I’d been traveling all over creation (or, in my case, at least all over North America), presenting Christ in the Passover. After one service, a woman approached me and leaned in as though to tell me something confidential. So I leaned in, too. With a heavy New York accent, she whispered in my ear, “You do your job very well, but I am not convinced.”
Immediately I knew that she was Jewish and had come as a guest. “Well,” I smiled, “It’s not my job to convince you. That’s God’s job. But hopefully I’ve given you something to think about.”
This dear lady might have expected that I would be disappointed that she “was not convinced,” but I was so encouraged, even exhilarated by our encounter. I could rejoice in the privilege of merely sharing the gospel with her because I understand something that she has yet to experience: any time anyone comes to faith in Christ it is a miracle – a revelation, a work of the Holy Spirit.
What does that mean for our efforts? Being a good witness for the Lord is all about engaging people with the gospel message. We rejoice if we get to be there when they are persuaded, but we are always privileged to have whatever part we can in what He is doing. Like the Apostle Paul said, “So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth” (1 Corinthians 3:7).
I can’t imagine Jews for Jesus being able to function if the burden of “the growth” (seeing faith spring to life where the gospel has been sown) were on our shoulders. Thanks be to God that it is His work! We get to joyously participate as He calls those who are being saved, and we don’t have to be anxious about the increase. The gospel, not our winsome words or fancy arguments, is the power of God unto salvation.
At the same time, we should always be “prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you” (1 Peter 3:15).
Part of being ready is knowing how to communicate cross-culturally. After 40 years as a missionary, I am still honing my witnessing skills, in part to adapt my communication to the ever-changing culture around me. (I’m finding a book titled Evangelism in a Skeptical World by Sam Chan very helpful.)
There’s a healthy tension between knowing there is always more we can do to be good witnesses, and remembering that the final outcome isn’t up to us. We can be challenged to do better, while also being relieved, knowing that God will have the final word. That takes a lot of pressure off me, and I hope it takes some of the pressure off you, too. Trust the Lord, and He will use you.
A couple of days after speaking with the woman who “wasn’t convinced,” I was on a plane from Detroit to Minneapolis. The man seated next to me was – well, let’s just say he wasn’t a Christian. Somehow, we got into a conversation about Jesus, and it lasted the entire flight. When we touched down in Minneapolis, the man told me how much he had enjoyed our conversation and that I had given him a lot to think about. He said, “I hardly ever talk to people on airplanes.” And you know what? I had to admit, “Neither do I.” I can’t help wondering how many opportunities I’ve missed because of that.
My father recently told me how my great-grandmother Esther would come home at the end of the day, and if she hadn’t witnessed to someone she would announce, “I haven’t earned my salt today.” And out the door she would go, looking for someone to share Christ with. Isn’t that beautiful? I don’t know many who are quite as driven as my great-grandmother, and that’s really okay. I am so energized by the intense joy I have, along with our staff, and you, our partners, whenever we plant, water, and sometimes actually witness the gospel seed spring to life in someone’s heart. Whatever our part, we trust God for the increase. All glory goes to Him!