The following was written by Dmitry, our missionary “somewhere in Belarus.” He is ministering in a place where people can be imprisoned for sharing the gospel in public, yet it’s a place where many people, including Jewish people, are hungry to know the Lord.
Joy is a gift of God and, as with all other spiritual gifts, it can be experienced under extraordinarily difficult circumstances. Joy finds its source in God and “flows from Him.” Fullness of joy comes in the moments when we deeply acknowledge the presence of God.
Joy is not a transient emotion or even a casual consequence of faith, but rather an integral part of our relationship with God. It comes when we know we are where God wants us, doing what He has entrusted to us. This in itself brings joy, but the more so when God produces fruit from our efforts and lets us see it. Nevertheless, many circumstances are, in themselves, less than joyful.
Two years ago, I began ministering to a Jewish man named Anatoliy. I met him as I was doing “drop in” visits. He was one of many people on our database before I moved here…people we met during an outreach years ago. When I moved here I had no idea who would still be interested and who would not. When I knocked on Anatoliy’s door he was open to meeting with me…but he made it clear that he was an atheist and I should not expect him to change.
For a year and a half I met with him periodically. We read the Bible together and discussed the issues of sin, salvation and the Savior. But all the time, he seemed to me like an unapproachable wall. Each attempt to knock on the door of his heart seemed to fail. He would typically respond, “I was taught the ideals of Communism my whole life and have always been a Communist Party member. You are welcome to waste your time on me, but I’m quite firm in my own beliefs.”
And so I decided to let Anatoliy be for six months, during which time I did not attempt to visit him. I prayed that the sown seed of God’s Word would do its work. Then I invited him to our Rosh Hashanah celebration. He said he would come, but I was reluctant to believe him because he’d ignored all of my previous invitations. But this time he came…and he responded to the altar call. He began to attend “Faith Courses” regularly and he is now a committed believer.
God granted me such joy with this beloved brother. His words I will never forget: “I am thankful to God for you. I thank you for your persistence to tell me the truth about God! And moreover, you are my godfather on my journey to faith!”
We can only do the work God has entrusted as best we can, knowing it is the Holy Spirit whose labor will accomplish the task. Then the Lord will surely send us joy as we see the fruit of the seed which we sowed!
“Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Romans 15:13).