A pastor of a small church would occasionally call on a gentleman to pray, and every time this one particular man would pray, he would end with the strangest statement: “And, oh Lord, prop us up on our leaning side.”
One day after hearing this phrase over and over, the pastor pulled him aside. “I love the way you pray,” the pastor began, “but I don’t understand your little closing phrase. What do you mean by ‘prop us up on our leaning side’?”
“Well, Pastor, I’m a farmer,” the man responded. “I live out on in the country and I’ve got an old barn. It’s been there a long time. It’s weathered a lot of storms and the bugs are always trying to eat it away.”
He continued, “I got to looking at it one day when I was riding on my tractor and noticed that it was leaning to one side. So I thought to myself, oh no! It’s only a matter of time before the whole thing falls. So, you know what I did? I went and got some pine beams and propped it up on its leaning side.”
“It still leans, and probably always will,” the farmer went on. “But it’s not going to fall down because I propped it up on its leaning side.”
The pastor was still puzzled. What did this have to do with prayer and trusting in God?
Sensing the pastor’s question, the farmer said, “When I was on the tractor and riding in the field, I thought about the kind of year I’ve had — some of the storms I’ve been through — some of the people that are bugging me and eating away at my joy — eating away at my spirit. And I just got to thinking, you know, I’m still here! I’m still standing after all that stuff I’ve been through. The storms, and the howling winds — they won’t topple me. I’m still standing by the grace of God.”
He concluded, “From time to time, I find myself leaning. Leaning toward my old desires — leaning toward anger — leaning toward becoming bitter or hateful at the people who are bugging me — leaning toward going back to the old habits and the old life I used to have. And when I feel myself start to lean toward that tendency, I just remember that old barn. I pray out loud, ”Lord, thank you for propping me up on the leaning side.”
That story reminds me of the sure foundation we have in Jesus Christ. He’s a help in the day of need. He doesn’t despise our weakness, but instead comes alongside us and helps us to keep standing in faith.
We’ve been looking at our core values as the new year begins. You could say that these statement are the bold print that hold in common. There are lots of things we say in a regular print, but the bold print signifies the importance of these values.
Jesus is Lord.
Every person matters.
The Bible is our standard.
We celebrate tradition and innovation.
This Sunday we’ll highlight the core value We promote unity and diversity. On the one hand, we value the unity that comes through having “one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all” (Ephesians 4:5-6, NIV). On the other hand, we find joy that comes through the multiplicity of different backgrounds, giftings, and perspectives. “The body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ” (1 Corinthians 12:12, ESV).
Unity does not mean uniformity. We don’t have to look the same, talk the same, think the same, or vote the same.
We are diverse, but diversity doesn’t have to mean division. We keep the main thing the main thing — Jesus is Lord — and affirm that every person matters and is worthy of dignity and respect.
Of course, we don’t always live by these values.
Sometimes our unity is threatened by gossip, pride, poor communication, and a lack of love. Sometimes diversity feels like an unattainable goal. We may be diverse economically and in terms of experiences and gifting, but we have a long way to go to live into the New Testament picture of a diverse, vibrant, victorious church (see Galatians 6:28; Acts 13:1; Acts 16:11-40; Revelation 7:9).
If we don’t pursue both unity and diversity, we’ll become more and more like that leaning barn — weak and unable to withstand storms.
The church is always a work in progress. We are “working out our salvation with fear and trembling” (Philippians 2:12, NIV).
Thank God that we have One who “props us up on the leaning side.” He is faithful. He’s making something beautiful out of us. He’s both praying for us (John 17:21) and working through the multiplicity of gifts until we all reach unity and maturity in the faith (Ephesians 4:13).
I’m glad to be part of the First Baptist family. We have a good church, by God’s grace. We’re not perfect — we lean a little bit. But God is with us. God holds us together and helps us stand in faith.
Let the church say Amen.