I recently had the opportunity to spend six days with a long time friend who is admittedly an outsider (not a Christian). Spending that time with him was refreshing, rejuvenating, exhilarating and exhausting all at once. As I reflect on our time together, here are six lessons God taught me through it all.
1. New believers make great evangelists.
One of my newest disciples met with my friend and I over coffee one morning. As this new disciple shared about God’s work in his life, I was reminded that some of God’s most effective evangelists are those who’ve most recently been brought from spiritual death to spiritual life.
2. Lots of “church people” go to A.A.
I was invited by my friend to attend an A.A. meeting with him as his supporter during his visit. In that meeting, it dawned on me that most of those in attendance are church-going Christians. What would it look like if they, and others in the church, went public with their struggles instead of remaining “anonymous?” Who else would feel comfortable publicly sharing and repenting of sin, and what might God be able to accomplish through such transparent authenticity?
3. Some outsiders appreciate certain aspects of our faith.
During our time together, my friend asked me to teach him to pray, he studied Scripture with me, and he offered to attend church with me on Sunday morning. While he does not yet ascribe to the Christian faith, he found enjoyment in all of these.
4. The Lord directs our steps.
I was repeatedly reminded of Proverbs 16:9 during our time together. Whether we canceled plans due to storms or hiked rough terrain in the mountains, the Lord continually reminded me that my long time friend and I were brought together through God’s providence, not our plans.
5. God delights in giving good gifts to His children.
As we spent time discussing past experiences and future hopes and dreams, I was reminded that God delights in giving good gifts to those who earnestly seek, knock and ask Him for them.
6. Love trumps literature.
As we prepared to part ways, I offered to get my friend his own Bible. While he was not ready for a Bible, he warmly welcomed my embrace as we said goodbye. He thanked me as I told him I would continue to pray for God’s direction in his life, and I was reminded that what my friend needs more than literature is my love. If God’s Spirit dwells in me and God’s word is inscribed in my heart, then it is largely through our relationship and primarily through God’s providence that God will continue to soften his heart until the day when he is ready to study his own Bible and warmly embrace his Savior.
Trusting God often means saying “goodbye” for now before God ever affects His work of regeneration in the lives of our beloved outsiders.
Its not our job to save our loved ones, its God’s, and God actually loves them infinitely more than we could ever imagine. My prayer is that God would continue to draw my friend closer to Himself and that one day, even if many years from now, I will see my friend pass form spiritual death to spiritual life.
Father in Heaven, Hallowed be Thy name. Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done, in my friends heart as it is in mine. Give him this day his daily bread and forgive him his debts as You have forgiven mine. Lead him not into temptation, but deliver him from the evil one. For You alone hold the power to save those who are far from You, and You have always loved him even more than I do.