Published April 20, 2010

Paul's Epistle...
"Divine Appointments"

One evening recently as I was taking my walk through the downtown, I passed a site where a century-old four-story vacant building had collapsed spectacularly earlier in the week, probably due to some construction work underway next door. (Nobody was seriously hurt, even though part of the brick facade landed on a passing city bus.)

Although as I walked I was wearing my earbuds, listening to the radio, suddenly I became aware there was a young man standing there on the sidewalk talking to me. So I took out my earbuds and he proceeded to tell me all about the building collapse. He had seen and heard it happen, he said. He went on and on and we talked for about ten minutes. He did virtually all of the talking, and not everything that he said made total sense, but it was somewhat interesting, nonetheless.

Several times I tried to thank him and move on with my walk. But it just didn't work. He had more to say and even started to talk about things that had nothing to do with the building collapse – the nature of lightning, for example. Really.

Finally, I politely thanked him, told him I enjoyed the conversation, but I must move on — which I did.

No sooner had I resumed my walk up the street than an elderly, obviously needy man whom I had glimpsed walking slowly through a parking lot walked over and asked me for a quarter. (What can you get for a quarter these days?)

Normally when I walk I carry one or two copies of the Gospel of John (from the Pocket Testament League) with a one-dollar bill tucked inside at the page that includes John 3:16. I do it exactly so that I can respond in a positive manner to such requests.

So I handed the man the booklet, which he opened, and, of course, immediately found the dollar. He stood there staring at it, as if this was something totally unexpected. Which, of course, I'm sure it was. Then he thanked me (very genuinely, it seemed) and moved on, as did I. I glanced back, and he was still looking at the Gospel of John booklet.

As I proceeded up the street it suddenly occurred to me that I must have been ten minutes early on my walk. That's why that fellow at the building collapse site (whether he knew it or not) was so insistent in continuing to talk with me for ten minutes. It was to give that other guy time to be where the Lord wanted him to be when I passed by.

Perhaps it was a "Divine appointment." And I believe it very well may have been. (I prefer that to the alternative -- a "mere coincidence.") I am in complete awe of how God can — and does — manipulate events to accomplish His will, even on such a seemingly insignificant scale at this. And thinking of the young man who detained me for ten minutes perhaps it was even a Hebrews 13:2 moment ("Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some have unwittingly entertained angels"). Only God knows.

Of course, whatever happened as a result of giving that needy man the Gospel of John is in the Lord's hands through the Holy Spirit. But it felt good to be a part of whatever happens. And it was encouraging to remember Isaiah 55:11: "So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; it shall not return to Me void, but it shall accomplish what I please, and it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it." We just need to do our part.

Two points:

First, are you prepared if someone like that needy man would approach you? It's probably already happened. How did you respond? How might you respond the next time? (I hope I've given you at least one additional idea.)

And, second, don't worry if someone delays you and seems to want to talk about — whatever. Or other circumstances delay you. Maybe there's a reason for that. Maybe, based on my experience, you're ten minutes too early to be where the Lord wants you to be to accomplish His purpose, whatever that might be. Keep your eyes open to the possibilities.

I've got a good supply of those Gospel of John booklets, and plan to continue carrying them. Maybe there are more "Divine appointments" ahead. I hope so.

- Paul

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