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Topic: The Short End of the Stick( 02/20/14)
Leading the Least
By Sheldon Bass
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It wasn’t the best of jobs for a near germaphobic man, yet I’d accepted the post. Over nine years of Sundays, I’d learn a little better how love conquers fear.
One responsibility was to pray with each person who came through the food-pantry line for a free bag of groceries. It was naturally the Christian way—hold their hand while praying, and finish with a love confirming hug. That’s how it had been done by those preceding me and that was wonderful, until…
The first time the hulking dumpster Dan came through my line is when I began using hand-sanitizer after praying with each person. He was garbed in filthy clothing, and to say he was not hygienically aware would be a gratuitous understatement. I learned that it’s very difficult to pray aloud while holding your breath. The emanating odors triggered my gag reflex.
Lord, are you sure this is where you want me to be?
Lawanna was a regular, trooping through each week with seven kids in tow, replete with runny noses, dirty hands and faces and bare-feet in church. Most had different fathers. There were also some poor families who managed to stay clean and not appear as bacteria-ridden as most.
Lord, please don’t let me get sick.
An urban church with a congregation made up mostly of street people, homeless folks and poverty stricken families was to be my mission field. It’s where the Lord placed me. This was quite dissimilar to the church I grew up in, as well as the mega-church with a grand choir and televised services where I’d envisioned myself teaching and preaching. I felt I was getting a raw deal.
Lord, isn’t my education being wasted here working with these people?
The adult Sunday school class I teach is populated with varying types of folks. There’s the uneducated, a few illiterate, several blue collar workers, and a smattering of middle class professionals. And, some of my fellow board members. What a challenge it is to keep them all spiritually fed. They’re each at different levels of learning. And we have only one adult class.
Lord, if I teach in a way that satisfies the needs of the educated and the spiritually mature, I speak above the heads of the others. And if I teach at the level of the spiritual infants, the rest feel like they’re in a children’s class. Is it even possible to find a happy medium?
There were times I wondered why God thought that, me of all people, was capable of handling this assignment. But now the answer is clear. I needed to learn how to depend fully on the Holy Spirit. He’s the real teacher.
I began to change. What I’d viewed as burdens became joys. I developed a profound love for each member of this strange congregation. Growing closer to each of the neighborhood folks, they’d share their prayer requests—their sorrows and suffering, and my heart ached for them. Lawanna’s girls would hug my neck and whisper, “I love you”. One little fellow of seven years from a single parent home reached for my hand and pulled me down to his level. Those shining eyes revealed the dire importance of his message to me.
"I wish you were my dad."
Increasingly evident was my need to trust the power of God’s word and His Spirit of wisdom. My knowledge and qualifications became almost inconsequential. These people desperately needed the Lord. Yet more crucially, I needed Him.
Jesus led us, with me expounding the scriptures and teaching how to live in victory over sin, through faith in Him. Yet I grew more than anyone.
Many were saved. Witnessing their transformations into beautiful and loving Christian people is a tremendous blessing! Many of the former spiritual infants have blossomed into wonderful Christian workers in our ministry today.
Lord, thank you for allowing me to be a part of this ministry team and to see your power at work! Forgive me for doubting what you are capable of doing.
At times in life I’ve bemoaned difficult circumstances, feeling I was getting the pointed end of the stick. But in retrospect, I understand how those things were necessary for God to lucidly reveal His power and provision. Complications are needed for miracles to happen.
Lord, thank you for my hardships! And for allowing us to see the fruit of our dependence on you.
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