"...I have learned in whatever state I am to be content, I know how to have a lot or a little, to suffer or not suffer, to be full or hungry; I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me...."(Phil.4:11-13 in the RGV - Ralph Green Version). We humans are funny creatures. I never ceased to be amazed at how we can adapt to just about anything and everything that comes our way and how our “creature comforts” or lack of them bring out the best and the worst in people. This week in particular on the east coast, I've been able to witness this first hand having an earthquake rock our region last Tuesday, then with hurricane Irene wreaking havoc through the weekend. Here in Maryland from what I can tell with the limited access I've had to news, we fared quite well compared to places like the coast of North Carolina, flooded New Jersey and particularly Vermont where whole towns are cut off because of massive flooding. Some people take it in stride with a good attitude, others adapt but they are mad and are determined to be miserable.
At my home, we've not had conventional electricity for about 108 hours - starting our 5th day. Now before you feel all sorry for us, you are reading this from what I typed on my little laptop while I sit on my deck with an extension cord running through the kitchen, down the steps to the basement, through the garage & plugged into a generator God gave us shortly after we moved to Houston Texas to serve the Lord with my friend David Lino. God knew we needed that generator because in the aftermath of hurricane Ike, we were without conventional electricity for 11 days. We used that generator to be a blessing to our neighbors and provide for our meager needs. We are enjoying the blessings of that provision from the Lord even today, a gorgeous sunny day with low humidity. The semi-lack of electricity has forced me out on the deck for my morning devotional time where its cooler and I have sunlight to read by though dodging the shells dropped from the trees above me while the squirrels enjoy their morning breakfast - man they eat a lot and make a mess!
This time has allowed me to reflect on Paul's inspired statements in Philippians 4 this week and I have had to re-learn what it means to be content. I have to admit when I was preparing for the hurricane and couldn't get my generator to start beforehand and even shortly after the power went out and the storm passed, my attitude was not very good. But as I worked to get that generator to start, doing it all with my limited knowledge of engines, taking the thing apart and putting it back together, sweating like a pig as we say in Texas, skinned knuckles and all; it still wouldn’t start. I finally gave up and prayed a quick prayer and just said "Lord, would you help me get this thing started?" I admit my motives were pretty selfish with that prayer because I wanted desperately to be a hero to my family. I had enough energy to give it two more pulls to start it and I was going to forget it. First pull, nothing. Prayed again and the noise of that generator filled the air as it roared to life. "Praise the Lord!" was my quick response. After figuring out what I needed to do to get us functional, I finally spoke to my neighbor and we ran some extension cords over to power his fridge and freezer. As far as I can tell, they do not know the Lord so once again, it was a chance for me to testify to them of God's provision and be a witness for Jesus. I have another neighbor who brought groceries from their house to store in our freezer. In talking to these two neighbors, their responses to the grace of God stand in stark contrast, neighbor couple 1: extremely grateful with thanksgiving - directed at us but the subject gets changed pretty quickly when I talk about the Lord. Neighbor couple 2: Flat out angry that "the powers that be" did not put all of our power lines underground…but our neighborhood was built over 30 years ago! He's got signs in his driveway reaming on BGE that we're out of power; he calls them daily to complain. Since I’ve had two church members call offering the use of their generators, I offered to get this guy a generator so he can get going; he refuses. Offered for him to come to the house with his laptop so he can connect to the internet, enjoy some lighting though it is limited. Again he refuses. You see to accept these offers of grace would remove his reasons to be angry at whoever he’s mad at. I’ve confronted him repeatedly with the truth that it could always be so much worse, tree on his house, basement full of water & mud; being cut off like folks in Vermont having to have groceries airlifted to them – all of it just dismissed so he can pout and the bottom line is so he can continue to be angry at God.
Seeing God orchestrating events in this man’s life to get his attention and show him grace, to help him count his blessings and maybe, come to know Christ; all to be rejected and dismissed saddens me greatly. He’s so lost and yet he has no idea. I’ve resigned myself that we may be out of power for a while (even though I know linemen are working 18 hour days to restore power) to force me to interact with my neighbor and I pray God’s grace will soften his heart while God continues to teach me how to be content and reflect on the ridiculous blessings He has supplied to me. What astounds me further is Paul wrote those words from a Roman dungeon and yet he said “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me!” The truth is, I got all the power I need because the Lord is with me, and yes He gives me patience in dealing with a crotchety neighbor to demonstrate the love, grace and mercy of God in a practical way. What a blessing to think that the Almighty God of the universe might just use our simple kindness with a generator He gave us to reach a lost man and his wife for Christ! Oh Lord may it be so!
I’ve spoken to so many of you in these last few days and over and over you’ve shared of God’s provision for you. I trust we’ve all learned more of how to count our blessings and name them one by one; that we’ve learned more how to be content no matter what; and that we have and will continue to take advantage of opportunities to share Jesus with people around us. Learning to be content, from my little corner of the world to yours…oh boy, time to run and refill the generator before it goes dark again in my little corner…
Pastor Ralph Green
Senior Pastor, Calvary Baptist Church www.calvarybelair.com