Our Lord Jesus Christ was pretty clear in His final instructions to His disciples: He expected them to carry the Message of salvation, forgiveness of sins, and God’s grace to the far corners of this fallen world. He told them to start at home and then radiate out to include their extended family, then their neighbors and co-workers and friends, and then to strangers. He also told them He would be with them — and us — every step of the way.
1 Cor. 9:16 (NIV): For when I preach the gospel, I cannot boast, since I am compelled to preach. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!
Matt. 28:19-20 (NKJV): “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations … teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you.”
Acts 1:8 (NASB): “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses.”
You’re writing a book destined to be read by hundreds of thousands of Christians — maybe millions — around the world on the perils of Hell, the eternal destination of everyone who spurns God’s offer of grace.
You’ll call the book Erasing Hell, but in this moment, at this place, you look up as a boisterous group of young people enter the shop, laughing, joking, backslapping one another as they queue up to place their order, mostly for coffees that resemble milkshakes.
You feel a sudden urge to close your computer and go minister to them. You know that if you take your Holy Bible seriously — and, if you’re Francis Chan, the pastor and author writing this book, you do — you assume that many of these young people are destined for Hell. (Kindle edit., Chap. 3, loc. 4306)
Should you continue to write your book and sip your coffee, or should you drop what you’re doing to minister to the other customers?
In Forgotten God, Chan writes an answer to this quandary by noting that too often we try to lead the Holy Spirit when we should be listening to Him. “Sometimes,” Chan writes, “this is exactly how the Spirit leads us. There can be two equally good choices that God lets us choose between.” (Kindle edit., Chap. 4, loc. 2879)
SCENARIO TWO: You’ve just received emergency hospital treatment to correct two blocked arteries that led to a mild heart attack, and you’re being transported to the Intensive Care Unit for observation.
The nurse who was assigned to your care tells you it “never” happens that a nurse stays with a patient from receiving through recovery, yet here she is with you, and she opines: “Things happen for a reason.”
As you process this, she asks how you stayed so calm throughout the procedure, which she notes was “far from routine.”
You tell her you placed the outcome in the hands of your Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, and that many people had been praying for you … and for the skill of the medical team, including her!
If you’re Joel Rudicil, president of your company, you send a text to your wife and ask her for prayer support because you’re about to tell your nurse about Jesus Christ. You even show the nurse your cell phone, where she can see those prayer requests. (Rudicil, Heart Attack, unpub. e-mail, April 2020)
As you tell her what the Bible says about heaven, the purpose of Easter, and how to receive the gift of eternal life through Jesus Christ, she tells you she wants this gift from God, so you hold her hand and pray with her for the Holy Spirit to come into her heart, forgive her of all of her sins, and begin to remake her in the image of the Savior.
SCENARIO THREE: This one is you. What would you do in these situations?
In one situation, you are doing the Lord’s work. You’re writing a book that will circulate throughout the world, urging readers to take the Lord’s warning seriously: that Hell is real and it’s the default destiny of anyone who refuses to take the Lord’s offer of Grace paid for by His Son’s death on the cross.
Should you stop your work, right now, and minister uninvited in the lives of those around you? Could that nudge, which seems so Godly in one sense, be a distraction that keeps you from doing God’s will?
What would you do?
In another situation, you’re recovering from an emergency heart procedure, and the Lord has provided you with an opportunity to share your faith with someone He has been working with, someone who just needs a counselor, an advisor, to help put the pieces together.
This is not the only nurse you’ve spoken with, it’s just the only one who is on the verge of a breakthrough.
What would you do?
GOD DOESN’T LEAVE US hanging when we’re faced with opportunities to share the Gospel with those He has placed in our path.
He has told us in His Word there is a three-step rule to follow: one, be prepared to testify (1 Peter 3:15); two, look for an opening to share (Matt. 4:19); and three, pray for the Holy Spirit to intervene and work on the lost person’s heart (Matt. 9:38, 1 Thess. 5:17).
Being prepared to share means developing a brief testimony of how God’s loving grace has changed your life, given you a peace you didn’t have before, and is available to everyone who wants it.
Praying is obvious: Even a quick “Lord, help me” in the moment suffices, but it should supplement a more committed prayer during your devotions, when you ask the Lord to grant you opportunities to speak His name.
Looking for the opportunity is the real skill. Sometimes, it’s obvious, and sometimes, it’s not.
Referring back to Forgotten God, Chan says sometimes the Holy Spirit calls us to do “a particular thing,” and the choice we have is whether or not we’ll obey. What we decide, he says, “is no small matter.” (Ibid. Chap. 4, Loc. 2879)
The Lord could have you exactly where He wants you, and a seemingly God-honoring diversion could look attractive. Maybe recall Nehemiah’s answer when he was prompted to leave his job overseeing construction of the Jerusalem wall: “I am doing important work and cannot come down.” (Neh. 6:3 CSB)
Let God determine your purpose and timing.
Jesus promised to be with us throughout the process (Matt. 28:18-20)
POSTSCRIPT: MANY CHRISTIANS carry witnessing material with them.
It could be a business card giving the location and times of service for their church, a pamphlet outlining the plan of salvation, or even your personal card, giving them ways to contact you with questions.
However you proceed, know that Jesus warns us not to be ashamed of the Gospel (Luke 9:26; Rom. 1:16).
Evangelist William Fay, in his workbook, Share Jesus Without Fear, gives us this teaching: “Creating witnessing opportunities is His (Holy Spirit’s) work. Our part is to be obedient, to act on these moments that God is creating.” (B&H Publ., Nashville, Tenn., p. 11)
Carry the material … Pray for guidance … Look for opportunities … Share the Gospel.
Our heavenly and merciful Father, we bless Your name and give You all the praise, honor, and glory. Fill our hearts with zeal for the Holy Spirit, we pray. Prepare our minds and our tongues to speak Your name to a wounded and hurting world. Open our hearts to the suffering and confusion that lies around us. Give us a burden for sharing the Gift of Salvation with those You give us. You promised to be with us to the close of the age, and, Lord Jesus, we claim that promise, for You told us that without You we can do nothing. Glorify Your name as we share our faith with others, and we lift this prayer in the name of the Savior, Jesus Christ our Lord. AMEN