Last Wednesday morning I was in my prayer chair in our kitchen spending time with God. At some point I remember saying something to Him about putting people in front of me that needed to know more about Him. You see, I’m always looking for opportunities to share the news of what God has done in my life, and in doing so planting a seed about God, and hope, and the real promise of living a better life with Him in it. I’ve come to believe that the very reason for my existence and for all the trials that I’ve been through is to share what’s in my heart and in my mind about Him. So I asked Him to send me someone, to give me another opportunity.
“Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete.” John 16:23-25
I can’t begin to tell you how many times that I’ve been warned by my wife Jackie and other friends to “Be careful what you ask for; you may get it.” Well, I’m gonna tell you here and now that I believe, without a doubt, both the verse from scripture and the adage that I’ve heard so often! I asked, and God provided.
Wednesday proved to be a very challenging day for me in The Seed of Hope room, the prayer room that Jackie and I put in our salon a few months ago...
I’d been on crutches for several days because of a bone spur on my heel, so the plan was for me to hang out in the prayer room and write last week’s post. Well, that was my plan for the day. Apparently, it was God’s plan to answer the prayer that I offered to Him that morning.
Before I continue, there’s something that I really need to share with you…
I know that I’ve said this before, and I really don’t mean to be repetitive, but there’s something about this room that I’m sitting in, this prayer room. People feel comfortable in this room, comfortable enough to unburden themselves of pains, fears, hurts, and frustrations that they’ve been carrying in their minds and hearts for weeks, months, and even years. My role in all of this is to share whatever God puts on my heart for them, and of course, to offer to pray with them.
People just open up when they sit in this room. The first few times it happened, I was left dumbfounded! Why would someone feel comfortable enough to share their deepest thoughts with me? It didn’t take me long to figure out that it’s God’s presence in this room that allows for the healing to take place, which, for me, validates my belief that God is not, and will not, be confined to a church building. He’s in us, wherever we are. So for me, when someone is sharing their heart with me, or when I’m sharing mine with them, or when we’re in prayer, this room is sacred; not for any reason other than His presence.
It is because of that sacredness that I will never reveal the identity, or betray the trust of anyone that sits in this room. Ever.
That being said, I feel that there are situations or events that occur in this prayer room that I’m supposed to share with you. Perhaps it’s for your benefit. Perhaps it’s for mine. I really don’t know. I do know that I write about whatever God puts on my heart, and today He’s laid it on my heart to share what happened last Wednesday in the prayer room.
The morning began innocently enough with some good conversation between me and a young woman that’s a stylist in our salon. We were swapping Christmas stories from the previous weekend, and sharing our walk in faith with one another.
I’m gonna fast forward through the next three visitors, not because they weren’t important, but because their “issues” aren’t at the heart of today’s message. Well, that and that fact that going into detail on all of them would call for you to take more of your time reading this than you probably want to spend doing so. Let’s just say that with each subsequent visitor, the problems became bigger, the hurt ran deeper, and words of understanding or comfort became harder for me to find. And I found myself turning more and more to prayer for each of these individuals.
By mid-afternoon I was pretty much spent. My foot was killing me, I had an enormous headache, and my mind was still filtering through the day’s previous visitors. I downed a couple of Tylenol, propped my foot up, and cued up some worship music. My plan was to spend an hour decompressing from the events of the day while I was waiting for Jackie to finish her last guest.
That was my plan.
As is so often the case, my plans didn’t coincide with God’s plans. He had one more visitor in store for me, one that really caught me off guard. I’d no more sat back in my chair when there was a soft knock on the door. Not really wanting to stand up, I just shouted “Come in!”
In walked a young man (let’s say his name is Billy) that I’ve known for years, but hadn’t seen in quite a while. I offered him a seat, and we spent the next few minutes getting caught up.
Our conversation came to a bit of a standstill, when I just said, “So what’s up?” Sensing that there was something on this guy’s mind, I just kind of threw the question out there, and waited for a response. (I’ve learned that some people need to be prompted to share what’s on their heart.)
“I’m not sure that I believe in God anymore. I’ve been really struggling with this. I just don’t know…” Billy said, as his voice just trailed off into nothingness.
I sat there for a moment in a state of shock, my mind reeling from what this young man had just told me. I’m not sure of why it hit me so hard. Perhaps it was because I’d known Billy for so many years. Perhaps it was just the matter-of-factness in his delivery. He didn’t know if he believed in God. I talk to people all the time who are struggling with their faith, people who need encouragement and prayer. But Billy was struggling with more than his faith; he was questioning his very belief in God.
I quickly offered a prayer, not for this young man, but for myself, that God would give me the right words for him. I have to tell you that despite writing this blog each week, and boldly sharing my faith, and reading the Word each morning, and preparing myself daily to be a soldier of Christ that I felt woefully unequipped to deal with this situation. I felt that I was “way in over my head” and started to panic!
Then a small voice (I’d like to think that it was God’s) in the back of my mind said, “Calm down. This young man is in your presence for a reason. Just listen to what’s on his heart, and tell him what’s on yours.”
For the next forty-five minutes or so, that’s exactly what we did. We talked about God, life, and faith, in no particular order. I shared with Billy some of the miracles that God has worked in my life, and the many ways that my life has changed since my “awakening” four years ago. During our conversation I realized that there were two primary causes for Billy questioning his faith, and I shared both with him.
Billy was a victim of religion. I’m not gonna spend a lot of time on this issue, because I’ve addressed it many times before, most recently in a post two weeks ago titled “So, what are you?” I’ll just say that many of us are so concerned with our church being the right church, or being the only ticket into heaven, that we lose sight of the fact that there is only one God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and that HE, and He alone, is the ticket into heaven.
But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead? James 2:20 NKJV
I’m gonna take the liberty of twisting this verse from scripture and have it read:
But do you want to know, O foolish man, that works without faith is dead?
Somewhere along the way, Billy had come to believe that the way to God was through his actions. A few years ago, in an attempt to get closer to God, or perhaps even to win God’s favor, Billy had become very active in his church. Sadly, he’d actually become disillusioned because he felt that God was more distant than before. It just wasn’t working.
I told Billy that I felt he was taking the wrong approach to establishing a relationship with God. I asked Billy to first invite God into his heart and into his life. Seek His face. Get to know Him. Ask for His presence and His help. A product of a relationship with God is the desire to serve Him through the way we live our lives and serve others. Works follows faith, and not the other way around. Again, I told Billy that the first and most important step in establishing a relationship with God was, quite simply, inviting Him in.
In what seemed to be the blink of an eye, Jackie was ready to go home, so Billy and I wrapped up our talk. I couldn’t really get a feel for what was on Billy’s heart. I could only hope and pray that I’d reached him, that I’d given him something to think about. I asked him to stay in touch. As he walked out, I remember thinking how inadequate I had felt in making a case for God.
A week later…
I received a call from Billy this Tuesday morning. I apologized for having to cut our conversation short, and I actually confided in him about the feelings of inadequacy that I’d had when talking to him.
Billy’s reply was better than any gift that I received for Christmas.
“If it makes you feel any better, I want you to know that I’ve started inviting God in every day.”