Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Fulfillment (04/06/06)
TITLE: A Season for Everything
By Harold A. Gram
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From the vantage point of the pulpit, Paul looked over the congregation he had come to despise and fear. He saw their lives; divorces, adultery, drunkenness, wife abuse, and bigotry. He saw and felt the failures of his own efforts to change their lives, and to bring them to Christ. It has been three years of living Hell. He had prayed, but God seemed to have shut the gates of heaven. He has preached with fervor and passion, but the doors were shut and the stone walls of indifference remained strong. He has fought against the Devil and lost. Now in defeat and sorrow he was leaving; ending his struggles and admitting failure. He was leaving the congregation and his call as spiritual leader. It was too hard; too unfulfilling; unrewarding and unfruitful. As he declared A-men to end his sermon the congregation rose en masse to prepare for the final activities; the offering, prayers, and the benediction.
It had not started this way. As a young minister he had come charged with enthusiasm and hope; zealous for the mission of saving souls. But he had met devils at every turn: the woman who wanted him to father her child; the business man who wanted him to hide illicit funds in his own account; the housewife who cheated on her husband in revenge for his misbehavior. These were easy to identify, reject and cast aside. The vision really ended his ministry.
He came one night and stood at the foot of the bed. He was well dressed, upright, clean cut and strong. He said he had just come from a meeting about him and wanted his answer. “Do you really want to carry the burden of being a spiritual leader for these people? How many souls have you saved? How well do you sleep at night? What are your rewards?” While he struggled to respond the man interrupted,”I am the Prince of this World and you are getting in my way. This means war. Do you have the stomach for an all out battle?” Paul wanted to defend himself, to explain how lonely and difficult it was fighting for God, and how strong sin was, but couldn’t find the words. Paul remained speechless. He had failed and this knowledge washed over him like a rising flood: all gone, wasted, and spent. He tried to form a prayer to God for help. The words would not come. God had abandoned him. He cried.
Now he turned from the pulpit and faced the altar in his little church. He saw a young man standing in his way; a complete stranger. Who was it? He stopped. Was it the Devil coming back to boast of his success and humble him once more but this time in public? No, this person was not the Devil; not here in Church; not on his last Service. It must be someone else. The young man’s bearing was neither angelic nor divine. His clothing was casual but his eyes kindled with empathy and kindness. Then the apparition spoke. “God’s plan for you is fulfilled. You have been humbled so that you might learn to depend on God. You have been tempted to help make you understand the depth of sin. You have been confronted by the Devil to make you wise. God has fulfilled his plan to make you a leader of men. Now go in peace. Wait for the fulfillment of God’s plan for you.”
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