Don't Ring the Bell!
Recently, I was reading a story about Navy Seals and what they had to go through to become a Seal. The training is very intense and normally about 70% drop out before the training is completed. The first phase of the training lasts eight weeks. Midway through this grueling training came what was called Hell week. At this point, the training became more rigorous and the conditioning became more difficult. Hell Week challenged their mental, physical, and emotional strength. During this phase of the training, the candidates only received 4 hours of sleep in a 132-hour period. They were wet and cold the entire time. They were required to swim through mud, push logs up hills, and carry boats with their bare hands. By the time Hell Week was over, their hands are chapped and bleeding. They also had to deal with open sores and tired muscles. This did not end their ordeal. The trainees were yelled at, cursed and in fact taunted throughout the whole process. They were often encouraged to quit and many did. There was a large bell hanging in the area where they trained. The trainee could ring the bell at any time of the training. This signified that he had enough and was quitting. The trainee would not just ring the bell but he would also remove his helmet and place it on the ground under the bell. With this action, the trainee was saying publicly that becoming a Navy Seal was not worth the cost. They chose to remain an ordinary soldier rather than endure the rigor, discipline, and mental anguish needed to join the elite ranks of the Navy Seals.
In St Luke 18:1-8, we find the story of a woman who had may reasons for ringing the bell. Let's take a closer look at her story. It starts off by telling us that in a certain city there was a judge. Who did not fear God or regard man. There was also a widow woman dwelling in the city who came to the judge crying for justice. She wanted to be avenged of her adversary. The text does not specify what kind of injustice this woman experienced. Remember this is a judge who does not fear God or regard man. Because the judge was corrupt, he refused to grant this widows request. The judge's disregard for people likes this was further compromised by his irreverence of God. No doubt the judge thought that after he had made his decision that was the end of the matter. This goes to show he didn't know this woman. This woman could have become discouraged and felt she had no recourse but to accept the judge's decision. She could have said to herself it's over and rang the bell but this was not her character.
As the story continues, we find that the woman was disappointed with the judge's decision but she was not giving up. I can almost hear her talking to herself on her way home. I may have been denied today but I am going back tomorrow. The Bible does not specify how many times the woman went to the judge but we know it was enough times to wear him down. The judge became tired of her repeated requests for justice. Her persistence eventually resulted in a favorable ruling from the judge. This parable of the widow should reinforce our call to persistence in our prayer lives. Notice the woman did not receive her request for justice the first time she went to the judge. Her persistence in going to the judge over and over again is what helped her receive the justice she was seeking.
This is the attitude we must develop if we are to be victorious in our Christian walk. How many of us want to quit the first time our prayers are not answered the way we want or on our timetable? There was a song out not long ago that said God never says no. I disagree with that statement because He has told me no on many occasions. Like the widow, I was disappointed but then I realized God knew what was best for me. We need to understand that God answers in various ways. He may say yes, He may say no and then there are times when He says wait. When He tells us to wait it does not mean we will never receive our requests. In His ultimate wisdom, He knows just when and how to grant our requests so it will not destroy us or hinder our walk with Him. Proverbs 3:5-6 Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not to your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your paths. Don't ring the bell.
As I read the story of this widow and how she refused to accept the original decision of the judge I thought about Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. He was faced with a trial that could have caused Him to ring the bell. He was nearing the time of His death and wanted to spend some time in prayer. All the disciples were with Him but He asked Peter, James, and John to go a little further with Him. Jesus explained to them that His soul was extremely troubled and He needed them to watch while He prayed. Jesus was facing the greatest trial of His life and He needed their support but they fell asleep. While in prayer, Jesus asked three times if it is possible let this cup to pass from Him. Nobody knows what He saw in the cup. Some speculate that He saw the suffering He would have to endure followed by death on the cross. Others feel that was not the main issue. Jesus knew once He took on the sins of all mankind, He would be separated from the Father. The human side of Him wanted to ring the bell but the divine side of Him knew that if He rang the bell His mission would not be complete and man would be eternally lost. I am so glad the divine side won out and He was able to say not My will but your will be done. Doing the will of the Father meant He would be mocked, spit on, beaten, carry His cross and eventually be crucified. Crucifixion was one of the most painful ways to die and in some cases, it took days. While on the cross, He stopped dying long enough to save one last soul. After He had set things in order, He said it is finished and dropped His head in the locks of His shoulder. Once He died, the sun stopped shining for a period of time. When He died the veil in the temple that separated the holy of holies was torn from top to bottom giving us free access to God. Because of the work Jesus accomplished on the cross, we no longer need to go to a priest to confess our sins. We can go directly to God for ourselves. I John 1:9 if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive our sins and cleanse us of all unrighteousness. This is a promise we can stand on.
How many of us can identify with the Navy Seal trainee or this poor widow? There have been times in our Christian walk when things got hard and we wished there was a bell we could ring. It seems like we come out of one trial and there is another waiting for us. We have shed many tears and at times wonder if God has forgotten us. We know all the politically correct things to say such as: God will never put more on us than we can bare and He always makes a way of escape. How about this one, God will never leave or forsake us. These scriptures sound good and they are true but it becomes difficult to hang on to them when we are in the midst of a trial. We pray but instead of the problem being resolved it becomes more intense. We pray for our unsaved loved ones but instead of them drawing closer to God they go deeper into sin. We pray for our healing or the healing of a loved only to see the condition get worse. How many of us look at our own lives and admit we are not where we should be in God? We try to do the right things but Satan is always present to tempt us. Many times, we are able to resist the temptations but there are times when we yield. When this happens, we become discouraged and wonder if we are even saved. These are the times when we feel like ringing the bell and just giving up. I've got news for you, this doesn't just apply to those sitting in the pews, it also affects pastors. If most pastors were honest, they would admit there have been times when they wanted to ring the bell. Most pastors feel there is never enough time to fulfill all the duties they are supposed to accomplish such as: visiting the sick and shut in, spending time in prayer and Bible study, preparing sermons, being visible in the community, and spending time with family. Because pastors are being pulled in so many directions, they feel like they are giving God, their family, and the members leftovers. They are physically and emotionally drained and feel like ringing the bell. Whether you are sitting in the pews or standing behind this sacred desk ringing the bell is not an option. There are souls depending on us and if we ring the bell, they may never have an opportunity to hear the Gospel and receive Christ as their Savior. Don't ring the bell.