Once upon a time there was a family of backslidden church members. The family consisted of a father and three sons. They had all once been very active in church but lately had fallen away completely.
Many people visited the family and asked them to come back to church. That list of visitors included not only the pastor but also the deacons. Unfortunately, however, all the visiting, counseling, encouraging, and rebuking produced no effect upon either the father or any of the three sons.
One day when the sons were working in the field, a big rattlesnake raised up and bit the middle son. The boy became very sick, and the doctor was called. The doctor did what he could, but the prognosis was not good. He said, “About all we can do now is pray for this young man.”
Those words sent the father into enough of a panic to call 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.”
People often ask, “Why does God allow His people to suffer?” Well, sometimes He does it as a form of chastisement. As the Psalmist says in Psalm 119:67, “Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I keep Your word.” Likewise, Hebrews 12:8 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 children.
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 your life, do you love them enough to pray for God to send some “rattlesnake” to afflict them? Obviously, we’re talking about the final card in the deck here, a “last straw” request, tough love administered to a sizable degree. Nevertheless, such chastisement is necessary in extreme cases. You see, as unsettling as it is for us to contemplate, sometimes it takes a “rattlesnake” to get a person’s attention and bring them back to God