I had a teachable moment from God on a recent evangelism trip with Time To Revive to Minnesota. It involved a red poncho as a symbol of my self-effort.
I was there with some friends and family. We had experienced great weather for about 4 days but this morning it was pouring rain. I woke up at about 5:00 before everyone else. During my time with the Lord I got the idea that I could make a run to get everyone ponchos for the day before they woke up. This would allow us to be ready to leave at 6:30 in order to get to the football stadium by 7:00. The stadium is the place where we met for prayer each morning before we went out on the streets to share the gospel. Since the stadium was outdoors, I assumed we would be outdoors for prayer in the rain and then we might possibly deal with rain as we hit the streets.
I went to the lobby of the hotel we were staying in and asked the desk clerk if there was a store nearby that was open who would carry inexpensive ponchos. She told me about a store right down the street that opened at 6:30 that would probably carry ponchos but I did not want to wait. I thought it would make us late to wait on that store to open so I asked about any 24 hour Walmarts in the area. She said there was one about 5 miles from the hotel. I decided to make the run. It was now about 5:30 and I got the address and struck out on my poncho-gathering journey but I was wrestling inside with the wisdom of all of this since I could just wait until the other store opened at 6:30. I thought by the time I do all of this I won’t save anytime at all. But against my better judgment I struck out with my foot heavy on the gas pedal.
I allowed myself to get under the pressure of the moment as I started driving. I soon discovered as I made a wrong turn that the Walmart was much further away than 5 miles. After several more wrong turns and the inability to find the store quickly I finally arrived at 6:15. I had completely lost my peace by now and am beating myself up for not waiting on the other store. When I asked employees at the store where I might find ponchos, they quickly told me they did not have any and did not carry any rain gear except for umbrellas. I am now realizing what a fools’ errand I had been on. I then thought they had to have a fishing department and I bet there were ponchos in the fishing department. Sure enough I found the ponchos, quickly paid and hit the parking lot at 6:30.
Feeling a little bit dumb and in a panic to get back, I started flying down the road in the midst of the down pour as I called my wife to let her know what I was doing and that I would be late picking them up. She asked if I had gotten the text from the prayer team and I said no. She said the text said that everyone was going to meet in a church nearby the field to be out of the rain for the morning prayer. That call did not elevate my view of my own intelligence that morning but I was now determined to make this whole thing work out and so I started striving to get back as quickly as possible. The faster I drove the more wrong turns I made and even got lost for a moment.
I was feeling out of control and out of sorts spiritually as I finally made it to the hotel a little before 7:00. Everyone was in a great mood except for me and we started out for the field and the church nearby. As we arrived at 7:15 we could see that there were people just arriving. We didn’t even get started that morning until 7:30 instead of our normal 7:00 start. I was now starting to see the humor in my journey as we started to worship and pray. When we finished up worship and walked outside, not only was there no rain at all but the sun was actually shinning.
I just started to laugh at myself as I could sense God laughing with me and not at me. The Holy Spirit then spoke to me and said “This is the result when you try to make things happen, in the spiritual realm, in your own effort. When you don’t wait on me and my timing, you will experience just what has happened this morning. You will do a lot of running around in self-effort with no peace on board and nothing to show for it. I can make it rain or shine, I don’t need your red poncho to accomplish what I won’t you to accomplish on any given day”. As I looked at the sunshine, I just started to laugh. I told everyone the story and said I have a new phrase for struggling in self-effort to accomplish God’s plan and purpose. The phrase is “wearing the red poncho”.
It did not rain the rest of the time in Minneapolis so I never “wore the red poncho” at anytime on our trip and God used me to bring 7 more people into the kingdom.
Proverbs 16:9 The mind of man plans his way,
But the Lord directs his steps.