I grimaced as I tried to squeeze my swollen foot into my church shoes. The skin, stretched to its limit, screamed as I tried to bend my no-longer-so-bony toes. Pausing, I clawed at the itching and burning marks that told the story of my Friday afternoon—the day after my “incident.” What happened?
One Thursday afternoon, an angry bee showed up and zapped me in the ankle. I jumped, looked around for a nest, and, not seeing one, continued to cut the grass. Until I passed the same part of the yard and (you guessed it), got stung again. Five more times!
In pain and confusion, I whipped around and saw the source—a rotted-out piece of wood where a horde of angry bees was spilling out like churchgoers after a sermon that hit a raw nerve. Apparently, running my 1990s mower against their bedroom walls not only woke them but enraged them.
As I finished the yard, however, I had some time to think and thought of two lessons that might help you spiritually:
1. Look for Patterns: One sting might be random. Two might be a coincidence. But six require further investigation.
That is true for sin too. You might fall into gossip or envy or worry or anger or fear or lust once. But if the same sin happens in the same place two or three times, it is time to look for a pattern. It is time to stop swinging at the bees of sin and find the nest of idolatry.
Do you always gossip when you’re with that person or surfing that website? Maybe it’s time to have a tough conversation or find a new place to find your news.
Do you always worry about leadership challenges or political outcomes or God’s ability to still forgive you? Maybe it’s time to ask your inner circle to blast those worries with their prayers like jet-powered wasp spray on a nest.
Do you always end up angry on your ride home from work? Maybe it’s time to talk to God about your unrealistic expectations of others . . . or of yourself.
In other words, don’t get stung in the same place next week. Learn from your sins and figure out what is happening down in your heart.
2. Don’t Be Dumb: I was pretty dumb the day I got stung six times. Here’s why: Because I love to finish projects, I couldn’t stand not cutting that 15-square-foot patch of grass next to the nest. Those long blades of uncut yard would have mocked me every time I looked out the window.
So . . . I sprinted behind the push mower and finished the job!
God, because he is merciful, spared me from my seventh (and eighth and . . .) sting. But, looking back, that was idiotic. Unnecessary. (And my wife would have had ZERO compassion if that was how my lawn care story ended!)
The lesson? Proverbs 22:3 says it best: “The prudent see danger and take refuge, but the simple keep going and pay the penalty.”
I acted like a “simple” person that day. Assuming I’d be fine. Assuring myself it couldn’t happen again. Thankfully, I didn’t pay the penalty. But I easily could have.
Your Savior doesn’t just want to forgive you of your sins through his blood. He also wants to prevent you from sinning in the first place! So, can I encourage you to be wise today? If you have issues with drunkenness, get the alcohol out of your house. If you wrestle with shame because of something done to you, don’t wrestle with those thoughts alone. If your marriage or relationship with your kids is getting dangerously tense, take refuge in the guidance of a good counselor or godly leaders at your church.
God loves to give you a refuge, a place to go when you see danger. That’s what the cross of Jesus is all about. And that’s what friends and the family of God are for.
Thankfully, my backup church shoes were big enough that I didn’t have to preach in my socks.
Thankfully, God taught me a lesson or two.
I pray our Father is teaching you too.
Pastor Mike Novotny has served God’s people in full-time ministry since 2007 as a pastor in Madison and now Appleton, Wisconsin. He also serves as a host and speaker for the Time of Grace television program and contributes to the written resources of Time of Grace Ministry. Pastor Mike is married to Kim and has two daughters.
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