Everyone wants blessings. We ask God to grant them to us and to our loved ones. God bless Mom and Dad, uncle Steve and aunt Laura.” In the Hebrew Scriptures, the word for “blessings” (ashrei) literally means “happy.” The New Testament Greek word makarious conveys the same meaning, and adds to it “prosperous.” Who wouldn’t want such blessings?
Yet we can miss out on certain blessings because they come with a price we might not wish to pay. Aaron, a Christian grad student studying marriage and family counseling, understood that. As a seminary student, one of his requirements was to face something he feared. He had the courage to admit he was afraid of the rejection and ridicule that comes with being a witness for Jesus and he determined to overcome that fear.
Aaron contacted our office because of our commitment to bold evangelism. I met with him for a brief training session on street evangelism. Then we went out on the streets to distribute broadsides (gospel tracts).
I took Aaron to a farmers’ market where many Jewish people shop. At first, Aaron simply watched as I handed out tracts. Then he saw an Israeli, Sara, stop to talk with me. It was such a natural encounter; Sara had met Christians before and was searching for God. Aaron watched as she and I chatted for a few minutes. Then I asked her for an address and phone number so we could continue our discussion at a more convenient time. Aaron’s excitement over meeting a serious inquirer made him forget his fears. He was ready to join in the adventure.
I watched as he reached out to people with the broadsides. He seemed to enjoy the opportunities to speak, however briefly, with those who stopped to talk. Towards the end of our time I asked if he had been “persecuted” yet. He had forgotten all about that aspect of the work! To his surprise, he saw the work can be just as boring and uneventful at some times as it is exciting at other times.
Just to make sure he was prepared for the possibility of persecution, I described a woman I often see in the market. She usually rides a bicycle, and wears a yellow wind breaker with a green visor. Whenever she sees me, she stops and spits at me! I told Aaron that I had already encountered her in the market that day, and I would point her out to him should she pass our way again. Less than ten minutes later I spotted her walking through the aisles toward Aaron. I called out to warn him. He turned only to see that she had passed him by without notice. He looked over at me and let me know, with a smile, that this time he had missed his chance to be persecuted for Jesus’ sake.
I guess it helped Aaron to know that every time I go out, I have the same fears that he does. I would prefer to have people’s approval rather than their disdain. Like most people, I want to be liked and appreciated. I just want to tell people about Yeshua more than I want those things. If doing that means risking disapproval, I have to push my desire for acceptance aside and choose to do the right thing. It’s wonderful when we can say “good-bye” to our fears and “hello” to His blessings. There truly is fullness of blessing all the days of our lives.
Blessed are you when men cast insults at you, and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely, on account of Me. (Matthew 5:11)
Tuvya Zaretsky is one of the founders of the Jews for Jesus ministry. He was the first field missionary beginning his service in February 1974. Tuvya continues to serve the Lord, now as the Director of Staff Development internationally, based out of the Los Angeles office. He also chairs the Board for the Jews for Jesus branch in Tel Aviv, Israel. Tuvya was raised in Northern California in the institutions of American Judaism. During his bar mitzvah at age thirteen, Tuvya read from Isaiah 6:1-8 and declared with the prophet, Hineni-Here I am, send me!" However, his search for God and spiritual truth didn't come into focus until ten years later, when a Christian colleague encouraged him to seek God in the pursuit of truth. Tuvya came to believe in Y'shua (Jesus) on December 7, 1970. Ever since, he has been joyfully saying to God, "Hineni-Here am I." The full story is available by that title, in a booklet form here. Tuvya has provided the leadership of Jews for Jesus branches and evangelistic campaigns in major cities of the US and in Israel. He headed up the Las Vegas Behold Your God (BYG) campaign in 2005 and co-led the 2006 BYG outreach in New Jersey. He is now also an administrator for the website www.JewishGentileCouples.com. In April, 1989, Zaretsky was present at the Willowbank Consultation on the Christian Gospel and the Jewish people, that produced the watershed Willowbank Declaration. Tuvya has presented missiology papers at the Evangelical Theological Society, the Lausanne Consultation on Jewish Evangelism (LCJE) and at the Global Diaspora Missiology Consultation in 2006. He currently serves as president for the International Coordinating Committee of the Lausanne Consultation on Jewish Evangelism, a networking body of Jewish mission agencies. He was editor of the Lausanne Occasional Paper 60, Jewish Evangelism" A Call to the Church in 2004. He was a contributing author of Israel the Land and People edited by H. Wayne House (Kregel Publishers, 1998). His doctoral dissertation, co-authored with Dr. Enoch Wan, was published as Jewish-Gentile Couples: Trends, Challenges and Hopes (William Carey Library Publishers, 2004). He authored or edited articles for the June 2006 issue of MISHKAN themed, "The Gospel and Jewish-Gentile Couples" (Jerusalem) . And in 2008 he was coordinator and contributor for the World Evangelical Alliance Consultation that produced "The Berlin Declaration on the Uniqueness of Christ and Jewish Evangelism in Europe Today". In 2013 Zaretsky was appointed to serve as the Senior Associate for Jewish Evangelism by the International Lausanne Movement. Tuvya has an M.A. in Missiology concentrating in Judaic Studies from Fuller Seminary's School of Intercultural Studies and the Doctor of Missiology degree from the Division of Intercultural Studies at Western Seminary in Portland, Oregon. He is married to Ellen, who is also a Jewish Believer in Jesus. They have three young adult children: Jesse, Abbie and Kaile.