“Spiritually alive, we have access to everything God’s Spirit is doing, and can’t be judged by unspiritual critics.” (1Corinthians 2:15, The Message)
As a pastor I had received calls like this from time to time and generally found them to be little more than well-intentioned expressions of the caller’s personal thoughts or feelings for me, couched in the language of spiritual revelation so as to add weight to it. I would always listen quietly and thank them when they finished.
Or, there were those few occasions when someone would call to blast me to kingdom come with a scathing rebuke, which they were commanded by the Lord God Almighty to speak, yea verily. I quickly learned how to screen those calls out.
But this call was different. It was from a close and trusted friend who has a track record of walking with the Lord, and hearing His voice; a man who rises early in the morning and spends great lengths of time in prayer; a man of significant influence, whom the Lord has used to touch many, many people with the Gospel. He had my undivided attention.
“OK,” I replied, “what is it?”
To this day I will never forget his answer, for it truly was a word from the Lord; a word which I needed to hear at that moment, for I was undergoing severe personal attack in the form of criticism and outright slander. I was being lied about, ridiculed for my beliefs, and spoken against by opponents who held me in contempt – you know, a typical week in the life of many pastors. So my phone-a-friend had my undivided attention.
“Ping,” he said; holding the sound out like a sustained musical note.
“Ping?” I answered, in a blunt, one syllable monotone reply.
“No,” he graciously answered, “Ping,” once again making the sustained sound, rather than simply saying the word. And then he did it again, “Ping.”
“What is that supposed to mean?” I asked, and my friend replied, “That’s the sound of a twenty-two caliber bullet bouncing off the hull of a nuclear submarine. Ping.”
He paused for a moment and then said, “The Lord wants you to know that these attacks of criticism against you are nothing more than that – puny and ineffective cheap shots that cannot penetrate the hull of your ship. They can only annoy and distract. Stay the course and do what the Lord has directed you to do.”
That was a meaningful moment for me. I was being tossed about in my soul with mounting frustrations – wanting to answer in self-defense and set the record straight, but being restrained from doing so by the grace of God.
The storm has long passed and, like any storm, has left much debris in its wake. And with regularity someone will pick up a piece of the trash that was tossed about and take it as current news, and then use it to hammer me once again.
Funny, though, I seldom even hear the ping anymore…..