Ministry has a way of interrupting our tidy schedules. It never fails to amaze me how many of Jesus’s opportunities to demonstrate his identity and the kingdom of God happened at unscheduled times. As Jesus taught in a crowded home, some intrepid men lowered their paralyzed friend through the roof and interrupted Jesus’s teaching. Instead of being caught off guard, Jesus used this opportunity to heal the paralytic and teach a powerful lesson about his authority as the Son of Man (Luke 5:17-26).
As Jesus stood beside the sea of Galilee, surrounded by a crowd of people, Jairus threw himself at his feet and begged him to come and heal his daughter. Even as Jesus walked to Jairus’s house, he encountered yet another person desperate for healing, and he cleansed this woman of a discharge of blood that had lasted twelve years (Mark 5:21-34).
All too often, we decry the lack of an orderly schedule in our lives as pastors and Christian leaders. However, I am convinced this can often be a sort of godly serendipity, led by the Holy Spirit, to put us exactly where we need to be at a time that makes perfect Kingdom sense.
Early in my ministry, I struggled to figure out what to do and when to do it. There were endless tasks that were never completed. In this chaotic season, I learned an important lesson about attention and obedience to the Holy Spirit.
One morning as I planned my day, a family became lodged in my mind. This couple helped each week in worship. The wife played the piano and her husband led our singing. They were not emotionally needy and required little attention. And yet, I couldn’t get them out of my mind. Finally, I stubbornly began to see that this might be from the Lord, so I called the wife to see if I could come by their house to visit. She sounded surprisingly excited, and I made my way over.
As I entered the door, she and her husband treated me like royalty. They ushered me to the kitchen table. They had made coffee and had snacks sitting out. At the same time, there was an atmosphere in their emotions and home that I couldn’t quite understand.
Across the table, the wife choked back tears as she asked, “how did you know?” I was mystified. “What do you mean?” She continued, “well, we assumed someone told you,” as she began to share the story of how this was one of the most difficult days of the year for them. You see, 20-something years earlier to the day, their son had been tragically killed by a baseball in a little league game. My heart broke. But I also realized something powerful. Even though I had no idea, God knew. As I shared this with them, the peace of Christ settled into the room.
I will never forget the lesson I learned that day. We have no way of knowing what is going on in the lives of the people we are sent to love, lead, and serve. But God does. Only by listening to the whisper of His voice will we be able to manifest His loving presence in their lives. Only by obedience to the Holy Spirit will we be able to minister in the midst of interruptions and chaos.