Mark 8:17b-18: …Do you still not see or understand? Are your hearts hardened? Do you have eyes but fail to see, and ears but fail to hear? And don’t you remember?
Why is it faith seems so cyclic for me? Some days I wake on fire eager to meet the Divinely Appointed events that are always far outside of my control or even desire and other days I wake with a sense of dread wondering how I’m going to get through another day.
Multiply that times days, weeks, even months. Some seasons are powerfully rooted in the love of Christ being fully aware of His power and presence in my life. And others…
As our Thursday discipleship group kicks off a new book study (Beautiful Outlaw – John Eldredge) I find myself reflective of the good ole days; the early years when I first truly acknowledged Jesus as Savior on January 3, 2011. That day came after many decades of hearing about Him but never truly going all-in.
Faith seemingly came much easier in those early months. Or maybe a better way to describe it would be to say joy was more prevalent because I was much less emotionally invested in the specific outcomes of the trials and quicker to respond to Divine Opportunities.
Each day I woke with an expectation that God was fully present in EVERYTHING and that my whole purpose in life was simply to be aware of the Divine Appointments placed in my path at each moment.
For example: I recall a time when an application server crashed one morning. As the I.T. Manager I did all that I knew to do yet was forced to call the application vendor for support. The support agent I spoke with said it was a catastrophic failure and that the server needed to be reloaded and the database rebuilt. I was looking at hours if not days to bring the system back online, I was devastated and filled with anxiety.
After hanging up with that person I realized I was trying to face this situation under my own strength and stopped everything. I took several deep breaths… and prayed. I simply said “I trust you Jesus, I release my fear and anxiety and surrender this situation to you”.
What happened next I can’t explain (well I can but not in the natural). I seem to recall having the thought “now that God is on the case let me call back support again”. I didn’t really know why I was calling them again, I already had their solution to the problem.
A new support agent answered this time and after explaining the situation he asked to remotely connect to the server. After a few minutes and a flurry of keystrokes we rebooted one last time and everything came up perfectly fine!
I have absolutely no hesitation in proclaiming it was the sovereignty of God and my properly positioned heart and attitude that resolved that situation.
Everything in life is a test – an opportunity to surrender to God and watch HIM unfold the events to His glory and purposes.
Another example of a properly tuned heart came one day when I went to one of my favorite fast food restaurants (shameless plug – EL Pollo Loco). As I pulled into the driveway and saw the homeless man standing by the entrance my initial thought was “this is a drive thru day” and the action plan was to “not make eye contact”.
On the heels of that thought however I stopped, prayed and surrendered to whatever HE would have me do.
Again, much like the down server example above, I found myself doing the opposite of what made sense to me, I parked! “OK Lord, I guess I’m supposed to do something”, although I had no idea what that is”.
As I approached, as if on que, the guy asked if I had any money.
Instead of throwing a couple dollars at him I asked if he wanted to come in and order lunch himself. He looked at me clearly surprised by the offer, paused for a moment as if to mull over the pros and cons of the offer, then accepted.
I could tell the patrons and employees behind the counter were immediately put off by his presence. He’s a regular that hangs around the establishment so he was not unfamiliar and didn’t seem very welcomed. We stood in line together not saying much beyond an exchange of names and me assuring him a couple times that he could order anything and as much as he wanted.
At the checkout counter he seemed to be going for the $1 items and I encouraged him to go for the meals. Once he and I both ordered, the cashier asked if this was for “here or to go”. Without hesitation (and faster than my conscious mind could respond) I replied “for here please”.
And immediately the thought came over me: What the hell was I doing, now I have to sit down across from this man with no clue of what to say or do.
After getting our food and loading up on the salsa bar we found a table and sat down. I asked him if I could say a prayer for the food and he agreed. I remember thanking God for the opportunity to eat with Russell and that God had permission to move freely throughout our time together as we enjoyed the meal HE provided us both.
We ate for a few minutes in silence. I could tell he was legitimately hungry which sent pangs of guilt through me. Most often I look at homeless in front of fast-food restaurants as scam artists wanting money only for drugs or alcohol. That may be true in some cases, but not in Russell’s case, at least not on this day.
I found myself asking God “now what”. I knew it wasn’t about me being some hero rescuing a homeless person for one meal… it had to be about something God wanted to say to this man. I knew that would be a conversation that had to be Divinely Inspired so I silently continued to surrender myself to God in the moment.
Soon after that I found myself breaking the silence with a question: So Russell, have you been on the streets long? He didn’t seem to hesitate at all in sharing his story. His family, the life he used to have, the life he has now. I saw waves of emotion wash over him as he shared great memories and sad ones. I didn’t have to say much, just the occasional acknowledgement that I heard him.
I then asked if he knew Jesus. He perked up and eagerly shared of times much worse than the times he was in now and how he truly believe God had rescued him. He spoke of the shelters he was able to stay at and how he even had an opportunity to serve for a while and he REMEMBERED how much better he felt about himself and life in those days. He also confessed how he has fallen far from those days using drugs and stealing.
I shame was calling the shots in his life now and asked if he knew that God still loved him as much today as He did back then. I could see the conversation was reminding him of how faithful God had been in the past and that it was him who stopped talking to God, not the other way around.
As we finished up lunch he seemed like a different person. He seemed greatly encouraged and motived to get back to God and the only way he knew to do that was to go back to the shelter and people that helped him before.
I asked him if I could pray for him and he again said yes. I remember asking God to simply fan the flames, reignite the passion in Russell that he may remember the joy in those days of restoration and growth in Christ. He said he was going to go there directly from lunch and I gave him $5 for the bus to get there.
If he used the $5 for the bus that day I will never know. Did our lunch have any impact beyond just the 1/2hr we spent together, I’ll never know.
But I do believe I was faithful to the calling God pressed upon me in both of those situations. Neither of those would have turned out anything like they had if I had not stopped to remember that God is faithful, God is my power-plant, God is my motivation, my hope and my strength.
And I believe He wants to use every one of us every day in every situation, but only if our hearts are tuned to His frequency. And most importantly fueled by remembering that Christ alone is our Redeemer.
There are no situations in our life that cannot be overcome if we will only REMEMBER…
… to surrender
… what God has done for us
… His promises
… His covenant and commands
… His faithfullness
… His anointing and calling on our lives
… this world is not our Home
… (add your own here!)
Father God I thank You for bringing my heart back to you this morning. I thank you for reminding me that with free will comes the sole obligation to pursue You above all else, that You are present in all situations and that I have the option of leaning into You for Your glory and strength or relying on my own understandings and self-will. I recognize there can be no true peace when I am the designer responsible for the outcomes of daily events. In each moment, if only I will surrender, I am then free to be a witness to Your power and glory working through me which transcends anything I could ever bring to the table on my own. May You continue to glorify yourself through your faithful servants near and far, today and forevermore. In Jesus precious name I pray…