Maybe you’ve heard some of these before.
“This guy is whack!”
“She’s never going to change.”
“If she won’t work, she shouldn’t eat.”
“You just can’t help people like that.”
But you can.
Recently I read this…
“Fools, because of their rebellious way,
And because of their iniquities, were afflicted.
Their soul abhorred all kinds of food,
And they drew near to the gates of death.
Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble;
He saved them out of their distresses.
He sent His word and healed them,
And delivered them from their destructions.
Let them give thanks to the Lord for His lovingkindness,
And for His wonders to the sons of men!
Let them also offer sacrifices of thanksgiving,
And tell of His works with joyful singing.” Psalm 107:17-22 (NASB)
You see I’ve met some hopeless people who have changed.
I remember meeting a man named Terry in Mobile, AL. He was a middle aged father, divorced and scared because his daughter wasn’t talking to him and he couldn’t find a job and, though he didn’t say it, he was sure no one wanted him anymore.
I listened to Terry and I didn’t want him either. I’m being honest. I was there visiting this church, performing, ministering in the short term. That was my job, and my passion. I didn’t have enough room in my soul to carry every burden I encountered when I encountered so many every weekend. I prayed with people, I meant it, I cried with people, I wasn’t acting, but I moved forward without them because each one was too heavy when added to last week’s painful story. Terry wasn’t different to me, until he gave me something in return. I had taken his unremarkable hands in mine, stood in the hallway of a large baptist church and I prayed for him, I looked up and said, “if you can’t find work, you need to find something good to do.”
I suggested finding a soup kitchen and serving others. Something in me felt compelled to attack any selfishness in him. Not to degrade him, but to honestly confront the real culprit that was working against him. I told him not to expect anything good to happen until he began to do good for others. I encouraged him to read his Bible everyday, to pray for his ex-wife and daughter and to truly get to know God through his own study and investigation.
I didn’t expect him to listen.
He wasn’t crying when I stopped preaching, he just looked desperate. He reached into his pocket and handed me a little silver cross. It looked like a trinket, nothing valuable monetarily, but it meant something to him, and he was already changing. He gave something to me.
I took it home and for more than six months it was taped to the wall beside my desk with a torn piece of notebook paper with his name written on it. I prayed for him every time I looked at that cross. I can’t say, I prayed with a lot of faith, but I prayed none the less and simply asked God to bless Terry and to motivate him to serve others.
I went back to Mobile to another church event. We weren’t scheduled to be at Terry’s church but we were very close by and on the way to the event where we were to perform a young girl pulled out in front of our van and we were involved in a pretty severe accident. I was especially banged up, though nothing was broken, I passed out and had a twisted foot that needed some aid. While we were waiting for the emergency vehicles to arrive I saw a woman walking toward us in a purple blouse and skirt, I recognized her as the wife of Terry’s pastor and realized she lived just a few blocks away from where our accident had occurred. She went with me to the hospital and after the x-ray, drove me to her home where she kept me propped up and occupied until my partners returned from the venue where they had performed without me. Her husband, the pastor, came home and visited with me as well and as we spoke he got a very puzzled look on his face and asked me, “What did you say to Terry when you were here last?”
I asked a few questions to make sure we were talking about the same man and was a little hesitant, concerned that my frankness with Terry may have offended him and I was about to be scolded. I did tell him though, and he seemed genuinely surprised at my answer. He explained that Terry was a different person. He had become a faithful church attender, his daughter had moved back in with him, he’d gotten a job and he was a very happy person.
I was beaming. I learned something through Terry. I learned that honesty is not something to be afraid of, though I don’t think it was my honesty that made the biggest difference. The biggest lesson I learned, was that prayer is powerful. I knew it before, but I really saw it work in a way that was new to me. Prayer went outside the boundaries of all that any person could do. It worked inside and out, it infiltrated the soul and activated the life inside.
Terry wasn’t hope-less, he was only unaware of the hope in him.
When the Word of God was applied to his need it began the work of healing in him that no other means could do. He wasn’t just newly motivated, he had to be healed from his destruction. Whatever habits, or self pity were at work in him before, were like wounds to his inner person. He needed more than just a scolding, he needed healing. God moved in Him and He responded and woke up to the man God intended him to be.
When we pray for others, using the Word of God as a guide, we can “send His Word” into the lives of people around us who are broken and beat down by circumstances. Maybe they don’t deserve our help, but none of us deserve the grace God wishes to give.
We are all broken somewhere, overlooking hope in some area, yet it is there. Hope does not disappoint when it is rooted in the Word of God. “He sent His Word and healed them.”
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.”
John 1:1 and 14
How amazing to know that our Hope is so close at hand. To know that we are given the Word to dwell powerfully within us and to offer that same powerful Word to others.
There is no soul without hope, and as children of such a merciful God we must stop using our words to inflict the pain and shame of labels on others. We, the redeemed, should know better. I should know better. We should be praying the Word, saying the name of Jesus and believing that all things are possible in Him.