Persistent or Pushy
Have you ever felt torn between your desire to tell someone about Jesus, and a fear of being too pushy? Or maybe someone expressed interest in your beliefs, then backed away, leaving you to wonder whether or not you should pursue the subject.
Most of us don’t want to be pushy any more than we want to be pushed. And thank God, He never called us to be pushy! However, He did call us to be His ambassadors, and for that, it helps to be persistent.
We hope the following stories will encourage you in your witness, as they show how persistence often bears fruit.
The first story is from Bruce Rapp, leader of our Phoenix Outpost:
I was searching for hidden treasures in a used bookstore. Since I was not having much luck on my own, I asked the sales woman if she had a Judaica section. A customer who happened to overhear my question turned and said, If you are looking for Jewish literature, try visiting the temple [synagogue] in town. They have a bookstore. She smiled politely and turned back to the cashier.
Later, as I walked back to my Jews for Jesus vehicle I noticed the very same helpful woman, standing there, shaking her head at the Jews for Jesus logo.
We began to chat and soon she was asking me questions about my Jewish upbringing and how I could believe in Jesus. Her name was Phoebe; she grew up in Chicago and is now retired in Phoenix. After awhile, I asked her if she would meet with me for coffee sometime to discuss it further. She said no. However, she was perfectly willing to continue the conversation then and there.
We talked for another half hour, and finally I asked if I could give her a book. She said she loved to read and yes, she would be happy to receive a book. I handed her The Last Jew of Rotterdam (the story of Jewish people who survived the Holocaust, fell in love with Jesus, and with one another). Then I asked once more if I could call, and told her, “I’d be interested in your comments about the book.” Surprisingly, she gave me her number.
I called Phoebe the following week. She remembered me right away and said she had read the book in one night! She was extremely curious and when I asked if she wanted meet to discuss her questions, she agreed. We met later that week and I told her about the Messiah Yeshua (Jesus) and how the Jewish prophets had foretold Him. She was amazed!
Phoebe read everything I gave her, and still wanted to know more. She invited me to her home and we sat at her kitchen table reading the story of Nicodemus from the Gospel of John. As she read I heard her voice slowly soften to the words of Yeshua. We finished the passage and her head was bowed as she continued looking down at the Bible. I knew the Holy Spirit was touching her heart. Phoebe prayed for forgiveness of her sins and for Yeshua to be her Lord. In fact, she joined me at our Bible study that same evening.
Please pray for Phoebe to grow in the faith and remain as hungry as she has been to know God’s Word.
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The second story is from Gena Gelman, one of our Odessa outreach workers who was part of our Behold Your God campaign in the Upper Galilee region of Israel in the fall:
I visited with many Russian-speaking Jewish people during BYG Upper Galilee, but I would like to tell you about one visit in particular. Liza lives some 30 miles from where we were staying. I had spoken to her by phone and she agreed to a date and time for me to come and speak to her about Yeshua. When I arrived for the visit, instead of inviting me in, Liza said, “Excuse me, I cannot meet with you today, as my house is being repaired.”
I was disappointed, having come so far. But I smiled and said, “Can we at least talk for five minutes?” So, Liza stood at the threshold and prepared to talk. I offered, “Maybe, we can come inside?” And so, she invited us in after all.
Once we began talking, Liza had one question after another. I answered her using the Scriptures and our five-minute conversation lasted for an hour. At the end of the visit, Liza said that she wanted to think over all she had heard, and re-read the Scriptures I had shown her. I put bookmarks in her Bible and then prayed for her, that she would come to understand the truth of Yeshua as her Lord and Savior. When I finished praying, Liza was weeping. As tears streamed down her cheeks, she said, “I don’t understand what is going on.” I answered, “The Lord is touching you.” Before I could even arrange the next visit, Liza beat me to it, asking, “When can you come back?” Please pray for Liza’s salvation.
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The last story is from Ze’ev, one of our staff in Israel:
During the Upper Galilee campaign we published a newspaper ad that explained the real Jewish name of Jesus and offered a Hebrew version of Moishe Rosen’s book Yeshua which shows how Messianic prophecies point to Jesus. Over 400 people responded. Among them was a young Israeli named Sa’ar.
When I called Sa’ar, he seemed sincerely interested. A few days later we met on the roof of one of the biggest malls in Tel Aviv. I shared my story with Sa’ar and explained the gospel to him. Again, he was really interested and received the Hebrew New Testament enthusiastically. We agreed to meet again soon.
When I called to set up another meeting with Sa’ar, to my surprise he told me that he was leaving Israel and moving to Italy for an unknown period of time. We agreed to meet once again before his departure. On the day of our meeting, Sa’ar called to tell me he could not make it because he had so many things to organize before his flight. Feeling an urgency to continue witnessing to him, I suggested that he set aside half an hour for us to talk on the phone. Sa’ar agreed. I called him back at the appointed time. We each had a Bible in front of us and we read Isaiah 53. Sa’ar was amazed! He said that he could not ignore the fact that Isaiah 53 talks about Jesus. Then I asked him to open Romans 10:9-10. We read it, and I asked if he wanted to receive Jesus by confessing with his mouth that He is Lord and that God raised him from the dead. At first he was embarrassed to pray in front of me, but then he did. His prayer was so real as he admitted his sin and thanked God for Jesus, and also for sending me his way to explain the gospel to him. Now Sa’ar is in Italy. We will stay in touch by e-mail. Please pray that God will provide believing friends and a congregation, so that his faith will be protected and nurtured.
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Each story shows a kind of persistence in the face of resistance. How is that different from pushiness?
1. A persistent person sees a genuine spark of interest and goes the extra mile to tend that spark. A pushy person exerts pressure to create interest where none exists.
In the first story, Bruce could see that Phoebe, while disapproving, was interested enough to stop and talk. When she refused his first offer to meet and discuss things further, Bruce gave her time and space to become more interested. He offered an appealing way for her to learn more. And he was willing to risk rejection by asking a second time if he could contact her. Her willingness to continue the conversation and receive the book made it reasonable to ask a second time, but it required persistence for Bruce to follow through.
2. When someone cancels (and cancellations are common when people are trying to deal with spiritual matters), a persistent person can present a compromise that still enables a meeting. A pushy person would argue that the original appointment be kept without regard for what is going on in the other person’s life.
In the second and third stories, people expressed initial interest, then seemed to back away because of external circumstances. It is likely that Liza got “cold feet” and the repairs were an excuse, since the meeting took place without distraction. Gena simply asked for five minutes and a chance to come in and sit down. That was not asking much, but it was enough to rekindle Liza’s interest.
In Sa’ar’s case, Ze’ev adjusted his expectations to the new situation. He made it easy for Sa’ar to pursue his interest despite the distracting circumstances of his move.
3. When people want to see God reveal His power, they don’t have to push, but will be patient. Pushy people usually try to exert their own power.
Of course, pushiness is often in the eye of the beholder. When people are predisposed to reject the gospel, they might consider any attempt to talk about Jesus as pushy. A persistent person will not press the issue, but will move on and extend their witness to others, looking for that spark of interest.