Because missionary work is often difficult, many think that no one ever comes to the Lord without hours being spent explaining every nuance of our faith and answering every question ever raised about God, his Word and the gospel of Christ. In one incident that I experienced early in my ministry God showed me that sometimes it ain’t necessarily so.”
One Saturday afternoon I sat down to talk with a Jewish woman, Leah, and her son Gary. We had never met outside of a brief telephone conversation to set up that visit. After a few minutes of polite social interaction, I began to question them both about their thoughts concerning God, the Bible and Jesus. Both Leah and Gary showed signs of openness and interest.
I had hoped to accomplish just two things on that first visit: to assess their degree of interest about the gospel, and to set up a future meeting when we would begin to study the Scriptures together. Those are standard goals for a first-time missionary visit, based on the premise that it takes time to see people responding positively to God’s Word.
But Leah and Gary were unusually open. After I told them my own story, I asked if they would like to see what God’s Word taught about himself, about man, sin and reconciliation. They said they would. I opened my Bible, and we read about God’s holiness in Isaiah 6:1-7, about man’s sinfulness in Ecclesiastes 7:20 and Psalm 14:1-3, about the penalty of sin in Ezekiel 18:4 and Nahum 1:3, about man’s inability not to sin in Isaiah 64:6, and about God’s atonement for man’s sin in Leviticus 17:11 and Isaiah 53.
We spent about an hour going over those passages and other Scripture verses. Then I asked, “Do you understand what we have discussed? Can you explain in your own words the problem between God and man and its solution in Jesus?”
They did so, and I was satisfied that they really understood. Outwardly calm and collected, on the inside I felt like I was in shock. I kept thinking, “Can this be happening so fast? Are these people really that open to God’s truth?”
Then came the ultimate “moment of truth” as I asked, “How do these things apply to yourselves? How do you stand before God?” I asked Leah and Gary if they wanted to pray and ask God to forgive them as they put their faith in the atonement of Messiah Jesus. They both said “Yes!” Still somewhat incredulous, I asked them more questions to make sure that they really understood. They did understand, and did want to pray with me.
Together we bowed our heads and acknowledged our helplessness before God and that we were truly lost in sin without Christ. As Leah and Gary asked God to forgive them, placing their faith in Jesus’ work alone, I felt like shouting, “Hallelujah!”
Looking back, I am still amazed by the events of that day. What a tremendous gift from God to me—at that time a brand new missionary. It was an important lesson for me to learn early in my ministry. The lesson was that we are called to be faithful and to work hard, but it is God’s work, not our efforts, that produces the results. I had received the privilege that day of being present when the ripe fruit fell from the tree. It’s not always that easy, but when I recall that incident, I am encouraged to know that the victory lies with the Lord.