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An object lesson at Starbucks

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Many of us will be leaving soon for the SBC annual meeting in Indianapolis, and many of us will stop for a cup of coffee along the way. I know that I will.

I think I know the location of just about every Starbucks between Nashville and Indy. As a matter of fact — and this is kind of scary to admit — I already know that there are 14 Starbucks within a few miles of the convention center.

I have a confession to make: I drink way too much coffee. There is seldom a day that I can’t be found in a Starbucks, drinking my venti black eye with mild coffee while reading the Word and journaling my thoughts.

On one recent morning, I noticed that I was not the only one hanging out there to study the Bible. Across the room were two young men with their Bibles open. Nothing unusual about these guys … jeans, T-shirts, flip-flops, backpacks. I was near a college campus, so I assumed they were students. They appeared to be very good friends, and I got the impression that this was not the first time they had studied the Word together.

Coffee in hand, I sat down across the room and got settled in with my laptop, headphones and Bible. Soon I was jamming with Matt Papa — one of my many morning Starbucks rituals.

For some reason these two guys kept catching my attention. They were laughing and seemed to be having a great time, even though I couldn’t hear a word they were saying.

About halfway through my jam-and-journal session, I looked up and noticed that one of them had his face in his hands and appeared to be crying. I tried not to stare, but they had my complete attention. (Before you judge me for being nosy, just admit to yourself that a guy crying in Starbucks would get your attention.)

It was clear that this guy was processing something heavy. But it was not the guy crying that I was focused on — it was his friend.

Here they were in a busy Starbucks full of people lined up to get their morning caffeine. But these guys were oblivious to the crowd. The one not crying was completely focused on his hurting friend — so focused, in fact, that he got up and stood beside him and starting praying in his ear. What a bold move! He didn’t seem to care where they were and that they had an audience, and he didn’t seem to be embarrassed by his friend’s tears.

As I watched this young man ministering to his friend, I was reminded of Acts 4:13, “When they observed the boldness of Peter and John and realized that they were uneducated and untrained men, they were amazed and knew that they had been with Jesus.”

I couldn’t take my eyes off them. This young man was standing there so confident, so sure of himself. He did not say a word to me or to any others, and yet I knew that he was a man who spent time with Christ because I saw the power of Christ at work through him.

Right there in the Starbucks God was giving me an object lesson. When I am not consumed with myself and my agenda, not concerned with what others may think or the approval of men, when I die to self, when I surrender the rights to my life, when I withdraw from the concerns of this world — only then God can work in me and through me. When I allow Christ to reign in my life, His power and glory are reflected to a watching world.

The New Testament is full of reminders of how the Holy Spirit works in the life of the true follower of Christ. In 1 Corinthians 2:1-5, Paul writes “When I came to you, brothers, announcing the testimony of God to you, I did not come with brilliance of speech or wisdom. For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. And I was with you in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling. My speech and my proclamation were not with persuasive words of wisdom, but with a demonstration of the Spirit and power, so that your faith might not be based on men’s wisdom but on God’s power.”

That’s what I want to be about. I desire for my life not to be a demonstration of my abilities, my accomplishments, my position, my relationships or even my knowledge of Starbucks, but rather a demonstration of the Spirit and power of Christ.

I pray that as we converge on the city of Indianapolis that people will see the power of Christ in us. I pray that our lives and our conduct will be a testimony of a people who are passionately pursuing God, people who are a reflection of Christ.
Harold Harper is executive vice president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.

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  • Harold Harper