I love to tell about Jim, a delightful guy from our church in Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania. He was a retired, blue collar guy who came to Christ in his 60s. My favorite memory of Jim was what he did every Sunday after the service ended. He would stuff his suit coat pockets with Smarties, those little rolls of colored candies, and all the kids would gather round him in the foyer to get theirs. “Here you go, sweetie,” he’d say. He’d pat their little heads and grin. He loved the children so much that when he gave out that candy it could break your heart to watch. And we all watched.
That’s a wonderful metaphor for a phrase Peter used to describe Jesus’ earthly ministry: “He went about doing good.” Don’t you find that sometimes we’re so consumed with just doing stuff that we forget we’re entitled and empowered to “go about doing good”?
Often, people open doors to pastors that they usually keep closed, the way we can get into a hospital after visiting hours. Not just our church people either but even casual acquaintances. If they sense we’re not in a hurry and that we’ll listen they might tell us their guarded secrets or the questions they’ve wanted to ask God. They aren’t put off if we offer to pray for them or read a couple verses of Scripture, or even if we talk to them about their sin.
We do follow in Jesus’ footsteps.
God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and he went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with him (Acts 10:38).
Among Jesus’ last words to his disciples was his extraordinary promise that we will do even greater works than he did because he was going to the Father and would send the Holy Spirit to be within and among us. In the very next breath, he said, “And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it” (John 14:12-14). I suspect that, often, our connections with people seem so small, so routine, that we forget that the Holy Spirit might be poised to do something extraordinary.
Fred Craddock told about a pastor who made a routine hospital call. After some small talk, he bowed his head and prayed. “Oh Looord,” he intoned as pastors do, “We praaay that you would raise our sister up from her bed of affliction and restore her again to your service. Amen.” Then, to his astonishment, the woman swung her legs out of the bed, stood up, and walked around the room, healed! When all the fuss finally settled down the pastor went out to his car, leaned on the roof, looked to heaven, and whispered, “Don’t ever do that to me again!”
The linchpin for our doing great works even through small words and deeds is the asking (with more faith than that guy). The measure of our good deeds is not if they rise to the status of miracles but if they extend the grace of Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit. And all we have to do is ask and believe.
Whether you give someone your undivided attention, an aptly spoken word of Scripture, unclichéd comfort, help with an errand, or a heartfelt commendation, meet people with your pockets bulging with grace.
Be ye glad!
Lee Eclov recently retired after 40 years of local pastoral ministry and now focuses on ministry among pastors. He is the author of Feels Like Home: Reflections on the Care of Souls and Pastoral Graces: Reflections on the Care of Souls (Moody Publishers), as well as being a frequent contributor to Preaching Today and CT Pastors. To learn more about his Pastors' Gatherings visit www.leeeclov.com.