Last Sunday morning, we had a baptizing at the church I pastor, Hope Baptist, in Middleport, Ohio. It was a memorable experience. As I descended carefully the steps into the water, I missed the last step! I hit the water with a big splash, and sank to the bottom. To make matters worse, I could not get my legs under me, so I kept going under. At last, Brother Lee, who was sitting on the front row, rushed up, and reaching over the glass, extended his hand to pull me up.
I have been in the ministry soon to be 44 years. I have baptized people in baptisteries, in pools, and streams of water. But, this was the first time I ever lost my footing and fell in. Honestly, it was very embarrassing.
But, it was also funny. Someone suggested that we have a certified life-guard on hand the next time we baptize. A couple said that they were willing to rate my dive as an eight or a nine. And, then there were all kinds of comments about the Preacher baptizing him self.
How will I ever recover from the ignominy of that missed step and the responding fall out? After all, people like to make fun of mistakes preachers make. But, it is an actual fairly simple consideration. It will be by getting back into the baptistery again when the time comes. Just because I missed that step and embarrassed myself so much does not call for me to stop baptizing people.
My mishap, however, exemplifies an important grace from God. In life, we all miss steps morally and spiritually. At some point, we spiritually stumble. We fall morally when we fail in some way certain Christian principles.
When some miss steps, they never recover and continue onward, either because of the guilt or embarrassment of what they did. But, the Scripture says, “The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord, and he delights in his way. Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down, for the Lord upholdeth him with His hand.”
I once read a story about two brothers who stole a flock of sheep. They were caught, put on trial, and found guilty of theft. They were both sentenced to a certain time in prison, but they were also permanently branded in their foreheads with the initials “ST,” which stood for “Sheep Thief.”
The one brother was utterly devastated from what he did and the consequences of it. He eventually died in prison.
However, the other was determined to re-build his life, to live a changed life, and to openly demonstrate that change. Over time, he curried a noteworthy and honorable reputation in the very town where he and his brother had committed the crime many years before.
One afternoon, he was in a certain store. Someone new to the community chatted with one of the long-time residents. The newcomer asked, “What does ‘ST’ stand for in that man’s forehead?” The man paused for a moment, and then said, “I cannot quite remember what it stands for. But, I think it stands for ‘Saint.’”
This quaint story merely illustrates the value of getting back up when you happen to miss a step and fall morally or spiritually. God wants you to get back up. God will help you get back up. His forgiveness will prop you back up. “He does not retain His anger forever, for He delights in mercy,” states the Scripture. “He casts our sins into the depths of the sea.”
If you happen to miss your last step and fall, the plan will be to first get right with God, and in due course, things will get right with others. God blesses overcomers.
One thing for sure is that the congregants at Hope Baptist will be alert and watchful the next time we baptize. What will happen to the Preacher next time? Wonder if he will do a belly flop, or double gainer from the steps to get into the water? Maybe a cannon ball!
Pastor Ron Branch lives in Mason County and is pastor of Hope Baptist Church, Middleport, Ohio.