The wait was over. I had finally made it. March was here and I was headed to Port St. Joe. I spent summer 2012 with a team of 25 college students. We spent every day praying together and studying the Bible, sharing the gospel with as many people as possible, serving the community, and running a day camp for kids. My heart has hurt so badly this past year to get back.
Back to the story:
“Do you have any more than this?” he says, “It is 80 miles and I can’t get there on ten dollars.”
After spending the entire week previous to this worrying about money and how I’m even going to afford to get to PSJ, I wanted to shout, “No I don’t have more than this. Are you kidding me?? I just gave you 10 bucks. Is 20 bucks the going rate for you to leave me alone now?” Instead, I just say, “Sure” and ask him for the $10 back. He handed it over and in exchange I gave him a crisp twenty. The guy was clearly embarrassed at this point, ashamed to have even asked me. I refused to make eye contact for the most part. Again, he’s on the verge of tears when I gave him the $20.
That’s what he said to me right before he turned to walk back to his car. At this point, all I’ve said is “Sure” twice and given a few reluctant looks as I handed this guy money. So what do I manage to say to this guy after 5 minutes of awkwardness on the brink of 7 days forthcoming where I’ll be sharing the gospel?
“Hey, God bless, man!”
Like an idiot. He just stared right through me. God bless? God bless, when this dude stood before me asking me for help in a world that certainly wouldn’t help the likes of him 9 times out of 10? God bless, when I could have told him that Jesus Christ has given to me abundantly so I don’t mind giving to him? God bless, when I didn’t take 30 seconds to introduce this guy to the God who owns the sheep and cattle on a thousand hills and has no problem providing for the both of us?
Yeah. God bless, because I’m a coward.
Then what? I got in my car. I drove to the exit. I watched as this guy walked in, paid for his gas, and goes back to pump it (no booze purchased). I felt one last pang to go back and talk to the guy while he pumped his gas. Naturally, I pulled out and headed to I-65, likely to never see this guy again.
Why do I say naturally? Because naturally, I’m a coward. Naturally, I don’t do the right thing. When I’m relying on my own strength, I don’t naturally share the love of Christ with people. Naturally, I’m not like Jesus. This is most clear in Luke 8:40-48:
In this story, Jesus wasn’t going to see the woman with the discharge of blood. Jesus was going to help Jairus’s daughter. On his way he was interrupted. The truth is, however, that Jesus’s ministry wasn’t interrupted. No, not at all. Instead, Jesus rightly saw his ‘ministry interruptions’ as his ministry. No qualms. No frustration. He didn’t begrudgingly slid $20 into the ladies hand and tell her to find a doctor. No. Jesus cures what ails you. Jesus is perfect. Jesus sees the hurting in the crowd. Jesus has compassion. Jesus heals. Jesus gives peace.
Likewise, we are to give the message of peace. And I failed. I whiffed so hard I nearly threw my back out. So what now?
Hebrews 4:15-16 says:
…we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
So what do I do when I whiff so hard at doing the very thing Christ has commanded me to do (share the gospel)? I turn to him. I gladly believe that as he headed to Jairus’s place and the crowds pressed in on him and the lady reached out to him, Jesus was tempted to draw back. “Don’t touch me” was the tempting thought. “Quit slowing me down. I’m going somewhere important.” The lies were whispered in his ear. He was tempted as we are, yet he was without sin. He didn’t submit to the lie. Because he didn’t submit to the lie, I can draw near to the throne of grace to receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. O, how I needed that grace pulling out of the gas station. By the time I hit the Interstate I was so wracked with shame I nearly turned around, just in case the guy is one of those people who takes 45 minutes to pump $20 worth of gas.
By the time I got to Nashville to pick up a friend, I had to confess. I told him right as we got on the road. After I told him, I felt relief. Why? Because he encouraged me. He pointed me to the grace of God. He didn’t tell me what I did was ok. My behavior wasn’t ok. My attitude wasn’t ok. My failure to proclaim the gospel wasn’t ok. It was a sin. I confessed to him and to God as a sin. Then he pointed me to grace. God is true when he tells us that,”If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
Next time, he’ll get it.