Publication: One-to-One, Winter 2009
I love getting presents, especially surprise presents at surprise times. So imagine my joy on a recent January Sunday when I received a box wrapped festively with an accompanying message that my sermons had been encouraging to one of our church members. She wanted me to know that the box contained a turtle-not a live one, mind you, but a very special beautifully-crafted wooden one nonetheless. Immediately, I knew precisely why she was giving me this turtle, and what it meant.
You are probably wondering when I will share that secret knowledge with you. Your patience is about to be rewarded.
Some months ago, I was having a very difficult Saturday, facing many challenges, tasks, conflicts, and disappointments. To make matters worse, I couldn’t seem to get a sermon together for the next day’s service. So, I decided to console myself in the usual way, which is to go to lunch at my favorite bayside restaurant and tuck into a nice bowl of pickled beets. On my way, I passed a turtle in the road, bravely struggling to make the crossing without becoming turtle jerky. I may have mentioned already, in passing, that I was having a bad weekend, and though I wished the turtle no harm, my “help-o-meter” was already in the red zone, and so I zipped right around him and continued on my way.
And then the Lord spoke to me: “Just because you’re having a rough time doesn’t mean you can’t help the turtle out of his trouble.” Past experiences of ignoring the Lord’s voice, or rebelling against His leading have taught me that those are generally poor choices, and so reluctantly, I turned the car around and drove back to the site of the little turtle’s quest.
Something in me began to empathize with the turtle, and so I picked him up, careful to avoid his fierce jaws and deadly talons, and carried him across the road and into the safety of the woods. As I did, the Lord reminded me of the ways in which He carries me, and how He has called me to take what I’ve received from Him and share it-joyfully-with others.
That day, I saved a turtle and got a sermon, and I shared it the next day at church-and then promptly forgot about it. Fast for ward to this recent January Sunday, as I came into the sanctuary tired and battle weary, facing some fresh challenges, less than enthusiastic about having to preach, and wondering-in a fit of self-pity-if I had a friend in the world.
Suddenly, I was handed the gift and the message about the turtle, and how God had somehow used me to bless a wonderful sister in our spiritual family. Joy hit me like a bracing hug (or kick in the pants) and completely changed my outlook. Encouragement-literally, “to give heart”-had come full circle again, passed from friend to friend, to return again with “new mercies” that were fresh and enlivening.
In 1 Samuel 30, we see how David encouraged himself in the Lord after a bitter defeat, when all seemed lost. What wonderful news: we can find hope in the Lord-He is the strength of our hearts. Having then received this gift from the Lord, we are called to share it with others. Amazingly, encouragement has a way of coming back to you…it is a most hearty and resourceful seed to sow. Once it takes root in hearts, it grows like a vine, and bears much good fruit…and fruit that remains.
Find encouragement in the Lord, and share it with somebody today, in words and in deeds. Make Isaiah 58 and Isaiah 61 your own personal mission, as Jesus did. Be a part of somebody’s deliverance. You never know when they may come back to be a part of yours.
Scripture Reference: I Samuel 30; Isaiah 58; Isaiah 61
STEPHEN SIMPSON is the Editor of One-to-One Magazine and the Director of CSM Publishing. In addition to publishing ministry, Stephen has served in leadership for churches and ministries in Costa Rica, Florida, Mississippi, Texas, and Michigan, as well as being the Senior Pastor of Covenant Church of Mobile (2004-2013). He continues to travel in ministry across North America and in other nations.