Willing to Walk
Little Caleb was very sick. Diagnosed with a nervous system disease, he suffered from temporary paralysis.
Caleb’s parents were anxious about his condition. They prayed. They waited. Slowly, he began to recover. Months later, doctors cleared Caleb to attend school. But his parents knew it would be an ordeal for him. All Caleb could manage was a slow, unsteady walk.
One day Caleb’s dad visited his son’s school. From a distance, he watched as his son slowly and with difficulty made his way down the steps to the playground, far behind the other students who had raced down the stairs.
However, Caleb was not alone. Beside him was a friend. A boy. A healthy boy named Tyler, who walked beside Caleb. For the entire recess time, as the other kids ran and romped and played, Tyler slowly walked on the playground with his frail friend.
What a true friend Tyler was for Caleb. What a wonderful example he is for what we are to be for one another. A friend willing to walk with a fellow believer who is suffering. Not making fun of the one suffering, not wishing to be somewhere else with someone else, just taking the time to be a friend. In our case, a Christian friend.
How do we know we are to do what Tyler did? We are told to do so in the Bible.
In fact, we are told over and over again to help those in need. I have for us in today’s message a smattering of examples, beginning with Ephesians 4:32 in which we are taught to be kind to one another.
In the verses before 32, there are some specific examples of what being kind means.
Put away falsehood. In other words, we are to speak the truth with one another.
It is OK to be angry, but righteously. In other words, we can be angry when others are hurt, and we are never to allow our anger to become so extreme others are hurt.
Do not steal.
Do not allow any evil talk - inappropriate things - to come out of our mouths.
Avoid bitterness, wrath, and anger - violent and often long-lasting displeasure with someone or something.
Avoid clamor. That refers to loud threats to someone. Threats that can cause bitterness, wrath, and anger.
Avoid slander, which is saying hurtful things about someone for the purpose of harming them.
Avoid malice. Malice is the planning of something that will hurt someone and the looking forward to how that person will be hurt, then taking joy in seeing the damage.
All those bad things are to be avoided, or put off if we have any of those things. In those ways, we will be kind to one another and, the verse continues, tenderhearted.
For Tyler, that was walking with Caleb. Just walking with Caleb so he would not be alone.
For us, it means wanting to spend time with others so they will not feel alone spiritually.
And remember the example. Caleb could not go quickly. Someone you know may not be moving as quickly spiritually as you can move. Be patient.
And Tyler could have done a lot of other things, including running, romping, playing with others in his class. There are always a lot of things any of us can do, but again, be patient, knowing that if the Lord directs you to walk with someone who is struggling, that is what He wants you to do.
Be kind. Be tenderhearted. Be sensitive to what others are going through. For our purposes, even if what someone else is going through we have already lived through. Even if what someone else is enduring is his or her own fault.
If we are called to walk with someone suffering - someone slow - someone not like everyone else - we need to be tenderhearted, just as Tyler was with Caleb. We need to be moved to compassion, mercy, and pity.
Speaking spiritually, we might be called to walk with someone who has hurt us. That can be difficult. but listen to what comes next. Be kind to one another and tenderhearted, forgiving one another.
According to the verse, we have an excellent example of that. God has forgiven us - those of us who have accepted Jesus as Savior - those of us who are Christians.
I dare say there is little if anything anyone has done to us that can match what we all have done to God. For those of us who are Christians, what we did before we were Christians. The Bible reminds us we all have sinned sometime. Every sin is an affront - an insult - to God.
Since God has forgiven what we have done to Him, we should be able to forgive what others have done to us. We may not like what has been done to us. This verse does not suggest we should be happy when someone mistreats us. But it does teach us to forgive, the purpose being a willingness on our part to walk, even slowly, with those who are in need.
* * * * *
In the Caleb-Tyler friendship, it seems as if the one who benefitted was Caleb. How good it was for him, who was otherwise likely to be very lonesome, to have a friend. However, there is another passage I have in mind that at least suggests that when we help others, it is not just the others who are helped. We are as well.
For that, let’s go back in the Bible to the Old Testament Book of Ecclesiastes 4:9-12.
Ecclesiastes was written by Solomon, who asked God for and was granted the gift of wisdom. Solomon is considered the wisest man who ever lived. One place he displayed that wisdom is in this second passage for today. The wisdom to know we are better off when we have a friend. A companion. A partner to walk with, whether we are the one needing a partner, like Caleb, or the one being the partner, like Tyler.
Here is the wisdom. Two are better than one. There is of course nothing wrong with having alone time. There are many things that can be done and accomplished alone., But, wrote Solomon, there is a good reward when two work - or walk - together.
For if they fall, which is more likely to happen to those who are struggling. But we are all susceptible to fall sometimes in some situations. If they fall - if one falls - the other will lift him up. Woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up.
Let me mention this. I was at a regional pastors meeting earlier this year. One of the leaders of the meeting has a disease that causes him to often lose his balance. He talked about that at the meeting, saying how embarrassing it is to fall in front of others. How his embarrassment for a while kept him from being with others. He did not want to appear weak in front of others.
He added that when he was with others and fell, his embarrassment made him angry enough to refuse help from those around him, claiming he could and would get up by himself.
Every time, the one talking did get up, but what a struggle it was until he learned the wisdom of allowing others to help him. It was still embarrassing. It is embarrassing to fall in any sense of the word. But the man at the meeting had learned to allow others to help.
And guess what. If someone falls in front of him, he is among the first to offer that one help.
It is a mutual benefit. When two - or more, which means this can apply to our whole congregation - when two or more are together, if one falls, the other or others are available to lift him up, which helps those like Caleb who struggle. But the other one is also well off since Tyler can fall, too. But if he does not fall, he has the privilege of helping someone else. What a wonderful thing to walk with someone. May we remember that.
In verse 11, Solomon wrote that if two lie together, they are warm. I would suggest it is not only the actual act of lieing together. this extends to the warmth of friendship in what can be a very cold world, such as what Caleb might have felt without a friend. if two are together, they can be warm, but how can one alone be warm?
Verse 12. Though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him. I think again of Caleb. I realize how easy it is for people, especially kids in school, to pick on those who are different.
Certainly not every student does that picking, but I can remember from my teaching days that sometimes very cruel things are said. Way before my teaching years, I myself was the victim of some cruelty when I was growing up.
Speaking of my teaching days, I remember one of my students coming to class in tears. I asked him what the problem was. He said some kids were making fun of him because he did not have a dad. In any case, that was not my student’s fault. Especially since his dad had been killed in a grain elevator explosion a few months before that.
Caleb might have been picked on. We might be picked on if we struggle spiritually. But the chances are less - and even if it happens, it will be more tolerable - if we have someone to walk with us. Let’s be that. Let’s continue to be that for each other.
* * * * *
The call is for us to be kind to each other, tenderhearted, willing to forgive if and when that is needed. The call is to be there for each other so that if any of us fall or get cold spiritually or are picked on, we will have someone to pick us up, warm us up, and/or defend us. Let’s be willing to be Tylers, looking for opportunities to help whatever Calebs there are who need us.
But guess what. No matter what role we play - Calebs or Tylers - all of us who are Christians have someone else walking with us. Guaranteed. A gift promised to us by none other than Jesus Himself. For that, John 14, beginning with verse 26.
This passage is part of a conversation Jesus had with His disciples right before He was arrested, an act that led to His crucifixion. He knew all that was about to happen would of course be very troubling to His closest followers. The conversation was designed to help prepare them to remain strong through and after all that was about to happen.
For instance, earlier in the conversation, Jesus instructed His disciples to not let their hearts be troubled, which would be accomplished if they would trust in Him. If they would trust that He is the one and only way to Heaven. If they would exercise that trust to the point of keeping all He had commanded them during their three years with Him.
Later in the conversation, Jesus used an agricultural comparison, describing Himself as the vine and encouraging His followers to be branches, getting their very life from Him so they would bear spiritual fruit. He encouraged them to love each other. He warned them about persecution, doing that so what they would face would not catch them by surprise.
Then this point. They - and we who are Jesus’ followers now - could and can trust Him and rely on Him and keep His commands and stay attached to Him and love one another and be ready for whatever happens now or in the future. All that can be accomplished because of a special gift Jesus promised. A gift we have to accept, but one that is offered.
A gift Jesus named in verse 26 of John 14. The Holy Spirit. Described by Jesus as the Counselor, sent by God the Father - sent at the request of Jesus the Son - for the purpose of teaching Jesus’ followers, bringing everything Jesus taught to the minds of His people.
Why? Verse 27. So those who accept the Holy Spirit’s counsel will have peace. Not a happy-go-lucky peace where each day is just perfect, but the kind of peace in which loyalty and reliance on Jesus continue even on difficult days.
We know Jesus is one day coming back. Until that time, we have the Holy Spirit to counsel us - to guide and teach and remind us and strengthen our faith and help us walk, even if it is slowly, in our Christian lives.
And this Holy Spirit point. In John 16:7, Jesus said the Holy Spirit could not come to be with us unless He - Jesus - died, which becomes another advantage to us of the Lord’s sacrificial death.
Jesus’ death was the sacrifice needed for our sins to be forgiven. That is the crux of the importance of Jesus’ death. But when He returned to Heaven, He and the Father sent the Holy Spirit to those who accept Jesus as the Savior. The part of the Triune God who does guide and teach and comfort and remind and strengthen. What a wonderful gift is the Holy Spirit is.
* * * * *
There are no doubt times when we struggle spiritually. When we have to walk slowly, as did Caleb physically. How good it is to have Tylers at such times to walk with us.
There are no doubt times we have opportunities to be Tylers and help others who are struggling.
No matter which one we are at any particular time, it is the Holy Spirit who reminds us of the Lord’s love and teachings. It is the Holy Spirit who gives us what to say to be of help and instruction to others.
Lord, thank You for sending the Holy Spirit. When we are slow and need help, thank You that the Holy Spirit is with us to help us. When we are strong, thank You that the Holy Spirit is with us to keep us going. Together, guide us into the desire to be with one another to love, to help, to keep warm, to defend. And again, thank You for being in each of our relationships. Amen.
Blest Be the Tie That Binds.
Blest be the tie that binds
Our hearts in Christian love;
The fellowship of kindred minds
Is like to that above.
Before our Father’s throne
We pour our ardent prayers;
Our fears, our hopes, our aims are one,
Our comforts and our cares.
We share each other’s woes,
Each other’s burdens bear;
And often for each other flows
The sympathizing tear.
From sorrow, toil and pain,
And sin we shall be free;
And perfect love and joy shall reign
Through all eternity.