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Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Radical Changes to my perspective on business (Part 2)

(Continued from previous post....)
While our son, Rob, was receiving treatment for High Grade Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma during the summer of '99, the Lord continued to quietly but persistently challenge my thinking about how I did business. He had brought me to acknowledge that...
- I was not in control of anything and therefore I was not qualified to be self-employed,
- My life, as a New Covenant believer, was not divided into 2 compartments (the holy and the common) as were the lives of those who had lived under the Old Covenant. Rather all of my life was to be lived as unto Him!
- As a believer, I had never had a "secular occupation" (i.e. one in which God was not involved!). Rather, as a believer, I was in Christ and Christ was in me 24/7!

I also knew that the Lord was calling me to relinquish my "self-employment" in order to be a servant of His and to do business His way.

While there was much I did not understand about doing business His way, the one thing which I clearly understood and which (I must be honest!) scared me, was that it would mean never again charging for my services but offering them freely and without obligation!

By this time, it was the first week of September of 1999. I was in the mental process of arguing with the Lord that this arrangement would never work and that if my family and I were to continue to eat and pay our bills, we just had to do business like any other business in the world! But it seemed like the Lord just wasn't listening to me!!! He simply continued to quietly ask, "Are you willing to be My servant and to do business My way?"

I'd never dreamed that God would speak to me through a "secular" song on the radio which was sung by a country singer, but I've found He has unique and unexpected ways of getting my attention! I rarely listen to music on the radio and country is not my favourite style of music. But one night early in September of '99 I was alone and driving the car when the words of a country singer, Clay Walker, caught my attention. The story of the song "The Chain of Love" has been etched in my mind ever since that night over 10 years ago. The words of that song which the Lord used to bring me to tears, to break my rebellion against Him and finally to surrender to His call upon my life were these:

He was driving home one evening in his beat up Pontiac

When an old lady flagged him down, her Mercedes had a flat

He could see that she was frightened, standing out there in the snow

'Til he said, "I'm here to help you ma'am, By the way my name is Joe."

She said, "I'm from St. Louis and I'm only passing through.

I must have seen a hundred cars go by, this is awful nice of you."

When he changed the tire and closed her trunk and was about to drive away,

She said,"How much do I owe you?" Here's what he had to say:

"You don't owe me a thing, I've been there too.

Someone once helped me out just the way I'm helping you.

If you really want to pay me back, here's what you do...

Don't let the chain of love end with you."

Well a few miles down the road, the lady saw a small cafe.

She went in to grab a bite to eat and then be on her way.

But she couldn't help but notice how the waitress smiled so sweet

And how she must've been eight months along and dead on her feet.

And though she didn't know her story, and she probably never will,

When the waitress went to get her change from a hundred dollar bill,

The lady slipped right out the door, and on a napkin left a note.

There were tears in the waitress's eyes when she read what she wrote:

"You don't owe me a thing, I've been there too.

Someone once helped me out just the way I'm helping you.

If you really want to pay me back, here's what you do...

Don't let the chain of love end with you."

That night when she got home from work, the waitress climbed into bed.

She was thinkin' about the money and what the lady's note had said.

As her husband lay there sleeping, she whispered soft and low,

"Everything's gonna be alright, I love you, Joe."

That September evening was the only time I have ever heard the song "Chain of Love" on the radio. But that night it seemed to me to be an effective illustration of a number of scriptural principles upon which every servant of the Lord must learn to rely:

-"Freely ye have received, freely give." Matthew 10:8

-"For I mean not that other men be eased, and ye burdened: but by an equality, that now at this time you abundance may be a supply for their want, that their abundance also may be a supply for your want: that there may be equality: As it is written, He that gathered much had nothing over; and he that had gathered little had no lack." II Corinthians 8:13-15

- "But this I say, He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully. Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work: (As it is written, He hath dispersed abroad; he hath given to the poor: his righteousness remaineth for ever. Now he that ministereth seed to the sower both minister bread for your food, and multiply your seed sown, and increase the fruits of your righteousness;)" II Corinthians 9:6-10

-"Be not deceived, God is not mocked for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap." Galatians 6:7

- "And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not. As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith." Galatians 6:9,10

It was these scriptures which encouraged my heart and strengthened my weak faith to step out in obedience to the Lord's call. But in the midst of the trial of Rob's illness and his chemo and radiation treatments in the hospital and at a time when my business was at a standstill while we spent all our time at the hospital with Rob, the Lord had been graciously providing for all of our needs! The very first day that Rob was in the hospital, we received $500 in cash! Then during the next three months the Lord maintained us through gifts of cash that were handed or mailed to us from His people. In July, August and September of '99 we received gifts of cash from believers representing over 30 different congregations of over 20 different denominations! So as the Lord had been challenging my thinking and urging me to trust Him more, He had also been demonstrating how very practically and generously He could arrange to meet our needs!

So on September 9th, 1999 I sent a letter out to all my former clients telling them of Rob's illness, the Lord's miraculous provision for all of our needs, and of the radical changes that would be made in my business. I wrote that "Woodford's Sharpening Service" was being shut down but that I would continue to offer the same services but on radically different terms. I would be providing the same services as before but would be making them available freely and without charge or obligation of any kind. I would be writing no invoices and would no longer be keeping track of "accounts receivable". Also, since I offered no products or services for sale, I would be charging no taxes. If these new arrangements were not suitable to them, I also offered to refer them to other businesses which would be happy to charge and invoice them for their services.

I was enabled by the Lord to send that letter out with a deep sense of joy in my heart which sprung from having been obedient to His direction. But I must admit that it was also with fear and trembling! My faith was so weak and I still wondered what the outcome would be in the weeks and months that would follow!

But for “the rest of the story” I’m sorry, you’ll have to wait for the next post soon to follow!


Joia said...

Hey Dad, cool to hear this story again! I had forgotten about the song! The writer, Clay Walker claims to be a Christian and has walked a pretty hard road himself, being diagnosed with MS!

Bruce Woodford said...

Thanks Joia! I really didn't know anything else about Clay Walker except for this one song. We never know the hardships or trials that others may be passing through!