I make so many mistakes, it seems I am just a bundle of contradictions. I try to do good; but at times my efforts are so crude that I seem to do more harm than good. What shall I do? And though all the time I try hard not to make mistakes, yet I still make them. It seems to me that surely I am not sanctified, or else I should be more perfect. Do not the Scriptures command us to be perfect even as our Father in heaven is perfect? I am not perfect; far from it. Really I must be very imperfect. Is it right for me to claim to be sanctified? Can you help me?
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Let us visit some of the pioneers of Canaan today and ask them to tell us some of their experiences. Let us see if Faithful is at home. He has a possession in one of the most charming vales of Beulah, and the beautiful flowers blooming there and the luscious fruit growing there tend to make him one of the happiest citizens of the country. I am just certain that he will be glad to tell us a story.
Here we are close to his home now. Oh, see the garden! Just like the Garden of the Lord.
See, it is just a little longer than it is wide, and is fenced with a row of protecting flowers called Grace. The central feature of the garden is that beautiful white lily called Love. It looks as though unusual care has been bestowed on this plant; see how it towers above the rest so grandly and yet is so majestically humble. Its fragrance spreads far and wide. Doesn't it make you want to sit down under its magnificent foliage and drink in of its glorious essence? Over there on the left of Love is a group of flowers of different species. That large cream-colored flower is called Patience. That crimson one is called Joy, and that with broad, drooping white petals is Humility. The sweet perfume you notice in any part of the garden is from Humility. That pink blossom on the right is Peace, and a very pleasant odor it has. Next to it is Faith. See it? It is a remarkably robust plant. Notice its blossom of pure gold color. It has no perceptible odor. This flower here, with all the colors mixed most intricately and beautifully together, is called Goodness. No wonder Faithful is so happy and cheerful, with such a garden! [Galatians 5:22, 23].
Oh, hush! There is Faithful on his knees now, at prayer to the Almighty! How sublime he looks! Come; he rises.
"Good morning Faithful."
"Good morning to you, pilgrims. Blessings upon you in the name of Immanuel. What may I do for you?"
"We are pilgrims in Canaan and have only lately crossed the Jordan. We seek a home. But we have heard of the giants and we saw one afar off, too. We are a little afraid. We thought probably you would tell us how to overcome these giants. Will you!"
"With the greatest of pleasure. One of my greatest joys is to teach pilgrims the strategy of spiritual warfare and tell them how to overcome the Anakims of Canaan [2 Corinthians 10:4].
"About the first giant I met in Canaan was one Mistake, a large, loose-jointed fellow, who, I found, made a tremendous bluster but was as weak as a pygmy. Really he is not a true Anakim, but a Gibeonite, who are foes until they are conquered, and then they become hewers of wood and drawers of water for us -- they become our servants betimes [Joshua 9:21]. But at first Mistake assumes all the characteristics of a true giant.
"Not long after I crossed the Jordan, I met him. He came lumbering down upon me, and I thought my days in Canaan were numbered. It was only after I made some blunder or said some tactless thing that Mistake bothered me, but at such times he gave me untold trouble. One time a pilgrim named Slow was standing by the way. As I was passing him, I, not being as careful as I should be, bumped into him and nearly knocked him off the road. Poor fellow, he began to cry, and said he was ruined and believed that if such was the way pilgrims treated each other, he would go back into Egypt. This, of course, caused me to feel very sorry. I went back and apologized the best I could, but it hardly consoled him. I started on. And, do you know, up came Giant Mistake! He caught hold of me and gave me a sound thrashing for what I had done [1 Peter 2:20].
"But really, Mistake did not cause me so much trouble as did Giant Discourager. This Giant Discourager is a true giant, of pure Anakim blood, and he is in the habit of accompanying Mistake. And so it was that every time I met Mistake, old Giant Discourager was with him. Giant Discourager beat me unmercifully nearly every time I met Mistake. He would flog me within an inch of my life and throw me down so bruised and bleeding that I almost wished I was dead [1 Kings 19:9-18]. It was only when I made a blunder that Mistake and Discourager beat me; but as I made these nearly every day, my life grew very miserable. I was about to conclude that Canaan-land had lost all its milk and honey; for I had not found very much of either yet.
"It got so that I anticipated the approach of these giants, and they never disappointed my anticipations. Giant Discourager would call me all kinds of names, such as a sinner, a perfect failure, a no-good, a weakling, a coward. And he would tell me, 'You have no faith,' 'You never will get a home in Canaan,' 'You will be cast out at last,' and many such like things would he say to me.
"When in my very worst battle with Mistake and Discourager, old Giant Despair came around to see me [1 Kings 19:4]. He claimed that by my repeated failures he had the right to possession of my soul, and he said he was going to carry me to his dungeon and club me to death, just as he almost did Bunyan's pilgrim, Christian. This frightened me nearly to death.
"In the very extremity of this bitter battle, an angel of Immanuel, named Solicitude, came to my side one day and said, 'I will teach you how to tame Giant Mistake and how to put Giant Discourager to flight.'
"'Oh, do tell me!' I cried.
"'Well, here is your shield of faith. Take it and hold it up. Quit dragging it around in the dust behind you. Here is your sword of the Spirit, get it in your right hand and use it. That is what it is for. It is not for a mere ornament, nor a mere appendage, as you have made it. Use it. Pull the girdle of truth up a notch or two, tie your gospel shoes on tighter. Press the helmet of salvation upon your brow. And when the giants come, fight [Ephesians 6:10-17; 2 Corinthians 6:3-10, 7:5-7].
"'And, really, so far as Giant Mistake is concerned,' the angel Solicitude went on to say, 'he is not a true giant. There is no Anakim blood in him. He is a Gibeonite; all you need to do to him is to conquer him, and he will be your servant. You can never get entirely rid of him even in Canaan; but by tactful management he can be of some service to you [Hebrews 12:5-11]. But Giant Discourager -- you must win over him; for he has slain many a poor pilgrim, and waits to slay you.'
"I thanked Immanuel for sending Solicitude to tell me the secret of warfare and how to handle Mistake and Discourager. And it was even so. I made my blunders as usual, and Mistake and Discourager came falling down upon me. I ignored Mistake. But I gripped my sword, held up the shield, and made for Discourager, giving him a terrible blow over the head. He challenged me there, and broke forth at me in awful epithets; but I let the sword fall as fast as I could wield it. Pretty soon he ran in a disgraceful riot of retreat and plunged down a dark canyon which they say is his home. When I looked around, Mistake had shrunk up to about half his former size.
"'You come with me,' I said to him, 'I can't get along without you; but you must behave yourself from now on.'
"'I will,' he said. And he always has since."
The story of Faithful makes us feel better, doesn't it?
Sanctification purifies the motives, and makes the spring of impulse and action pure; but it does not give maturity of judgment nor perfection of reason. If an ignorant person is sanctified, he will find keenness of perception as regards right and wrong, but he will still be ignorant.
Sanctification does not imply that a sanctified person shall not need to study and advance in knowledge (2 Peter 1:5-9). Though sanctified we are still human beings, and we must utilize the common means to knowledge just as others do. Sanctification affects the heart, and its work is to take out evil, the sin in the nature, and make it holy and pure. Also it means an infilling of God's Spirit, which pervades our nature after sanctification just as sin pervaded it before. But sanctification does not eliminate humanity from our nature.
Mistakes, therefore, are the common lot of all -- sinners, believers, and sanctified ones.
Not only are we liable to mistakes, we are inseparable from them in our earthly existence. As one grows in experience, knowledge, and maturity of judgment, one's mistakes may become fewer in number; but no one on earth can ever expect to get entirely beyond making them.
Let us take a look at some illustrations: A young Christian had a father who drank. One day another Christian saw this Christian young man go into a saloon. He reported it around that he saw this brother go into a saloon. Well, the young brother must have backslidden, was the instant conclusion, and so it was reported. But the young man had gone into the saloon to get his father to go home. A very noble act; but the story that was told was very detrimental to the young man. It was a mistake to tell that he was backslidden without first knowing the facts of the case.
A mother has three children. One of them comes running in crying almost as hard as it can, and says, "John hit me with a stick." Mother calls John and punishes him for hitting Sister with his stick. By and by Mother finds that John did not do it, but that a playmate did. A mistake was made.
Sometimes one hears something detrimental to the character of another. On the strength of this, one may pursue a certain course of action. By and by it may be found that this first report is not entirely true to facts, and one regrets the course of action taken. A mistake has been made.
Mistakes are made in every department of life, mental, spiritual, physical; in the home, in school, in the laboratory; in mechanics, in business, and in government. It is simply impossible to know always what to do or to say. Mistakes, more or less, are occurring all the time. Many of the things we know we have learned by our mistakes. A farmer becomes successful by eliminating the mistakes of the past, by ceasing to do the things that proved to be inefficient. A manufacturer becomes successful by eliminating the weaknesses of his product, by eliminating his mistakes. So with every department of life.
Maturity is gained only by experience covering a period of time, hence sanctified people will have to learn by their mistakes just as others do, and by observing closely they are able to eliminate many mistakes and live more happy lives.
Our Father knows our limitations, and he will not cast us off for our mistakes. Do not count mistakes as sins. For some of your mistakes you may ask pardon, of both God and men; but do not allow discouragement to come in. Be happy along with your mistakes.
There is a strange but natural law of the mind that works in this way: If you make a mistake and worry and brood over it and live in the fear that you will make a similar mistake again, you are liable to make the same mistake -- over and over, as often as you fear making it. Someway or other the agitation over it invites it to return. There is a certain attraction your fear and agitation creates toward it, which, even though you abhor it, draws you in it again and again. On the other hand, if one makes a mistake, and, after promptly asking forgiveness, if necessary, promptly forgets it and goes on as if nothing unusual whatever had occurred, he will find that he will hardly make that mistake again.
Here is a secret for the newly sanctified ones; you will make mistakes, but learn to confess them fully and broadly and completely, and, after doing that, then to refuse to think any more whatever about them. Let God take care of you and also of the mistake.
Imperfection of human disposition and character is a fruitful source from which mistakes arise. Here is a person so slow as to be a trial to nearly every one about him, while here is another who, because he is so fast, is continually injuring the feelings of others. Here is a person naturally so impatient that at times he wounds and hurts others. The intentions of these persons are often misunderstood, and mistakes arise from the misunderstanding. We, thinking that certain things were done or said for certain purposes, may do and say certain things. Later we discover some other course would have been wiser and better.
So, dear anxious soul, do not expect to get beyond making mistakes. Profit by those you make. Use them as stepping-stones to a better experience. Keep consecrated, keep your faith clear, and commit yourself to God, mistakes and all. Sanctification makes us pure; but it takes time and experience to make us mature.