“A young man sat on a park bench contemplating his troubles. His business was failing, it seemed he owed everyone money, and he was on the brink of bankruptcy.
An elderly gentleman soon appeared and sat next to him. ‘I can see something is gnawing away at you,’ he said. ‘Wanna talk about it?’
The man sighed and began pouring out his woes to the stranger. When he was done, the old man said, ‘I just might be able to help you.’
He asked the young man his name and then reached into his breast pocket and pulled out a check book. Moments later he stood, handed the young man a check, and said: ‘Consider this a loan. Meet me here a year from now, and pay me back, no strings attached.’ He walked off before the young man could respond.
The young man looked at the paper in his hand and was overcome with emotion. It was a check made out to him for $500,000 signed by John D. Rockefeller.
He couldn’t believe his good fortune and ran all the way to the bank. Instead of going inside he turned and ran in the opposite direction toward his office. There he locked the check away in his safe. He knew that he could always cash it if he needed it, but the chance meeting with the wealthy and generous “stranger” had renewed his sense of confidence and hope.
After that day, the young man threw himself into his work and the task of turning his business around. With a little sacrifice and a lot of creativity and hard work, he was able to save his company and pay off his creditors.
Soon the anniversary of his chance encounter with Rockefeller approached. The young man was pleased with the accomplishments he’d made in 12 months, and even more proud of the fact that he’d be able to return the uncashed check to his benefactor. As agreed, Rockefeller was sitting on the bench where they’d first met.
Before they could begin their conversation, a woman appeared and rushed toward the old man and said, ‘I’ve been looking everywhere for you.’
As she led the old man away she turned to the young man and said, ‘I hope he wasn’t bothering you. He has a bad habit of coming here and telling people he’s John D. Rockefeller.’” (Bits & Pieces, April 2013)
That’s a cute little story with a surprising twist, but it does demonstrate several profound truths.
Sometimes life does give us more than we can handle, and sometimes life throws things at us that are beyond our control. Times like this can cause us to lose hope and lose confidence in ourselves. Paul even admitted to that fact in his second letter to the Corinthians. Paul said, “We were crushed beyond our strength, even to the point of despairing of life. We were left to feel like men condemned to death so that we might trust, not in ourselves, but in God.” (2 Corinthians 1:8-9 ) In other words, Paul was saying, “Our troubles were so great that we felt like we were going to die. But God permitted this to happen in order to teach us to trust, not in ourselves, but rather to trust totally in Him.”
There are also times when we really do possess the power and ability to overcome our troubles, even though our problems may seem overwhelming at the time. But, just like the young man in our story, we’ve allowed those problems to destroy our confidence and our sense of hope. It is at those times that God will frequently send us a “messenger” to help renew those feelings of hope, to help us to renew our self-confidence.
Jesus said, “Whoever wishes to be great among you will be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you will be the slave of all.” (Mark 10: 43-44) There is much more to this instruction than just rendering service. Sometimes the best service that we can render is a word of encouragement, reminding someone of the strengths and gifts that they possess.
Jack Welch, the retired chairman and CEO of General Electric (between 1981 and 2001) once said, “Giving people self-confidence is by far the most important thing that I can do. Because then they will act.”
I personally have always liked the statement made by Philip Simmons (master blacksmith and a poet of ironwork 1912 – 2009), “If you want your prayers answered, then get up off your knees and hustle.”
We must remember that God created each and every one of us for a purpose. He gave each and every one of us the gifts and talents we will need in life. We must not quit. We must press on, no matter what.
In Paul’s letter to the Hebrews, he was writing to them, reminding them of the sufferings and trials that they were enduring, and he said, “Do not, then, surrender your confidence: it will have great rewards. You need patience to do God’s will and receive what he has promised.”
Let each and every one of us be that servant, that word of encouragement, that so many others so desperately need.