I recently went with Take the City to Madison, Indiana to put on an evangelism training conference. We have been able to travel to several cities over the past year, and God has shown up powerfully as we’ve seen the churches and communities begin to unite and go out to share the love of God.
Just as He had done on every other trip we have been on with Take the City, my expectations were high that Jesus would show up. This time, however, I felt pressure to make a difference for Jesus. We had spent the weekend equipping the community for outreach. I thought to myself, “Would my words hold the same weight if I didn’t produce what I preached?” Jesus says in John 15:8, “When you bear much fruit, you prove you are my disciples…” I took a moment to honestly pray before we headed out to the streets, “I really feel the pressure to bear some fruit right now, Jesus, to perform the works that prove that I am your disciple. I pray that good things would happen today, that someone’s life might be impacted for the better because I stepped out in faith.”
I heard the whisper of the Holy Spirit, “Let me take that pressure off of you. You don’t have to do anything. Let me fill you with my love.”
The true meaning of John 15 means the pressure is off. It means that as we abide in God’s love, we naturally produce good works. Our fruit is a byproduct of our time spent with Jesus, letting him be the Gardener and transform us with His love.
My heart adjusted to the truth, and I began to wonder about the people I might meet that day–people that needed to know they are loved by God. People that needed encouragement and hope. Simple, yet powerful. And just like that, the pressure was off as God’s love filled me. It was no longer about me–my performance or my weaknesses. It was about seeing people with eyes of compassion. At the end of the day, if I did nothing for Jesus, He would still be pleased and proud of me. That’s the nature of our good Father.
While praying for the day, I felt like God was telling me that I would meet a Jim. Doubtful but curious, I made a note in my phone: Jim.
I went with my group to a Chinese restaurant downtown. I told my friend about the name Jim, and to let me know if he found someone with that name. Meanwhile, I went to the shop next door and met the cashier,
“What’s your name?” I asked.
“Chelsea,” she replied.
“Well Chelsea, I want to encourage you–God says you’re a really good friend.”
“That makes me want to cry,” she replied, tears swelling, “That made my day, I really needed to hear that.”
“Do you need prayer for anything?” And we prayed together for her schoolwork stress.
Shortly thereafter, I saw a table with some college freshman. My friend Raquel jumped in and started the conversation,
“We noticed you have a brace on your wrist. Can I ask how that happened?”
The guy responded and said, “Yes, I got this playing soccer.”
Raquel spoke up again, “A few weeks ago, we prayed for a lady with pain in her wrist, and all of the pain left. Would it be okay if we prayed for you?”
He looked a little surprised but replied, “Sure.”
We prayed, and the Lord simply administered peace to him.
After walking around a little bit more, Raquel and I went back to the Chinese restaurant. My friend Jason ran up to me and exclaimed,
“We met a guy named Jimmy!”
It was the Jim we were looking for! We followed our friends back to where Jimmy stood. It turned out that Jimmy was an established country music singer who replaced one of the Statler Brothers in 1983. His full name is Jimmy Fortune. He and his band were on their way to perform at the Grand Ole Opry.
“I felt like the Lord showed me you as a race car driver,” my friend Daniel said.
“That’s amazing,” replied Jimmy, “I used to want to be a race car driver!”
As we continued to chat, I heard the whisper of the Holy Spirit again, “Ask him if he knows a Helen.”
“Hi Jimmy! Do you happen to also know a Helen?”
“Yes actually I know a Helen! She’s been on my mind a lot lately. She’s not doing too well. She’s also a country singer and she is in the nursing home.”
“Would it be okay if we called her and prayed for her?”
We proceeded to pray for Helen over the phone, to be healed. After the call ended, we prayed with Jimmy and his band. He was so encouraged that he invited us backstage to his show any time we wanted!
Just like that, Jesus showed up in a powerful way. It’s easy to love people when the pressure is off.
Mariel Villarreal has been involved with Take the City the past 2 years and works with the non-profit organization of Teen Challenge.