So let’s not allow ourselves to get fatigued doing good. At the right time we will harvest a good crop if we don’t give up, or quit. Right now, therefore, every time we get the chance, let us work for the benefit of all, starting with the people closest to us in the community of faith. —Galatians 6:9–10 MSG
Ninety years old, a retired railroad engineer wearing the weight of the past, unforgiven sin and grief on his face, Paul came to church one Sunday night. He had never been a church-goer, but he had married a widow who loved the Lord and attended church every time the doors were open. Because Paul wanted to be with his bride, he came along. Usually, on Sunday night the pastor gave an opportunity for testimonies, prayer requests, and praise. A short sermon would follow and a prayer of dismissal. Although he didn’t normally give an invitation on Sunday night, this night the pastor opened the altar for anyone who wanted to come pray.
Paul got up out of his seat and slowly made his way to the altar, with his expression of sadness, grief, regret, despair, pain, fear of dying written on his face. Who knows all he was feeling at that moment? The pastor asked him how we could pray for him, what was he seeking. Paul said he had never been saved and he wanted to do that now. The pastors and congregation gathered around Paul and laid their hands on him. Fervent prayer went up for Paul.
What a glorious transformation in countenance the congregation saw when Paul raised himself up from that altar with the help of people near him. His face was literally shining with freedom from sin and guilt, release from fear of dying, and his sorrow turned into joy. Paul was changed from the inside out. Transforming Hearts…Transforming Lives! He was still ninety years old, but now he was ready to meet the Lord whenever his name was called.
As pastors, sometimes we assume everybody coming to church is okay—everyone is saved. Sometimes we miss the expressions, the meanings behind the words spoken, and the body language that would give us a clue that all is not well. Of course we ask and the person usually says “I’m fine”. Many people in the church are not fine. Sometimes people have a mask in place and we truly believe they are fine. The Holy Spirit speaks to hearts even on Sunday night when one might assume only the faithful are present. Every time the Word of God is proclaimed in a service, in a book, on the radio or television, the opportunity for someone to get saved exists.
Lord, help me to really see people, really comprehend when they are in pain or are afraid. Make me willing to stop doing what I think is most important and just listen, just be there for them. Amen.
Mary Bruce Fuller, Minister and Attorney, Florence, Mississippi
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All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, by Biblica, Inc. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.
Scripture quotations marked MSG are taken from The Message by Eugene H. Peterson, copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group. All rights reserved.
Scripture quotations marked NLT are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Wheaton, Illinois 60189. All rights reserved.
Scripture quotations marked NRSV are taken from the New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Scripture quotations marked Phillips are taken from The New Testament in Modern English by J. B. Phillips, 1962 edition, published by Harper Collins.