When I was a young boy every year about this time we would begin gathering firewood for the coming winter.
A large tree would be cut down and cut into rounds, then with the use of a wedge and a maul I would split those into smaller pieces.
Then I would take an ax and split those into even smaller pieces that would fit the fireplace.
This process would go on for days and days until we had enough wood to last the winter.
It was a lot of work and the tools I used would cause thick callouses to grow on my hands to protect them.
At first, my hands would be bloody and blistered from swinging the tools, but soon the callouses would grow over those wounds and I no longer felt any pain from the ax.
The callouses were good and necessary protection from the work I had to do.
We also grow spiritual callouses and those are not so good, but they still function to save us from pain.
Sometimes our problem isn’t that we don’t believe the Word of God, it’s that we believe it all too deeply.
When our experiences don’t match what we read and believe, we begin to grow callouses.
When we read and believe that people we know and love may spend eternity in a place terrible beyond words, we grow callouses.
When those who we thought represented God betray and wound us, we grow callouses.
When our faith causes painful friction with our souls, we grow callouses to protect ourselves from that pain.
I’m growing a few myself.
I’ll confess that I’ve given up on prayer.
I read the word and believe the word, but too many years of silence and pain have choked my voice.
It just doesn’t seem to work and I’m tired of trying.
The callous grows thicker every day.
That’s a hard confession to make, especially when you carry the label “pastor”.
I make it because a great many people reading this morning have grown callouses as well and none of them befit the label “Christian”.
Yet, you are still Christians and maybe even pastors with a thick callous over some part of your heart.
Sometimes callouses appear as aberrant doctrines, sometimes as doubt, sometimes as isolation, sometimes as arguments, sometimes as prayerlessness, and sometimes as an absolute certainty that if challenged might rip through a carefully built callous.
God has not given up on us even if other Christians have.
Because I know that God has not given up on me or you I purposed long ago to not poke at other believers callouses, lest I tear them off and expose a wound again.
That privilege belongs to God alone and when He does so, He is also preparing to heal.
When we do so, it’s because other peoples callouses are ugly to us or are pricking at our own.
We always do so in the name of ‘orthodoxy’ and “defending the faith”.
Mostly, we’re just protecting ourselves.
God isn’t though with people who do that either.
His grace and love are bigger than our callouses and someday He will heal what’s under them all.
Make your own application…