So on Sunday I was preaching in St. Catharines on Emptying Yourself. The main idea was that Jesus emptied himself, and so we are also called to empty ourselves on those around us. The idea was to see people not as interruptions but opporutnties to empty ourselves, giving away grace, hope, and life.
And so after the service I went out for lunch with two of the pastors from the church. And as I’m leaving the downtown area a man looks at me sitting on a bench near my car and says, “Sir, do you have any change, I have a handicap and would love a coffee”?
I looked in my dash and there was a $2 (which I thought was God’s provision ~ because I never ever seem to have cash). I gave him the toonie and went to get back in my car. But my sermon kept echoing around in my mind, and I wondered – “Is this emptying myself?” So I talked with the man a bit more, and he asked if I was a Christian. I said I was, and I saw that my bank was directly behind where we were talking. So I quick walked in, grabbed some more cash, and gave it to the man.
This is normally in the story where God moves in and changes lives, where people accept Jesus, and where we feel like we did a wonderful thing. Expect that didn’t happen at all. Instead the interaction with the man turned sour. He got quite angry at me for not getting out more money. And so as I gave him the money he turned and stomped off leaving me feeling a bit confused, unsure, and unsettled. I wondered to myself, “God what did I do wrong?”
But I think that’s sometimes the wrong perspective isn’t it. We focus on the outcomes, rather than the obedience. We focus on the change we create, rather than leaving that up to God, and simply following in his footsteps. These were my thoughts as I walked back to my car.
I thought maybe there is something I can learn from this…
And as I’m thinking this through, a lady drives up next to me and rolls down her window and gets my attention. She says to me, “I just saw what you did, and you are far too nice. I never would have been able to do that.” She said “I hope that he uses the money for the right things, and not drugs.” I said to her, “I hope so too, but as a Christian my calling is to give, and not judge how the gift is used”. She said she’d never thought of that before and thanked me for what I did and drove off.
As I reflect on this whole little experience I believe I learned one key thing. Focus on following Jesus, and leaving the rest up to him. Maybe I was to give the money to help the man, to help this lady, or even for me to learn something. And maybe God is using this experience to change all three of us.
The point is I think we should focus on following more than anything else. Don’t worry about the outcomes, and whether the action or gift worked or failed. Focus on being faithful and following as best you can. That’s what I learned and what I want to keep learning and most of all keep practicing.