By Kathy Lane
It was another beautiful August night at New Hope Baptist Church. As the pastor approached the pulpit to deliver his Sunday evening message, he felt strongly led by the Holy Spirit to change what he was going to be preaching. In obedience to the Spirit’s leading, he set his notes aside and began preaching from his heart to the congregation about taking the next step of faith in their walk with the Lord.
“Do you trust Him? Are you willing to do whatever it takes to step out in faith? I cannot keep carrying you—I cannot keep pleading with you to stop being fearful.”
As he began the invitation, he challenged those willing to allow God to do anything that He desired in their lives to step forward as a testimony to the Lord. Several came forward, including the tender-hearted pastor’s wife—who had been serving faithfully with him for decades in ministry. At the end of the invitation, he encouraged the church family to act upon what the Lord had laid upon their hearts and not let fear hold them back.
The pastor went home that evening with his wife, went to sleep, and the next time he opened his eyes, he was in Heaven. He was wholeheartedly willing to allow God to use him however He saw fit, even if that meant he just preached his last message here on earth. That pastor was my father-in-law, Missionary Mike Lane to Honduras, and he unexpectedly passed away at sixty-three years old after serving the Lord in ministry his entire life.
Every year when the holiday season rolls around, it brings back so many bittersweet memories of “Dad-Dad Lane” (as the grandkids affectionately called him). As I was reminiscing on old family memories, it had me thinking about regrets as well—the “should have’s” in life. We should have tried calling one more time … We should have spent more time with them…and the list could go on forever. I thought of how many people have regrets when tragedy falls on a loved one, and they long to turn back time and change past choices.
I thought about this Christmas season and the joy of our Saviour’s birth, and how such a precious time of year could be filled with so much remorse with the “should have’s” of times past.
We know that our life here on earth is limited as James 4:14 states, “Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away.” As believers, we must not waste any time lamenting over the past and the numerous mistakes we have made, instead, we should be focusing on what God has for us today, right now, in the present.
When my husband and I were working with the young couple’s class at our home church, we had a sweet young couple dealing with family issues during the Christmas season. The husband was having difficulty forgiving his mother for events that happened long ago, and it was eating away at him year after year. After weeks of the Holy Spirit dealing with his heart, he called his mother and began mending the hurtful, bitter feelings and unforgiveness, and that relationship was slowly restored. He mentioned he wished he had not waited so long and that he “should have” done it years earlier.
What about us? Is there a seed of bitterness or unforgiveness in our hearts towards someone? I know that personally some of the worst hurts come from those closest to me—whether it be my physical or spiritual family. I can’t help but think of the account in Matthew 18 where Jesus speaks to Peter about the king who had compassion and forgave his servant of all that he owed, and yet the servant (who had been forgiven of all his debt), would not extend the same compassion and forgiveness on his fellow servant. Oftentimes a bitter heart cannot even recognize its own condition as it is overshadowed by its self-righteous pride.
With every breath we take, we must be reminded of the very costly gift of salvation and unconditional love that our Saviour extends toward us.
We have no right whatsoever as a child of God to harbor a resentful or unforgiving spirit towards others when we have been wholly forgiven and freed from the condemnation and penalty of sin. Christ bore the full weight of the cross and became the atoning sacrifice to redeem us—the very ones guilty of putting Him there. Yet we still refuse to surrender the resentment in our hearts.
“Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering; forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any; even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye.” Colossians 3:12-13
While living in Washington state, my husband and I frequently visited a hardware store close by and had been witnessing to a young employee named Ben for several years. We had given him the gospel message on multiple occasions and pleaded with him to come to church year after year. A few months ago, while we were on the mission field, we found out that he was in the hospital with Covid. We immediately contacted our home church and asked for a staff member to visit him. Unfortunately, at that time, the hospital was not allowing any visitors into the ICU. About a week later, we were informed that he died due to unforeseen complications with Covid. Ben was in his twenties, and this will be the first year his family will celebrate Christmas without him. We do not know if he accepted Christ before he passed, but we do know that he was given the gospel message very clearly on multiple occasions. We pray that he acted upon that before slipping into eternity. Thankfully, that is one situation in which we obeyed the Holy Spirit’s leading instead of putting it off and shamefully adding another “should have” to our list.
During such a hectic time of year, we can easily become so caught up with the holidays that we overlook the souls God places in our pathway. Leading lost sinners to Christ should always be our topmost priority, and this is such an opportune season to creatively get the gospel out to those who may normally not be as receptive. Our family often puts together gift baskets with a Bible, an invitation from our church, candy canes, and other goodies to hand out during the holidays.
Who has the Lord specifically placed in your pathway for you to witness to this Christmas season? Your local first responders? City or state council members? The clerk at the grocery store? The neighbor who drives you crazy? We need to make sure we are attentively and purposefully listening to the Holy Spirit and not becoming guilty of leaving Christ out of Christmas!
Let us not forget this year to take some extra time each day in the stillness of our hearts to beg God to show us how He would have us spend not only this Christmas season but also the 2023 new year.
I’m sure that each of us has a long list of regrets in our lifetime, but let’s be determined this year to not allow another year to go by with more “should have’s.” We cannot change the past, nor can we foresee the future, but we do have a choice to make a difference NOW—in the present. And what an amazing gift from God it is!
“Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye steadfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.”
I Corinthians 15:58