‘Once upon a time’, a young girl was sitting by herself in a city centre play park. She was wearing a worn dress and was barefoot and dirty. All the other children playing in the park ignored her and even the adults passed her by, never pausing to see if she was alright.
She looked so sad and never spoke a word. The next day, she was there again in exactly the same dress, just watching the others play. She looked even more forlorn. But today something different was about to happen.
One of the dads, who had a child playing, had noticed her over the past few days and wondered if she was alright. He decided that today he must go over and speak to her. As he got closer to the girl, he suddenly noticed that the back of her dress was grotesquely shaped. There was a massive hump on her back.
‘Ah’, he thought to himself, ‘How sad, the other children won’t play with her because of her deformity’. The dad smiled and sat down beside her. ‘Hello’, he said cheerfully. The girl looked up at him with beautiful eyes. ‘Hello’, she replied.
They started to chat and then she added sadly, ‘You are the only one who has come to talk to me in a whole week’.
They continued talking for some time, and finally the man said, ‘You remind me of an angel, sweet and innocent. Yes, you’re like a tiny guardian angel of the park, watching over the children’.
The girl nodded and smiled. ‘Not quite’, she said. ‘I’m not the guardian angel of the park’. She paused a moment and then opened the back of her dress to allow her wings to spread.
‘No. To be exact, I’m your guardian angel, not the park’s; and now my mission is complete. I was sent by God to remind you that external appearances are not important in his sight. You must look beyond, to a person’s character and heart. It took you a few days, but at last you have done that’.
This delightful modern-day parable reminds us that we must make sure that we see people as they really are, rather than regard outward appearances as being overly important.
In 1 Samuel 16:7 the Bible states that, ‘The Lord does not see as a man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance but the Lord looks at the heart’.
Today’s generation concentrates far too much on the external, trivial and superficial, while forgetting that the ‘real measure’ of a person is their character and personality.
Every day I hear or read of people who are quick to talk about their various ‘achievements’ in life. Perhaps they have completed this or that academic course, or successfully landed this or that business contract. Maybe they have had cosmetic surgery to make them look more physically attractive, or won some award.
It’s truly amazing the range of things people will boast about and what they believe to be important.
Scripture teaches, however, that in God’s eyes real beauty and real ‘achievement’ is when an individual develops their character or the ‘hidden person of their heart’ (1 Peter 3:4-5), according to the example set by Jesus Christ.
Romans 12:9-21 provides a summary of the kind of character and personality God expects. It is a template for all who aspire to be followers of the Lord. True achievement means developing these personal characteristics and is the biblical test of a ‘real’ man or woman.
While it is vitally important to see people as they really are in character, it is also vitally important to see things or events for what they really are. This is especially true when there are spiritual ramifications to an alleged event.
It warns in Scripture that, because there is a real danger of people being deceived about spiritual matters, we must always check out and ‘test all things’ in the light of God’s Word. (1 Thessalonians 5:21).
In Hosea 4:6, God laments that his people ‘destroy themselves for lack of knowledge’. A great deal of this failure is caused by individuals failing to check out the truth of an alleged event or piece of information, thereby harming their faith.
The repercussions from the Da Vinci code, written by Dan Brown in 2003, provide one such example. Although a work of fiction, with numerous subsequent publications and studies showing it was fiction, many have read it as though it were factual. They failed to do what Scripture warned and ‘test all things’!
In 1 Timothy 4:1 the Word of God predicts, ‘Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith by giving heed to deceiving spirits and the teaching of demons’. And in 2 Timothy 3:13 it further predicts, ‘Evil men will grow worse and worse, deceiving others and deceiving themselves’.
Today, perhaps more than ever, individuals must be careful to see both people and events for what they really are, and do so in the light of God’s Word. ‘All Scripture is given by the inspiration of God and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction and for instruction in righteousness, so that the man of God may be complete and thoroughly equipped for every good work’ (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
The Bible is our ultimate guide and final authority, and we know we can trust it, because God has placed proof that it is from him by uniquely placing thousands of prophecies and predictions about future events within its pages.
Amazingly, one third of the Bible is composed of prophecy, and many of these predictions have already come to pass. This is a sign and witness to a new generation that Scripture can be trusted and is exactly what it claims to be — the Word of God to mankind.
For over 350 years a tribe in the Philippines called the Tawbuid had a special prophecy which was passed down from father to son. The prediction given was that some day foreigners would come to the tribe with good news about the owner of Creation and the way back to spiritual life.
This prophecy further stated that they would be ‘white teachers’ and that the tribe would be able to identify them, because the teachers would know their language and speak to them in their own tongue.
This amazing prediction was fulfilled when two American missionaries by the name of Russell and Barbara Reed went to work among the Tawbuid some years ago and told them of the one true living God in their own language.
To the Tawbuid this prophecy’s fulfilment was the vital sign they needed to show that the teaching given by these Christian missionaries was authentic. It helped them discern the truth. They were a particularly timid people and were delighted to learn of the God who loved them and of the way of salvation through Christ’s death on the cross.
In the same way, the prophecies of Scripture and their subsequent fulfilment provide us with powerful evidence that the Bible really is the Word of God that can be trusted.
Among other things, its predictions cover the rise and fall of nations and empires; the birth, life, ministry, death, resurrection and ascension of our Lord Jesus Christ; the past and future history of the Jewish nation; the state of the world; the decline of true faith in God, and, of course, events yet to be fulfilled, such as the Second Coming of Jesus.
All these prophecies were written hundreds, and sometimes thousands, of years before their fulfilment, showing that the ultimate source behind Scripture is almighty God himself.
Whether it is in regard to people, events, strange happenings or claimed discoveries, let us make sure that we see things as they really are, by testing them in the light of Scripture. In 2 Timothy 4:3-4, the Bible foretells, ‘An age will come when people will not listen to sound doctrine but according to their own desires … they will turn their ears away from the truth and believe in fables’.
Fulfilled Bible prophecy provides abundant evidence that the teaching of Scripture is true and accurate. Let us faithfully use it to ‘test all things’, because, by so doing, we will see things as they really are in the sight of almighty God.
The author is Vicar of Christ Church, Brockham, in Surrey. Others of his articles are on www.internetpulpit.co.uk