I must set the background for this, for anyone to be able to fully appreciate the aspects of this that are so amazing. It’s unavoidably my longest post to date. You’ll soon understand why.
Just recently, I was involved in a few different situations where I was sharing my faith story, but without any apparent ‘success’.
One was with a woman who I had become close with as our family cared for her infant for nearly 2 months. Sharing Christ’s love in such a practical way had opened the pathway for us to also share our faith. Although she was grateful for our care of her son, and even open to hearing the gospel, she hadn’t made any personal decision to accept Christ as Savior. Though I knew that the true work of salvation is God’s alone, I felt like somehow I had failed in my mission of being His ambassador.
In another scenario, days later, I had an opportunity to communicate with a woman who had grown up in the same church I’d attended as a child. Both of our families had suffered through some painful trials there, and had been badly hurt by a small group of people in that church. Both of our families left that body.
In the years following, after experiencing the anguish and suffering brought on by those that had claimed Christ as Lord, but hadn’t shown His love, she had decided that she no longer could believe in the God who was proclaimed by those divisive and hurtful people. She stated that, “that was the beginning for her to see the inconsistencies of the Bible and the Church.”
I jumped in on the conversation thread through a mutual friends’ Facebook post where several people were expressing their shared unbelief in God.
A few of us on the “other side” were imploring them to not blame God for the fact that His followers could be bumbling sinners and poor ambassadors for Him.
Our (admittedly, sometimes poor) example shouldn’t negate the truth that Christ died for all, and desires that every person would come to Him and accept His free gift of salvation through His death on the cross for our sin.
At first, most of the debate was candidly stated, no one on either side expressing their beliefs in any sort of angry way.
However, some ways in to it, the discussion started to become heated. I backed off. Even though I had really tried to couch every word I said in a spirit of love and gentleness, I just didn’t want to antagonize anyone, even though in my heart I wanted to say more.
To the charge that believers should just “keep their beliefs to themselves”, I wanted to ask the question: how can you expect us to sit silently by, watching a dying world march toward an eternity without Christ, when we hold the truth that God made a way for all to come to Him through the death of His own Son?
A person I know to be a believer joined the thread, admonishing those of us who had dared speak up about our beliefs, citing that our pointing to Scripture and imploring these people to see God’s patience and love would bring ‘unintentional consequences’, since we hadn’t first forged a relationship with them.
I broke off from the conversation, feeling very rejected and like I had, again, failed in being an ambassador for Jesus.
I keep a list of names of people for whom I pray salvation. It is a compilation from many walks of life: relatives of friends, people I’ve observed along the path of life, sometimes interacted with, sometimes seen from afar. I have prayed for each of these people on quite a regular basis. Until recently.
Recently, I started to question the validity of praying for the lost. I’d started to wonder if it really mattered. If God was going to open some people’s eyes, but not others, what difference did it make for me to lift them before Him, asking that He would open their eyes to their need of Him?
I have tried to be bold for Christ. I’m not naturally bold, At All.
I’ve asked God for opportunities to share my faith. When I’ve felt like He was opening a door, I’ve tried to walk forward.
Again and again, I’ve tried to tell others about what Jesus has done for me, and for them, but all to no avail.
My own husband, Mark, remains the only person to whom I have shared the gospel where God did His work in opening his eyes to the truth and he accepted Christ as his Savior.
That was over 30 years ago.
Since then, nada. No one else. Not one.
Oh, its come close. I remember sitting on the driveway with my dear neighbor, sharing Christ’s love and story of salvation. She wavered, seeing the need in her own life, but Not. Quite. There. Sigh.
Or the man at the hospital, crying openly in pain in the waiting room. I told him I was going to pray for him. He snickered, “Oh, you’re one of those.”
Yes, I am. And oh so Thankful to be called ‘one of those’ who claim Jesus as my Lord and Savior!
Then last night, my husband, meaning well, shared the (truly marvelous) story that our pastor, James MacDonald, while in Israel, shared the gospel with a perfect stranger, and lo and behold, the man accepted Christ as Savior, right then and there!
Rather than feeling bolstered in my own calling to continue sharing my faith with others, I became very downcast.
I struggled with the discouragement of feeling inept, unqualified and uncertain.
I went to bed, waking in the night, unable to sleep and spending a couple hours in tears and prayer.
I told God, “I don’t understand. You know I have tried to faithfully share your truth with others, Lord. Help me. I want my life to honor you, but the facts speak for themselves: clearly, I’m doing something wrong. I am getting to the point, Lord, where unless someone walks right up to me and point-blank asks me, “Sarah, what must I do to be saved?” I am going to remain silent from now on.
Is that ok, Lord? Is that what you’ve been trying to tell me and I just haven’t been listening?”
Sometime in the early morning hours, I fell back asleep, drained.
I woke up this morning. As is my routine, I made my cup of coffee and trotted back to my bed, first opening my email to read my devotionals on my cell phone before I would settle in with my own Bible time.
I get two devotionals sent to my inbox every day. The first was, “Our Journey”, by our Pastor.
Today’s was entitled, “You Stink!” is Unavoidable”, and cited 2 Corinthians 2:15-16.
“For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing. To the one we are the smell of death; to the other, the fragrance of life. And who is equal to such a task?”
I read that, nodding in agreement, thinking, “Well, isn’t that the truth? Wow, such timing.”
It hit so close to what has been so heavily on my mind lately.
Then I opened the other devotion I get. I need to share some of what the writer wrote, in order for you to see how God used this in answering my prayers.
This one was by Proverbs 31 Ministries, and today’s writer was Suzie Eller. She titled her piece, “It’s Time to Tell Someone”.
Her main piece of scripture was 1 Corinthians 3:6-7
“I planted the seed in your hearts and Apollos watered it, but it was God who made it grow. It’s not important who does the planting, or who does the watering. What’s important is that God makes the seed grow.”
Suzie then shared her story about some teenagers who came into her home when she was 14. They were there to invite her to church. She rejected their message, just wanting them to leave. In her words, she was “angry at God, if there even was one.”
She sketched the scene for us; teenagers awkwardly attempting to share their faith with someone who is rejecting their message.
Here’s the powerful part, as she wrote, from her perspective now, as an adult believer in Jesus.
“I’m sorry. I really am. Wherever you are, I want to thank you for trying. I don’t know why you picked me, but I love the fact that you wanted to tell me about Jesus.”
“That day you didn’t find fertile soil, but a small seed was planted. Jesus eventually rooted His love in my heart and changed not only me, but generations after me. I wish you knew that the angry girl in the bedroom became a woman of faith who loves nothing more than telling others about Jesus.”
As I read her story, here told only in part, I wept. I was completely undone.
Reading further, she shared, “When you move beyond your fears to tell someone that Jesus loves them, it may be exactly what they need to hear that day even if they don’t know it yet. I want a front seat one day in Heaven when those teens discover that their bravery wasn’t in vain. I want to hug their necks and thank them.”
It wasn’t lost on me that God knew what my questioning heart needed to hear!
My nighttime plea, mixed with tears and fears that I’ve been so ineffective for Him, did not fall on deaf ears.
He orchestrated it so that not just one, but both of the devotions emphasized the importance of continuing to share my faith story. How amazing is that??
So, I dug out my old list of people to pray for.
It’s pretty worn out, the paper delicate from much handling and many tears spilled upon it, as I have called on my God to open the eyes of these precious people, to come to know Him, whom to know is Life Eternal.
And I began to pray for them each again, name by name, knowing that My God Saves. In His time. In His way. And by His Own might.
Thank you Lord, for allowing me the privilege to play any small part in the sharing of what You’ve done for me. May my life honor You, and may my lips continue to sing Your praise as long as I have breath. And may You do the work that Only You can do as you make hearts tender to hear your truth.