Checking our track record
‘I shall go back
to Calormen,’ said Bree, his face mournful as only a
horse’s can be. ‘What?’ said Aravis, ‘back to
slavery?’ ‘Yes,’ said Bree. ‘Slavery is all I’m fit
for. How can I ever show may face among the free
Horses of Narnia? . . . I’ve lost everything.’
‘My good horse,’ said the Hermit, ‘You’ve lost
nothing but your self-conceit.’
The fact that we hear the Lord accurately in one
area of our life is immensely encouraging. For every
word we hear correctly, however, there remains a 99%
iceberg of insights that we are either not privy to,
or are hearing less accurately about.
If we are wise, we will check our track record as
carefully and as objectively as possible – and learn
from our mistakes. As we ponder the things we
believe the Lord has said to us, and analyze how
accurate they have proved to be, we may see patterns
emerging – areas where we hear with considerable
confidence, and others where we are far less
Some of these mistakes may be rather more serious
than the ‘once-off blips’ we would like to dismiss
them as. They may be early-warning signs that we are
vulnerable to deception in that particular area.
Nothing but total honesty (and openness to
correction) will help us to recognize where there is
some root problem that needs dealing with.
Gun crews employ spotters to mark the fall of shots.
They identify when the gunner is over the tope
(OTT), short of the target, wide of the mark or bang
on the bull’s eye. OTT listening happens when we
confuse faith and presumption. The two run much
closer to each other than most people realize, but
lead to diametrically opposing outcomes. Most of us
stray the wrong side from time to time – but those
who are wise are quick to get back on track.
We go wide of the mark when we follow some wrong
leading, or fail to embark on some proper course of
action. For convenience, we will call this ‘error.’
When a Christian lies, steals or lives with his
heart set on someone else’s wife or husband, how can
the flow of God’s Spirit not be hindered?
Ultimately, there is no such thing as secret sin.
What one person does always has implications for the
Heresy also takes us wide of the mark, but it
differs from error in that it often starts by taking
some true idea and pushing it too far. Many people
persist in pursuing some wrong course of action to
the bitter end, hoping against hope for some
never-never breakthrough that will lead to a
If the Lord never sanctioned the project, however,
all their very considerable efforts will come to
naught, and they will merely go further and further
When people are heading wide of the mark, and their
error remains unchecked, there is a real danger of
sailing right off the spiritual chart and into the
blue yonder. Others wake up to what is going on, and
make a determined effort to get back on course.
When people become aware that what they had thought
was discernment is actually something quite
different, everything depends on their response.
Some are so shocked at discovering how wide of the
mark they have strayed that they lose confidence
altogether in seeking the Still Small Voice. For
fear of getting it wrong again, they frequently
retrench into a supposedly ‘safer’ form of the faith
– and thereby greatly reduce the likelihood of ever
taking part in any further Spirit-led adventures.
We are no wiser if we hold back at this stage than
if we vow never to get into a car again after an
accident. It makes it all but inevitable that we
will fall short of targets that, had we been willing
to persevere, the Lord would have helped us to
Where pride holds sway, and denial cuts in, the
whole process logjams. Lack of humility can
jeopardize everything. Great is the rejoicing in
Heaven, however, when error is acknowledged, and sin
confessed. Everything is once again possible.
May we be sensitive to the warnings the Holy Spirit
sends us! Most often, these will come through His
Word and His people.
No wonder David prayed in Psalm 141:5, ‘Let a
righteous man strike me – it is a kindness; let him
rebuke me – it is oil on my head My head will not
refuse it.’ Not every rebuke will be justified, but
it may contain grains of truth that we need to face.
If we find even helpful criticism hard to accept, is
this because we are to proud to admit our mistakes?
Or is it because we have such a low opinion of
ourselves that we regard any criticism as a threat?
Humility is good, but self-belittling is not. Since
the Lord is not writing us out of the script of
life, nether must we. Whatever mistakes we have
made, the Lord can always pick us up one more time
than we can get it wrong!
For Reflection and Prayer
Lord, please show me when I am over the top,
short of the target, or wide of the mark.
Where I have got things wrong,
may I not be too proud
or too stubborn
to retrace my steps.
For if I hang on grimly when I am mistaken,
I will not only end up disillusioned myself
but I will spread these seeds of error to others.
So, Lord, I give You my many mistakes.
Help me to learn from them,
and to recognise when I am in danger of repeating
May Your grace redeem what I cannot undo,
and turn all things around for good.
I give You especially the matter of . . .