A Fly In the Ointment

Dead flies cause the ointment of the apothecary to send forth a stinking savour: so doth a little folly him that is in reputation for wisdom and honour. Ecclesiastes 10:1

Perhaps you heard the story that came across the news wires yesterday. A 12-year old boy was visiting an art museum with a group of his classmates. For some reason, he decided to stick his chewing gum on the lower corner of a painting that is estimated to be worth 1.5 million dollars. The museum curator stated that the gum, while coming off fairly easily, left a residue about the diameter of a quarter. The painting can be repaired, but only through a costly and time consuming process.

Such is our testimony. Our testimony is what others think of Christ based upon what they see in our life. A testimony is a very fragile thing, it takes a lifetime to build, but can be destroyed in a moment. Dr. Johnny Hunt states, “If we damage our testimony, we are fortunate if we ever live long enough to repair it.”

One word, one careless act, one temper tantrum can cause years of witness to become ineffective.

Let me share with you something that happened to me when I was 13. My father was pastoring a church in a small town in West Virginia. Having been saved as a child I was doing my best to be a witness to my friends.

There was one kid in our neighborhood, Dennis Wilfong, whom I had witnessed to for four years. He came from what most would consider a hard background. While he was always ready to play, he showed absolutely no interest in the things of God. While I was able to get some of my other friends to go to church with me, Dennis never did.

One day we were playing in my yard. I was in a bad mood and Dennis was too. For some reason that I can’t remember we started fighting. We were about the same age, but I was a good bit bigger and so had no trouble in whipping him. He stood up with his nose bleeding and looked me in the eye and said, “You always talk about being a Christian, but I know that you are nothing but a hypocrite!” Four years of witnessing went down the drain in one moment because I failed to exhibit self-control.

Shortly after that, both of our families moved away and I have never seen Dennis again. Dennis, if you, by some chance, ever read this, please know that I asked for God’s forgiveness for that day’s events and I ask for yours as well. I have often prayed that at some point in your life you were able to get past the obstacle that I placed in front of you and find your way to God.

A testimony is a fragile thing.

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18 responses to “A Fly In the Ointment

  1. What an excellent post! I needed to read this. However, I do believe the Lord shows His Grace to the people in this world in spite of us Christians. Praise God!

  2. when a car cuts in front of me, or gets frustrated at traffic and starts driving like a maniac the last thing i want to see is a “real men love Jesus” or “God loves you.” what are we telling the world about Him if we drive or act like everyone else?

  3. Rose–thanks for your comment.

    Meagan–your comment reminds me of a story I heard the other day about a woman being pulled over by the police. She had been shaking her fist and blowing her horn at other motorists, but her bumper was covered with Christian stickers and even had a little fish on it.

    The police pulled her over because were concerned that she might be driving a stolen car.

  4. Thanks for the post. It reminds me that my speech always needs to be seasoned with grace.

  5. It’s painful to realize how much my carelessness and selfishness can affect the testimony God has given me. It’s so easy to say, “well no one is perfect”, too easy. My sadness is multiplied when I think that the damage I do is more likely to prevent me from influencing those closest to me.

    These thoughts are painful but necessary.

  6. My g’ness, how true this is! Like Rose, I never count out the Holy Spirit to speak to hearts or override the “testimonies” they have witnessed, but my part is to walk in the spirit as much as is possible. I am part of the body of Christ in the earth and when others look at me they are seeing a part of Christ. That is a huge responsibility and the world would be a better place if more Christians realized that responsibility.

  7. We do have a huge responsibility, and Gordon, I pray that in some way the Holy Spirit used what happen to you to make that young man stronger, instead of weaker.

    So it makes us try harder. It makes us more vigilant. And with God’s grace…stronger!

  8. I am sorry you are haunted by that one moment. Unfortunately, we all have them. We must keep trying and thankfully, we have so much of God’s grace and mercy.

  9. Thanks all, for your thoughts. I see this as a valuable lesson in my life and it serves as a reminder to me of the importance of being consistent.

  10. I’m just me. If I worry about my witness I would worry all the time. I’m a walking distaster. I trust God can work through me no matter what a mess I make of things. Grace is an awsome thing!

  11. when i got married the pastor speaking used the analogy of a stained glass window for relational trust. A testimony of ones life is mainly built on trust so i think it applies.
    A stained glass window (like you would see in a really old church) takes many hours / days / weeks to create. After that it only remains beautiful with dillegent care. Hours of cleaning, polishing, touching up any chips or fading in the colour. However one small stone can shatter the window, destroying it beyond repair.

    The window is the trust people have in our witness and integrity, and the stone is one hypocritical act.

  12. Michael–Grace indeed is an awesome thing. It helps us to fulfill God’s command of walking circumspectly. We cannot afford for careless living to make our witness ineffective.

    MDM–That is a fantastic analogy.

  13. Your post really hit home with me. We as christians are in a tough place because we are held to a higher standard. What a challenge not to live in fear of doing the wrong thing, but to live “in the Spirit” so that we are protected from ourselves. It is only by God’s grace that we can keep our good testimonies. Thanks again!

  14. I don’t know if this is any help, but I know a Dennis Wilfong who is from West Virginia. He now lives in Florida. He is a great christian man and a great leader in the community. He is an extremely accomplished business man and takes every oppurtunity to share his testimony. If you would like to contact me, my email is tlanierp@hotmail.com

  15. Thank you for your courage and vulnerability, friend. You have touched my heart and have helped me understand why it is so important to watch over my testimony – it glorifies the Lord.
    I’m sure that your friend knows the Lord. Young people are sometimes immune to imperfections in their fellow man. I, for one, was won over to the Gospel because my young classmate Connie Wilson showed her vulnerability, showed me that she could make mistakes too but she could also show her remorse for it. Connie may have thought that she did wrong, but God used her wrong to soften my heart. Hope that helps. Keep sharing.

  16. Susan, thanks for your visit and kind comment. I am glad that you found the Lord through the witness of your friend.

    God bless.

  17. tiffany delgrosso

    I hope you find peace in knowing that Dennis is a wonderful man of God who has had a great impact on many lives. Dennis has been blessed in many ways and his testimony is truly shown through his actions. I believe we as Christians will never know how many lives we have touched until we get to heaven. Sometimes simply planting a small seed is sufficiant because God will grow that seed in His time.

  18. Tiffany, thanks so much for sharing that. I can’t tell you what a blessing it is to hear it.

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