In recent weeks I have struggled with fear and discouragement in regard to our church's dinner for the community. Now, these struggles come as no surprise to those who know me or who read this blog. But what has surprised me is who God has raised up to urge me forward. Sure, there are the usual folks - good friends on staff at church, my wife, ministry partners. But God has also been speaking truth and hope to me from prophets that I didn't expect.
People like John, a man who had been regularly attending our dinners, and each week he would speak to me and encourage me on my message. I asked him to start coming early to pray over the sanctuary, and now he arrives over an hour early to help set up and to pray. Recently, when I was close to being overwhelmed with doubt and fear, I sat down to talk with him (not telling him my struggles), and he began to speaking to me about the goodness and power of God. He began to speaking about the power of God's Word to change hearts and lives and about the presence of the Spirit in our church on Wednesday nights. He told me that even those who are opposed to our ministry are brought each Wednesday by God, because He is trying to reach them and love them, too. And that night John closed our volunteer meeting with a prayer that almost made the floor of the sanctuary shake. He was mentoring me in trusting in the Word of God, of putting my hope in His power and goodness, and as he talked to me, his eyes danced with confidence in the Lord.
People like Cleveland, who I met a few days after his son died. He needed gas money to go to the funeral, which our church was able to help with. We sat and prayed together, and he came once or twice to a Bible study that I lead, and then I didn't see him again. Until a recent Sunday when he walked into my office and said, "Surprise." He told me that he has a steady job and that he is thankful to God every day. And he said, "You keep doing what you are doing. You are speaking the Word, and this church has a powerful ministry. You keep at it and God is going to move. God has big things in store."
Many folks in our church know Bonnie and the power of God in her life, and I have long respected her as a mentor in how to love the addicted and hurting. I was lamenting to her that I didn't think what we were doing on Wednesday was effective. Lives weren't changing left and right. People seemed stuck, and I wanted to just restart the whole thing or scrap what we had been doing. She told me that the regular preaching of God's Word was no small thing, and that if we stayed the course, He would move in His own time. Preaching the Word is not insignificant, and only God brings the harvest. Her simple, quiet words set me free from so much of the pressure I was putting on myself to be bigger, better, stronger.
Each of these members of my "great cloud of witnesses" knows the struggles of the streets and the power of God to change any and all things. And their encouragement and trust of God's work in me has helped me move forward in confidence. I've not been an addict or homeless; I don't know the way forward for most of the people who sit with us and eat each Wednesday night. But I know the Lord God, and I believe that His word is true, not just for me but for all. And I am committed to proclaiming it. They have helped me to see that this "simple" thing would be enough, and I know that we are in this work together.