Always Faithful by Pastor Allan Jones
When I was in Shenyang China recently, I had the privilege of speaking at the International Fellowship on a Sunday evening. After a long weekend preparing for and serving the ex-pat or expatriate couples at the marriage retreat (ex-pats are citizens living in a foreign country), I was a bit tired and honestly still suffering with a little jet lag. We made our way by taxi as close to the venue as possible and then skipped the semi enclosed tricycle in favor of walking the remaining distance. We finally arrived to learn that the service had been delayed by about forty-five minutes by another meeting that was in progress. Finally, we made it to our place on the front row of the church about 5:00 p.m. That put my time clock at about 6:00 a.m. the next morning, so I was feeling a bit fuzzy headed to say the least and we were about to begin what is typically a three-hour worship service. Honestly, I settled in and tried to stay awake!
It wasn’t long before the African choir lit the fire of song and before you knew it we were all in the throes of a spirit led worship service like most have never experienced. If there were any cobwebs left in my head, they were soon chased away by the angelic African rhythms of song and dance. I guess I was somewhat entranced in the worship when suddenly I realized they were waiting for me to stand and preach! I’m sorry, but I wasn’t done with that worship yet! As I stood to speak, I gazed upon a group of beautiful people from about fifteen to twenty nations. Some who study in China, others who teach or work in some other capacity. All of these people are at various stages of dealing with the shock of living in such a different culture. While some are adjusted, and have made China their permanent home, the large majority are just passing through. Even when accustomed to their surroundings, they face the struggles of living abroad. I began to speak the only message that I know at this point in my career, the simple message of hope.
No matter where I travel, the most pressing need in humanity seems to be the same. We all long to have hope beyond the circumstances we are currently dealing with. We need to know that our struggle, failure or pain is not the end of the story. His grace is always the final word in our lives. There is always hope for those who trust the outcomes of life to the hand of the Lord. As I spoke that night in Shenyang and the organist continued to add soulful backup to my words, I was somewhat engulfed in the eyes of so many young people who obviously needed to understand this reality. Away from home, struggling with a foreign language and in so many ways, all alone. I finished and spent a few moments praying for those who were there that night. Then, to my great surprise (and pleasure), the choir stood to sing again, not wanting to waste any of the precious ten minutes that remained before the building had to be vacated. We were moved by the Spirit of God in those final minutes together, as if every tribe and tongue had come together to worship.
As the service ended, I was approached by several people who wanted to share how the Lord had spoken to them through the words they had heard that night. None was more touching than one university student from Zimbabwe, he had been greatly convicted during the message and he wanted to share something with me. He took me to the side and began to share his heart, a sin that he had been struggling with and wanted to be free from. He had made the commitment to God that he would change this part of his life and he had been doing well for the past two weeks. Tonight, he said that he was not planning to come to church but at the last minute he had been convicted to get up and come. God told him that someone had a word for him. He looked at me and said, “the word was from you Pastor.” He thanked me for being faithful to come and asked me to pray for him whenever I thought of him. He wanted to remain strong. Then reached into his pocket and handed me an envelope. He said, “I need to be faithful to the Lord even when times are hard, not simply when things are going well for me. I expect God to be faithful to me and answer my prayers, but often I am not faithful in return.”
After a hug and a prayer, he was off. We made the walk back to a place where we could find a taxi to take us back across town. At this point I was in great need of some horizontal therapy (or sleep:). Later that night as I prepared for bed, I reached into my pocket and felt the envelope that he had given me. I opened it and found two hundred Yuan, which is the equivalent of about twenty-five U.S dollars. That may not seem like much, but from a young college student living in China, it is quite a gift. The note that accompanied the gift read, “let me be found always faithful, even as He is always faithful.” I was moved by his sincerity, almost to tears.
I think his simple but profound statement is one that we should all consider. Life gets busy for all of us, people and situations are always clamoring for our precious and irreplaceable time. We all struggle with unexpected events that consume us. Many times our resources are stretched in all directions and it seems that we will not be able to cover all of the demands of life. Sometimes we just get so busy that we honestly forget to be faithful with our time, talents and our finances. It is always good to be reminded, as this young man reminded me. When I get too busy to be faithful, too consumed with work or service to remember to give Him what He rightly deserves…I am simply too busy.
As I think of this young man, I am reminded of all that I am blessed with in this life. I’ve been given time, gifts, talents, financial resources and much more. The least that I can do, truthfully, the least that we all can do, is to make our prayer…”let me be found always faithful, even as you Lord are always faithful.”
Be blessed and hope to see you soon!