Saturday morning I listened to a song which talks about thanking God in difficult circumstances. Little did I know that I would face a challenging situation that very afternoon!
I’ve memorized James 1:2 which says, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds,” but the concept of having joy in trials has still been hard to embrace. The sentence continues with, “because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.” Well, I can certainly say that my faith was put to the test, and that the past couple of days have been an “endurance builder.”
Saturday afternoon, I lost my wallet while getting off of a public bus. I don’t know how, except that I had it when I sat down, and right after getting off the bus I noticed that it was gone. I told the team that I had lost it, feeling sorry for myself and also feeling bad for them since I’m their leader and I lost some of the team’s money along with my personal credit cards.
The first thought that came to mind was to just pray out loud. Honestly, I didn’t feel comfortable doing so but I knew that I needed to pray, and I needed to pray in the company of others. My teammates showed their support by praying with me, and helping me in every way possible to track down my wallet. We did all we could, including notifying the bus company, and even waiting for the same exact bus to circle the route again- but at the end of the day it had not been found.
I felt really down on myself for losing my wallet. I try my best to take care of my things and it was something that I thought would never happen to me. But I felt loved and cared for by my teammates after it happened. We were scheduled to run a road race later that evening, but part of me no longer wanted to run. I just felt too down on myself and undetermined to participate.
After speaking with my wife on the phone, she encouraged me that the day was not yet over, that money is not eternal, and the important thing was that we were all okay. She helped me see the perspective that what happened to my wallet was a spiritual attack, and that I shouldn’t let Satan keep me out of doing the Lord’s work.
So I decided to choose joy, and run the race with perseverance!
I wish I could say that I won the race, but that didn’t happen. I did, however, probably have my best race of the past two years. I felt good, and I ran with joy because God gave me the ability to enjoy running, he gave me awesome teammates, and he’s allowed me to build relationships with many people here. I even met a man at the starting line who is also a Christ follower! He noticed the backs of our uniforms which have a big cross with Philippians 3 written inside. I heard from a teammate that another person had taken a picture of the back of my uniform. I believe that God wanted me to run that race with joy that comes from Him.
If I had chosen to let myself remain down and discouraged, I would have missed out on allowing the Lord to use me and I wouldn’t have been able to appreciate the things that He has blessed me with. As a leader, I’ve got a team to take care of and I can’t let a small setback get in the way of being a loving, godly example to them. I’m learning that being filled with the Holy Spirit is the key to living the Christian life- because He’s the One who helps me exemplify Christ in challenging situations.
I’m happy to report that my wallet was found! Somehow, the police got ahold of it and I was able to go down to the station Monday morning to retrieve it. Since I don’t speak Spanish well, I had to work hard to communicate with the officers. It was an exhausting and intimidating process, but finally we understood each other and they matched the name on my passport (which I had in hand) and my drivers license, which was in my wallet. The cash was gone, but fortunately the credit cards and other things were still inside!
The past few days, I’ve been thinking of the parable of the Lost Coin, found in Luke 15:8-10.
“Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Doesn’t she light a lamp, sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it? And when she finds it, she calls her friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin.’
In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of angels of God over one sinner who repents.”
Join me in praying for the people of this island, especially the friends our team has made, that they too would be found.
-Joel, for the team