The Joy of Personal Work
I was having dinner at a restaurant where just three months earlier, I had eaten. I travel quite a bit for my work. When I dine out, I ask the waitstaff their name, tell them I would love to pray for them and ask them what they might like prayer for. (The explanation to the waitstaff has a bit more to it, but I hope you get the idea).
This time I had the exact same waitress. On my previous visit, I had prayed for her and left an appropriate tip and a pocket-sized Gospel of John. I asked her if she recognized me, to which she said, “Oh yeah, I remember you.” Hearing her tone caused me to gulp. But then the Holy Spirit reminded me of what I had prayed for. I responded, “I remember too, and I prayed for your fiancée; he had just left for basic training for the Marine Corps. How is he?”
The look on her face completely changed. She told me much of her story. She then asked me, “Do you remember that little book you gave me?” This time it was my turn to reply, “I remember.” To which she said, “It has been on my nightstand ever since; tonight, I think I will read it!”
My heart leapt. Might that be the night, the night she opened her heart to Jesus! What a joy that moment was. What a gift from God. He did not have to arrange those two meetings. But He did! God let me see the impact His love can have on another human being.
I love Personal Work. I love Personal Work because I get out of the way and let God meet people where they, the people, are at.
I have another favorite story. It comes from a person, Barron. When he tells it, it is like a 20-minute standup comedy routine. Pure Joy! It starts with him being restless. He wanted to share his faith but couldn’t figure out how. He got some pocket-size Gospels of John and put them in the glovebox of his car. They sat there staring back at him.
One night, when he was in an unfamiliar, you might say sketchy part of town, he pulled into a gas station to fill up. Soon after, a large truck, with big tires and covered in mud, pulled in right next to him. The fella who got out was huge. Biceps the size of Barron’s thighs. Tattoos everywhere. He felt a nudge from God to offer this man a Gospel. Then the argument started. The argument in Barron’s mind. He thought no. He thought maybe it really wasn’t God. Maybe it was lunch, you know, food poisoning! The arguments flowed as fast as the fuel going into the tank.
Finally, Barron succumbed to the leading. He finished pumping his gas. Made sure his credit card cleared. He went and started his car (for a fast getaway). Then, barely making eye contact with this complete stranger, a man who now seemed eight feet tall, he reached across the gas pump and gave him a Gospel of John with words to the effect that he wanted to give him a gift from God. Not waiting for a response, Barron turned, quickly got in his car, and drove away. Yay! He had done it, and he was still alive.
As he was driving and congratulating himself, he noticed in his rearview mirror lights coming up after him. He again gulped. It was the ginormous man in the mud-covered truck. Barron was approaching an intersection, and the light was turning red. He had no choice; there was too much traffic and he had to stop.
The man pulled up next to him and motioned for him to roll down his window. Reluctantly Barron complied. There, in his window, was this big burly man’s man, with tears running down his cheeks. He said, “Man, God’s been chasing me for three years, and I haven’t known how to get back to Him. Now I do. Thank you.” The light turned green and off he went. True Story. Barron was forever changed. He trusted God when he was well outside his comfort zone. God had led Barron to this man whose heart was open to receive the Living Word of God.
There are thousands of these stories through the ages. You can find many of them at The Pocket Testament League website: www.ptl.org.
The stories tell how people who never thought of themselves as evangelists answered the imperative call from God to “go & make” – and when they “go,” they do so, leaving room for God to speak to the person.
Leaving room for God allows Him to show up and share the joy. Let me explain. The natural tendency for us, as humans, is once we make up our mind to do something, we think we have to do it all by ourselves. We don’t mean to, but this behavior to be independent squeezes God out of the picture.
Let me ask you. As you have been reading about “going & making,” about being an evangelist, have you felt as if all the weight of this task was on you? Have you been thinking about how you couldn’t do it? How you don’t have the gift? It is a natural reaction.
Let me ask you another question. Did you think at all about where God fit into this new task of yours? Maybe you did. Most people don’t.
I find that as people of God, when we seek to obey him, we immediately take all of the responsibility and pressure upon ourselves. I am not sure exactly why we take it upon ourselves. Humans have this tendency to think we can do everything by ourselves. To think we need help and then to ask for help is viewed by some as a weakness.
To illustrate this point, as you have been reading about Personal Work, have you been thinking that you would need to have answers to all the really hard questions. Questions like, “What about the person who lived on an island in the middle of the Pacific, who never heard the name of Jesus, did God send them to hell?” or “Why is there evil in the world?” or something even more personal “If God is a God of love, then why did he let my son or daughter die, even after I prayed to him?”
Those questions are real questions. The more sincere a person is with us, the more personal the questions become. When you take on the responsibility of sharing your faith, it is logical to think you must have the answers to these and a myriad of other questions.
Having those answers is a good thing. However, I want to make two points.
First, to try and answer those questions might be a mistake. When Jesus was asked questions, he often answered with a question. For the person who lost a child, having the perfect answer to their question of “why” will not lessen their pain. Perhaps the proper response is sorrow for their loss and prayer.
Second, the point of this book is that you do not have to be that person who can answer the very difficult questions. We call them apologists. I love folks with that gift. However, remember that sharing the Good News comes in many forms. One of those forms is simply letting God speak.
I pray you can see that doing Personal Work is effective, is beneficial, and brings Joy! It is important we don’t push God out of the process, that we don’t take more responsibility than God has asked. When we invite God into the process of our Personal Work, we find ourselves loving the people we engage with. We find God showing up and speaking to the very hearts of the people we engaged. All of the above brings us joy!