I have become friendly with a number of older, retired gentlemen that frequent the gym where I work out. Over time I have learned their names and enough about them to chat while we lift dumbbells or walk on the treadmill. To them I am a youngster and that’s the way I like it.
Joe, one of these “gym friends,” is ninety years old. His usual gym attire is a western shirt with pearl buttons, shorts, sandals, and dress socks. Joe always carries a little bag of candy in his shirt pocket. When he arrives at the gym each day he makes his rounds, offering a sweet piece to each of us who are already sweating and breathing heavy.
One particular day when Joe arrived at the gym I was working hard on the elliptical trainer. “Hey Joe,” I called out, “How are you today?”
Joe’s response surprised me. “I’m tired and ready to die. I’m ninety years old, ya know.”
Then Joe told me all about the preparations for his demise. His son-in-law – the carpenter – has already made Joe’s casket. And it’s “a beauty.” The grave site has been selected out on some family property. In fact, they’ve even dug the grave!
I had no idea how to respond to these revelations. What do you say to someone who seems to have given up on life? I said a quick, silent prayer, asking God for help. Sharing my faith in Jesus has often been a stretch for me. However, my eternal hope is just what the hopeless, like Joe, need to hear about.
The Apostle Peter said we should “always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have (1 Peter 3:15).” However, I am often not prepared to share. Sometimes I hoard my hope because I am afraid of rejection. But more often than not, I keep hope to myself because I’m preoccupied with self – where I’m going, what I’m doing, what I need. I forget that the eternal destiny of the hopeless is infinitely more important than the transient things that often consume me.
However, that day with Joe was different. I had been praying that I would have the opportunity to share my hope with him. I knew he needed to hear about Jesus. Joe and I talked a bit about heaven and having a relationship with Jesus. I don’t know what, if any, impact my words had on Joe that day. But I was obedient to share. The results are God’s job.
The world is full of people who have no hope for the future. But, there’s something unique about sharing hope. I don’t have any less after sharing it with Joe. Strangely, it seems I have a little more. Maybe I’ll be more generous from now on. There are some more old gentlemen down at the gym.
When was the last time you encountered someone who was hopeless? Did you hoard your hope or share it?