Thursday, September 23, 2010

Sweatrags and Workaprons

Do you ever feel powerless?

Do ever wish that someone would come along, help lift you up out of your situation, help you start over?

Do you ever wonder why God doesn't do more to help you out of your powerlessness?

God has a way of meeting people in their powerlessness, but it's often in unexpected ways. In the ancient Middle East where Paul traveled and preached, to be sick or crippled was a guarantee of poverty and hardship. As if life weren't difficult enough, you became a burden on others, you were forced to beg and starve, you eked out some kind of existence on the margins of society.

When Paul showed up in Ephesus to preach the gospel, he set up shop. He was a leather-man by trade, making tents to make ends meet. At the end of the work day, he'd close up shop and head over to the synagogue to argue and converse with his fellow Jews. For whatever reason, some Christians snuck into Paul's workspace and swiped his sweatrags and filthy workaprons. In an unpredictable move, they headed out for the slums and streetcorners, tracking down all their friends and neighbors who were sick, crippled, and demon-possessed. Taking the sweatrag or workapron, they'd touch the skin of whoever they found, the result was complete healing, freedom, new start!

Why did God do it this way? One thing we've learned about God, whatever he does - it requires faith. He's not going to work in you, through you, or for you in such a way that you don't need to trust him more. The Christians who were prompted to sneak into Paul's shop had to trust the Spirit that this crazy idea would work. The beggars had to trust that the sweatrag would bring about a new beginning. People who heard the story had to have faith that it was true. To trust Jesus is the whole point!

Do you want to be used by God to help others? 

Do you ever wish God would do powerful things through you on behalf of the powerless? 

Then you'll need to trust him more when he gives you prompts to do the little things for others during the day. You'll have to dig deeper for more faith to take the risk to be more generous, more gracious, more patient, more forgiving, more open-hearted. If you want to be helpful to others in the name of Jesus, you'll have to be willing to sacrifice, endure more hardship - even suffer for the Name of Jesus. Nothing great is ever done in the name of Jesus without walking through the valley of the shadow of death.

You have friends who are afraid, alone, confused, frustrated, beaten down, wandering. (If you don't have friends like that, then shame on you.) Don't be scared to help them. Be open to what unexpected things God might prompt you to do to meet them in their powerlessness. Only by God's strength can you help lift them up and out of their dire circumstances. Through the wisdom of God, the compassion of Christ and the guidance of the Spirit, we believers can do great things to help our neighbors, family, friends and enemies.

But do you want God to do great things through you? 

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