Years ago, when we were serving in a small country church, a lady stood up in the Wednesday night prayer meeting and requested prayer. It was not for herself, she said, but for Laura. Seems Laura was going through a difficult time and needed God’s touch. Well, the church member went on to describe Laura’s woes. It seemed that Laura had a premonition that something bad was going to happen and it did. A friend of Laura’s was shot by a deranged acquaintance, Mickey, who has had amnesia since he returned from the Korean war…
And wait. What?
It didn’t take long for the rest of the congregation to realize that this prayer request was for characters on the soap opera Days of Our Lives. The pastor looked at the lady with sympathetic eyes and, finally realizing what the rest of us understood, he prayed for Laura while most of us snickered under our breaths. But for most of us, it was a time to realize that the truth can be skewed by a perception—even a sincere belief.
Many years ago, I heard this story that has stuck with me:
The three-alarm fire started in an upstairs bedroom. By the time the first responders arrived, the building was in full blaze. A young couple and their three-year-old son stood outside huddled together, all sharing a blanket.
“My baby, my baby is still in there!” the mother shouted. “She’s still in her crib.”
The brave fire fighter rushed into the burning building, battling the smoke and flames. Finally, he saw the infant’s crib. Quickly, the man grabbed the child, wrapped it in a blanket, and prayed that he’d make it out of the house alive with the baby. Outside, the mother rushed to the fire fighter, grabbed her baby, and began to thank the man for the rescue. But then, her relief turned to horror. As she peeled back the layers of the tiny blanket, she didn’t see the beautiful face of her child, but the artificial features of a life-like doll that had also been lying in the crib. The fire fighter truly believed that he had picked up the child, but he had been mistaken. A classic case of being sincere, but being sincerely wrong.
Sincerity and even honesty are revered in our culture. In fact, these are admirable traits in a biblical context as well. Paul writes in Philippians 4:8-9 “…whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things” (NIV). How do we know what is true? It has to align with what the Bible teaches. Period.
I later found out that the lady in prayer meeting had a history of dropping out of reality and I was truly sad for her. Yet sometimes, we do the same thing by assessing a situation without having all the facts or by accepting a half-truth as the whole. That’s how gossip and spiritual tangents develop.
Paul addressed this in 2 Corinthians 10:5,“…[take] every thought captive to the obedience of Christ…” To me this means that we should test everything that we hear or read before we start to believe it or internalize it. Many core beliefs are not based on Truths (those found in scripture), but on what we want to hear, “…wanting to have [our] ears tickled …” (2 Timothy 4:3). It’s easy to mistake sincerity for Truth. So, test everything. Pray about everything. Don’t believe everything you hear.
P.S. As for Laura and Mickey, I’m sure they figured it out. We prayed for them anyway.