Once upon a time there was a family of backslidden church members. They had once been very active in church but lately had fallen away completely. The family consisted of a father and three sons.
Many people had visited the family and asked them to come back to church. The pastor had paid them a call, as had the deacons. But all the visiting, counseling, encouraging, and rebuking had produced no effect upon the family.
One day when the boys were working in the field, a big rattlesnake raised up and bit the middle son. The young man became very sick, and the doctor was called. Unfortunately, the prognosis was not good. The doctor said, “About all we can do now is pray for him.”
Those words sent the father into enough of a panic to call for the pastor. The pastor immediately went out to the home and was informed of the desperate situation. The father said, “Please, pastor, we need you to pray.” The pastor said, “Very well” and then started his prayer.
He prayed, “Oh wise and all-knowing Father, we thank thee for Thou hast sent this rattlesnake to bite this young man in order to bring him to his senses. He has not been inside the church house for a long time now, and it is doubtful that he has in all that time felt the need for prayer. Now we trust that this will prove a valuable lesson to him and that it will lead to genuine repentance.”
As the father and the other two sons listened to the pastor’s prayer, they were surprised by the bluntness of it. What they didn’t know was that the pastor was about to get even more blunt. He continued praying, saying, “And now, Father, wilt thou send another snake to bite the older son, another to bite the younger son, and another BIG ONE to bite this father. For we have all been doing everything we know for some time now to restore them to the fellowship of the church, but it’s been to no avail. It seems, therefore, that all of our combined efforts could not do what this snake has done. We thus conclude that the only thing left that will do this family any good is rattlesnakes. So, Lord, send us bigger and better rattlesnakes! In the name of Jesus I pray. Amen.”
In Psalm 119:67, the Psalmist wrote: “Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I keep Your word.” People often ask, “Why does God allow His people to suffer?” While there are various reasons, one of the primary ones is that He does it as a means of chastisement. Hebrews 12:8 even says that if we are without chastisement, we are not true children of God.
No loving, right-thinking parent enjoys disciplining a child. We’d much rather see our kids display obedience. But the plain truth is, sometimes kids disobey, and that disobedience must bring painful consequences. If it doesn’t, what’s the incentive for obedience? God understands this better than we do, and that’s why He is in the business of disciplining His kids.
Tell me, are you at a loss as to how to pray for a wayward Christian? Is there someone close to you who is legitimately saved but just as legitimately backslidden? If you have such a person in mind, do you love them enough to pray for God to send some “rattlesnake” to afflict them? We’re talking about the final card in the deck here, a “last straw” request. It’s surely tough love taken to a sizable degree, but in extreme cases it’s necessary, because sometimes only a “rattlesnake” can get the person’s attention and bring them back to God.