I was part of a group a few weeks ago where a wonderful, faithful, godly older pastor told us about something that had happened in his church. During an important public meeting, a man had risen to his feet and started shouting abuse at the pastor. It was a tirade full of invective and malice and hatred. How would you respond?
At the time, the man had to be politely, but firmly escorted from the building by some elders. But that's not the amazing thing. The pastor in question proceeded to tell us that he had gone home to ponder the things the man had said. And when he stripped away the anger and personal acrimony, he was persuaded that one of the things the man had said was largely true of him, and that he needed to repent.
I was staggered by this pastor's godliness. I know that Proverbs tells us that “the ear that listens to life-giving reproof will dwell among the wise” (Prov 15:31), but surely that's just listening to your friends, right? Who in their right mind sifts the insults of their enemy to find learning?
But as impressed as I was by his godliness (and he wasn't telling the story to impress anyone), it was walking to work the other morning that I finally saw the point with absolute clarity: it is not his godliness that I should marvel at, but the miraculously powerful, life-giving work of the Holy Spirit. Who, humanly speaking, can so set aside their personal aspirations and desire for public approval that they might grow from the rebuke of an enemy? No-one. But with God, what is impossible is made possible.
God's Spirit has worked in this man so that what matters most to him is standing in righteousness before his Lord and maker. A more miraculous thing I cannot imagine. And the longer I live, the more miraculous it seems.
I pray that God will do such a work in me.