By Fred Kinzie
You’ve often heard it said, “Old men for counsel, young men for war.”
As an older minister, and throughout my pastoral years, it has been my pleasure and privilege to counsel and help many young men in the early years of their ministry. In our church, there has always been at least one and often as many as five young ministers, either aspiring to the ministry or in their beginning years. Then some of those pastoring or evangelizing, sensing my concern for them, have talked with me about some of the bumps and distasteful situations they have encountered.
Some young ministers have been deeply hurt, not physically, but spiritually. Sometimes an older minister unknowingly shunned them, treated them unfairly (at least, in their opinion), or took advantage of them to the extent that they were left disillusioned and disappointed. Or perhaps a successful minister their own age shunned them or made some snide remark that cut them to the quick. Satan has always been exceptionally busy trying to derail promising messengers, or at least to sidetrack them.
Regardless of the circumstances, young ministers definitely need help. Counseling with some of them, I often close by relating the story of the big dog, a story I read many years ago in a magazine. It so impressed me that I have never forgotten it. It goes something like this.
A discouraged, distressed young man seeking emotional help visited an older friend. The young man had been deeply hurt by the actions of a fellow employee who had taken advantage of him and then belittled him in front of his peers. The matter affected his efficiency at work. Every time the fellow employee came by the work area, he added fuel to the fire, so much so that resentment was about to explode within the young man.
The young man and his older friend were discussing the situation when the older man, hearing his dog growling, turned to see what was wrong. He then said to the young man, “I want you to see something that is about to happen.”
The two men were standing close to the porch, some forty feet from the open front gate. The older man’s dog, a poodle, had been stretched out on the porch sleeping, but now he was growling at a big, gangling, long-eared hound striding lazily toward them on the sidewalk.
The older man said, “Watch these dogs.”
“What about them?” answered the young man.
“See that old hound coming down the sidewalk?”
“Yeah, I see him,” the younger man answered as he gazed in the direction the older man indicated.
“Watch what happens as he nears my gate.”
When the hound was about fifty feet away, the poodle’s growling increased and he began barking excitedly. He then jumped off the porch and scurried out through the gate onto the sidewalk, all the time growling, hissing, and jumping stiff-legged back and forth toward the hound as though unafraid of him.
As the hound drew nearer, the poodle backed up the front walk toward the two men, still barking, his hair bristled, his lips curled up, and his teeth showing. When the big dog was almost in front of the house, the older man said, “Now, watch this!”
The poodle was now wedged between his master’s feet, cowed down and whining pitifully, scared that the big dog might be coming after him.
As the big, gangling, long-eared hound passed the gate, ears flopping in time with his gait, he turned his head sideways enough to glance at the poodle. Then he lumbered on, not even breaking his stride.
The poodle, assured of his safety, slipped out from between his master’s feet, scampered back to the sidewalk, and barked boldly once again. In a moment it was over. The hound was out of sight and the poodle was back, stretched out on the porch and panting profusely as though he had been in a big fight.
“Now, friend,” the older man advised, “when you are harassed at the plant, remember to be the big dog. Don’t break stride! Keep on as though nothing had happened or was said about you. When you’re no longer frustrated and annoyed by the harassment, it will cease.”
Relating this story to a frustrated, disturbed young minister seems to hit the mark. When a person rises above the things that “get under his skin,” he has won a victory! After all, God’s guidance and directions are the important items in a person’s ministry, so why should he allow a lesser voice to rule this life or to disturb his peace of mind?
David, when his brother, Eliab, taunted him for coming to the battlefield seemingly uninvited, could have been riled to the point of losing his composure. But, fortunately, he kept his cool by keeping his eye on the bigger picture, that of whipping the giant and gaining a much needed victory for Israel.
David was the big dog! And so can any person be when he is confronted with a barking poodle.