This morning, I woke up to the strong smell of death filling our camper.
It was 4:50AM and I needed to get ready quickly to make it in time for our Tuesday morning 5:30AM Bible study group at the Dutch Plate in Campobello, SC. I was already tired and struggling against the temptation to just roll over and go back to sleep, because I am not a morning person at all. So in my half awake state, I realized that I was faced with a dilemna.
I could ignore it all and go back to sleep, because that was what my tired body was begging me to do – “Ignore the smell and forget the plans and just stay under the warmth of the covers this morning” my body offered (as a quite compelling argument). Or I could overlook the smell, leave my wife and daughter still in it, while I stick to my normal schedule so that the men might not wonder why I didn’t make it to study this morning – “You just shared a message about taking the next step when you face tension or challenge. You were just challenged this past week when friends missed small group and missed joining us for church. Aren’t you such a hypocrite letting the challenges of your own day get in the way of your planned time set apart with these men studying God’s Word?” guilt tried to whisper in my ear. Or I could get up and actually take care of the problem at hand — go out into the 40 degree cold and dark to investigate the undercarriage of the camper, empty the sewage tanks, check in all the traps for dead mice, rummage through the various possible dead rodent hiding places, etc.
As I texted Brannon, our pastor, to let him know that I wouldn’t be making it to study this morning — in a final, last ditch effort, my body reminded me that I could even use the excuse of the smell keeping me from attending as a justification to just go back to sleep. The struggle is real, folks!
And I can be honest with you when I say that at that very moment of half awaken ed wonderings, I wasn’t sure whether I needed to be at Bible study more than hunting down the source of the stink – but I knew that going back to sleep was not the right answer. Yet the temptation remained. So I prayed, and these lyrics from a song resonated in my mind from out of nowhere, “I’m no longer a slave to fear. I am a child of God.”
No, I didn’t go back to sleep. I sent that text to Brannon, “Awful smell of death filling the camper. Need to find the source and take care of it this morning. Love yall.” And I realized that the text itself could preach a whole sermon. When we have a stench of death in our lives, it’s time to take care of it. Not sleep. Not avoid. Not ignore. Not procrastinate.
I wonder how many times we have gone to church or a Bible study or whatever we had going on that was ABOUT God, but we’ve had a lingering stench of death and sin in our lives that has not even been addressed WITH God?
And if left unchecked overtime, how might it eventually convince us to stay in bed and not do anything about it and to forsake serving and fellowship with others as well as with the LORD?
Even if you’re sitting in the stench of your own mess right now and can’t stand the smell any longer — if you know that you’re sitting in that poopy diaper you’ve created for yourself and you are reaping the consequences of your mistakes and your foolishness — good! Praise God, at least you aren’t still completely asleep! At least you aren’t ignoring it and going on with “business as usual” as if nothing is wrong.
There is one who will clean you up. There is one who will show you a new way. There is one who wants to teach you His will so that you’re surrounded by the sweet aroma of life growing out from what once was death. His name is Jesus, and He is Lord of Lords and King of Kings.
Don’t buckle to the demands of what your body, your flesh, craves and desires — even if you have before, I understand your struggle, friend! That doesn’t mean that you aren’t acceptable just because your flesh still wars against the Spirit – but there is a better life than remaining powerless in defeat to what is acceptable.
Don’t sway to the influence of the world, over how others might perceive you, over your reputation, letting your prose guide you along that dangerous ledge right before your great fall! It may be good for others to see your example, but there is something far better than your example or reputation when you realize that all your works are filthy rags before a perfect, holy, and righteous God.
See what needs to be done. Speak with your Father in Heaven and know His perfect will. Recognize the stench that needs to be found out in your heart that is hindering you and those around you, and see it cut out and cast away by the sharp sword of the Word of God that is weilded in the healing hand of your merciful Savior.
May the LORD bless you and keep you, and shine His face upon you. May He establish your way and shepherd you safely into the narrow gate, along the narrow path, through both valleys and mountaintops, through the seasons of death, new life, growth, and harvest, as we continge this journey on our way home into His arms. Amen.