By Dennis Rainey
Have you ever had a “divine appointment”? I have.
A divine appointment is an encounter with another person that God has unmistakably arranged so He can use you in that person’s life. It may be a neighbor you encounter in the evening who needs help in some way. Or a friend in another city who comes to mind and you think, “I bet he could use some encouragement right now.” Or a colleague at work that you happen to sit with at a meeting. Or a fellow traveler who you sense needs to hear the hope of the gospel in their lives.
Julie Boyd, who speaks with her husband Bruce at FamilyLife’s Weekend to Remember getaways, recently told of a remarkable divine appointment:
Last Friday Bruce and I were visiting my brother Mark and we'd taken him out to his favorite McDonald's for lunch. As we were eating, I noticed a young family with 2 precious children. It was quite obvious the mom was struggling with depression. Her husband was trying to cheer her up to no avail. Her father came in and joined them, looking very concerned.
I asked Holy Spirit to give me a word for them and I heard, “The best is yet to come.” As we were getting ready to leave, I almost walked out without giving her that word, but then felt a strong prompting to go over and not worry what they might think.
I said, “I have a word from the Lord for you. I’m not sure if this will make sense, but I felt like He said, ‘The best is yet to come.'"
Her husband said, “That’s a word for you, Amy!” Her father started to cry, thanking me again and again for coming over. I told her God loves her so much and she has so much more to live for.
I hugged her and then prayed for her. Her dad got my phone number, and for the next few days I didn't hear anything. But late Sunday night, she texted me to tell me she had been planning to commit suicide the very day I spoke to her. The fact that I came over and prayed for her made her feel seen—and she changed her mind!
As I’ve been thinking about this, I realized an act of obedience can literally save a life! I ponder the fact that I almost didn’t go over there.
Holy Spirit, thank you for speaking so clearly to me and coaxing me to be Your voice!
And I wonder how many of these divine assignments we may miss every day because we didn’t have my spiritual radar turned on:
… At the grocery store with the young person who is bagging our groceries? How about asking, “How can I pray for you?”
… At lunch with the person waiting on us, who has a drama of his/her own that may need an encouraging word?
The Scriptures say, “The steps of a righteous man are ordered by the Lord.” After decades of walking (off and on, but mostly on) with God, I can tell you that seeing God set up these “appointments” is a thrill that is beyond comparison.
One of my friends in the ministry, Bill Howard, experienced such a heavenly appointment that I want to share with you, lest you too miss an opportunity to bring hope to a person in their own valley.
It all began with a routine trip to promote a Weekend to Remember conference in San Antonio ...
As I was waiting for my plane, I noticed a man in his mid-20’s dressed in a red warm-up suit. He stood out because he was severely disfigured, an obvious victim of fire. I recall feeling compassion accompanied with a slight feeling of repulsiveness because of his grotesque appearance.
Little did I know that a friend was praying that I would have the opportunity to share Christ with someone on the plane that day. So, like the conductor of a symphony, God began to orchestrate circumstances to accomplish His purposes.
As we boarded the plane it became apparent that it was going to be a packed flight. A little annoyed, I arrived at my seat only to find that another man with a similar name had taken my seat. As I stood in the aisle and waited for the attendant to assign me another seat, I noticed that the disfigured man in the red warm-up suit had the same lot as me. I felt uncomfortable for him, as I watched people stare at his abnormal appearance. After all the other passengers were seated there were only two seats left on the entire plane . . . together in row seven.
Here I was sitting next to the very man at whom everyone had stared.
As the plane pulled out of the gate and taxied down the runway, I noticed that my disfigured neighbor was silent—staring out the window, arms folded in such a way to cover his mutilated hands. I couldn’t help but notice how the features on his face had all been apparently reconstructed. Although he wore sunglasses, they couldn’t conceal his eyebrow, which was located on his left cheek. The skin on his nose only partially covered his nostrils. His ears were almost nonexistent.
But it was his hands that startled me most. The fingers on both were completely gone. The left one was just a stub from his knuckles down and the skin was so thin that it appeared transparent. It looked like the doctors simply stretched what little skin he had left to cover his exposed hand. The right one was in the same condition, but even worse. It was bent back against his arm and looked as if he were trying to touch his elbow.
Sitting next to this man, I began to experience a number of emotions—thankfulness (that I was in one piece), compassion, and curiosity. I wondered what had happened to re-shape this young man’s body. I wanted to talk with him, but what if he rejected me—I’d feel like a jerk for intruding in his life. But I felt that familiar nudge from the Lord to at least try.
So I began a conversation. He said his name was Johnny and he had just been to Tucson to visit his girlfriend (names and places have been changed). She must be quite a woman, I thought.
When I apologetically asked if he would mind sharing his tragedy, he quickly responded, “No, not at all. I’d much rather have you talk with me than stare at me.” As I picked my pride up off the floor, he energetically began to tell me his story.
He and his father were taking a rest at a gas station when a car pulled out in front of a tanker truck full of gas. Avoiding the collision, the truck jackknifed, rolled, and burst into flames, covering approximately 70 people with burning fuel. Johnny and his father were immediately covered and ignited.
When I asked about Johnny’s hands, I was awed by his reply. While engulfed in the flames, Johnny saw an old man pinned on the ground by a steel rod across his chest. Johnny walked over and lifted the rod off the man’s chest, literally burning Johnny’s hands off. I now had a genuine love and respect for this courageous man.
He went on to tell me that he spent over three years in the hospital. He had over 130 operations. Upon getting out, he spent another four years in seclusion due to the scars from his burns. A girl that he met during that time unconditionally loved him back into society.
As he finished telling me his story, I couldn’t help but wonder if Johnny had ever considered God during his trauma. When I asked, he said he had, but had never heard of having a personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ. He wanted to know the God who had spared his life.
As I shared “The Four Spiritual Laws [a booklet explaining the gospel] with him he was very attentive. He was eager to know of God’s forgiveness and love. As the plane landed in San Antonio, Johnny prayed with me, placing his faith in Christ as Savior and Lord.
All the medical technology in the world could not make Johnny a whole person. But when he trusted Christ, instantaneously God renewed his soul and gave him the promise that his body shall be made new at the coming of Christ.
Maybe you’re like me—I’ve been nudged by the Holy Spirit, but I rationalize away my responsibility to say anything or do something. I wonder if the reason we see so little of the supernatural occurring in our lives is because we are unwilling to take the risks that come with walking and living by faith. We fear the rejection of man more than displeasing God.
Bill’s story has nudged me to pray more for the salvation of my neighbor, to ask a waitress at Wendy’s if she knew the man who made Christmas famous, and to talk more with my grandchildren about how they can be a missionary in their schools.
In short, I’ve been more acutely aware that God is setting up divine appointments with me and people I get the privilege of talking to—and I don’t want to miss a single one.
May you and I be aware of the living God’s presence in our everyday lives.
Are you willing to be a messenger of hope ...
… to a family member who needs just a word of encouragement to look outward to the God who deeply cares about their circumstances?
… to an associate at work who is feeling trapped by his wrong choices?
… to a neighbor who is in a mess and needs someone to come alongside them and offer a kind word, reminding them that God has a plan for their lives?
Can you face the risk and summon the courage to speak the truth about God to a person in need?
You and I have a purpose here and now. Will we speak up and make that call, speak up and fulfill that purpose?
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