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The poet William Cowper long ago wrote the lines:
God works in a mysterious way
His wonders to perform.
He plants His footsteps on the sea
And rides upon the storm.
One time, when the road of my life seemed a little rough, a friend placed a hand on my shoulder, and said some comforting words. I gained courage and went on. Soon the road seemed smoother.
Never neglect the opportunity to reach out your hand to touch someone in need. That was Jesus' way with others. Bread lasts but a day, but the touch of a hand will live on. A loving touch may be an important way to witness for Jesus. "How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation?"
A few years ago, some new neighbors moved onto my block. As they moved in, I thought I would go and get acquainted with them. One of the families, three doors up the street, was friendly. I invited them to come to my church. But they weren't interested, even though their membership in a church was over 50 miles away.
Year after year I watched that family. The son grew up and joined several school sports teams. He would come to my house selling all his fund-raising products. The family bought a camper, motorcycles, and a boat. Everything seemed geared for a life of pleasure. But I neglected to reach out a hand to that family again to invite them to church.
On a hot summer day, two women came to my door. They were from a church all the way across town. They were getting names of children who might want to ride their "Sunday School Bus" to their church.
Then soon I noticed a big bus coming down my street early on Sunday mornings. One day as I was working in the yard, the man from up the street walked down. He just chatted about what was going on in his life. Then he said what he had really come to say.
His two children had been riding that Sunday School bus that I saw each week. They were getting much out of Sunday School. In fact, they loved it. I felt bad that I hadn't done more to get them interested in my church, but was glad that they were attending somewhere. My church missed the blessing that a little more effort might have brought.
One of my family friends belonged to a large church out West. He said he would always try to get to the pastor at the end of the service so he could shake his hand. Something made him long for that small personal contact. His wife told me his story.
His mother died when he was very young and his father placed him in a private school. When he reached the age of 15 he was told his father had died and his stepmother would no longer pay his tuition. At 15, he was thrown out on the world. He worked at many jobs just to stay alive. How he longed for someone to touch him with love, to encourage him in his struggle for survival.
The touch of his pastor's hand meant a great deal to him, even though now he was very financially successful in life and had a happy marriage and wonderful family.
Dr. R. G. Lee, a famous preacher, believed strongly in reaching a hand out to those in need.
When young people came to his study he took time to counsel with them. Often he helped them through cash loans and gifts. Before any young person left, he prayed with them. Only eternity will reveal how much good was accomplished because Dr. Lee took time to touch the lives in his church.
Sometimes taking time to touch the life of another doesn't seem worth the effort. We do not know why God impresses us to do certain things for certain people. But we do know that God will reveal all of us when we get to heaven.
Now, we may not always feel motivated to reach out. But our challenge is to obey Christ and reap the rich blessing by reaching out to help and encourage others.
Louis Abel is the pastor of Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Chiefland.