May 6, 2015

Crossing the Room

In his book Just Walk Across the Room Bill Hybels quotes Christian author Gilbert Bilezikian, who wrote: “Throughout the course of your life, you’re going to give your life to something.” You will! There’s no question. All of us do.

When I was young, I thought of ways of being famous. I was in a couple plays as a kid, but I knew I wasn’t going to make it that way.

So I began to think about other ways I could have wealth, power, and influence. And I decided to become a lawyer, then to become a politician. That’s what I wanted.

There was absolutely no God in my picture at all, no God in my thinking at all.

But when I was 18 years old, everything—without me even planning it—just flipped, immediately. I became a Christian, and in Jesus I discovered those things for which I truly wanted to give my life.

Bilezikian goes on to say: “True followers of Christ who really get it right give themselves to people. Most important, they give themselves to pointing people to faith in Christ.”

Going Big

We sit here today because Jesus made people His primary mission. Jesus made people the cause for which He was willing to live and die. He said, “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10). Not just any average life. “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”

There is only one way to experience that kind of life, and that is through knowing Jesus Christ. Jesus is calling each of us to give our lives for this very same cause: helping others know the abundant life Jesus desires to give them.

Many times when we think of great causes we think of great movements, about our need to create something huge and spectacular. All these things may eventually happen, but if we want to make people the great cause of our lives, it begins with something as simple as being willing to cross a room and have a conversation.

“If we want to make people the great cause of our lives, it begins with something as simple as being willing to cross a room and have a conversation.”

On the night I made a decision for Jesus, I almost wasn’t there. The school was having a vespers service, and I almost didn’t go. But because of what I now know to be the prompting of the Holy Spirit, I walked across the street.

We lived right across the road, so it wasn’t hard for me to go there. I was very late, and I went into the fellowship hall and sat down in the back. It was dark, and someone was telling a story or doing something. I wasn’t there more than a few minutes when our chaplain got up and said, “Now we’re going to participate in Communion.”

As I heard these words I leaned over to the person sitting next to me, patted him on the knee, and said, “I’ll see you later.” And I started for the door.

But before I could fully stand up, in midstride, someone grabbed my arm and said, “Chad, Chad, can I wash your feet?”

This shocked me. A young man by the name of Jevon grabbed me and said, “Chad, can I wash your feet?”

I was caught off guard by his question, and I was even more caught off guard by my answer: “Uh, OK.”

I had never participated in foot washing, ever. My dad had asked me, and I said, “No way.” Friends had asked me, and I said, “No way.” Now someone I didn’t even like (I’ve told him this, so he knows) asked me, and I found myself saying, “Uh, OK.”

The next thing I knew, Jevon was washing my feet.

As I look back on it, more amazing than the moment of his washing my feet is that he was willing to cross a room to stop me, someone he knew didn’t like him, someone he knew was against everything he believed in. Yet something prompted him to cross the room, and he responded to that prompting and stopped me in my tracks.

By crossing the room, he not only washed my feet, but he did something more important: he kept me in that room. I was ready to leave, and he stopped me. When he finished washing my feet, the chaplain stood up and made an appeal for anyone who wanted to accept Christ.

I had no idea that was going to happen when I walked across the street. And just as I was amazed about saying “yes” to foot washing, when the chaplain said, “Who wants to stand up and say, ‘Jesus, I’ll give You my heart’?” I found myself standing up. It was the best decision I ever made in my life.

It happened because someone was willing to cross the room and say, “Hey, can I wash your feet?”

Jesus Crossed the Room

The Bible is rich with stories about people crossing rooms—sometimes metaphorical rooms—in order to win hearts for Jesus Christ. The stories that often resonate most with us are those stories in which Jesus had a one-on-one conversation. Those stories of individual encounters impact us the most.

When we make people our cause, as Jesus did for us, and we live our lives responding to the Holy Spirit and crossing rooms for just one individual, we will change lives.

Some people might say, “Pastor, I want to do great things; I want to do magnificent things.” By crossing a room, you are doing a great thing. You’re doing a great thing for that one person.

Think of the story in John 4. Jesus had a conversation with one individual, and it changed her life. And what did she do? “Then, leaving her water jar, the woman went back to the town and said to the people, ‘Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Messiah?’ ” (verse 28).

And what happened? “Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, ‘He told me everything I ever did’ ” (verse 39).

Jesus had an initial conversation, one conversation with one woman. And because of that conversation, and her going back and sharing that conversation, the Bible tells us that many, many were saved for the kingdom of God.

But it goes beyond that. “So when the Samaritans came to him, they urged him to stay with them, and he stayed two days. And because of his words many more became believers” (verses 40, 41). Many more believed!

Think about the story of Zacchaeus in Luke 19: Jesus notices Zacchaeus, decides to cross the street, to look up into a tree and say, “Hey, buddy, come on down. I want to eat with you.”

Initially we can think simply about the financial impact. “Zaccheus stood up and said to the Lord, ‘Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount’ ” (verse 8). Zacchaeus had undoubtedly cleaned out someone’s bank account. That person now not only got their bank account back—they get four times as much.

Think about the impact of Zacchaeus’ witness. He was the man everyone shunned. But in a moment of one-on-one encounter with Jesus, Zacchaeus becomes one of the most generous men in all of Scripture.

Who Knows?

I’ve had the great privilege of baptizing hundreds of people during my life. To my knowledge, Jevon has never baptized one person. But he crossed the room for me. He heard the Spirit, he responded to the Spirit, and he had an impact on me. In all those baptisms, and future baptisms, doesn’t Jevon play a role in each one? His crown will be full of stars for the lives that he changed, even if he had an impact on only one.

Amazing things happen when we make people our cause, when we do great things for the one across the road, across the neighborhood, across our office, across our classroom, across the gymnasium, even across the church.

What if we crossed the room in Sabbath school to talk to those parents who look like they don’t know anyone? What if we were to cross the foyer? What if we were to leave our friends and cross the room to connect with thos
e who seem as though they’re here all alone?

The evangelism, the programs, the methods—they’re all sustained by one person, two people, three people, 500 people who choose, individually, to cross the room and have a conversation on behalf of Jesus Christ with just one other person. The question remains: Who is willing to take those 10 or 15 steps to cross a room for Jesus?

Chad Stuart is senior pastor of the Spencerville Seventh-day Adventist Church in Maryland. This article is based on a sermon he preached in March 2015, and preserves much of its character. Have you heard a sermon that deserves wider exposure? Send us the details (who, when, where, etc.) to Put in the subject line: Sermon.