by David Phelps
“Do not wait for leaders; do it alone, person to person.” - Mother Teresa
Spring has arrived. Butterflies, balloons, and . . . basketball? It’s time for my eleventh annual column about the balloons that fill our church every Easter Sunday morning! But first an explanation of the reference to basketball. In case you were in a cave for the entire month of April, the National College Athletic Association held its “Final Four” college basketball tournament right here in St. Louis the weekend after Easter. Thousands of basketball fans descended on the St. Louis area for four days. And not all of these fans had tickets. There were people standing on street corners around the Edward Jones Dome downtown carrying signs that said “Need Tickets.” One guy had a sign that said “Need 2.” I couldn’t help thinking, “Need to do what?” The fact that these rabid fans didn’t have tickets hadn’t stopped them from coming to the game. And they weren’t shy about letting other people know what they needed.
Before the Easter service, as we were inflating balloons to take into the church, we discovered there weren’t enough balloons. Dennis quickly rushed to a nearby store to buy more. When he returned, we discovered that the new balloons were too small so he had to go back for still more. The result was worth the effort but quite honestly I was glad I wasn’t the one spending my Easter morning running around looking for balloons.
Like the basketball fans downtown the following weekend, we weren’t shy about making our needs known. We needed balloons and they needed tickets. But what about our need for God? When Jesus asked John the Baptist to baptize him, John replied, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” (Matt. 3:14b NIV). John was a prophet–the last one to come before Christ–but he wasn’t afraid to admit his own need for God. He freely told the people,
“. . . afterme will come one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not fit to carry.” (Matt. 3:11b NIV). Jesus told the Pharisees , “‘It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.’” (Matt. 9:12b NIV). The Pharisees made a mistake because they refused to admit their need. When crowds came to Jesus in the town of Bethsaida, “He welcomed them and spoke to them about the kingdom of God, and healed those who needed healing.” (Luke 9:11b NIV). He met their spiritual and physical needs. Later, he told the people, “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.” (Luke 11:9b-10 NIV). Jesus will meet all our needs if we will only ask.
Every day, we meet people who need God. But they’re not like the basketball fans downtown; they’re not wearing signs that say “Need God!” We don’t know by looking which people need God and which ones don’t. They may not know themselves. When we started, we didn’t know there weren’t enough balloons. It wasn’t until we started decorating the church that we discovered that we needed more. We don’t necessarily know whether someone needs God. But if we meet the needs we do know about, we can show them God through our actions. Paul wrote, “We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. . . . if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously;” (Rom. 12:6, 8b NIV). Even though we can’t necessarily know that a specific person needs God, we do know that everyone needs to encounter the living God. And we can sometimes go a long way toward ministering to his or her need for God by meeting the needs we can see (Matt. 25:34-40). If the people around us are able to see God in our actions and responses, they may be willing to allow God to help them with their own needs. Just as we were able to get more balloons when we realized we didn’t have enough, we have a God who is ready to meet all our needs. God’s love is always enough for us and always just the right size. If we will share the truth about our wonderful God and marvelous savior with persons in need, the Spirit can work through us to transform individual lives, our community, and our world.
“But just as you excel in everything–in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in your love for us–see that you also excel in this grace of giving.
“I am not commanding you, but I want to test the sincerity of your love by comparing it with the earnestness of others. For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.” (2 Cor. 8:7-9 NIV.)
Copyright © 2005 by David Phelps