Tag Archives: Purpose

When You Least Expect It

You know how worthless you feel when you are really sick?  A prominent leader lay on his sickbed in that condition.  He was so afflicted, word got out he might die.  Various people came to visit, even though they weren’t real friends.  They said nice sounding things but when they left they bad mouthed him in public.  Even one of his best friends, someone who he regularly had over for lunch turned on him.  Can you imagine how low he must have felt, how worthless?  In his despair, he wrote down his complaints in a kind of poem.  The man was King David and the poem is now known as Psalm 41.

My enemies say of me in malice,
“When will he die and his name perish?”
When one of them comes to see me,
he speaks falsely, while his heart gathers slander;
then he goes out and spreads it around.
All my enemies whisper together against me;
they imagine the worst for me, saying,
“A vile disease has afflicted him;
he will never get up from the place where he lies.”
Even my close friend,
someone I trusted,
one who shared my bread,
has turned against me.  (Psalms 41:5-9)

Fast forward 1000 years or so.  Jesus is about to be crucified.  He spends a private farewell with his closest friends, washing their feet and sharing a final meal.  And, as He passes out the bread, He tells them one of them will betray Him.  He quotes a line from that sick man’s poem:

“I am not referring to all of you; I know those I have chosen. But this is to fulfill this passage of Scripture: ‘He who shared my bread has turned against me.’  (John 13:18-19)

Words, scrawled by a man too sick to get out of bed, became Scripture and were fulfilled in the life of God’s Son!  Whodathunkit?  Next time you are feeling too sick, too discouraged, too insignificant, too misunderstood, too abandoned, too unskilled or too weak to be used by God, remember that man’s sickbed poem.  Don’t write yourself off.  God uses people for His purposes even (and perhaps especially) in their weakest moments.   He can use you, too.

When you least expect it.

Object Lesson

The young woman was obviously distraught.  She approached me and asked how to get to the George Washington bridge.  She told me she was going to throw herself off.  I was pretty young and did not know what to do.  But we were standing right next to a very large, famous church in New York City.  It was a landmark.  “Let’s go in here and see if we can find someone to talk to,” I suggested.  But the stone-faced receptionist inside informed us that, “Unless she has an appointment, there is no way for her to see anyone.” I don’t remember what ultimately happened, but at the time I wanted to blow the place up.  How could they call themselves a church and have no time for someone who had lost all hope? Imagine an emergency care clinic where you needed advance reservations…

Jesus was frustrated with the Temple bureaucracy because they were not doing what they were set up by God to do: attract people to God and show them how to connect with Him.  Several places in the Bible, this failure is compared to a fig tree that does not produce figs. If fruit trees don’t produce fruit they become firewood.

Right after His confrontation with the Temple authorities (See: Buying God and Risk it All) Jesus acted out a living parable for His disciples:

” Early in the morning, as he was on his way back to the city, he was hungry. Seeing a fig tree by the road, he went up to it but found nothing on it except leaves. Then he said to it, “May you never bear fruit again!” Immediately the tree withered.” (Matthew 21:18-19

By the time fig trees show leaves they should also have early green figs. If not, they will not be productive.  Before anyone puts the word “Church” or a cross on a building, they also ought to be ready to lead people to a meaningful and satisfying connection with God.  That is what a church is for.  If a church was a fruit tree, connections with God are the fruit.  No fruit?   No church – no matter how high the steeple and how beautiful the stained glass.

How can a church, or any follower of Jesus, be assured of bearing fruit?  Jesus told us:

““I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains [lives] in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5 – my parenthetical explanation)

Quotes: The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (electronic ed.). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.