Summary: How to encourage
On Monday, Sue and I backpacked two and a quarter mile into Shades State Park, and spent the night completely alone. It took us about an hour and a half to hike in. The reason for that is, with the rain we have had, and all of the calls I have been getting from churches, camping has had to go on hold. Needless to say, we were unaccustomed to forty pounds on our back.
Normally I lead the trail and need to stop occasionally so Sue can catch up. This is merely the result of my six three and her five four size, not strength or endurance. On the way out Sue immediately let me know the pack felt much heavier than the day before, which led me to believe this was going to take longer than going in. After the first half mile, she got in front of me and maintained a pace that was suitable for me, and kept it up for at least a mile. After which I took lead and was pleased that we had cut a half-hour from our time.
Somewhere within that first half mile, Sue decided that she was not going to let these hindrances manipulate her. She stepped up and said, I am going to overcome this pain and fatigue. My wife stepped up to a new level of endurance, and succeeded in her quest.
Why did I tell you this story? First to brag on this incredible woman, God has blessed me with. Second; there is a very important spiritual lesson to learn from this. Over the last three months, my wife and I have visited quite a number of churches. Many with no more than ten or fifteen people. Why? One church had ten people, and was located in a city of at least 500,000 people. Am I attempting to pass judgement on anyone? No. Turn with me, if you will, to the fourteenth chapter, and the tenth verse.
10 Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you are not just my own. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work.
11 Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the miracles themselves.
12 I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.
13 And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father.
14 You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.
15 "If you love me, you will obey what I command.
16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever--
17 the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.
I believe that we have, as a whole, just become satisfied with whatever spiritual level we feel is adequate, and have just relaxed in our comfort. I believe the church, as a whole, needs to find a place, alone with God, and repent of our complacency, and beg him for a new and fervent burden for the lost that I rubbed shoulders with. My neighbors, my friends, my family, my fellow workers. There is a great lack of faith in God’s desire, or ability, to save others.
I don’t want this to be a negative message. I don’t want you to go home and throw in the towel. I want to show you there are people still as hungry as you were when you found Jesus, and then I want you to go home and ask Jesus how you can be a part of this great work. Seeing people transformed from a life of sin and sorrow, to a life of joy and peace.
Last Saturday at work a friend was talking to me about his uncle’s funeral he had attended. Jimmy is not a religious man, he is known as a party animal. He loves to drink and have a good time. But he is a dear friend of mine, who would do anything to help me, and I would do the same for him. But Jimmy needs Jesus. He believes in God, but in all probability doesn’t think he is capable of living the Christian life. He doesn’t want religion, but he does want peace.
He told me his uncle was a church going man whose five sons sang in the choir. Each one sang a different song at the funeral, and this really touched Jimmy. I asked him if he felt a presence while all of this was taking place, and he stated emphatically, Yes. I told him of a man I knew who had been an alcoholic for all the years I knew him; his name was George. I got saved in 1980 in February, and I led Butch to the Lord in 1981. Butch was George’s son. Within three years Butch led his dad to Jesus. A few years after that George died of cancer. I was the last to arrive at his deathbed in the hospital. George told me that they were waiting to take him home, but that I was coming to see him. There was no fear of death, and the presence of heaven filled the room. And as he told me, the spirit was blessing me from head to foot.