Several years ago my lovely wife and I were blessed to be able to take a short vacation to an island, and it was here that she found that one of her greatest pleasures in life is long walks on the beach, sand between her toes and the waves lapping gently at her feet. They are fond memories indeed.
We rented a car for a period of time while we were there and quickly found out that what is shown as paradise in the brochures and magazines is far from that for many who live there, poverty was rampant, small drinking establishments dotted the island, and many were at them no matter what time of the day or night we passed by. The large resorts hid behind them the fact that is true on all of this planet, poverty, sin, and all that comes with it are the prevalent commodities, not the glossy pictures that we are shown.
While we were there I learned a truth about myself that still disgusts me to this day, something I cannot go back and change, but a part of my life that I today try not to repeat. An old man, very old, came up to us one day on the beach holding a simple coral, one not unlike many that were scattered on the beach, similar to ones we had seen many times on our short stay there, he held it up to us, and even without words, it was obvious that he was seeking money in exchange for it, but I, not listening to the Holy Spirit within me again, simply put my hand up, said “No thank you” and continued to walk along the beach with my beautiful wife, enjoying “paradise.” I had enough money in my pocket to purchase that man enough food to last him for at least a week, I could have kindly taken that old man by the shoulder, led him to a restaurant, put money on the counter and told the owner to feed him until he was full, and then split the change with him. But I did not, I failed.
Sometimes my friends we entertain angels unaware, (Heb. 13:2) and although I did not turn around to look, I may have just lost a great opportunity in my life that day. We would leave the parking lot of our fine beachfront hotel, look at all the wares offered by the local merchants, stroll thru some of the fine jewelry stores, as we drove past women washing their clothes in tubs of soapy water in the backyards of houses that looked as if they were manufactured from the leftovers of the four and five star resorts. Our fine clothes, our new swimwear, and they were wearing sandals that a secondhand store would not accept. “For ye have the poor with you always, and whensoever ye will ye may do them good: but me ye have not always.” (Mark 14:7) Jesus wasn’t saying get used to it, they are always going to be around, He was saying if you have an opportunity to serve Me by serving them, by helping them, do so, don’t just walk past them and smile.
It doesn’t do much good to give a starving man the word of God, and then go and finish off a three-course meal with a decadent desert that cost more than he made that week. You cannot help them all, but you can be available and willing to help those that He has placed on your path, the good Samaritan (Luke 10:30-37) was a good Samaritan every day, not just in this one instance, not just when the opportunity presented itself. I did not love my neighbor as myself that day, I missed an opportunity to not only feed his flesh, but his soul, and although this may sound the opposite of how it is intended, I am a better man because of it. Rarely do I misread the opportunities that the Lord places before me now, although I am human, and therefore I am my own worst enemy, but with each individual I meet my eyes and ears are open, I ask the Lord, “Is there something that you want this person to hear, is there someway that you want to use me to show them your love.”
I still get in my own way quite often, and I have failed in more ways than I have succeeded in being a profitable servant of Christ, but I do not let these past failures eat at me, as it were, I learn from them, I do not throw any pity parties for myself and I try my best to encourage those who do. We have all failed at being profitable to the glory of God my friends, but that does not make us failures, it makes us stronger in our resolve to open our eyes and ears to the next possibility to serve, it builds up your faith in Christ instead of tearing ourselves down. We are exceptionally good at stumbling and falling, and our Lord is exceptionally good at picking us up, dusting us off, giving us a big hug, and saying “Let’s try that again shall we.”
I have lied, that does not make me a liar, I have failed, but am not a failure, I have fallen, but each time He renews my strength, He tells me I am His own, and He shows me a better way. Those who never fail will never know the blessings of learning from their mistakes, they will never grow who do not know how to shed their skin. We are putting off the old man, (Eph. 4:22) we are being taught how to be Christ-like by the Holy Spirit, and for many reasons we are difficult students indeed. To know that Christ loves us, to know that “The LORD, he it is that doth go before thee; he will be with thee, he will not fail thee, neither forsake thee: fear not, neither be dismayed,” (Deut. 31:8) is to know a renewed vigor each day, to realize that His mercies are new each morning, (Lam. 3:23) that each day give us an opportunity to learn from our failures, not to live in a past of sorrow and shame.
“Did you learn anything my child, good, then let’s get back to work.” Forgiveness, brings a tear to your eye, doesn’t it.