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Out of the Pit

A few years ago I ran across this wonderful little essay called “The Pit” by Kenneth Philkens. It has stayed with me ever since:

A man fell into a pit and couldn’t get out.

A Subjective Person came along and said: “I feel for you down there.”

An Objective Person came along and said: “It’s logical that someone would fall down there.”

A Pharisee said: “Only a bad person would fall in a pit.”

A Fundamentalist said: “You deserve your pit.”

A Hindu said: “Your pit is for purging you and making you more perfect.”

Buddha said: “Your pit is only a state of mind.”

Confucius said: “If you would have listened to me, you would never have fallen into that pit.”

A New Ager said: “Maybe you should network with some other pit dwellers.”

An Evolutionist said: “You are a rejected mutant destined to be removed from the evolutionary cycle. You are going to die in the pit so you do not produce inferior pit-falling offspring.”

A Self-Pitying Person said: “You haven’t seen anything until you’ve seen my pit.”

A News Reporter said: “Could I have the exclusive story on your pit?”

An I.R.S. Agent said: “Have you paid your taxes on that pit?”

A County Inspector said: “Do you have a permit for that pit?”

A Realist said: “That’s a pit.”

An Idealist said: “The world shouldn’t have pits.”

An Optimist said: “Things could be worse.”

A Pessimist said: “Things will get worse.”

Jesus, seeing the man, took him by the hand and lifted him out of the pit.

It’s a great little essay and, in the midst of all the humor, there’s also a lot of truth.

First, it reminds us that we live in a world filled with pits: the pit of loneliness, guilt, hopelessness, addiction, aimlessness, heartache, worry, loss...and so on. This world of ours is truly full of pits.

Second, it reminds us that there are an awful lot of people trapped in those pits. We rub shoulders with those people every day, people who for various reasons haven’t been out of their particular pit in a very long time.

Third, we’re also reminded that there are a whole lot of people offering a whole lot of advice to the pit dwellers among us. And a good portion of that advice is either useless or harmful. Advice is cheap. But real help can be really hard to come by.

Finally, and most importantly, the essay reminds us that, ultimately, the only way to get out and stay out of life’s pits is through an on-going, life-changing personal relationship with Jesus. Any solution that is not grounded in and sustained by a relationship with Jesus will eventually prove to be a temporary diversion at best.

I remember one Tuesday afternoon I received one of those phone calls that immediately threw me into internal conflict. The director of a local convalescent home called to tell me that a resident with terminal cancer was requesting a visit with a Baptist pastor. She explained that his condition was very unstable, and she was hoping to find someone who could come quickly. Then, she gave me an out by telling me that if I was unavailable, she hoped I could give her the name and phone number of another pastor.

As she was speaking to me, I turned to my computer and pulled up my calendar and task list and confirmed that my day really was already swamped.

Then came this thought—“You know, he’s really not my responsibility. After all, I’ve never met him and he’s not a member of our church.”

Then came a quiet voice assuring me that I could actually provide real help here just by making a referral to someone else.

But before I said anything I threw out a quick little prayer, “Lord, my time is Your time. What do You want me to do with Your time?”

John and I had a terrific visit. We confirmed his faith in Christ. We confirmed his confidence of his eternal home in heaven. We confirmed his trust in God’s ability to provide for his wife’s needs even in his absence, and I assured him that my church family would gladly reach out to her in love and care. We prayed for God’s grace and peace in the midst of a difficult process.

As I started to leave, John said, “I hope this won’t be our last visit.”

I assured him that it wouldn’t be.

And I drove away thanking God for allowing me the privilege of reaching out in His name to help a sweet man stay out of a pit.

Those kinds of opportunities are among the most meaningful moments of life, but they rarely come at convenient times, and they always demand a willingness to make some adjustments.

Yes, first, we slow down. Then, we reach out. Finally, we lift up.

Remember the final line in that little essay?

Jesus didn’t try to make the man feel guilty for being in the pit. He didn’t try to make him more comfortable in the pit. He lifted him out. And the good news of the gospel is that He continues to lift people out of life’s pits, even today, by offering each and every one of us what we need more than anything else in life — a saving relationship with God, through Jesus.

Listen to Romans 10:9, “If you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.”

Saved from the penalty of your sins? Yes.

Saved from an eternity in Hell? Yes.

— but also saved from guilt and despair and loneliness and aimlessness and all of the other pits of life as you walk through life, facing those pits, by the power of Christ in you.

The greatest blessing of life is found in a personal relationship with Jesus. One of the highest privileges of life is to help someone else claim that blessing. Yes, just slow down. Reach out. And lift them up to Jesus.

And as we do so, each of us gets to rewrite the ending of that essay into something like this:

A man fell into a pit and couldn’t get out.

A man fell into a pit and couldn’t get out. And I saw the man, took him by the And I saw the man, took him by the hand, lifted him out of the pit and hand, lifted him out of the pit and pointed him to Jesus. That day changed pointed him to Jesus. That day changed his life forever. And it also changed his life forever. And it also changed mine.

(Rev. Tom Marcum is the pastor of Petaluma Valley Baptist Church in Petaluma, California.)

Article Link: http://ccmusa.org/read/read.aspx?id=chg20060104
To reuse online, please credit Challenger, Jan-Mar 2006. CCMUSA.