Last week I had an argument with God. (Spoiler alert: He won.)
It took place in the Walmart parking lot, and it had to do with how I responded to the guy who was asking for money for a teen outreach. I didn’t put anything in his donation bucket. I wasn’t convinced it would be good stewardship. I didn’t know his group. It wasn’t ECFA approved. They’d probably spend my donation on junk food or administrative costs.
As I walked to my car, the Holy Spirit nudged me. It was more like a shove, actually.
That young man loves Jesus. But he’s discouraged. Did you see it on his face?
“Well, yes, now that You mention it, I guess he did look discouraged.”
There’s more than one way to think about stewardship. You don’t know that young man’s story . . . the risk he’s taking to stand on the curb outside Walmart and ask people to support a ministry that has changed his life and that he prays will change the lives of others. Your gift—even if it were used entirely to buy Coke and Hostess cupcakes—would encourage that man and let him see that he is not alone, that I see him. He needs to know that I am with him, that his love for Me and His faith and obedience matter.
I saw the Lord’s point. But I didn’t really want to do donate. It wasn’t about the money. It was about my pride. I felt foolish going back there after turning him down the first time. So I suggested that perhaps I would do something about it the next time. Would that be okay?
I could tell from His silence that I’d not given Him the answer He was looking for. So I asked Him how much, got that amount from my wallet, and went back. As I approached the table again, the young man looked wary. I smiled at him and said simply, “I changed my mind.” Then his face broke into a surprised grin. Our eyes met, and in that moment, I felt joy. I felt deeply connected to the Father and also to this brother in Christ.
The next day, I was reading in John 15. Verse 10 jumped out at me: “When you obey my commandments, you remain in my love, just as I obey my Father’s commandments and remain in his love” (NLT).
Something jumped out that I’d never seen before. Previously, I’d thought of that verse in cause and effect terms: If you clean your room, then you can go play. If you finish your peas, then you can have dessert. If you obey my commandments, then you will experience God’s love.
But what I saw this time gave me new perspective. The remaining in love, the joy, comes as I am obeying. In the midst of doing the kinds of things that Jesus does and wants me to do with Him. It’s not obey first, then experience love, joy, peace, and all God’s good stuff—it’s obey and while I’m obeying, He’s right there with me, filling me with all His that He is.
I like that. I hope that next time, instead of arguing, I’ll jump right in there and receive His command as an invitation to share—and experience—His love and joy. That’s a whole lot better than wrestling with Him in a Walmart parking lot.