A Humble Encounter
On the second Sunday of January 2002, I was speaking at a church in San Francisco.
I have spoken at that church many times over the years. It is a small church of some 40 to 50 people. The congregation is comprised mostly of elderly immigrants from Mainland China and other Southeast Asian countries.
After the service, I stayed for lunch to visit with my friend who is almost 90 years old. We usually sit together because of some common ties we have. You see, even though he is my parents' age, he was my grandfather's friend half a century ago, and I enjoy asking him questions about that era and his relationship with my grandfather.
Many times my friend has shared with me his story of God leading him out of Communist China in the early 1950s. He has also told me the story of his son's miraculous healing through the prayers of his pastor. I listen with genuine interest, and marvel at his memory. I rejoice in the many testimonies he shares about how the Lord has blessed and led him.
But this time I discovered something else about him. He commented about his terrible memory. I reassured him that I share the same trouble and laughed to myself, thinking, "Not only do I share the same trouble, but I am almost 30 years younger." Then for the first time -- and to my total surprise -- my friend began reciting several scriptural passages. To my pleasure he recited them in his own village dialect, which is the same as mine. I was impressed. Here was an older man complaining about his poor memory because he could not remember names, yet he was able to recite verses that he had probably memorized many years ago. My friend then asked me a question about Christ's genealogy. Before I could respond, he was already quoting the genealogy of Christ from beginning to end. He recited name after name without hesitation or break.
I was shocked because I'd never associated him with such an ability or love for the Word of God. I was awed by his familiarity with the Scriptures and thanked God that this man who loved His Word so much was willing to take the time to memorize it.
I was also humbled. I must confess that I don't read every word of every genealogy every time I come across them in my daily devotions. And I certainly have not taken the time to memorize any of them.
I have known for many years that there are people in the pew who are more devoted and more gifted than the ones behind the pulpit. But when you meet one who looks so ordinary -- not to mention so old -- you will be surprised. On that Sunday, I preached a sermon to that man with my words. He preached a sermon to me with his life.