings is postpone death as long as possible. We know that death is inevitable, but through diet, exercise, medicine, etc. we are trying to prolong the inevitable as long as possible. This is true with institutions. I am aware that someday Hyles-Anderson College will be in the hands of liberals, and I am aware that it is now dying. However, there are ways that that death can be prolonged and that its usefulness may continue for a longer period of time when it would without nurture and care.

May God help me to go to Him that I might live and go to others that I might die, and then go to Him that I might live and go to others that I might die. May I walk with Him in such a close communion that I will have a life to die for my brothers and sisters in Christ. May God help you, dear reader, to abide in Him that you may live and to spend that life dying for others. This is why Paul could write in Galatians 2:20a, "I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live." He lived and died and lived and died and lived and died. If there is no living, there is nothing to die, and if there is no dying, then there is no purpose in living. As the old man 88 years of age said on his deathbed as I held his bony hand, "Thank you, Preacher, for walking with God six days a week and for telling me on the seventh what God said."

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