By Bob Gray Sr.
Psalm 35:14, “I behaved myself as though he had been my friend or brother: I bowed down heavily, as one that mourneth for his mother.”
Psalm 41:9, “Yea, mine own familiar friend, in whom I trusted, which did eat of my bread, hath lifted up his heel against me.”
Many years ago a young man was driving his new Ford automobile and it broke down, leaving him stranded on the road. An elderly man happened to be driving by and he stopped and asked the young man if he needed help. The young man smarted off to the older man “Yea, I need help but no old man like you would be able to help. Just go on, old man!” As a result, the designer of that automobile, Henry Ford, drove away! It might do the youth in our churches of America some good to listen to those who have preceded them and paved the way for them.
In these 38 years of being an ordained and licensed Baptist preacher I have been asked this question over and over again, “How do you keep your confidence in people?” Please allow me to say I do have confidence in the human race! I am not disillusioned with mankind. I still have confidence in people. I pastored, for 33 years, literally hundreds of people whom I loved that chose to turn on me.
I have listened to people say, “I’m becoming bitter at people! I’m disappointed in people! Preacher, how do you keep from being disenchanted with people? How do you, Pastor, still trust people after being betrayed?
LOOK AT PEOPLE WHO ATTACK YOU AS BEING BROKEN AND NOT BAD
We are so funny! We repair watches by sending them to a repair shop in order to open it up and fix the insides so it will function. No sensible man or woman will throw the watch on the floor and stomp it to pieces.
Here is a new word for those of you reading this chapter; it is called “Christian.” What a fresh concept of not only acting like a Christian but also being a Christian in our relationship with those who attack us! How about blessing those who curse you? How about overcoming evil with good? How about doing good to those who despitefully use you? “Preacher, that is just not natural!” Of course not, but it is supernatural!
LOOK AT THE WHOLE PICTURE OF THOSE WHO ATTACK YOU
It may be that you are the only person, out of the 6 billion plus people on planet earth, they express hatred for. However, our attitude seems to be that if anyone loves us, they can hate the rest of the world and they are considered to be good people by us. If anyone hates us, they can love the rest of the world and they are bad people in our eyes. In essence, we judge everyone based on how they treat us. This is nothing but a picture of our own self-centeredness and selfishness.
Some of you reading this chapter are having a tough time having confidence in people, and the truth is you have become bitter. You find yourself absolutely refusing to trust anyone again.
You are reading a chapter written by an author who is not disillusioned by the human race. I have not lost confidence in people and I refuse to live mistrusting people because of a few bad experiences.
LOOK TO SEE IF IT IS AN ATTACK ON YOU PERSONALLY OR A PROCLAIMING OF TRUTH
One of the difficulties we humans possess in our human relationships is the inability to discern and dissimilate. When friendship trumps truth, then we hide behind the guise of “loyalty” because of our friendships. However, we become “disloyal” to truth in order to be “loyal” to a friend, family member, or even a pastor, and create wrong emotions.
Years ago there was a church member who once a year would set an appointment with me. He would come to the office with a list of all the mistakes I had made the previous year. Of course, there were only a few! Ha!
One day my secretary told me a particular church member was next for counseling. She then paused and said to me, “Everyone in this church knows he is a troublemaker and a critic. You don’t have to see him if you don’t want to!” I said, “No, I want to see him!” She just shook her head and led the man into my office.
He pulled out a piece of paper and began to go down his list. I took my pad out and began to list his concerns. Honestly, the first five were ridiculous and petty. However, when he began to tell me of his sixth concern, the Holy Spirit began to convict me and it was painful. I circled number six on my pad and said to myself, “Dear Lord, if you will let me live I promise I will correct that! Thank you, Holy Spirit!” Of course, I did not let him know! I still have my pride! Ha! When he left, I dropped to my knees and asked the Lord to forgive me and I made things right!
There is no such thing as a universal “body of Christ.” There are only local churches and, thus, only a local body. We are not the “bride of Christ.” You have to take part in a marriage before you can have a bride. We are “espoused” to Christ, but only after the rapture will there be a marriage. So, if that were true then it must be understood that every “body” has a “heel.”
Our critics will tell us what we will not tell ourselves. When you surround yourself with nothing but “Yes” it can be dangerous for you and them! Preachers are right so much of the time that they begin to think they are right all the time!
GROUP ONE: I believed there were people I pastored who would stand by me come Hell or high water.
GROUP TWO: I believed there were some who would leave me and, yet, not be my enemies.
GROUP THREE: I believed there were those whom I pastored who would turn on me.
The key to all of this is found in verse 14, “…I behaved myself as though he had been my friend…” I quickly learned that it is impossible to be the pastor or preacher that I should be unless I looked at each church member as being a part of group one. I, on purpose, placed individual church members in Group One. It is best to behave myself as though each were my friend. I can still hear my preacher, Dr. Jack Hyles say, “Not all of you are loyal but each of you is loyal.” I determined to look at the churches I pastored as being in Group One and never number two or number three.
It is wise to look at the human race like that. I want to be surprised when it does happen so I can enjoy what I am doing for the Lord. This way I enjoy the assets of each member without their liabilities up until the very end. It is best for me if I assume each member was for me. It is best for them if I assume that they are for me.
People who spend their lives looking for enemies have nothing left to spend on their friends! My desire was to be shocked. Hold it! I am not shocked that it is GOING to happen but just not today. I am not shocked that in the future someone will turn on me, because the odds dictate it will happen. However, I want to be shocked at WHO it is that turns on me.
I refuse to spend my life speculating about people! If I have a problem, I deal with it, fix it, and move on. I refuse to categorize people into Group Three.
I was blessed at Longview Baptist Temple of Longview, Texas, where I pastored for 29 ½ years. God gave me 33 of the finest deacons a pastor could ever ask for. In almost three decades of pastoring LBT, I know that one or two deacons turned on me. I knew that in the future one or two deacons would turn on me, but I just refused to believe it to be any one of the 33 I served with at the time. I refused to think it would be any given deacon. I wanted to be shocked! I wanted to enjoy all of their assets until the very end! I did not have confidence in all of the deacons but I had confidence in each of the deacons.
I figured that if the past was an accurate indicator, then one or two of the current deacons would, in the future, turn on me but I made up my mind to enjoy each of the deacons’ friendship and not spend my life speculating as to who will turn on me.
The same thought applied to the 70 voice adult choir God gave us. The same thought applied to the almost 40 piece orchestra God gave us. The same thought was true to the almost 100 on our church and school staffs.
I did not have confidence in the entire adult choir, but I had confidence in each of the choir members. I did not have confidence in all 40 orchestra members, but I had confidence in each orchestra member. I did not have confidence in all of the 100 staff members, but I had confidence in each of the 100 staff members.
We owned 47 individual buses and ran more than 30 Sunday school bus routes. I did not have confidence in the entirety of the almost 200 bus workers, but I had confidence in each of the 200 bus workers.
I am not disillusioned nor am I discouraged with the human race! When I travel to preach somewhere around this great nation, I never assume an adversarial position and neither do I feel that they are in an adversarial position. I am not naïve! I understand there is someone in attendance at any specific meeting who is not for me, but I never LOOK FOR HIM OR HER because I have determined to assume that each of them are for me! Thus, I do not distrust any single individual.