We went on the trip for a little Valentine's Day getaway. We were able to visit a couple different friends, and we also saw Beauty and the Beast at the Chicago Broadway. It was an awesome show! We had a really good time.
Before we went to Cadillac Palace Theater for our show, we ended up going to a SUPER tasty coffee shop called Ipsento (click here). If you're ever in Chicago, you definitely need to check it out. It's one of the best places I've ever had coffee. It's safe to say Ipsento is in my top 5 favorite coffee shops.
One thing Jenny and I enjoy about traveling to bigger cities is the ability to ride on the subway or metro. It's nice not having to drive everywhere and get stuck in traffic. And it is really easy once you've done it a couple of times. It's fun seeing all kinds of different people and it's also fun getting a little glimpse of how the locals live.
On our way from our hotel to the coffee shop we, of course, took the subway. It's pretty common to see homeless people while you are on the subway. Jenny and I have always attempted to be sensitive to the Lord. We ask God if there are any people we should help, give money to, buy food for, or witness to.
I know there are homeless people where we live in small town northern Minnesota. I see them every so often, but it's nothing like being in a big city. There are people in need all over the place. And I realize, that for locals, seeing homeless people is completely normal. It's become part of their daily life.
They're used to people asking for money. They're used to seeing people on the streets. They're used to seeing people push all of their belongings around in a shopping cart. Considering the frequency, I'm sure it would be difficult to not grow cold towards and turn a blind eye to the hurting people they come across. If the average person helped everyone they saw that needed help, they would soon be on the street themselves.
I realize one person can't help everyone. But one person can help someone, and even multiple someones. Jenny and I accept that truth and try to act accordingly. We try to help the people that God leads us to help.
Well, while we were on the subway to the coffee shop, a homeless guy about my age spoke up and talked to everyone in the car we were in. He stood up in between stops and said he had been in the hospital and had found out he had blood clots in his legs. He was waiting on medical assistance and paperwork to go through so he could get the medication he needed. But in the mean time, he had no money, no food, no place to live (besides the train), and he was asking for whatever help and assistance people could spare.
Over and over again while he was telling his story he said things like, "I hate myself for being in this position. I know you guys hate when people do this stuff. I'm sorry, but I need help. I hate when people ask for help and beg. I'm sorry."
It was easy to tell he felt defeated, had no hope, and was ashamed of his situation.
My heart went out to the guy while he was talking. I definitely felt sorry for him and had compassion for him. Whether his story was true or not, which I believe it was, I knew God wanted me to talk to this young man.
Almost as soon as he started talking, the story in the Bible of Peter and John in the temple popped into my head. “Silver and gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you." (Acts 3:1-8)
I knew we didn't have much, if any, cash on us. BUT, we did have God inside of us! I was absolutely convinced that when I prayed for him, God would heal him of the blood clots in his legs.
Jenny and I looked at one another once he was done talking and we both knew we were supposed to talk to him at the next stop. He just happened to be getting off of the train at the same stop as we were. Coincidence or God set up? I'll go with a God set up!
ESPECIALLY considering Jenny and I live in MN and we were only visiting Chicago for a day. AND Chicago has a population of nearly 3 million people and about 10 million people if you count the surrounding metro area. AND we decided to go visit a coffee shop we had never been to before. AND we decided to ride the subway. AND we just happened to be on the same train. AND we just happened to be in the same car of that same train. AND we just happened to be Christians. AND we just happened to listen to God and obey Him. What were the chances!?!
God wanted to meet this guy. God was pursuing him. God cared enough about this man to send us his way, to touch his life. I was pumped!
As we were waiting to get out of the car I introduced myself to him and started talking to him. We exited the car at the next stop and he told us a little more of his story and we told him a little bit of ours. We talked for about 10 minutes. It was a pretty good conversation.
From our talk, I was able to learn he did not believe in God. He could not understand how Jesus would let the world be as messed up as it seems to be. He could not forgive people for judging, turning away from, and ignoring him. He said he didn't see any hope in the world. All he had witnessed and experienced in his life was pain and suffering.
I told him the only reason I see hope in the world is because of Jesus.
I've witnessed to many people in the past. I know how to be led by the Lord in what I say and what I talk about. I strive to be very sensitive to the Lord. I know how important those conversations can be. I realize they can literally have eternal consequence.
I explained that God, and I, wanted to give him something more than just money. I then asked if I could pray for him. I knew God would heal his leg if I prayed for him. (Mark 16:18) And I knew after his healing, that would be an awesome opportunity to introduce him to Jesus.
He politely declined and said that's not something he was interested in or ready for. I asked him a couple of times if he was sure. I assured him it wouldn't take long, but he had already made up his mind. His answer was a polite, but firm, "No."
After our talk, we gave him all the cash we had... one dollar... and inside I had a folded up Gospel tract. I told him that was, unfortunately, the only money we had on us. I could tell he appreciated us talking to him and actually caring about him. I don't think he had experienced many genuine acts of love in his life. At least not recently.
As we went our separate ways, I couldn't help but start to feel discouraged. I was driven to tears as we walked away. That's what compassion feels like.
On our walk to the coffee shop, Jenny and I prayed for that man. I still pray for him every couple of days. I hope his heart has softened and he has opened up his life to the Lord.
It can be easy to get discouraged when people don't accept Jesus. It's difficult to see people walk away and not want to taste and see how good God truly is. Especially when they are so close to a life changing moment with the Lord. It sucks when they reject you, when they reject Jesus.
It's our job, our calling, our responsibility to GO and PREACH the Gospel to the world! (Mark 16:15) It's the world's decision and responsibility whether to accept Jesus or not. But, if we never go and preach the Gospel and choose not to witness, then we are making the decision for them! That is not a good place to be.
Even if they rejected Jesus this time, it doesn't mean we weren't supposed to talk to them or minister to them. Be faithful and bold in what God has called us to do. Be a light in dark places. Be someone that plants and waters seeds in people's lives. And then let God bring the increase.
I want to leave you with a few excerpts from an awesome book on witnessing by Mark Cahill called One Thing You Can't Do In Heaven. I hope they can be an encouragement and/or a kick in the butt for myself and for you!
- Page 17- "Everyone in heaven is a believer. Do you realize that when you take your last breath, you will never again be able to talk with a lost person?"
- Page 35- "Every time we share our faith it is a winning situation. If they accept Jesus it is a winning situation. If we plant a seed it is a winning situation. If they reject Jesus it is a winning situation." (1 Peter 4:14, Luke 6:22-23)
- Page 51- "What kind of friendship do you really have if you would go to Heaven when you die, but your friend would go to Hell? If you are not eternal friends, are you really friends at all?"
- Page 66- "We can't imagine the value of a soul to God except to look at the cross."
- Page 175- "Matthew 4:19, Jesus said, 'Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.' If you are not fishing, then you are not following."
- Page 217- "It is our responsibility to speak the truth, whether our listeners listen or whether they refuse the message."
Ask God for opportunities to preach the Gospel.
Ask God for boldness.
Step out of your comfort zone!
Ask God why am I not witnessing- Am I scared of what people will think? Am I nervous? Am I scared of being rejected? Will I not know what to say? Am I uneducated on this topic? Do I need more teaching? Am I lazy? Is it not a priority in my life? Am I overcomplicating the Gospel, overcomplicating the love of Jesus?
GO PREACH in word AND in action! (Talk the talk and walk the walk, both are equally important. I'm pretty sure Jesus did both in His life and ministry.)