I like to plan. I love calendars and lists. I like to be organized and have a schedule. But sometimes ministering to people does lend itself to staying on a schedule. Sometimes ministry is inconvenient or doesn’t fit with our To Do list. Jesus was often “interrupted” by people with needs. Never once do we see in the gospels that Jesus turned someone away because they weren’t on His schedule for that day or because He had not planned in advance to help them. Perhaps there is a lesson for us in Jesus’ example of how to live with margin in our lives so that we can make the most of every opportunity to minister to people.
Seek the Father’s will.
Jesus often withdrew to quiet places to pray. He spent time seeking the Father’s will. When we do the same, we are preparing ourselves for what God has planned for us in any given day. We are seeking His guidance and direction for what we accomplish and not just following our own agenda. We need to ask God to lead us to the people to whom He wants us to minister and then trust Him that He will do just that. We need to be willing to go where He leads us, even if it may not seem convenient or fit within our plan. We need to ask God to help us not overcommit to so many things to the point that we don’t have enough margin in our lives to take time for meaningful encounters with people.
See encounters with people as divine appointments.
God is sovereign over everything. He knew exactly the people Jesus would encounter each day of His earthly ministry. Those encounters were God-ordained for God’s purposes. We need to see our encounters with people in the same way. We need to trust God that He is guiding our steps and connecting us with people for His purposes. Nothing is random or by chance. As we come in contact with people, we should pray for God to give us just the right words to say to know how best to interact with them, seeing those interactions as divine appointments. We should be intentional about looking for opportunities to talk to people, rather than being so bound to our To Do list that we are oblivious to the people around us.
Intentionally point people to the Savior.
While Jesus met people who needed His healing touch or His words of forgiveness, we may meet people who need a listening ear or a word of encouragement. Some people may be searching for truth. Some people may be struggling in a relationship. We can be a listening ear and even offer advice, but ultimately, everyone we encounter needs to encounter Christ in a personal way. We should take advantage of every opportunity to point people to the Savior. Sometimes that happens by us first meeting a physical need and then gaining a listening ear to share with them about Jesus. Sometimes it happens by us asking how we can pray for someone and showing that we care. Sometimes people will be ready to hear about Jesus when we first meet them. Other times we may need to cultivate a relationship with someone for a long time before we can share with them about the Savior. As we pray for guidance, the Lord will give us wisdom about how to connect with people and gain an audience with them for sharing the gospel. However the Lord leads, we need to be willing to take the necessary time out of our schedule to connect with people in a way that may impact them for eternity.
God is a God of order, and I do think He is honored when we plan and seek to use our time wisely. But I also think that God wants us to be open to His leading and the prompting of the Holy Spirit throughout the day, so that we do not miss opportunities for ministry. Living like Jesus means having a plan but also being willing to ditch that plan and take the time to interact with people along with way.