Learning the Hard Way - Ted Winsley

“Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, ‘Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all.’ He took a little child whom He placed among them. Taking the child in His arms, He said to them, ‘Whoever welcomes one of these little children in My name welcomes Me; and whoever welcomes Me does not welcome Me but the one who sent Me.’” —Mark 9:35-37


In order to see the Kingdom of God, we have to be like children. The greatest quality children have is that they know that they don’t know. In the same way, as long as we stay teachable and inquisitive, we will be able to receive truth and instruction from God.


There are two ways to learn lessons: from experience and through instruction. Being the baby in a family of five children, I was easily able to learn from others’ mistakes. I also learned that there are certain experiences that you can’t come back from.


When I was growing up, there was a certain basketball player who was said to be the next Michael Jordan; in fact, many believed that he would be even better than Jordan! As a young person, I watched this athlete’s career and saw that as he entered the draft, he soon became the number one pick for the Boston Celtics. He had it all: a future, fame, talent, money, etc. But on the night of the draft, he decided to experiment with cocaine. He didn’t know that he was allergic to the drug, and his experiment killed him. It’s almost certain that he was instructed to stay away from drugs, but because he didn’t follow that instruction, he didn’t get a second chance. I looked up to Lenny Bias, but learned from his experience that I would never experiment with drugs because he didn’t live through it. Experience was the worst teacher for Lenny and it is for us as well.


We’ve all heard the cliché saying, “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger,” but the reality is that what doesn’t kill you will scar you, leaving you to live with those scars.


God never accomplished evil Himself, but He knows all about it. He didn’t want us to experience it, but He wanted to teach us about it in the Garden of Eden. God never experienced evil, but Jesus, taking on the fallen condition of man in the flesh, did experience temptation. Temptation is the opportunity to choose what is right in the midst of what is wrong. Because Jesus had never sinned—He was unstained by evil—He was able to resist the temptation that He faced.


One time I was in a Bible study and I brought in what looked like a bag of crack. I asked the group if anyone had experienced it. If no one had experienced crack before, then they would not be tempted by the bag, but if someone was tempted by the bag, it wouldn’t be because of the bag itself, it would be because what was inside the bag was once inside of them.


The things that are inside of us are clues to what has already infiltrated us. The Bible says that if we resist the devil, he will flee. In the same way, we need to resist the temptation from the devil by ridding ourselves of the things he threatens to tempt us with. Jesus was able to rebuke the devil because he couldn’t get a hold on Him.


“In a large house there are articles not only of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay; some are for special purposes and some for common use. Those who cleanse themselves from the latter will be instruments for special purposes, made holy, useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work.” —2 Timothy 2:20-21


This analogy refers to vessels of honor and vessels holding feces. The man who purges himself of the feces could become a man of honor. When we are tempted, we have the ability and responsibility to let the Word of God purge us of the thing that once tempted us. It’s only then that we will know victory. But when we fail to let the Word of God purge us of the evil things that remain in us, we will be disqualified from being used by God. It’s only in the areas of our life where we are not tempted that God can use us.


Within the African American community, almost everyone loves chitlins. Except for me. If you’ve heard about them or smelled them, then you know why! Chitlins are pig’s intestines, which is not actually meat, but a membrane—a vehicle for feces to travel through. When someone is preparing a chitlin, they can’t just wash it off to clean it because feces doesn’t just travel through it, it infiltrates the membrane. So the chitlins have to be purged of all feces through hours and hours and hours of steaming. If the cleaning and cooking process is not thoroughly done, the chitlins will make you sick and might even kill you.


It takes hours of pressure, heat, and time to be delivered from what’s tempting you. You can’t go at it alone. You must fill yourself with the truth of scripture and seek accountability.


As a pastor, I’ve realized that I cannot ask others to do what I do not do myself. How can I expect people to be students if I am not one first? In order to be in a position where I can pour into others, I first need to allow myself to be poured into by others.


“Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” —James 1:27


Keep yourself unstained by the world and seek to do it in the company of God’s people.


—Pastor Ted Winsley, chaplain of the Philadelphia Eagles


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