When I was in college, two of my friends began to take their shovels out in the blustery mornings of the cold Indiana winter to clear the snow out from the neighborhood driveways. On one such morning, they met an elderly man and his wife, who were not only thankful for the help with the arduous chore, but were eager to welcome these ragamuffin college kids into their home, and eventually into their family.
This welcome extended beyond the two snow-shovellers to the rest of our group of friends, and before long a good number of us were glad to have a home away from home in this elderly couple’s living room. They offered us the space they had, along with the wisdom and perspective they’d gained throughout the years following Jesus, and the occasional invitation to a “steak dinner”, where we’d all gather around the fireplace and roast hot dogs together.
Several years later, I was back in my college town, leading a group of high school students through a summer discipleship program. With a free evening ahead of us, I called my old friends to see if we could spend some time back in their house, wanting these teenagers to see a picture of someone who has run the race and labored faithfully with Jesus, offering everything for His service.
In the back of this old house was a “sin graveyard”, where the old man had planted a series of crosses, each representing the death of a particular sin in his life, a visual reminder that his old self was buried, and his new self was redeemed and alive with Jesus. In front of one of these crosses, one of the high school students got facedown on the ground, surrendering everything and deciding to turn from his own dreams and follow Jesus instead.
More years passed, and this teenager grew into a man who passionately loved the Lord and was willing to risk everything for Him—willing even to go to the ends of the earth, to dangerous and dark places, in order that His Name might be known to those who had not yet heard. Among many other destinations and groups of people, he invested months in and has returned several times to a small tribal community in Tanzania—so small that many missions agencies have overlooked them, but not so small that they do not matter in the eyes of God. Through this man’s love, hard work and perseverance, many have turned their hearts away from the sun god they traditionally worshipped, and have instead given their whole lives to Jesus, and Scripture has been translated into their native tongue for the first time.
We love to celebrate the kinds of stories that seem big and fruitful and powerful and impactful. We love to talk about the work that is being done in the faraway places, the work that seems to make a good story. But sometimes we lose sight of all the stops along the way. Sometimes we lose sight of the elderly couple that opened their home day after day and night after night to a group of ragtag college students, and pointed them to Jesus. Sometimes we lose sight of the two rascally college boys who had the energy and the intentionality to take their shovels out on a winter morning and clear out the neighbors’ driveways.
What if those kinds of simple acts of faithfulness in our lives led to the big stories of redemption and transformation more often than we think? Would we be more faithful to grab hold of the opportunity to do a small act of service, to spend time with a small group of people over the course of a few months, or even years, without knowing what fruit, if any, might be produced?
Last week, we were talking with The Experience students about their own lives and unique make-ups, casting vision for them as they prepared to return home to submit their gifts and talents and passions to the Lord, and see how He might want to use them. How might God want to use a teacher, a doctor, a scientist, a firefighter, an athlete, who loves Him and will put His Kingdom on display in every interaction they have? It could be that those people will have opportunities and conversations that might never happen in a church setting. It could be that as small seeds are sown, an unimaginably great harvest could be reaped in the long run.
It could be that two young guys with snow shovels could eventually lead to a whole tribe of people receiving the Gospel for the first time.
This week, would you join us in asking the Lord what specifically He has given YOU that can be employed in His mission to reach the whole world—in ordinary, everyday, up-close ways?
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