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Monday, November 15, 2010

While They Sleep

It was the end of the semester. Finals were ending, and summer vacation was coming up. And I was still short some of the funds I needed, and had no idea what to do.

This happened many years ago when I was a student at Oral Roberts University. I was in a choir that had been planning and preparing for a short tour/missions trip in Europe for the whole year. I had done what I was supposed to do to raise the money to pay my way, but fundraising is not a sport for the faint of heart. I had sent out support letters, and I had prayed, and some money had come in, but it just wasn't quite enough. My parents didn't have resources to make up the difference, and I sure didn't have anything squirreled away to throw into the pot. I had no idea what to do, and essentially I gave up and decided to take a nap. But before I did, I ran into my friend Dave. I won't give Dave's last name here, because he and others who know him may see this and he might be embarrassed to have people know what happened, but Dave was in choir with me when I told him I didn't have the money to go, he was very upset; I think he didn't want to see me miss out on an amazing opportunity. I don't remember the exact conversation, but I remember Dave being very agitated, not at me but at the situation. I went to my room and laid down, resigned to the idea that the mission trip wasn't going to happen for me.

Dave, however, did not take a nap. This was the extreme end of the semester, and Dave knew that guys all over the dorm were packing up their stuff to go home for the summer. He also knew that some of those guys would be finding money they had lost in their rooms months ago. Dave took a can or something and walked around the dorm, looking for doors that were open and guys who were packing up their things, and asked them for donations to help a student go on a missions trip. And you know what? Dave managed to raise all of the money I still needed! When I went to sleep, I wasn't going on missions; when I woke up, I was. I wasn't involved at all. I didn't even actually ask for help! What a friend, to help me out when I had given up on helping myself! That trip was a defining couple of weeks for me. I still think back to that trip sometimes. Missions doesn't only benefit the people you go to see, you know. A missions trip changes the missionary, I think, maybe even more than it changes those who receive his ministry.

So, last night I was reading what is known as the "songs of ascent," which you will find in your Bible from Psalm 120-Psalm 134, and I saw this verse (which I've read many times before):
In vain you rise early
      and stay up late,
      toiling for food to eat—
      for he grants sleep to those he loves. (Psalm 127:2 NIV)
It's a great verse to meditate on when you have insomnia, for sure. In fact, it's in my list of sleep scripture verses on But the thing that caught my eye this time was an NIV footnote attached to the verse. If you use the alternate reading, the verse says:
In vain you rise early
      and stay up late,
      toiling for food to eat—
      for while they sleep he provides for those he loves.
What an amazing picture of what happened to me that day! I worked and toiled, but it didn't work out for me... but when I came to the end of myself, God provided for me in my sleep. I hope Dave does read this, because I hope he understands how much I appreciated then and appreciate now what he did that day. The money didn't appear by magic; I believe God gave Dave an amazingly good idea, and directed him in what to do, but Dave got up and did the work, and I was and still am extremely grateful for that. I want to publicly thank him for being obedient to the Holy Spirit, and I want to publicly thank God for caring enough about my missions trip to provide for me "while I slept."

Guess what? I realized that something very similar happened in the Bible! Check out this post for details.

* I'd like to add this: don't sit around waiting for God javascript:void(0)to magically fund your missions trip. Follow the instructions of experienced folks. Write your fundraising letters and emails. Work a few hours extra per week at your job. Wash cars; have bake sales. Do what you know. Pray that God will inspire people to give, and that He will inspire you with clever ideas to earn. But when you've come to the end of your rope and you don't know what else to do, trust God to be in your corner. If he's put missions in your heart, He will also put the money in your hands to do what he's inspired you to do.

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