Purposefully Driving Away From A Blessing

“God beckons storm clouds and they come. He tells the wind to blow and the rain to fall, and they obey immediately. He speaks to the mountains, ‘You go there,’ and He says to the seas, ‘You stop here, and they do it. Everything in all creation responds in obedience to the Creator…until we get to you and me. We have the audacity to look God in the face and say, ‘No.”  – David Platt “Radical”

I have been so very disobedient lately.  I’ve known for about a week that I needed to write this post, but I have been putting it off.  I have not spoken of it, I have not acknowledged it, but it has been there in my heart.
Last week I was driving down 64th Ave towards the bank to deposit some cash and was stopped at a red light.  A homeless man stood there with a sign.  He looked me in the eye.  I looked away.  I felt the Holy Spirit tell me so clearly, give him $20 from your wallet.  And yet, I consciously, deliberately chose to be disobedient.  The light seemed to take forever to turn green.  The man had walked past my vehicle and I told myself, “If he gets back to me before the light changes, I’ll give him the $20.”  As if he had heard me, he immediately turned around and walked back towards my car.  I again, looked away and kept my hands firmly planted on the steering wheel.  As I drove away, tears began to pour down my face.  I felt the Lord say to me “you just missed out.”  I was a mess by the time I got to the bank.  Full on ugly cry going on.  I had driven away from an opportunity to bless and to be blessed.
A few days later I was driving down 64th and thought to myself “if he’s there again and the light is red, I’ll give him the $20.”   I had saved it in my wallet, you see.  I knew it was supposed to be for him.  And sure enough, there he was, pacing back and forth with his sign beside the line of cars waiting for the light to turn green.  And somehow, as he looked me in the eye, I froze yet again and looked away.  I drove away AGAIN.  How many times will it take me to learn?  I felt my own heart breaking all over again.
I spent that $20 this week and as I handed it to the cashier in Shoppers Drug Mart, I knew it was wrong.  I knew I was supposed to give it to that man.  Instead, I spent it on nail polish.
My stomach feels sick as I write this.  I am disgusted with myself.  My heart is broken.
I’ve been learning a lot lately about listening to the voice of God.  The last few months have been an amazing journey in hearing the leading of the Holy Spirit.  My deepest desire is to align my will with the will of God, to be sensitive to His voice, and to simply be where He wants me to be.  I’m learning.  All of this is learning.  Especially when I fail.  Big time.
I’m telling you this story because it’s real.  We do this.  I do this.  We know that something is right (or wrong) and we make this choice in our hearts, “No, I will not do that” or “I’m going to do it anyways.”  We ignore the signs, the promptings, the still, small voice in our hearts to do something, go somewhere, say something, not say something.  We ignore the warnings of our friends and family.  We shove aside the Word of God.  We rebel against the heart of God daily.  We date the wrong people, gossip about our friends, lash out against our loved ones in hurt and anger.  We walk past the homeless, turn a blind eye to the broken, we look God in the face and have the audacity to say “no.”  I can’t even count how many times I have been with someone and come face to face with a person, only to walk by and a few minutes later turn to each other and admit that we both knew we were supposed to stop and speak to that person, pray for them, etc.  I also can’t count how many times we just kept going.  We acknowledged that we made the wrong choice, felt sad for a moment and made no attempt to go back.
Our pride keeps us from trusting God, our selfishness keeps us from experiencing what He has for us.  Our desperation to control keeps us from total dependence on Him.
And it’s not just the big things.  It’s the little things, the small things, the day to day things.
It’s not just the things that we do, it is the things that we do not do.  Like sitting in my car with the window rolled up and a $20 dollar bill tucked safely in my wallet.  It’s sitting in silence when I know that I have a word that needs to be spoken.  To an outsider, I have done nothing wrong.  But I, oh I know my own black heart and I know that I have sinned.  I used to think when I was a child that adults never sinned because you don’t see them being disobedient against their parents (which, as a child, is pretty much the only sinning you do).  Now I know how much worse it is, to sit in silence and know that you are actively practicing sinful disobedience against God Himself.
I think back to the beginning of this year when I chose the word “Move” for myself.  I have stepped out in faith and done a lot of things this year that I never thought I would do.  But I have also failed in many ways.  I have sat still with my heart beating so loudly in my ears and consciously said “No.”  How much have I missed out on?  Can I ask, how much have you?
I write this not to condemn you or myself.  I write it because we need to come face to face with our own weakness sometimes.  Because, it is when I am struck by my own weakness that I discover how great God is.  I can’t do these things alone.  I have relied too much on my own strength, my own will, my own courage.  I have let the fear of what the person behind me will think, what my friends will say, if I speak what is in my heart.  I have allowed myself to doubt, to diminish, to eliminate the voice of the Holy Spirit in my life.
I have missed out.  I know I have.  And I hate that.  I don’t want it to happen anymore.  I write this because I want to be a woman of action.  I want to listening more actively to the voice of God and to be purposeful about obeying His voice, whether it’s as simple as handing a $20 to someone who needs it more than me, or as big as picking up my life and moving across the world.  There are no small things when God tells you to do it.  It’s all big.  It’s all real.  It all matters.

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  • Great post, tis better to give then to receive. When the Spirit leads we need to obey, however I also believe that "if you don't work, you don't eat" 2 Thessalonians 3: 10-13

    I totally agree, that we are not to quench the spirit though. I appreciate your transparency.

  • @Colton – I agree with you and in general, I am not one to do that. But there are times when the Holy Spirit speaks clearly about something and this was one of those times. And who am I to disobey? Thanks for commenting!

  • I can totally relate to this post. I remember those tears and that feeling of missing out, the moment you know you are deliberating choosing not to listen.
    But I love the ending of this "I have missed out. I know I have. And I hate that. I don’t want it to happen anymore. I write this because I want to be a woman of action. I want to listening more actively to the voice of God and to be purposeful about obeying His voice…" A woman of action! Love your heart! xx

  • Hey Kathleen, your story came up in my Facebook newsfeed and caught my eye. I have totally been there before. On one occasion, I took a homeless person into a grocery store and helped them select out some items. Afterward, at his request, I gave him the receipt so that he could claim it back from the government ministry. All the while feeling like I was being led by the Lord. Later I found out he took the groceries and receipt back to the store and pocketed all the money they refunded to him.
    Was I being led by the Lord, or was it just an emotional response? I get that same feeling when a sales associate is trying to scam me with their useless ripoff extended warranty. Its like a spell comes over me and I am compelled to buy what they are pushing. Have you ever done that or felt like that? Been talked into buying something you later regretted? Maybe my heart is just becoming cold and hard in my old age, but when I see someone at a streetlight with all their "sales tools" (i.e the cardboard sign with the "God Bless You" on it, or the dog), I don't feel guilty for not giving them money, but rather for not telling them the truth, I.e. Repent! I totally believe in helping those in genuine need, but a righteous anger boils within when I see people stealing from those who have genuine need. And I was thinking about it. If a person is home-less, what are they in need of? A home! Why do we give food to them when what they really lack is a home. I've seen people who need food. They are on the world vision commercial. You can tell they need food! If the homeless people we see don't need food, then what do you think they are going to spend the money on that we give them? Accommodation? I don't think so. Booze maybe? But maybe that is okay. The Bible does say to "give beer to those who are perishing." Well I'll end my rant here. Thou thoughts on this? Anyone? Can anyone out there soften up this grumpy guy's hardened heart?

  • @Anon Thanks for your comment! It was very thought provoking. I must admit that I am often cynical myself about "helping" street people because of many of the reasons that you mentioned above.

    I guess I just have this one thought in response… Jesus came to die for billions of people who rejected His help, have tried to distort His message, have spat in His face and crucified Him for no fault of His own. And yet, He offers life freely. He does so in the hope that we take Him up on His offer. Even though it is devastating when His gift is rejected, He still gave Himself up in sacrifice for ALL.

    I can't control what happens after I hand someone some money or buy them groceries. I can't control someone's future, even if I do give them a home. I can preach the gospel, but I cannot force someone to hear it or act on it. But, does that mean I shouldn't do any of those things? I don't think so.

    I don't have to worry about someone else's actions – they will be held responsible for themselves. But I AM responsible for my own actions and when the Holy Spirit says to do something, it's on MY head if I disobey.

    Of course, that doesn't mean I am to act without wisdom or discernment!

    Thanks again! Further thoughts?

  • I have seen much damaged in the Kingdom caused by people feeling they were being "led" by the Holy Spirit. Many (most?) Christians have difficulty knowing the difference between actually being led by th Spirit and merely having an emotional response. It is very evident in "worship" services. Are people really feeling God "show up," or we they feeling frisson? There is lots of info on the Internet about when we hear music we like, dopamine is released into our bodies. The opposite is true as well, when we hear music we don't like, it has a negative affect on our emotions, which could be why you'll have two people in a service and only one will say they felt God "show up." it could also be why music can be so divisive in the Body.
    One last note (for now anyways), I think this might be a good book and a good conference to attend http://www.fhcanada.org/hwh I might buy the book, and if I was still young and unencumbered, i would seriously consider attending the conference … hint, hint 🙂

  • @Anon – Thanks for your comments and adding to the discussion! As per the tone of some of the comments I've received, I just want to clarify that I am not trying to make any point here on the best way to help the poor, alleviate poverty, etc. That is a very big discussion and was frankly, nowhere on my mind when I wrote this post. My intent here was merely to highlight an area in my life where I have been convicted lately – purposeful disobedience in situations where I "know" I have felt the Holy Spirit's leading, this being one example.

    While I agree with you that it can be very difficult sometimes to discern the leading of the Holy Spirit, I also believe that there is a big danger in the Church today where we have come to ignore that still, small voice inside and/or brush it off as "an emotional response", as you say. The truth is that we have been given the Holy Spirit as our "Counselor" and I believe it is imperative to my faith that I walk in step with His leading. Have I made mistakes? Of course. I am only human and oftentimes my will and pride get in my own way. Does that mean I should throw the baby out with the bathwater? Of course not!

    Thanks for the Food for the Hungry link! I would recommend anyone reading this to check them out further.

  • Great post, Kathleen. Many Christians are seeking a foundational way to discern the Holy Spirit. This pursuit has resulted in skepticism about "emotional responses" and "personal interpretation" of the Bible (e.g. interpretation without guidance from a Church, pastor, etc…).
    The way that you have found, from what I have read, is through the "still, small voice inside", of conviction; that is, the Holy Spirit in you.

    However, would you not agree that there are instances when Christians argue – both sides claiming a deep conviction by the Holy Spirit? There are issues (e.g. infant baptism, perseverance of the saints, etc…) in which this occurs.

    There are certainly Christians who feel convicted that we should not give the homeless money; but instead, we should help them in other ways. There are even Christians who feel deeply convicted that to give a homeless person money is WRONG – as it "aids" them in their sinful habits.

    I am neutral on this topic.

    My question to you is this: Suppose such a Christian is walking with you and you approach a homeless man. You feel convicted to give him money, but your acquaintance pulls you aside and says he is deeply convicted that to do so would be to sin.
    What would you say to this person? Would you ignore his conviction? Is the "still, small voice" in your conscience worth more to you than the "still, small voice" in HIS head?
    Would you discard his opinion as "mislead"? What if 100 people came up to you and said the same thing?

    Would you say you are both right, convicted differently? But, thousands of people are convicted that infant baptism is OK, others that it is SINFUL (or, more strictly, that to NOT be baptized as an adult, is sinful). (Of course, this strong view applies only to a relatively small group of believers – I am not trying to generalize or assume what all non-reformed believers think, whatsoever!)

    Anyways, clearly, it can ONLY be one or the other. An action cannot be both sinful and not-sinful!
    So, how do you know that YOU'RE the one being led correctly – especially if both people have prayed about it and feel convicted?

    Thanks for your great thoughts so far!

  • @Anon2 – this is quite a meaty post so I am going to answer it paragraph by paragraph. Thank you for some very thought-provoking questions, firstoff!

    Firstly, let me clarify that I do not merely rely on the "still, small voice" of the Holy Spirit in my heart. I believe that God speaks in many ways, primarily through Scripture, also through other people, creation, etc. Whenever I sense the voice of God in any circumstance, I believe that it is crucial to test this against Scripture – what I believe to be the infallible Word of God. I also find it helpful to test what I "hear" against the wisdom and discernment of other mature believers. If what I am hearing is way off what many other are hearing, then there is a possibility that I have allowed my own mind, heart, desires, sin, etc. to cloud my vision, no?

    I of course will agree with you that many Christians differ on many different doctrinal issues. Some of them are foundational to the Christian faith, many are not. I believe that there is room for discussion on many issues. Others are much more cut and dried (ie. the sinlessness of Christ, etc.)

    As to your question as to what I would say to a friend who confronted me on giving money to a homeless person… Being that this is a theoretical question, all I can say is that I would ask that person why he/she thought that, hear them out with an open heart. I would never claim that someone is misled without sincere attention to what they believe and why. On the one hand, this could be a legitimate caution from a wise believer when I am out of line or acting from an emotional response. But on the other, there might be other things at play and I really might need to proceed to act upon what I feel led to do. At the end of the day, I am responsible to God for my actions, not to other people. I would also say that if 100 people (mature believers) told me that they were hearing one thing from God and I was hearing something else, I would say that there is a good chance I am the one misled (although I wouldn't go so far as to say that this is ALWAYS the case – many leaders have gone against the grain and rightly so).

    What you said about an action being both sinful and not sinful – I actually believe that certain things CAN be both sinful or not sinful, under different circumstances. For example, as I described in my blog post, I felt deeply convicted to give that man $20, even though I have never done so in my life before. I chose to ignore that and drove away, feeling immediately that I had sinned in disobedience to God. Yesterday I drove past a homeless man and felt zero conviction to give him even a nickel and drove away without a trace of guilt. Same action, totally different in my mind. And that's just one example that's relevant to this discussion.

    Bottom line, how do I know that I'm the one being led correctly? I would reiterate what I said at the beginning of this comment – Does it line up with Scripture? Do mature believers in my life affirm my decision or caution against it? Plus, in examining myself, am I acting out of a response to some other emotion or fear or (fill in the blank here)? If it all checks out, then all I can do is move forward in faith and obedience.

    Like you said, as believers we often have disagreements on the way we should do things, or the best way to do them. I believe that in matters that are non-foundational to the Christian faith, we have the freedom to "continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling." (Philippians 2:12).

    Thanks again for such a great comment! Love it!