November 5, 2019 • Dennis Ellingburg
This past week something happened to me that has really reshaped my heart and opened my eyes to a simple truth: God can use simple acts of kindness in amazing ways. It’s a truism I’ve heard my whole life that kindness costs nothing but can change lives, but a short encounter with a pastor at the Mississippi Baptist pastor’s conference really brought this truth to light.
Just a disclaimer for those of you who don’t know me but I love the Mississippi Baptist Convention. I mean I love it. My wife will tell you it’s one of the highlights of my year. It’s not the business meeting or even the preaching, though I enjoy that very much and it’s refreshing to my soul, what my soul loves is the fellowship I have with other pastors during this week. As one pastor said, “It’s a big ole family reunion.” That’s what made what happened so poignant to me, and also so humbling.
This year I had the opportunity to serve on the Credentials Committee, helping men and women register to receive their ballots. I loved it because it gave me the opportunity to meet new men and women who were coming to the convention, but also because it gave me an opportunity to reconnect with college friends, men and women I’ve worked with in the past, and acquaintances from my over 25 years of gospel ministry.
As I walked the convention halls, or sat at the credentials table, I reconnected with several people. I hugged necks, shook hands, and patted backs with people from Buckatunna to Vicksburg and from Possumneck to Gautier. (Ok, I don’t know anyone from Possumneck but it’s an incredible town name!!!) One brother that I saw was from Meridian where I served as Pastor of Union Baptist Church over a decade earlier. As he walked by, I reached over, said his name, shook his hand and told him I was glad to see him. I asked him how he was doing and what church he was pastoring. We talked about a mutual friend who pastored the same church, and how things were going, and then we parted. I had the same conversation several times that day with many men and thought little of it, not because he was unimportant, but because it was one of many such conversations.
But what happened later that night cut right to my heart. I received a text from the brother. He shared how isolated he had felt at the convention, often feeling left out and even unwanted by those around him. He shared that the next morning, his prayer was for someone to voluntarily approach him and speak, and that I was the person God sent. He thanked me for being used by God and how I lifted his spirits. I was humbled, totally clueless to how God was moving, but thankful for how God had used me.
I write this, not to pat myself on the back, I really did little to nothing, but to remind all of us that sometimes the simplest thing, the most menial gesture, the smallest kindness may be an answered prayer to someone else. Galatians 5:22-23 notes that one aspect of the Fruit of the Spirit is kindness and Colossians 3:12 tells us to “put on hearts of…kindness” as “those who have been chosen of God”.
As Christians our words and action can be used by God in ways we cannot even begin to understand or appreciate. Proverbs 16:24 reminds us that “kind words are like honey–sweet to the soul and healthy for the body.” So let me encourage you to be an encouragement this week. You never know when you might be an answer to someone’s prayers.
So be kind this week. Brothers and sisters, tell someone hello, hug a neck, give a smile, open a door, and share the love of Christ. You may be the person God sent in their lives to encourage them today.
Let me leave you with one more thing this wonderful brother in Christ did, that was such an encouragement to me. Just this past week, I received a note from the man I spoke to. In his letter he shared these words, “We never know how much (to) a person that is in depression that our words of encouragement can give a breath of hope.” Wow! Brother, you know who you are, you’ve encouraged and refreshed me as much as or more than I could have possibly encouraged you! Thank you!