Keith Miller, in The Taste of New Wine, relays the story of a busy executive who, during his private devotions one morning, prayed, “Lord, let someone see Jesus in me today.” Then, seeing the clock on the wall, he took his last gulp of coffee, jumped into his car and sped to the train station for his commute into the city. He couldn’t afford to be late to work … again!
Standing on the train platform was a young boy waiting for his commuter to school, his arms loaded with books, pens, papers and a small lunch pail.
It was morning rush hour and the platform was jammed.
As the train approached, the commuters began jockeying for position. As the doors opened and the crowd stampeded to get aboard, the schoolboy was pummeled and lost control of his supplies, spilling them to the cement—kicked away in every direction by the boarding masses.
The busy executive saw it and wanted to help, but he couldn’t miss that train. One more late arrival would jeopardize his job—a job he couldn’t afford to lose.
Then quickly, his prayer returned, “Lord, let someone see Jesus in me today.”
As guilt battled duty, the man gritted his teeth, laid down his briefcase, knelt to all fours and began gathering and reassembling the boy’s belongings … as his commuter train left the station.
The little boy stood in amazement, watching the man’s every move without saying a word. Carefully and neatly, the executive replaced the items in the boy’s arms. With glassy eyes spread wide, the bedazzled child finally asked, “Sir, are you Jesus?”
The busy executive, in telling the story later, said, “For that one moment, I was.”
As Christ’s ambassadors we represent Him in everything we do, even the things that can’t possibly benefit us.
Biblically speaking, encouragement and compassion go hand in hand. In both Hebrew and Greek, the word “compassion” is “a gut feeling for the needs of others,” a sense of duty—“the highest duty,” as William Barkley calls it. Meanwhile, encouragement is the muscle that responds to that compassion.
Compassion is the diagnosis, encouragement is the medicine. The one was always meant to follow the other.
But for all its good—and there’s plenty of it—encouragement is not always reciprocated. It’s often a one-way street, a solo flight. Like found money, it may not be returned.
In fact, scripture gives the impression that it won’t be returned. For example:
• During the 40 year Exodus, the word encourage is mentioned only twice in scripture. In each case, it was Moses who encouraged the people. Not once did the people encourage him.
• During David’s leadership the scriptures mention encourage only twice. Once when Jonathan encouraged him, and the other when David encouraged Joab … who, at the time, was plotting to overthrow David.
• Job sat on the ash heap of his seemingly ruined life. Soon his friends joined him. Not once during their long dialog did they encourage him. Yet Job, concerned for their well-being, encouraged them.
• Paul’s final trip was on a storm-tossed voyage taking him to face his executioner in Rome. All 275 aboard were seasick—and presumably, so was Paul—and yet he encouraged all of them.
• Jesus was forever encouraging others, including His deeply depressed disciples ... just hours before HE was to die.
It appears if we want to encourage others we need to be prepared to go it alone.
On the speaker’s side of my pulpit was fastened a brass plate that only I could see. It quoted the Greeks who asked of Philip, “Sir, we would see Jesus.” That little sign was a constant reminder of why I stood in that pulpit.
The same can be said about encouraging others. It’s a selfless act that vividly depicts the Savior. And it’s through those acts that the people will say, “Sir, are you Jesus?”