Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. ~2 Cor. 9:10
I think that one of the biggest challenges to being generous with anything, whether it’s money, time, skills, whatever is my own selfishness. The reality is that I sometimes simply don’t feel generous and want to keep those things for my own desires and wants. So then when life interrupts and opportunities for generosity arrive I can begin to harbor bitter feelings about it. But, when you do respond in obedience in those moments you may find that God does some really amazing things.
I just returned from Lander, Wyoming, where I served at a rock climbing festival with Climbers for Christ. My two primary responsibilities were to do outreach with the various vendors and gear company representatives and then work on equipping the rest of our crew for evangelistic opportunities when they return to their home climbing communities. So basically I was supposed to sow seeds. Just because it’s why I was there did not mean that I didn’t have moments where it was the last thing I wanted to do. When I am tired and/or hungry I am not always the most delightful person to be around (just ask my family!) Yet I actually think that God brings opportunities in those moments when we’re just not feeling it because it makes us trust in him more than our own abilities.
Let me share with you three instances that took place over the course of Saturday afternoon and evening where God stepped in despite how I felt about things in those moments.
Saturday afternoon was our “free time” with no agenda, so a group of us drove out to one of the crags for some climbing. What I did not realize is that this particular spot was at an elevation of over 9000ft. Paradise at Mt. Rainier is only 5400ft in elevation. So it did not take long for me to feel tired and even a bit frustrated with how I was performing. I was attempting to climb this one route and failing pretty miserably when a young guy in his mid-20’s walked up and started chatting with part of our group. In the midst of my struggles, one question that I overheard grabbed my attention.
To engage or not engage? Time to make a decision. Seriously, God, this is not convenient! I have something I am trying to do. It’s not going well, I am frustrated, and now this!! Yeah, God did not give me a pass on this so I came down off the wall and started to talk with this guy named Steve. For the next hour, we discussed life, hopes, dreams, the reasons he walked away from the religion of his childhood (Mormonism), why he no longer believes in God, my own life story, and how God worked in me when I was in a similar place. Now I won’t deny that I wanted to go try that climb again in the back of my mind. But I had to make a choice and talking with Steve was the right one. I have no idea what will come out of that. My responsibility in that conversation was to listen, share, and trust that God was using my words to plant seeds of faith and hope in his life.
Remember what I said about being tired and hungry? Of course, this one happened while trying to eat dinner. It’s been less than 2 hours since chatting with Steve and I am sitting at a restaurant with two friends in some outdoor seating. There’s a couple next to us and the girl, Samantha, asks me about the shirt I am wearing. *Sigh* can’t I just eat in peace! Yeah, no. I take a few minutes to explain what we do at Climbers for Christ and why we are there in Wyoming for the weekend. Sam is driving across the country from Illinois with her friend Abi. He just graduated from college and is starting a new job in San Francisco while she still has a year of med school before starting her residency. It turns out Sam is a follower of Jesus but has lots of questions about the future and how to plug into a faith community. The crazy part is that as we finished up and I went back to my dinner, which was thankfully still warm, I realized that Steve was sitting on the other side of Abi and had heard much of our conversation.
After we finished dinner my friends and I headed over to Lander City Park for the festival’s keynote speakers. One of them was going to be on environmental conservation and I was really looking forward to hearing it. Care to guess what happened? Yep, God stepped in and I missed most of the talk. Meet Will and his wife. They are based out of Tennessee but currently living in a van and traveling to climbing spots around the country. Strangely we had just missed running into each other the previous week here in Washington. Will grew up attending a Methodist church in the middle of Appalachia. He still has some faith but it hasn’t been a part of his life in a few years. Again, this conversation lasted at least 45 minutes and we made arrangements to connect the next time they are in Washington for climbing.
I am sharing these stories not because I said all the right things (I didn’t) or because of how proud I feel for being obedient. At the end of the day, these encounters were about God interrupting my plans and using me to sow seeds in the lives of others. And to an extent, God did this despite me, because...
My attitude wasn’t always gracious.
I didn’t feel like having those conversations.
I certainly wasn’t the most gifted speaker present.
There were other things that I was wanting to do.
But that's the beauty of it, right? God works mightily when I am weak or sometimes uninterested and indifferent!
Nothing I said in any of these encounters was earth-shattering (not. one. word. trust me.) but I know that God used my simple obedience to sow seeds. And because I was faithful with one, He brought more my way so that additional seeds of faith and hope could be planted. God can and will use each and every one of us in the lives of those He brings our way. It may be a seemingly chance encounter or someone you have known for years. You may not ever see the outcome of how God uses you in those moments. But we take it in faith that God is at work just as He has said. We simply need to be willing to set aside our own agendas and let God use our generosity of time and skills to sow seeds that He will help grow into something beautiful.