Living it (the gospel) with love and power requires risk. Without risk we will never see the sick healed or the brokenhearted comforted or people come to faith in Christ. But risk is never absent of fear, failure, or being denied. We will miss it. We fail. There will be times the good news just flat-out won't be received. This is just truth. It may be due to a combination of factors: it may be growth on our end, some of it is opposition from the enemy or the hardening of another’s heart, and sometimes we are just planting and watering a seed and it's not yet harvest time, so to speak. No matter the reason, know this: the kingdom is at hand, and our job is to love, be bold, take risks, grow, and try to hear God and love people. Whenever we miss it, fail, or the gift of his good news isn't received, we simply keep living it and pressing into Jesus and his commissioning.
Yesterday, I was out to lunch with a friend. Before my friend arrived, I saw an older lady being helped to the restroom. She not only needed help from her daughter but also the aid of a cane. I thought, maybe I'll get a chance to pray for her after she comes out of the restroom.
A few moments later as she was coming out of the restroom I thought to myself, well, she's just an older lady and bodies wear down over time. This is just part of life. Although true, I was talking myself out of compassion for her and not risking. My second thought was fear of looking foolish. I struggle with this often. It may not seem that way to others because of some other bold and crazy kingdom encounters and seeing people healed, but it’s a struggle for me at times. Whenever I start looking at myself or get busy being occupied by life, I miss people and God’s heart or I just flat-out chicken out. Some might say, hey don’t share these kinds of things because it doesn’t encourage faith and might give people excuses. I would disagree. When we are honest it empowers faith because we quit comparing ourselves to others and stop looking at ourselves and get our eyes back on Jesus, where faith comes from. I'm growing and battling an un-renewed mind, like all of us. I would like to tell you I pressed through, but I never did go pray for the lady. I just watched her walk on. Just being truthful, sometimes I look the other way, get busy, and chicken out.
I love the telling the awesome encounters of heaven breaking in because it stirs my heart for more, gives honor to Jesus, and I love for others to be encouraged to believe and step out and risk. But I also know some of the greatest encouragements that helped me to risk more were when the people I observed doing the stuff of the kingdom shared their personal struggles, opposition, and failures. I’ve said this before, no one bats a 1000, but that doesn't mean we don't try to swing the bat. If we fail, it doesn't mean we're out of the game. It simply means we just pick up the bat and swing again. I might not ever bat a 1000, but either way my goal is to remember I’ve been commissioned to play kingdom ball, swing that bat, and get my eyes off of me and on to Jesus and the person in need.
So, strike one. Well, guess what? I got another opportunity to step up to the plate a swing the bat. I went up to order my food, and while standing in line there was a man who just happened to be on crutches. I turned to him and said, "Hey, what happened to you?" He seemed very open and glad that I would notice him. He went on to tell me he just had hip surgery. We talked for a minute about that, so I asked him if he was in any pain. He said no, he was just recovering and getting his strength back. It was a friendly conversation. Then I said, "Well, this may sound a little crazy, but I'm a follower of Jesus and I have a passion to pray for people. I've seen Jesus do a lot of amazing things like heal people. Do you mind if I just pray for a quicker recovery and for your legs and hip to strengthen? I could just pray for you like we are having a conversation so it doesn't seem weird."
"No, that's OK," he replied. "You can think and pray for me later, and I'll just pray in my own little way."
"Hey, no problem! I'm glad you're recovering. Thanks for sharing with me." He changed is demeanor a bit, reached out his hand, and thanked me for asking to pray for him. It wasn't a strike or even a fowl ball. I stepped up to swing but the gentleman didn't want to play. So, I honored his decision, smiled, shook his hand, and thanked him for his time.
It's not only about stepping up jumping into the game and swing the bat, so to speak, or making home runs, or even getting on base. It's those things, but it's also how we play the game. See 1 Corinthians 13 and 1 Corinthians 14:1. We are to follow the way of love and eagerly desire spiritual gifts. We are to risk with honor and respect mixed with love. There are times when the loving and honoring thing to do is press it, but there are also times to not.
To continue with the baseball analogy, in baseball you have three opportunities (but in the kingdom it's infinite) so I'll tell you about my third opportunity, but I will stop at three or this post will be never-ending!
I thought it was a little funny when my friend and I sat down to eat lunch and a woman sat at a table right in front us, and - you guessed it - she also had crutches! Kind of crazy… maybe coincidence… or kingdom setup… or it was bring-your-crutch-to-lunch day? As we finished our lunch, I walked over to the woman on crutches and said with a smile and genuine concern and curiosity, "What happened to your knee?"
She was friendly and very open to share. She had just had knee surgery and was recovering. I asked if she was in any pain. She said there was no pain, just recovery.
"Well, the reason I was asking was I'm a follower of Jesus, and have a passion to see people healed. Could I just pray for you?"
She look up at me with a twinkle in her eye and a smile, reached out her hand toward me, and said, "You sure can!" It was very sweet. I prayed. There were no lightening flashes. No, the woman didn’t jump up to her feet handing me her crutches, as was the case a few days prior. I simply joined God in love, risked, and had compassion. I didn't hit a homerun, but I swung the bat of the gospel.
Living it with love and power means just that - the everyday decision to open our eyes to his gospel so that others might encounter it, not only in the proclamation but in the demonstration as well. Risking looking foolish so that others might encounter Jesus and his kingdom. Let's pick up the bat and swing for homeruns - healings, encounters, seeing the demonized freed. Let’s also swing like you're trying to bat a 1000, but don't be discouraged and quit when you don't see the results you hoped for. Don’t make excuses either. Be honest, transparent, and get back into the game. Step up to the plate and play kingdom ball for Him so that others might be freed to run home into the loving arms of the Father. Remember, you'll strike out, you'll fail, you'll walk, you'll get hit, you’ll get spit balls and curve balls thrown at you, you'll get on base, and you just might hit a lot of homeruns. Either way, the kingdom of God is at hand. May we grow into His reality of the gospel and be renewed in our minds to keep looking, listening, and responding to the commission of his gospel.