To Jesus, everything revolved around obedience. In His relationship with the Father, obedience was all: “I do always do the things that please Him.” (John 8:29) As for us, it’s the same: “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord’ and do not do the things I tell you?” (Luke 6:46)
What started me thinking about that is something my friend Shane told us the other night. I was preaching for four days at a church in Booneville, Mississippi, and Shane–minister of youth at a church in the next town–came over to sing on Monday night. Just before the song, he told the congregation what happened to him the previous Friday.
“It was my day to do the hospitals,” he said, “which means I had to drive to Memphis. On the way home, I drove past the airport there, and something happened. The Lord called my mind to that sack of tracts (booklets that tell how to know Jesus as Savior) in my truck, and impressed on me that I should go into the airport and hand them out to travelers. So, I parked my truck and went inside.
“At first, I walked from one end of the airport to the other,” Shane said, “trying to decide where to begin. Then, since I had not had lunch, I bought a sandwich and ate it. Finally, I decided I had procrastinated enough, and if I expected to get home today, I’d better get started. After all, there were over 300 tracts in that paper bag.”
Now, Shane is a handsome fellow of maybe 35 years, who stands some 6 feet 5 inches tall. But he had the same struggle most of us would about such a task: handing out tracts in a crowded airport takes a lot of courage. No one wants to be characterized as a religious nut, or for that matter to intrude into the lives of people who do not wish to be bothered. But, the only way to obey the Lord is to wade into the task. Shane walked up to people, gently flashed his sweet smile, and asked if he could present them with this little booklet. Most said yes and took one. And that’s how it went for the first 15 minutes.
“Mister, you can’t do that.” An official looking man had seen what Shane was doing and took it upon himself to put a stop to it. “Yeah, I can,” Shane said. “All I’m doing is giving out these tracts.”
“I see what you’re doing,” he said, “and I’m telling you you have to have permission.” “Where do I get it?” Shane said.
A few minutes later, he entered the airport office on the basement level and told the lady on the front desk he had come to request permission to give out his sack of tracts. Officials were called in, a phone call was placed to the lawyer, and the spokesman informed Shane he would not be allowed to hand out his tracts.
“Look,” Shane said, “All I’m doing is passing out these little booklets. And I have the right to do this. I’m not trying to start any trouble. I plan to do this and then get in my truck and drive back home to Mississippi.” And he walked out.
Upstairs, the security guards convened to monitor Shane’s sinister activities. Finally, the biggest one strutted over to announce that he would have to cease and desist. “No,” Shane said, “I have the right to do this. I don’t want to defy you, but I’m going to finish handing these out, and then I’ll leave. Would you like one?”
The guard retreated to his command post for a quick conference with his colleagues. Next, the rookie of the team came over. After the same exchange, the young cop decided he had to prove his authority and proceeded to arrest Shane. The minister was handcuffed and thrown into the back of a police car and taken into downtown Memphis where he was booked. That night his brother-in-law drove to the city and bailed him out.
“I had a hearing in court today,” Shane told our church gathering, “and my trial comes up in a couple of months.” Then, he proceeded to sing to the church a familiar, but fitting, song, “People Need the Lord.”
Later, Shane told me the American Family Association in Tupelo had agreed to take his case and defend him.
I forget whether it was the Moonies or the Hare Krishnas, but a religious sect took this through the entire court system a few years ago and forever established the right to hand out literature in an airport. The airport has the right to restrict you to a particular site and you cannot solicit money.
It’s important to note that Shane had never done this before. All he was doing was obeying the Holy Spirit.
Someone will object, that that’s what some idiot says who slaughters his family. “The voice of God told me,” he says.
The fact that some people with poor mental health or under the influence of the devil may erroneously attach God’s name to their bizarre behavior does not preclude the Lord telling someone to do something. One thing we may consistently count on, however: it will always be beneficial and positive.
Driving home from north Mississippi a couple of days later, I was thinking of what Shane had done when I passed four people hitchhiking along the side of the highway. Young adults, they were loaded down with backpacks, which indicated they were long distance hikers. I drove past them a mile before becoming aware that the Lord was prompting me to help them.
I turned around and drove back, knowing full well that I was not going to offer them a ride. My little car was loaded down with bags and clothing on hangers, plus I would be turning off that highway in two miles. But I knew what I was to do.
They spotted me as I pulled up behind them, and walked back to my car. “Can I have a word with you?” I asked.
“Where are you headed?” “Actually, to San Francisco,” one said, “but we take it a city at the time. And right now, we’re shooting for Tupelo.”
“Okay, look,” I said, “I don’t have room for you in my car, and I’m turning off the highway just ahead, but I do have an idea.” Pointing out the home-made cardboard sign the leader held, I said, “I want you to take this pad of paper and this marker. Now, letter your sign on it like this.” I marked out “RIDE?” in bold strokes, and “Tupelo” underneath, and gave them the large pad of shiny, thick paper I use for drawing people.
“When you get to Tupelo, tear off that sheet and fix another one for the next leg. If you look on the back of the page, you’ll notice that it tells people how they can know Jesus Christ as Savior. I’m a minister and I draw people in malls and such places, and this is one way I try to get the word to them.”
I gave them a few bucks–I know, I know, but I did–and said, “Gather around and let me lead you in prayer.” I prayed for their safety and for them to put their trust in the Lord Jesus.
What was that all about? Did I achieve anything? Was this smart? Did they appreciate my little help?
It was all about obedience to the Lord Jesus Christ. You may remember that He once said, “My sheep hear my voice and they follow me.” (John 10)
It would be nice if the hitch-hikers would read the message on the paper I gave them and come to know the Lord Jesus as Savior. It would be great if travelers in the Memphis airport who took Shane’s tracts would read and believe and live forever. But whether they do or not, the issue at hand was whether a man who called himself the disciple of Jesus was willing to obey Him.
I hope Shane and I passed the test.