It was 8:30 on a Wed. morning when the telephone rang in my office at Sevenoaks Alliance Church in Abbotsford. The voice at the other end of the line said, “Are you coming?”
“Coming where?” “To Valley Christian School. You promised to provide the devotional and the classes will be heading for the sanctuary in a few minutes. Are you coming? ”Oh, yes. I’ll be there in a few minutes.”
I put the phone down and then it hit me. Not only had I forgotten to go there, I had not done one bit of preparation. And here I just said I’d be there in a few minutes. Not only that, I was the Pastor for Christian Education in this church of over 2000 back in the late 80’s. I expected the workers to always be prepared. At its peak there were over 100 Sunday School teachers and helpers, 75 Awana leaders, 40 Pioneer Girls women volunteers, 30 men leading Christian Service Brigade, a staff of 100 for VBS in the summer, 60 persons taking turns in Children’s Church and more. And it got worse. Some of those workers had children in that school and here I was unprepared. I’m ruined! My career is finished! My life is over!
Then I remembered another bit of advice I had given them. If you are ever stuck, almost anything can be used for an object lesson. I flung open the desk drawer, grabbed an item and headed for the car. It would take about 8 minutes to get from Gladwin Rd. to the Nazarene Church on McMillan.
“Lord, You have a problem!”
“Oh no, son. You have a problem.”
“Could we please, please make it our problem?”
“Now you’re talking, let’s see what we can do with that object.”
With one hand on the steering wheel, one hand feeling the object, my eyes on the road and my mind on a message for those students I was an accident waiting to happen.
Accident!! That’s it. A good excuse not to show up.
“None on that, son! We have an agreement.
Now think. Who would use that object?” That was an easy question. “Good. Now what would make that a useful object for a lesson? Think!”
Right. That helped. An idea came to mind and I knew a verse that would go with it. Then there was another one, complete with an appropriate verse. I struggled to think of some more. The next idea was not at the students’ level. Not good. (Oh dear, nearly didn’t see that red light.) By this time I was going through downtown Abbotsford. A few other possible points came to me but by that time I was passing Yale Secondary and McMillan Pool. Right turn on McMillan, up the hill and there’s the church. I got out of the car, looked at the church door and my heart sank into my shoes. I did not want to go in. “Move it, son. Take courage and be bold.”
I sank into the back row and could tell that the principal would be calling on me in about 30 seconds. “Be bold,” I told myself. “Make it sound like you have something very important to tell them.” Here is an abbreviated, approximate account of what I remember saying.
I strode down the aisle with a pretense of confidence, turned to the students, held up my hand and declared, “In my hand I have something that will teach you 5 of the most important things in your life!” Did I say 5? Most important? They couldn’t guess what it was. It was … a nail. A nail! What was a nail doing in my desk drawer? I have no idea how it got there, I was not in the habit of crucifying volunteer workers who did a poor job.
“Boys and girls, who uses nails?” Right, a carpenter. Did you know that Jesus grew up in the home of a carpenter?
As he got older Jesus must have helped Joseph build things. Did Jesus know that some day nails would pin Him to a cross? Yes, I think He knew. But right now you are going to pretend to be a carpenter’s helper too. Imagine putting on a carpenter’s apron. You have pockets for a ruler, pencil, hammer and chisels plus several pockets for nails. Pull out one nail because we need to nail a board onto the house we are building. What is this? This nail is bent out of shape, crooked and looks like a pretzel. Can we use a crooked nail? No. Are boys, girls and adults crooked if they steal, lie, cheat or say mean things to others? Does Jesus want us to be like that? No. We want nails that are straight. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight.” Prov. 3:5-6
Get a different nail. What is this? A toothpick! Well, it is straight. Can we use that? Why not? It isn’t strong enough. None of us can always do things right by ourselves. We need help in order to be strong. The Lord wants to help. “Be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might.” Eph. 6:10.
You who are close by, feel the point of this nail. How would you describe it? It’s sharp. Teachers would love you to be sharp in what you do. Some are sharp in Math, some in writing stories, some in music, in sports or in art. We can’t be good at everything but you can find out what your natural abilities are and develop them. A schools’ aim isn’t to make everyone good at everything but to help you find out what you can be good at. But one thing we all need is to study the Bible to find out what kind of a person God wants us to become. You can count on the Word of God to be “sharper than any two-edged sword “ in helping you with that. Heb. 4:12
So, what have we got so far? A nail must be straight, strong and sharp. So we can now nail the board onto the wall. Lift it into place, hold it and hammer the nail. There, it’s done. Let go of the board – oh no, it dropped to the ground! What happened? You hammered it into thin air. The nail didn’t hit the 2×4 upright. For it to hold you have to be sure to nail into something solid. In the same way our life needs to be built on a solid backing, a solid foundation. That solid base is the Lord Jesus. Live your life according to what He teaches. “Other foundation can no man lay but that which is laid which is Jesus Christ.” 1 Cor. 3:11
All right. I said there were five ideas. What might the last one be? Well, put the board back up, hold the nail so that it lines up with the 2×4 stud, and hold it, hold it – but nothing will happen unless you do what? You have to strike the nail with the hammer. Now I want to be very careful in what I say here. The Lord will lead us gently, he loves each one of us and is very kind. But if you steal a chocolate bar when the storekeeper isn’t looking, or if you lie to your parent, or if you cheat on a test, or say mean things to another student what would Jesus want you to do about it? Go back, confess to the storekeeper and pay for the chocolate bar. Is that easy? No. Does it feel like you’re getting hammered? Yes. Same with the lying, cheating and mean comments. It’s hard to ask forgiveness. You feel like you’re getting hammered, but do it anyway.
So there we have it. Next time you see a nail remember that it is telling you to be straight, be strong, be sharp, stand on something solid and be willing to be struck when you do the wrong thing.
As the classes were passing me in the foyer to go to their classrooms one teacher came over and said, “That was really good. You must have prepared a long time.” I was stunned. I didn’t know what to say. I think I mumbled, “The Lord does provide.” Did I then tell all my volunteers you don’t have to prepare after all? No. I think the Lord would say, “If you do that on purpose I’ll just let you get hammered.”
The Lord is our Helper, the credit goes to Him.