Honestly, sometimes I wonder if God would have me start a church in a grocery store. He certainly keeps me busy when I’m there. I know I have written more than a handful of blogs about being led by the Holy Spirit and being obedient when He tells us to move. Still, I never cease to be amazed at how He moves in the unlikeliest of places.
This morning after dropping my daughter off at school, I decided it would be a good time to get my grocery shopping done. The earlier you can get there the less crowded it is and in most cases that means you can get in and out quickly. That was my plan anyway.
I was passing by the electronics department when I met a nice looking couple. The man nodded at me, and the lady smiled, and we both continued walking opposite directions. That was the moment when the Holy Spirit said, “I want you to pray with them.” My first thought was “Really Lord?” These people seemed to be an ordinary couple. They didn’t appear to have a care in the world. They didn’t look troubled. And once again the Holy Spirit whispered, “Pray with them.”
I turned around to see if I could still see them, but they were gone. Feeling like I had missed God, I continued walking but I couldn’t shake the feeling that I should have stopped them. As I often seemingly find myself doing, I said, “Ok God, bring them back into my path and I will pray with them.”
I continued my shopping and just minutes later I rounded the corner to find the lady standing in the aisle I was entering. I approached her and said, “Ma’am, I know this is probably going to sound crazy but a few minutes ago I passed you and your husband, and the Lord told me to pray for you.”
This is always the point where I anxiously await their reaction. The thoughts rushing through my mind go something like this, “Did I totally miss God, or did He indeed want me to stop her? If so, is she actually going to let me pray for her, or does she have some choice words for me?” My eyes searched her face for a reaction that would reassure me.
She spoke softly and slowly as she began to tell me about her husband’s health. He had been having severe heart problems. She continued to share with me that he had congestive heart failure and for the past several weeks had spent a lot of time in and out of the hospital. She told me she had been very worried about his health. She shared some of the upsetting things that had been happening recently, and how they were really worried about what would happen next.
I asked her if she thought he would let me pray for him. Almost as if on cue, he walked around the corner and joined us. She told him exactly what I had told her. He looked at me and said he would love for me to pray for him. I took both of their hands in mine, and as I prayed I allowed the Holy Spirit to take over and lead me.
When we all said, "Amen," I noticed the gentleman had tears in his eyes. He was squeezing my hand so tight as he said, “God bless you for praying for me. I appreciate it so much.” The lady looked at me and said, “I have never felt the Holy Spirit so strong in my life!” I walked away thanking and praising God for this gentleman’s complete healing.
I may never see them again, but God knows what happened in that encounter in the grocery store. And, because the Holy Spirit orchestrated the whole event, I’m certain He had a plan for them.
Many times we strive to be obedient to God because we don’t want others to miss a blessing. I have learned that if I ignore that small still voice of the Holy Spirit, I am the one who will miss the blessing. There is nothing that thrills me more than knowing that God trusts me enough to lead me into the path of those who need prayer.
Maybe God keeps me writing about this topic because He is trying to let you know that you can do the same thing. It may seem scary to step out in faith and offer to pray for a stranger in a grocery store. But you can know for certain that if God asks you to do it, He has gone before you and prepared their hearts.
The enemy of our souls would love for us to remain quiet. He knows that if you ever take that first step of faith—and reach out when God instructs you to—you will be unstoppable. He wants to rob you of a blessing. I want to encourage you today to pray and ask God to give you opportunities. Then listen for that small still voice of the Holy Spirit. When He nudges you, and draws your attention to someone—move! You will be so blessed, and who knows what miracles will take place because you were obedient?
Luke 11:28 NIV
“He replied, ‘Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it.’”
I love how the Holy Spirit leads and guides us when we are ministering. So many times I have had Him step in and totally change the direction I am going in while I’m speaking. Unlike us, He knows exactly what every person in the room is thinking. So if He prompts us to change direction we can trust that there is someone in the congregation that needs exactly what He is leading us to say next.
Yesterday as I was ministering in the jail service I had one of these wonderful experiences. I was going in one direction, when an image popped into my mind accompanied by an understanding of what the Holy Spirit was impressing upon on me. There were some new ladies in the jail, but there were a few who had fallen, and as a consequence had returned to jail.
I briefly shared my testimony with the ladies and shared 2 Corinthians 5:17 with them. It says, “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come; The old has gone, the new is here!” I often use this verse when I share my testimony. I also shared John 8:36, and talked about who the Son sets free is free indeed. Next I explained 1 John 2:1-2, and how Jesus is our advocate, and the atoning sacrifice for our sins. He is our defender.
But the Holy Spirit nudged me back to 2 Corinthians 5:17, and gave me the image of an old car in need of restoration. I knew exactly where He was going. I began to explain to the ladies that when we ask Jesus to forgive us, and we accept Him as our Lord and Savior, He makes us brand new. Then I shared this illustration.
When I was growing up, my dad restored old cars, and still does. He is really good at it. I can remember him driving up with many old beat up cars with little to no paint. Some had broken windows, and ratty upholstery. Others had holes in the floorboards, dented or missing fenders, rusted bumpers, and busted dashboards. In other words they looked like a hopeless pile of junk.
Mom and I would roll our eyes because we never could see what my dad saw in those old cars. He always had a vision for what they could become when all we saw was a mess. Dad would do the engine work and get it running good, sometimes replacing the engine with a more powerful one. Then he would sand down and remove all the old paint. He would fix all the dents and dings, and have it repainted in a bright beautiful color.
Next he would replace all broken or cloudy glass, and have the bumpers and ornamental pieces re-chromed. Then he would have the inside done, re-upholstering all the ripped or rotted seats, and replace the carpet. After all that work was done, he would do the finishing work; new fancy wheels and new tires, radio, etc. Before we knew it the car would be ready to go, and he would take it to a car show and come home with first place trophies.
His old cars looked so nice because he really worked hard to restore them to their original condition. They looked like they had just rolled off the manufacturers assembly line. And though they looked perfect to the natural eye, the fact remained that underneath all that restoration—beautiful paint, new chrome, and upholstery—it was still the same old car.
My dad is a perfectionist and his cars looked perfect. But in reality he couldn’t make the car brand new no matter how hard he tried. He wasn’t the original designer. The same is true in our lives. The only one who can make the old brand new is our Heavenly Father, because He is our original creator. When we give our lives to Christ, the old is gone. We become brand new creations. He doesn’t patch up our battered parts, or sand off our rough edges and cover us with a fresh coat of paint. No, he makes us brand new.
There are no defective parts in us at all. Our failed areas, and the parts that are not working according to His desires, are not replaced. They are made brand new. It’s as if we have rolled right off the manufacturers assembly line. We are born again! We have a new life, and a new start. Others may not be able to see what we can be, but Jesus has the vision to see us as brand new creations.
I watched as each lady’s eyes began to well up with tears. And I fully understood why the Holy Spirit had led me in this direction. So many times we struggle with the thought that our past defines us, and no matter what happens we will still be defective. We often feel like the dirt that has stuck to us, or the dirt others have thrown on us is there to stay.
We have to realize that Jesus desires to make us brand new. There are no defective parts left when we turn to Him. We have the opportunity to stand up and walk into the brand new future we have in Jesus. We no longer have to be held down in guilt and shame. Our dirt isn’t covered up, it’s gone. The old has gone, the NEW has come. And the amazing part is, when we continue to follow Him we only increase in beauty. We are never the same. There are no defective parts.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY DAD!
Donna Sparks is an International Speaker and Evangelist. She is the Author of Beauty From Ashes: My Story of Grace, and, No Limits: Embracing the Miraculous.