“Encouragement for Those Who Give It”
Encouragement from Daily Surprises
Encouragement sometimes comes when we least expect it. And sometimes it comes in such ways that astound us. But regardless of how or when, encouragement is that wonderful thing that elevates our spirits. It puts the spring back in our step and gives us once again a positive and affirming attitude about who we are and what we are doing for the cause of Christ.
Years ago as a Christian leader I learned to cultivate a mentality of expectancy. In a nutshell, that simply means that when you pray for something, you should quite naturally expect God to respond. I remember hearing the story of a country preacher who announced that an afternoon prayer meeting for rain would be held at the church. The entire area had been suffering for months from a dreadful drought, and the people were beginning to suffer enormous hardship. As the time for the meeting arrived and the people gathered together, the minister surprised everyone by announcing that the prayer meeting had been canceled. The people looked at one another in astonishment. When the pastor was asked why he had made the decision, he replied, “Because no one had enough faith to bring their umbrellas.”
One of the most important things I do every morning is commit the day to God. I ask for His direction in everything I strive to do, to lead me to anyone with whom I can be a witness, or to anything that enhances the growth of His kingdom. I ask Him to fill me with His Holy Spirit and especially to use me in any way that will bring honor and glory to His name. And then once I’ve committed all that into His marvelous care, I go through the day with a sense of confidence that He is directing my steps (Prov. 3:5-6).
For instance, I recently made a trip to Midland, Texas, a west Texas town between Fort Worth and El Paso. Someone had told me that there were a number of wooden windmills in that area, and I’d made the trip to photograph some of them. As I drove into Midland I had a strong leading to find a feed and seed store. I hadn’t even considered that, but it seemed like the smart thing to do. After all, the people who run these stores should be able to tell me where to go. I did not want to go on a blind search.
I got directions to a store and after finding it I went inside and began making inquiries concerning any wooden windmills in the area. The two employees had no idea where any were. That didn’t “make” my morning. I had just driven three hundred and sixty-five miles on what appeared to be some bad information. But then the third man in the store, a customer who was in the process of leaving, said, “If you’ve got an hour and a half or so I’d be happy to let you follow me out to my ranch. I’ve got an old wooden windmill on my property that can’t be seen from the road. And you’re welcome to photograph it.”
Bingo! I followed the rancher out to his place. We walked a long way down a cattle trail as we made our way to the windmill. We talked casually and then I told him that photography was just my hobby. I was really an ordained minister and had just recently retired from my church. It was then that he began to unload more burdens than one could imagine. I asked him if he had ever accepted Christ as his Savior. He said that he had. I told him that based on the circumstances of our meeting, I believed God had sent me out to West Texas to be an encouragement to him, to pray for him, to let him know that God loved him. He began to cry. When we finished praying I told him that our getting together was no coincidence, that we had met by divine appointment.
I had asked God for His direction, and He had led me to a discouraged rancher in Midland. As I drove off his property that day, I felt encouraged by this special surprise of ministry. Not surprised that God had used me in His service, but surprised at how. How true it is of God to answer our prayers in ways that defy our wildest dreams. Perhaps that’s why we should call the Christian life the “Christian Adventure.”
Oh, by the way, Ev, the rancher, had a magnificent windmill, one that was built in the 1920's. And yes, I’ve got a photograph of it. But more than that I was able to be a special agent of blessing to one of God’s children who was overwhelmed with a load of stress. He discovered that he didn’t have to bear that load anymore. He’d forgotten that Jesus wanted to do that for him. I was just there to remind him.
As I headed back to Dallas, I was encouraged. Encouraged as we all are when God uses us in His service. Encouragement on occasion does come in daily surprises.