My wife, Susan Larkin, was asked to give a message on her walk with Jesus this past year to her women’s Bible study group at our church, Arizona Community Church. This is the message she gave last week summing up what God had put on her heart to share with the ladies:
Looking back on this year ‘Walking with Jesus’, what came to mind first is how thankful I am for the new friends I have met here and the ones I am getting to know better, just the sweet fellowship and the wisdom of the women as they each share their own walk with the Lord.
I am thankful too, for the women in the prayer for our adult children group because while each of us are praying the same things for our children, we hear the fresh insight and perspective the Lord gives each mother. We can have unity of spirit and a new vision at the same time, knowing God hears our prayers for our children and trusting we can influence their lives with prayer.
Another great thing is a darling prayer partner the Lord brought me this year – she is in this room tonight. I’d had a prayer partner for about 15 years and she broke up with me 9 months ago, so I was delighted when this new sister came and she has been a true blessing.
I learned about the power of prayer long before I became a Christian. I was a flight attendant in the mid-70’s, so 40 years ago, and worked on international flights. I had 2 close calls one after another. The 1st time our pilot almost landed us in a jungle in Africa. I remember feeling the descent, looking out the window and seeing all green when there should have been concrete, and hearing the first officer scream “Pull up, pull up, pull up!!!”. Suddenly we were zooming up. When we did land, it was on the runway in the right city. I never did find out what happened that day, the pilots did not want to talk about it but it was really scary.
Another time was in a DC10 over Calgary Canada going from London to Oakland when the plane dropped about 5,000 feet in just a few seconds. We dropped so fast that everything and every one that wasn’t secured hovered in the air before crashing down – people, beverage carts, everything. The sharp descent was followed by lots of dramatically serious vibration, it felt as if the plane would break apart. Many people were badly injured, and if you ever thought you were going to die, you never forget it. So after my time off, I was really frightened to get back on a plane. My boyfriend, not a Christian, suggested I pray for peace to go back to my job. And it worked! I asked for protection every time we took off and I thanked God every time we landed safely – and I still do. I flew for several more years after that. So I knew God answered at least emergency prayers for sure. The Lord (I believe) later revealed to me that as a professional baseball player, that boyfriend likely had a team chaplain who flew with the team regularly and had the Lord’s wisdom to pray with the young men as they flew back and forth across country all season long year after year.
But God made the earth by his power; he founded the world by his wisdom and stretched out the heavens by his understanding.
When he thunders, the waters in the heavens roar; he makes clouds rise from the ends of the earth. He sends lightning with the rain and brings out the wind from his storehouses.
When I first became a believer, someone gave me a laminated prayer card with a list of things to pray for because I only knew the Our Father & Hail Mary from my days at Catholic boarding school. It listed prayers for the leadership of the church, people in government, the schools, police officers and so on, and on the list was prayer for the harvest. I lived one valley over from the Salinas valley, a large agricultural area, so for about 6 months I prayed fervently for the broccoli, strawberries, lettuce and artichokes before I found out that the Harvest, capital “H” meant the unsaved souls.
And Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” Matthew 9:35-38 (ESV)
I thought the Lord had such a sense of humor in my early prayer days as a Christian to let me pray on and on about the farm workers, the rain and the fertilizer – nothing wrong with that, farmers do it all the time.
Kathy has been using Scripture to teach us about the Lord’s compassion. One of the ladies in our prayer group shared that she lost her wallet, she left it on top of her car when she bought gas and drove off. You can imagine her distress, she went back to search for it, but of course it was gone. The next morning she got a call from her apartment manager that there was someone in the office who wanted to speak to her. And there was a young man covered in tattoos, kind of scary looking, someone she said you would instantly make a judgment about and not a positive one. But he had been riding his bike, found the wallet and wanted to return it. She thanked him of course, gave him some money because it was all there – and she invited him to our church. It was such a lesson to me how if we could only see the heart, the inside of a person and not only the outside – like Jesus does, we would treat people so much differently.
And God forbid that young man should come to our church and I would judge him by his appearance instead of seeing him as he really is, as God sees him. It was a great lesson to me to be so much more generous in my assessment of others.
The Lord does not look at the things a man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.
1 Samuel 16:7 (NIV)
When my girlfriend read this, she said it reminded her of when she lived in San Francisco. She said she was reading the Bible while riding the bus and she saw this ‘gay guy’ looking at her and she thought – a derogatory word you might think about homosexuals. But he approached her and said, “It is wonderful to see someone reading the Bible, it reminds me of when I read the Bible with my family.” Needless to say, she was profoundly ashamed before the Lord for judging that man.
Sometimes I encounter someone who at a glance I think I have nothing in common with and my first impulse is to avoid that person. Our Lord did exactly the opposite – He sought them out if they had an infectious disease, were known sinners or homeless and destitute, were mentally ill, demon possessed, crippled, or blind. Even the Samaritans who were despised as a mongrel race by Judaism, were tenderly regarded by our merciful Messiah. He went out of His way to connect with them and offer what He could and so did His disciples. So the theme of compassion this year really has convicted me that I am not really that Christ-like at all. I think Kathy wanted me to talk about what I had learned, but I’m afraid this is about what I haven’t learned.
I often forget that we are the rich of the world that the Bible speaks of and that everything I have is a gift from God, but it belongs to Him, it isn’t mine alone. I have a home, clothes and shoes, I never miss a meal all because of His grace and goodness. Mother Teresa told a story about a dying man brought to her shelter in Calcutta, as she visited with him he was crying. She asked him why. He said it was because it was the only time in his whole life he had ever laid in a bed – the day he was dying – and it was just a wire cot, but he was thankful. She said once, “I wouldn’t touch a leper for 1,000 pounds, but I will willingly care for him for the love of God.”
When we see someone begging we might think they should get a job … but if they have dirty clothes, no place to shower or brush their teeth, no phone or transportation, they are unlikely to be hired unless they get some help. I have heard fellow Christians declare that they refuse to give money to someone they see begging, even if holding a sign saying they are hungry, for fear they may use it to buy alcohol. In Proverbs 31, the mother of young King Lemuel advises her son to avoid alcohol because, “It is not for kings to drink wine…lest they forget what the law decrees and deprive the oppressed of their rights.” She continues, “Give beer to those who are perishing, wine to those who are in anguish; let them drink and forget their poverty and remember their misery no more”. We need not worry about what someone who humbles themselves to beg before us chooses to buy. The Queen Mother goes on to advise that the woman of virtue “…opens her arms to the poor and extends her hands to the needy”.
I met a man who had been a respiratory therapist at a hospital, they reorganized and moved him to another area of the hospital, his license lapsed and then a new administrator downsized his dept. and he was terminated. He didn’t have the money to renew his license and he had been trying but he hadn’t found a job. He said he never could have imagined himself begging in his wildest dreams but he had 3 children he needed to feed and he was begging because he was desperate and determined to care for them.
In Luke 6, Jesus said ‘Give to everyone who asks of you.’ and to be merciful and not to judge. In Matthew 25:31-46, He tells us whenever we provide for someone who is hungry, thirsty or we visit the sick or the prisoners, the ‘least of these’, as He calls them, we do it for Him. As Paul says, “not that I have achieved it yet, but I can press on”, keep trying and thank Jesus for demonstrating compassion so I can know exactly what it looks like. I praise God we have His promise that He Who began a good work in us will be faithful to complete it.
Let’s pray. Lord, would You give me the heart of love that You have. Let me remember that every person on earth is someone You love so much, You gave Your only Son’s life so that one day they could spend eternity with You. Amen.
I know all were blessed by her words.