“But Peter said, “I don’t have silver or gold, but what I do have, I give you: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, get up and walk!” Acts 3:6 (CSB)
I can’t hear you. A friend and I were standing on the shores of an island in Lake Victoria, Uganda, East Africa. He was telling a Jesus story to a man and trying to determine if he knew Jesus. While he was sharing another man walked up and began to listen. At the end of the story, we asked a couple of questions. The first man indicated that he knew this Jesus. The other did not. And he couldn’t hear.
Let me explain. It wasn’t that he had a hearing problem. His ears were working quite well. It wasn’t that he couldn’t understand. Our friend understood English and when we hit a bump our translator would jump in and help out. But he couldn’t hear. Then he explained the problem. He said something like, “I can’t hear about this Jesus because my stomach is so hungry.”
Now hunger is not usually a big issue in Uganda. While the food may not be the best nutritionally it is usually sufficient in quantity. Our friend was one of the exceptions. For whatever reason he hadn’t eaten that day or maybe the day before. The growling of his stomach was blocking his heart from hearing the message. We tried to explain that while we may hunger here, God had a place in heaven where no one would be hungry. I decided to tell him another story from the Bible.
I told him the story of Peter and John entering the temple. You can read it in Acts 3:1-10. It goes something like this. There was a crippled man there who made a living begging. When he saw Peter and John he thought they could help. He looked up expectedly and perhaps even lifted his hand to receive a coin or two. While his hand remained empty he got something more than a coin. Peter said, “We don’t have silver or gold but what we do have we will give you. In the name of Jesus of Nazareth rise up and walk.”
As Peter reached his hand down and the man reached up, his ankles received healing strength and he stood and walked into the temple. I smugly smiled my preacher smile. The perfect story. The perfect truth. Eternal is better than temporary. Surely my friends would see it and everyone would go their way happy. Only it didn’t happen.
I asked him “So what is better a few coins now or something that can change your life forever?” I, of course, expected him to agree that the gift of eternal life is certainly more and better than a few coins or a quick meal. His answer caught me totally off guard. He replied, “A few coins or some food.” What? I couldn’t believe what he was saying. Surely he understood. Surely I had made the story clear.
Then he said it. “Heaven is good but I am hungry now. I need food now.” Well, sadly, he wandered off. Still hungry. Still lost. My friend continued to share with the first man but my heart was heavy and my mind on the other man. Suddenly, I saw him again standing a few yards away. It was then I heard the Whisperer whisper. It was short and simple. “Give him food” the Whisperer said. I had totally forgotten that in my backpack I had some tuna, chips, crackers for my own lunch. I dug several items from my bag, as did my friend.
I walked over to the man and said, “This isn’t much but I hope it will quieten your stomach so you can hear Jesus.” He quickly took the food and left. There’s no bow on the package, no happily ever after ending, no prayer to receive Jesus. But I know two things. I know he knew we cared and I know he heard the truth and this time that had to be enough. Maybe the seed would sprout later…only eternity will tell.
I learned a couple of things that day. I learned that sometimes before we can share the Good News of the Gospel with a person we need to touch them in a real tangible way. A casual God bless you and a pat on the back doesn’t do much for an anxious soul or a hungry stomach. We must talk Jesus, we must share Jesus but we must be Jesus. Someone said, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”
In these crazy, troubling times people need more than a sermon—they need to know we care. How do we do that? That’s the second thing I learned. We have to listen for the Whisperer. We need to be sensitive to His gentle nudges. We have to still our own souls and hearts if we are to hear His gentle voice. These days call for new ways…different ways. So as you walk about life, keep your eyes open, your heart still and watch in wonder at what God can do through you. You don’t have to be in Africa to be on mission. That can happen, must happen right here, right now. And in these days of fear and frustration people are more ready to hear about God than ever before. What a privilege to be entrusted with God’s work. Up for the challenge? God believes so. Remember, He’s really big on you. So rest in Him. He’s got this.