Let me share a few stories with you. You’ve probably heard them before. They’re stories about some of the Great Men of Faith in our recent history. First, one of my favorites about George Muller. One morning at his orphanage, he was informed by a panicked house mother that there was absolutely no food left. What were they to do? How were they to feed the children?
Well, George instructed her to have all the children sit at their places at the table, plates and cups before them–empty. And he proceeded to pray. Thanking God for the food He would provide. Thanking him for the empty plates that were an opportunity for Him to provide in an amazing way. Well, soon after he finished praying, there was a knock at the door. The baker stood there, rather grumpily, saying God had woken him up and told him to bake bread for the orphanage, so there he was with enough to feed them. Not long after he left, there was another knock at the door–the milk cart had broken down right outside the orphanage, and the milkman said they’d better take all the milk, because it would spoil before he could get back to fix the axle.
The Lord provided.
Let’s switch to a D. L. Moody story. They were trying to start the Moody Institute, and they had their plans ready…but it was an expensive undertaking, and they didn’t have the funds for it. In a meeting of the board of directors, they were praying, and one of the members cried out, “Lord, you own the cattle on a thousand hills! Can’t you sell a few to provide for us?” Well, minutes later, there was a knock on the door. A local rancher stood there, with a check in his hands. He’d felt this urging, you see, to sell off part of his herd and give the money to them.
The Lord provided.
And that’s what I’ve always focused on–that the Lord provided. That the prayers of faithful men who were staring down the barrel of NOTHING produced SOMETHING.
But there’s a crucial part of those stories and others like them that I often overlooked. The Lord provided…through other people. Someone else had to knock on the door. Someone else had to listen to the Lord. Someone else had to sacrifice for these Great Men’s Great Visions to happen.
And those Someone Elses had to do it before the men even prayed.
Generally when I read or hear those stories, I always imagine myself in the place of the one asking, right? The one with the vision. We cast ourselves in the role of the person who has the calling and who calls out to God. In fact, we’ve done that. We’ve cried out, and then waited for His answer.
But what if they don’t come? Has God failed?
Or have we? Not the we who does the asking…but the we who were supposed to do the answering. The we who were supposed to be listening. The we who should have been willing to do the work, make the sacrifice, knock on the door. The we who God meant to use to provide for that Great Thing.
I’ve been pondering this so much lately. It’s easy to be passionate about our own callings. To be willing to sacrifice or suffer for it. But how do we become so passionate about someone else’s, to the point that we’re willing to sell off our possessions, rise in the middle of night, or do the thing that seems a little crazy in order to provide for someone else’s dream?
We were talking about this in our Bible study and someone said, “Well, we have to exercise our hearts so that they’re ready.” I’ll be honest–I don’t know what this looks like. But it strikes me as true. So the question, then, is how do we do that?
Well, I have to think it means listening daily for the smaller ways He’d have us reach out and help others. Maybe that means something simple like getting up a few minutes early to have coffee ready for our spouse. Maybe it means stopping what we’re doing to make a phone call or send an email or drop a card in the mail when the Lord brings someone to our minds and hearts. Maybe it means skipping that meal out and instead sending a gift card to someone you think could use it. Maybe it means lending someone your car so they can go and do the thing you know they need to do–or even driving them to it.
Maybe it means listening, really listening when we hear about others’ dreams and callings, and earnestly asking, “Lord, what can I do to help them?” Even when it’s not our calling. Even when it’s not something we are passionate about.
This, I think, is how the church builds true community. And it’s also how we grow–as individuals, and as a body. It’s how we bind ourselves together and value the foot and the ear and the nose as much as the hand or eyes.