(To start at the beginning of this series click here)
I love my church, but there are people there. I am saying that in jest. I know that the ‘people’ are the church. My pastor recently said, “the building is just a tool God uses to bring the people together.” Isn’t that good? All the people together make up the church. We all go to the building to be around other Christians. For fellowship, for growth, for publicly praising and worshipping God. We go to find meaning. To feel loved and acceptance. To find hope. To find our destiny. We are all after the same thing. The church has been said to be like a hospital for the sick, the dying, the hurting. We are all in it together, flaws and all. When we spend time together, we see each other’s flaws. We see each other’s pain and sickness. Sometimes we get repulsed by it. Sometimes it rubs us the wrong way. So much so that we want to call it quits and leave our church. You know the devil doesn’t want you to stay in your church. He wants you to lose the victory and leave. You’re not a threat to him if you’re not grounded and growing in God. He plays with our emotions and causes us to fight. To see the flaws in others. We need to remember that these people, all these people that God puts us with, are all made in His image. Just like you. Yes, even the one that gets on your nerves. Those people are made in His image. It’s worth repeating. We need to learn to see people the way God sees them. The way that Jesus saw us when He was dying for us. With love and compassion.
I’ve heard people jokingly say that “we may be surprised by who we see in heaven.” I believe that starts now. You may be surprised by who you see in church. You never know who is going to walk thru the doors. It may be someone from your past, someone that has hurt you in some way, or maybe someone who has something to do with your future. Are we going to turn away? Are we going to hide or pretend like we don’t see her? Who is God bringing into the fold? Your fold? We don’t get to choose, He does. Who is it that God is calling you to minister? Is it a prodigal that has returned? Praise God for that and thank Him for not turning us away when we come to him. We shouldn’t turn people away either. (There are probably exceptions to this. Legal reasons. Abuse reasons. The Wolf in Sheep’s clothing reasons. That is for another time. Just go gently, as led by the Holy Spirit, and let it be done by someone in authority. We are dealing with souls here.)
Quite a few years ago, during altar calls, I was called upon to pray for women. I felt especially drawn to a certain woman who was pregnant. I prayed for her and her unborn child. She was struggling. There had been alcohol and drugs involved. I could see pain in her eyes. I remember laying hands on her belly and praying. I remember telling her not to worry about this baby. That he was going to be fine and God was going to take care of him. I remember both of us crying as God moved through us. It wasn’t just once that I prayed with and for her. Whenever I would see her there during an altar call, I would go. I didn’t know her name, but God did. She didn’t come to church all the time, just every now and then.
Around this same time, I learned that my mom’s husband was having an affair. My mom told me. She also told me that the other woman was having his baby. The woman couldn’t keep the baby because of drug and alcohol problems. My mom and her husband sought legal help to gain custody of the baby so he wouldn’t be taken by the State. My husband agreed to help. On the day the custody decisions were made final my husband came home from court and said to me “the Mom of this little boy looks so familiar. I can’t place her, but I think I’ve seen her in church.” He told me her name, but it didn’t ring any bells. At church some months later, after I’ve held this little boy and he was fully integrated into my mom’s house, my husband said to me “the baby’s mom is here.” He discreetly pointed her out. I was floored. It was the same lady who I was drawn to by the Holy Spirit. That one that God had me pray for and lay hands on. The one I spoke words of encouragement and comfort to.
I didn’t know if I should be thankful and praising God for the opportunity to pray over my “step-brother” before he was born, or if I should go up to her and re-introduce myself only this time as my Mom’s daughter. I was mad, she was the other woman in my mom’s marriage! It really messed me up. I could have gone to talk to her and let her know “hey, what a coincidence” but I knew she was bitter about the whole thing. I had to get over my anger at her, and at God, for allowing that. I had to learn to truly thank God for the opportunity to pray for someone who would become a part of my future. He knew that it was needed. This woman needed Jesus, as did I. She continued to come to church off and on for several years. I pray that she has now found a place to grow spiritually. Her son is grown now. My mom raised him.
I share this story to illustrate the fact that we don’t know who God is calling. We don’t know to whom we are going to be ministering. Nor is it any of our business. It is our business to be obedient to His calling. Not to run out of the door at the first sign of opposition. If we stay put, stay in the place where God has planted us, we will see so much growth. As time goes on, we build relationships. We build them with people that we might not have liked when we first started going to church there. Those people that we had run-ins with are going to be the very same ones that we want to have with us when we go to battle for something in our lives. We learn to cherish the relationships that have grown because of God. In these uncertain times, we need our sisters and brothers in Christ. We need our church families. We need to stay rooted no matter the opposition we have from people!