Hitchhiker in the Kingdom

Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?  Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?  And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life?  And why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin,  yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these.  But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith?”  – Jesus of Nazareth, as recorded by Matthew the Tax Collector

The climax of spiritual tragedy is reached when the prodigal settles happily down in the far country, perfectly at home with his swine and perfectly satisfied with his husks.” – F. W. Boreham

I had an interesting drive across Minnesota last Thursday.  It started out in a hotel room in Grand Rapids when I woke up up a full 30 minutes before the alarm.  Normally, when that happens, I either roll over and try to get a few more minutes of “shut eye” or I spend the extra time with my journal.

Not this time.  I had a strong sense of needing to get on the road back to my home across the state and prepare for a leadership course I was presenting over lunch.  There was a sense of urgency in my preparations, and I was on the road ahead of schedule.  I had no idea the encounter that was awaiting me down the road.

About two hours into the consistently rainy drive I came upon an older man thumbing his way along Highway 2 in the same direction.  I asked the Holy Spirit if I should pick the guy up.  The answer came quickly in a reminder of Hebrews 13:2, “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it.”  That is a pretty clear directive, and I began looking for a turn-around spot.

The turn-around appeared about a mile past the man, and I quickly executed a mile-long double U-turn back to the hitchhiker.  The man hurried to my Jeep and climbed in, putting his backpack in the back seat.  Jeff is a man in his mid-sixties who reported that he has been homeless for about seven years.  He is on the road most of the time, but still calls the Great Lakes region his home.  In response to my question about his destination, he indicted that he was going to Red Lake Falls, MN, a town I know well from my work.  He knows a pastor there from a previous visit and wanted to look him up again.

My decided to drive the 30 extra minutes to drop Jeff off in Red Lake Falls.  This would be no problem because I was 30 minutes ahead of schedule.  Thank you, Holy Spirit, for the early wake-up call.  As we drove, I learned some interesting facts about Jeff.  Here are a few of them.

Jeff feels that his homeless status is a gift from God that is bringing him closer to God and increasing his faith every day.  He does often not know where he is going each day, but he follows God’s leading as to each day’s final destination.  Jeff has seen the Lord provide for him continually in terms of food, supplies, shelter, and safety.  He is aware of the Spirit of God directing him and speaking to him in the solitude of his life on the road.

Jeff told me that his relationship with His God has never been stronger or more vital to him daily than in the last seven years of homelessness.  The best part, he said, is seeking God and God’s kingdom as he wanders his way along.  Near the end of our trip together, Jeff stated that he believes he will not be unemployed or homeless for long, but that he will find a place to settle and meaningful work at the right time.

Jesus told us in Matthew 6:31-33, “Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’  For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things; and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things.  But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”   Many a sermon has been preached on this passage in our culture, but few people put these words into practice.  We strive for everything but the Kingdom of our God and His righteousness.  We push and claw for more than we need, while hurrying home from “church” so we can watch the game or head to the lake.  We nod when the preacher reminds us to walk by faith and not by sight, then head out to walk by sight and not by faith.

Jeff in his homelessness puts us to shame.

“The Church must examine herself constantly to see if she be in the faith; she must engage in severe self-criticism with a cheerful readiness to make amends; she must live in a state of perpetual penitence, seeking God with her whole heart; she must constantly check her life and conduct against the Holy Scriptures and bring her life into line with the will of God.” — A.W. Tozer

More from this hitchhiker adventure in the next post.

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