Acts 24-26 includes quite a list of influential leaders from the day. And, they all were involved in deciding the fate of the apostle Paul.
There is Ananias, the high priest; Tertullus, the lawyer; Felix, the governor; his replacement, Festus; and finally, King Agrippa. You could recite their pedigrees of experience and education, but not one of them seemed to be able to step back, ask the right questions and get a sense of the bigger picture as it related to what was happening in their midst.
The decisions these leaders made seemed to be based more on appeasing the crowd or technically following the law, not on discerning the right decision.
Have we become too busy to step back and ask the important questions? Do we think we already know the answers? Do we have an opinion about the issue that keeps us from being swayed differently? Are we afraid to speak up? Has it become too easy to go with the flow?
Recently, I realized I missed the chance to make a difference. Afterward, I had a long plane ride to think about my decision!
Waiting in line outside the baggage drop at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York, I was frustrated while watching a scene unfold for nearly 25 minutes. A single man and a couple appeared to be traveling together, and they were trying to get their bags checked for an international flight.
Apparently there was a language barrier, but in the end the conflict seemed to be about money, baggage fees and airline policies. They needed to pay extra money for their bags but only had cash. The airline employee would only accept a credit card for payment.
These folks had passports, boarding passes and cash, but no credit cards. It was rainy, cold and frustrating.
There was a moment—and I remember it vividly—when I could have stepped in, used my credit card, paid for their bags and helped them on their way. It also would have freed up the growing line of frustrated flyers, and prevented the three from having to reload their bags and navigate their way through the crowded terminal.
I'm pretty sure they weren't frequent fliers, so this turn of events was going to extend their busy morning.
My failure was not that I was truly obligated, but rather that I wasn't responsive to the Holy Spirit. I don't think I'm supposed to pay every time I see someone struggling like these folks were, but I distinctly remember the moment where I was being prodded to step in … and I didn't.
I found out that you have a lot of time to think about “what if?” while on a six-hour, cross-country flight.
I'm only trying to communicate that everyday situations come across our paths that are God-arranged. I took a few simple lessons away from what I experienced that day:
- When you are responsive to the Lord, others are helped, and you are left with a sense of fulfillment.
- When life has become so matter-of-fact that you miss Him, repent; start listening and looking again.
- When you get cynical or calloused toward a situation or others, remember that you have been a recipient of His help on more than one occasion, even when you didn't deserve it.
- Your intervention just may spark a rise of hope and faith in the recipient.
Finally, an impressive resumé of education and experience may have mattered to those leaders in that list in Acts 24-26. But in the end, what matters most is whether you are listening and learning before you lead.
Some situations are looking for just one person to make the difference. Be that person.
By: Glenn Burris Jr., president of The Foursquare Church
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