You may have heard about the preacher who, in the middle of his sermon, noticed that one of his deacons had fallen asleep. “Wake him up,” the preacher told the deacon’s wife. “You’re the one who put him to sleep; you wake him up,” she responded. The late, great Baptist preacher Maze Jackson used to tell that old joke, and he’d always get big laughs. I doubt anyone ever dozed when Brother Maze was in the pulpit. He was loud and engaging, and he took seriously his call to wake people up to the gospel of Christ. I heard Brother Maze tell people once that the Old Testament prophet Isaiah started out pronouncing woe on lots of people he was unhappy with, but when he got a good look at the Lord, he pronounced woe on himself. “In the year that king Uzziah died I saw also the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and his train filled the temple. … Then said I, Woe is me for I am undone, because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of Hosts” (Isaiah 6:1, 5).
When Isaiah got a good look at the holiness of the Lord, he was awakened to a new way of seeing himself. He realized his righteousness was as filthy rags. He realized he was a sinful creature. Perhaps all of us have fallen into the old trap of looking around at others and criticizing. Even when we think we’re beyond such things, we can still revert to those ways. The comedian George Burns once said it’s too bad the only people who know how to run this country are busy driving cabs and cutting hair. It seems everyone is an expert, ready to criticize political leaders, businessmen, lawyers, preachers, coaches, teachers — anyone and everyone. There’s an old sermon illustration about a judge who was the subject of relentless attacks by a critical lawyer. “Don’t you grow tired of that?” someone asked the judge. “In our little town is a dog, and, at night, it goes out into the yard and barks at the moon,” the judge replied. “And the moon, it just kept right on shining.” That’s what we’re to do, even when critics line up against us. We’re to keep right on shining. If you’ve closed your eyes to that truth, let me be the one to wake you up, because the Bible says you are to let your light so shine among men that they will see your good works and glorify your Father in Heaven. Roger Alford offers words of encouragement to residents of America’s heartland. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.