The Value of a Negative Example

“Now all these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition, on whom the ends of the ages have come.”

— 1 Corinthians 10:11

Out in his yard, a minister was building a trellis to support a vine that he was going to plant. As he worked, the minister noticed a young boy, about twelve years old, standing nearby watching him. The minister nodded at the young lad as he continued to work, thinking the boy would go away. After a while, however, he noticed that the boy still stood there. Finally, the minister asked the lad, “Getting a lesson in horticulture?” “No,” came the response, “I just wanted to hear what a preacher said when he hit his thumb with a hammer.”

Do you realize that non-believers often study your life, watching to see if your actions and reactions corroborate what you profess? They not only watch preachers; they watch all Christians. Some of them watch hopefully, wanting confirmation of the life-changing potential of Christianity. Others watch hatefully, looking for an opportunity to blaspheme God. In either case, the world is watching.

While we all want to serve as good examples, as humans we can’t help failing. Yet, as humbling as it is for us, God can still use our mistakes as opportunities to show His greatness. Note the candor of Scripture concerning the sins of those who professed faith in the living God. Even the greatest saints have their portraits drawn with all warts present. Consider Abraham and his lie about his wife. Or Moses and his anger and disobedience to God. Remember David’s adultery and his attempt to cover it up with murder. As we turn to the New Testament, let’s not forget the cowardly denials of Peter or the failure of Mark, who turned tail and ran during his first missionary trip. Yet despite their failures, God used these people to accomplish mighty things.

The next time you make a mistake, especially if you know someone has observed it, ask God to forgive you and to use you despite your sinfulness. And today pray that God will enable you to be a good example for the cause of Jesus Christ.

“You may be the only Bible that some people ever read.”