As I was walking down the hallway to conduct a chapel service, a person called my name and motioned for me to come over.
“Chaplain, you should see this,” he said as he handed me a photograph.
The pictured revealed a silhouetted, robed figure in the clouds with arms outstretched. The man who handed me the picture, an agnostic, admitted, “There is definitely something there.”
The picture had been taken by a woman who stood sheepishly by the others. She had taken the picture out of an airplane window while flying to attend her mother’s funeral. She and I agreed to meet later and talk more about the picture.
A colleague and I met her and her husband at a coffee shop. She told us that, although she didn’t regularly attend church, she believed in God. She said that just before she saw the silhouetted figure in the clouds, she was feeling more alone than she had ever felt in her life. She prayed, asking Christ to let her know he was with her.
When she opened her eyes and looked out the window of the plane, she saw the silhouetted, robed figure in the clouds with arms outstretched. The figure was there long enough for her to take the photo.
She talked about how she experienced an overwhelming sense of God’s presence and peace. That feeling of presence and peace lasted through the entire time of her mother’s funeral.
Her husband had a difficult time listening to the story. He interrupted often. He insisted that this should be shared with other people and was very zealous about getting this photo to the media. He even said something to the effect of it being on one of the national morning news shows.
My colleague made a simple, yet profound statement. “It is your choice what you do with the picture; just remember why you were given this gift.”
God intended it for one purpose; her husband wanted to use it for self-gain. She was going to have to choose how she would use what she was given.
Jesus was tempted to use who he was and what he was given for self-gain.
Then Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan River. He was led by the Spirit in the wilderness, where he was tempted by the devil for 40 days.
Jesus ate nothing all that time and became very hungry. Then the devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become a loaf of bread.” Then the devil took him up and revealed to him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time.
“I will give you the glory of these kingdoms and authority over them,” the devil said, “because they are mine to give to anyone I please. I will give it all to you if you will worship me.” Luke 4:1-3,5-7 (NLT)
The deceiver says, “Use who you are and what you are for self-gain.” Jesus says, “No, that is not the way of life I choose.”
Instead, Jesus chose to live a sacrificial life. Jesus had to make a choice. Jesus had to decide how he would use who he was, what he was and what he had. Jesus didn’t use his powers for his own self-gain, but for God’s intended purpose.
We have to choose how we will use who we are, what we are and what we have been given. It is our choice what we do with our gifts; just remember why we were given these gifts.
Dr. Jeff Miller is senior pastor of First United Methodist Church in Killeen.