We live in a culture that tells us religion is okay as long as we keep it to ourselves. Sadly, many among us do exactly that. We proclaim our “spirituality” but also blithely state that our faith is personal, private, between God and ourselves and most certainly not for public distribution.
The problem with that is that the Bible tells us something quite the opposite. Jesus, in some of His final words told his followers to “Go and make disciples.” This command was to all who call Him Lord, both then and today. To make a disciple is to lead another to the cross of Christ, where they acknowledge their sin and receive His great salvation. Then, to know Him as the Lord of their lives as they walk in accordance with His Word. Jesus calls us to spend our lives sharing the Gospel with others who are in need of His salvation, His provision, His mercy, His Healing, His comfort and His Grace. In other words, all of us.
As believers we’re told to share the good news with a world in desperate need of it. And why would we not? Given the gift of eternal life, naturally we would want to pass it on to others, especially those we dearly love. But here’s the rub: the ones who are most desperate for the hope the Gospel promises are often the most antagonistic to it. They believe themselves to be well equipped to handle the issues of life independently, with little or no need of their creator. The Bible says that they don’t yet have eyes to see or ears to hear. They are blind and deaf to the Word of truth. And yet, we who serve him are urged to persevere , despite the knowledge that we will met with resistance, scorn and derision. This, from the very people we most love and who we long to share the abundant life Jesus offers to all those who would follow Him.
Every believer I know has a list of those they long to introduce to Christ–friends and family members they love who don’t yet know the the joy of calling Jesus Lord. They are largely seen as “good” people who do good things. Sometimes they are known to struggle with meeting the challenges of daily life. In every case they are living in their own strength and often in “quiet desperation” while lacking enduring peace . They may work hard to be successful, to do good, to earn the respect of others and to overcome guilt for failures, perceived and real. They actively pursue true contentment, always reaching for that one more thing that will finally make them happy and whole. They chase significance in the things they have achieved, the diplomas on their walls, the size of their paychecks or the neighborhood they live in. They fail to find true rest when they’re weary and have little hope for the future. They look for love, approval and happiness in all the wrong places. They are lost.
Girl, read your Bible. You can eat all the kale, buy all the things, lift all the weights, take all the trips, trash all that doesn’t spark joy, wash your face and hustle like mad, but if you don’t rest your soul in Jesus, you’ll never find peace and purpose. “Alisa Illian
So, we , the believers, persevere in prayer. We offer comfort when they are despairing and encouragement when they have failed to fix what remains broken, despite their best efforts. We walk with them through their valleys and we celebrate their victories. We stay in touch and extend hospitality. We forgive them when they disappoint us and persevere in faith and obedience when it seems our efforts are fruitless and our prayers seem to go unanswered. We wait and, sometimes, we grieve.
In these moments, I am reminded of the prophets of old. Jonah ran from God and ended up in the belly of a whale because he refused to go to Nineveh where God had called him to preach to a wicked people. When he finally did, they responded by repenting of their sin. On the other hand, Isaiah boldly said, “Hear I am, send me!” when the Lord told him to preach to a people who would not respond. Isaiah was willing to obey God even when he knew in advance he would not produce the desired outcome. Still, God graciously gives everyone the opportunity to hear the good news. He uses us to accomplish this, but it is always Him who produces new life in sinful man.
Here’s what I know. Though I sometimes get discouraged when I am made to wait, I trust God’s order and His timing. I do enjoy seeing the fruit of my labor and I don’t like being seen as a pest. (Yes, I saw that eye roll.) I don’t know who will respond and who will not among all those I pray for. But I do know I am called to do my part to make disciples. So, by His grace and for His glory, I commit to persevere in my prayers and to share the Gospel when I have opportunity. (‘Sorry, not sorry.) God calls me to be faithful, not successful. He’s the hero. Should I face disappointment with a lack of response from one I am praying for, I am reminded that I am NOT the Holy Spirit. It is not my job to change anyone’s heart or mind, but to trust that God will do His work, in His way and in His time. I do what God calls me to and then, I wait on Him.
Perhaps you are one who has repeatedly brushed off someone who has regularly sought you out. Maybe they’ve prayed with and for you, comforted you in your grief, shared in your sorrows and loved you despite your lack of response. If so, consider this: The one who may consider a pest, a religious fanatic or an ongoing annoyance you could live without, is actually one who is contending for your very soul. They love you and want you to know the abundant life Jesus offers. They are willing to endure you pushing them away because your soul hangs in the balance. They will keep asking and knocking in the hope the door of your heart will one day be opened. They love you that much. They don’t have the power to change your heart or give you eyes to see and ears to hear. But there is one who does, who can and who will, if you will open the door. And when you do, they, along with all of Heaven, will rejoice with you.
Until then, they’ll be praying, and waiting.