Saturday, January 3, 2009

Pick Up the Toast

On a quiet summer day, as I was returning home from a meeting in the city, I passed a hitchhiker. As a rule I never pick up hitchhikers, but as I continued on my way, I felt as though God was prompting me to pick up the young man. I spent the next few minutes arguing with myself. Was I really supposed to pick him up? I drove a few miles before finally turning around.

Within a few minutes, I learned that the young man had just been dropped off by his employer and was beginning the journey home from the highway. He lived in a small town that was about 10 miles away and was very grateful for the ride. As we talked, I tried very hard to focus on what God was leading me to say. I wish that I could report that God used me in some miraculous way, but the trip was pretty unremarkable. Despite this, I still had a very real sense that God had a purpose in having me pick up this young man.

Several weeks later, the event was practically forgotten. I was sitting in our kitchen when our 15-month-old son began throwing his toast on the floor. My wife, Sue, walked in just as this happened. She promptly pulled our son out of his chair, stood him up next to the toast and instructed him to pick it up. With some reluctance, he bent over, picked up the toast, and placed it back on the table.

As I watched, God began to connect some spiritual dots for me. As our son picked up another piece of toast, I recognized that the net impact of his activity was of little significance. I would still have to clean up this mess, whether it was on the table or the floor. Clearly, the value of the activity wasn’t connected to its ultimate effectiveness here and now. Its value was based in the small beginnings of discipline and obedience. Suddenly, as God nudged my spirit, I recognized that the activity of picking up the hitchhiker was God’s way of saying, “Peter, pick up the toast.”

To be effective in our service, we need to develop spiritual understanding and maturity. We need to hear His voice, understand His direction, and willingly obey. Hearing His voice begins with the study of His Word and a healthy prayer life. If you haven't engaged in these activities in a focused way before you may find that they seem like “pick up the toast” tasks. In time, small steps of obedience form the foundation of greater things - God rewards those that diligently seek Him.

“Spend your time and energy in training yourself for spiritual fitness. Physical exercise has some value, but spiritual exercise is much more important, for it promises a reward in both this life and the next. This is true and everyone should accept it. We work hard and suffer much in order that people will believe the truth, for our hope is in the living God, who is Savior of all people, and particularly of those who believe.”

I Timothy 4:7b-10 NLT