Almost a year has passed since the Family Radio preacher spoke of the end of the world; his date in May 2011 passed, and then another in October also passed. And we’re all still here. So many people will look at a preacher like this and say how crazy he is. They will point a finger and place him in a category of crazy Christians. Some will use it as a reason to say all Christians are crazy.
Well, today we will talk about two men in Christian ministry and how they made screw ups; they both had nothing but the best intentions when they were creating the mess that would bring them both to an end.
Harold Camping spent many years building a network for radio stations; he wanted to spread the word of God and tell about it in Bible teachings on a radio station. Family Radio was one that we listened to often, even in our Christian home where radio was limited when we were children.
In my adult years I stopped listening to this radio network; part of me just did not believe the entire message that was taught. Then I read in a newspaper in 1994 how the Bible teacher on this radio station was telling people that come a certain date in 1994 — I believe it was in October — the world would come to an end.
Imagine hearing such a thing. Now, if you are a Christian, as I am, you will have heard the message that someday Jesus is coming back. Well, the same Bible says the time and date are not known; no angel even knows this. So imagine my surprise that this station that I already thought was just not right started predicting a date the world would end.
Obviously, 1994 came and went and the world did not end. So I hear the same message last year, and – surprise — from the same man. Now some will say all Christians are crazy because of this. And many followed him, selling their homes, emptying savings accounts and retirement investments to advertise and tell as many people as possible the world was ending in hopes that more people would be saved.
May 2011 came, the world did not end. Harold said, “OK, the date was wrong. It will be October.” Again the world did not end and many were left confused by a man who started out just wanting to warn us of what he thought was coming.
So many of us call him crazy yet we repeat failure after failure, changing the story and telling ourselves, “Well maybe I got my dates wrong; my math was off; my English may have confused you.” We repeat our mistakes rather than saying we are wrong and learning from it. This man repeated the mistake several times and many followed to the end – or, rather, to the “not” end.
Let’s talk about another man. Last week, Chuck Colson passed away. He is a man who was involved in a scandal that, when I was a child, upset the belief of the people in the good of the office of the president. Chuck Colson was involved the Watergate scandal of the early 1970s, a scandal that led to the resignation of President Richard Nixon so he could avoid impeachment.
He was convicted and sentenced to seven months in jail; prior to going in, he experienced a conversion and found a personal relationship with Jesus as his savior. Many people accused him of a “convenience conversion” to lighten his sentence although it was not reduced. It turns out, he really turned his life around and decided to go back to the prisons voluntarily after his sentence was completed so he could minister and witness to prisoners. Chuck learned from the screw-up he made and changed his life. He spent more of his life reaching out to prisoners than he did serving in politics and his sincerity is unquestioned almost 40 years later and prisoners who are part of Chuck Colson’s organization, Prison Fellowship, while incarcerated have a much lower recidivism rate
So last week we lost a great man who learned from his screw-ups. The other has retreated into his own world and left the spotlight. I no longer listen to Family Radio, so I don’t know if he is back on the air or even preaching anymore.
In your life, you will face a screw-up. It’s not an “if”; it’s a “when.” You will have to face the fact that something did not work. What will you do with your life when you reach that screw-up? I hope that I am able to be like Chuck Colson and choose to take a path of changing the lives of others to live a better life. I want to give people hope and not build fear.
I encourage you to choose to build hope with your life and see if you can change the world we live in. Fear will always have a better success rate at getting people to change. Do not fall into that trap of building your world based on teaching others fear. Learn from today’s lesson and build faith in people; build hope in others to make their world a better place.