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LITTLE POOR JOHNNY By Bill Stoner

At a previous church, where I was the Pastor of Children and Youth, I had the privilege of sitting down with parents who had discipline problems with their children. Usually, Mom would show up and express her frustration with Johnny’s bad behavior and want me to suggest three things that would fix him (not his real name of course). And so, I was surprised to get a call from Dad requesting a sit down at my convenience. I knew what he was really saying: “Please Pastor, as soon as possible!” We set up the meeting with Dad and little Johnny (little Johnny was 15 years old with a chip on his shoulder about the size of Mt. Rushmore). When the two of them came into my office, Johnny sat there quietly with anger and embarrassment written across his face, while Dad proceeded with his list of grievances. Some were appropriate, some were debatable, and some were expression of a cry for help from a poor kid trying to navigate what it means to be a Christian, in a non-Christian world. I listened to both sides (with Dad taking up most of the time) and then I asked Johnny if I could speak alone to his dad. After Johnny left the room, his dad wanted answers to solve this rebellion and to know what actions he should take to punish Johnny. But my answer was not what dad expected. I began by asking dad how much time he spent with Johnny every day after school. How often he shared the Scriptures with him, and why didn’t he show up at his baseball games? I knew Johnny, but I also knew his dad. The simple truth was that dad was trying to fix his son, while needing some “fixing” himself.

I recently began a study with someone using the book: “Self-Confrontation” The book is built on biblical principles with the third principle: “Practicing God’s Word begins with judging yourself and removing sinful obstructions from your own life (Matthew 7:1-5). Then you have the privilege and responsibility of restoring others to victorious living (Romans 15:14).” This is saying what comes first when we prepare ourselves to help others. Johnny’s dad loved his son, but he had his own sins that were hindering his ability to help him. Jesus said in Matthew 7:3, “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye.” I would imagine the answer to that questions is: It’s easier! Isn’t it easier to see a friend’s sin, than it is to see your own? Isn’t it easier to lecture someone else about making poor decisions, hanging out with the wrong friends, or not studying the Bible as often as they should rather than examining one’s own walk with Christ?  

And so, do you want to be a good father or good mother? Make sure you personally are an obedient Christian. If you want to be a good friend, make sure you yourself are right with God and are walking with Him. The third principle is: “Removing sinful obstructions”. Hebrews 12:3 says, “Let us throw off everything, and the sin that so easily entangles us, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us” What’s keeping you from being what God wants you to be? For that father, it was his own selfish, sinful habits. But whatever it is for you and me, don’t let it hinder your walk with Christ. Better yet, don’t let it hinder you as you “run the race”.  Nobody can run a race if they have not removed that nail sticking in their own shoe.