This morning, we showed up to church a bit early. Our little group has matured as a whole while we’ve been away; most weeks there’s somebody scheduled to run Sabbath School and another to preach. Last week, Sarah gave her first sermon in French (I’m so proud of her, she’s gone from zero to preaching in French in 2 years!). I didn’t know who was scheduled to preach this week, but I figured it was scheduled.
Arriving at church, I asked who was scheduled to preach to our friend Aaron, he replied that he didn’t know. As Sabbath School was about to start, he turned to me and asked if I would preach. “Sure,” I said, still used to the almost weekly routine of the past, where the sermon-ator wouldn’t show up or wasn’t prepared, and I had to throw something together on the fly. At least today I could prepare during Sabbath School.
Unlike normal, I stepped out of church and went around back. “Lord,” I prayed, “Please guide me to the message that needs to be heard.” My thoughts wandered a bit: maybe I could share the conversation I had with our crippled friend Emmanuel about the joys of living life eternally free from the problems in this life, in perfect health forever. But that was for that time and situation. I kept browsing the Bible, then finally, I fixed on a subject. Ready for the semi-improvised sermon, I came back into the church as they were finishing up the class.
When the time came, I stood up and started talking about Nicodemus and Jesus’s conversation at night, how Jesus said we had to be born again in Spirit, and I explained how a baby can’t walk, talk, or control their faculties, yet they’re still humans, just as new Christians can still make big messes consistently, but that doesn’t make them less Christian. If they’re not growing, though, that’s where you can see they’re not in the Spirit. If a 10-year old is still making big messes in their pants, clearly there’s a big problem. Growth comes in appropriate stages and at the necessary times. Parents expect and plan for their babies to make messes. Believe me, I’ve seen a mess or two out of Joel I couldn’t even believe, but I was so glad I had planned ahead by putting diapers on him! How much more will God be prepared to handle the little mistakes we make.
Anyways, I exhorted them to be patient, to keep breathing, eating, and drinking (spiritually speaking), and they would grow as God intends. I encouraged them to be patient with others in the church who are less spiritually developed as they grow in the Spirit as well.
After closing song and prayer, a man named Pierre, a member who used to be a regular attendee, and who lives just on the other side of the road from the church, went up in front of the congregation. “I haven’t been with you here at church for over a year now,” he said. “But this past week I was visited by a team of EET (evangelical) evangelists, and when they asked if I went to church, I told them I already had my church.” Emotion filled his voice and eyes. “Now I’m back, and thank you for taking me back in.”
Who knows what exactly the future holds for Pierre? He may have difficulties and failures, but I know a God of love who used me to reach out to him, to tell him it’s ok, normal even, and that God will stick with him as he continues his walk with Him. What a timely message God gives for the broken-hearted who return to Him, just in their moment of need! I pray for Pierre, that he might grow in God’s grace and truth. Will you pray for him too?
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