God Wouldn’t Let Me

I get a lot of strange calls while I’m at work. Most of them are from some guy wanting to book his southern gospel group to perform at our church for four easy payments of $629.99 or a lady trying to sell on-the-go communion sets. “I’m not interested” is my most commonly used phrase of any given day.

But when the phone rang a few weeks ago, God wouldn’t let me use that phrase.

I was putting the finishing touches on my sermon. But things weren’t finishing up so easy. I was stuck on the last verse of the text I was scheduled to preach from in a few days.

And he stayed in Joppa for many days with one Simon, a tanner. Acts 9:43

And then the phone rang. A girl’s voice was on the other end. As she introduced herself, I thought about what I wanted to say.

“Look lady, I don’t care about your stupid on-the-go communion sets.”

That wouldn’t have been very Christian of me. So instead I waited for her to stop talking so that I could use the much more sanctified rejection phrase of, “I’m not interested.” When she stopped talking, I opened my mouth. But before I could speak, God spoke to me. Not audibly. It was in written form. From his word.

And he stayed in Joppa for many days with one Simon, a tanner. Acts 9:43

Simon was an outcast. His profession left him ceremonially unclean. But God has a way of moving towards outcasts. So he sent Peter to stay with Simon. Or maybe he sent Simon to Peter. We have no record of Simon preaching a sermon or going on a missionary journey. All he did was open his home. He was hospitable. And God used that hospitality to spread the gospel.

The lady on the other end of the phone was with a group called She’s My Sister. They tour the country on bicycles to raise money and awareness for women in the Congo who have been sexually abused. Their aim is to minister to these battered women, some as young as six-years-old, through Biblical counseling. They were coming through our small corner of the world and they needed a place to rest. Almost a dozen other churches turned them down.

If left to myself, I would have made our church the next one.

But God wouldn’t let me.

And so last night I met Simon the Tanner. Not literally of course. I just got to see his brand of hospitality at work as people in my church opened up their homes to ten cyclists and volunteered to send them out at 6:30 the next morning with full stomachs.

Most of the people in my church will never go to the Congo and counsel a woman who has been repeatedly raped by warlords. But the people who will had a warm meal, a nice shower and a prayer before they got there. Simon didn’t get to share the gospel with Cornelius. But Peter did and Simon made sure he had a place to stay beforehand.

We’re not all called to be like Peter, highly influential church leaders who always seem to be on the front lines of whatever it is that God is doing in the world. Most of us will have stories much more similar to Simon the Tanner. Our specific gift or position is not God’s primary concern. Our obedience is.

But in order to obey, we have to listen to what God is saying to us through his word.

I’m thankful that God was showing me about Simon the Tanner when my phone rang that day. It’s always amazing how he manages to apply the message of each book I preach through to my own personal life. The book of Acts has been no exception.

Which is why, when I’m done with Acts, I’m preaching through Song of Solomon.

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