The following devotion was shared with me, and it really challenged me, so I am sharing it with you. It’s written by Lee Strobel, author of the best selling book, The Case for Christ. It was a thoughtful, and thought-provoking, devotion. Let me know what you think!
It’s the telephone call nobody ever wants to receive: “Mr. Strobel,” the doctor said, “we have the results of your biopsy. I’m afraid it’s cancer.”
I can tell you from firsthand experience what happens at the moment you hear those incendiary words: your mind flashes to the worst-case scenario and instantly you find yourself contemplating your own mortality.
I was fortunate; my cancer didn’t end up threatening my life. Nevertheless, the frightening experience of hearing that initial diagnosis left an indelible impression on me. Like never before, I was prompted to think about how my behavior would change if I knew I only had a short time to live. And that is what brings me to the story about Tim.
Tim and I became buddies after he moved into my neighborhood in the seventh grade. As fairly close friends for the next half dozen years, we spent long hours shooting baskets on the driveway, playing softball at the park, and talking incessantly about girls, cars, and sports. Mostly girls. Did I mention girls?
Except for my occasional rants against Christianity, which were fairly common back in my teenage days as a budding atheist, I don’t think we ever discussed spiritual matters. Tim and his family didn’t go to church, although he didn’t seem as hostile to religious faith as I was. He was simply indifferent toward God.
After high school we left for different universities. Unlike today, with the advent of text messaging, email, and cell phones, friends at that time often drifted apart when they went away to college, and that’s what happened to Tim and me. Many years later I heard through the grapevine that he was working for a large corporation, living in a distant city, and had gotten married but subsequently went through a divorce. In the meantime, I had lost my faith in atheism and become a Christian.
Then came the news that Tim and his new wife were moving to a city not far from where I was living. I was ecstatic: maybe we could reconnect and I could talk with him about Jesus.
But I wanted to do things right. First I was determined to renew and deepen our relationship, and then I would broach the topic of faith at the perfect moment, after trust and credibility had been established. There’s a lot at stake, I thought. I want to look for the ideal opportunity so I don’t blow things.
Leslie and I invited Tim and his wife over to dinner. Over a meal of barbecue chicken, we chatted about the Chicago Bulls, the Chicago Cubs, and the Chicago Bears – or, as we Chicagoans call them, “Da Bulls, Da Cubs, and Da Bears.” On other get-togethers, Tim and I watched sports on television. I kept looking for the perfect opportunity to bring up God, but I never felt the setting was quite right. Once we were too engrossed in a game; another time his wife was there and I wanted to talk to him when he was alone.
Then one day he called with the urgent news that he had been transferred to a city on the other side of the country. He had to leave right away. Suddenly, both Tim and time were gone, and in our busyness we again drifted apart.
I was kicking myself. Surely I could have found some way to bring up the most important topic in the world to someone I really cared about. I recalled the advice my mother had given me when I got married: “If you wait until the perfect time to have children,” she said, “you’ll never have them.” And by insisting on the perfect time to broach a spiritual conversation, I ended up never having it.
A while later I heard that soon after Tim had moved, he became friends with a Christian who rather promptly engaged him in a spiritual discussion and invited him to his church. Unbeknownst to me, Tim was primed for God, and he immediately and enthusiastically received Christ.
I was thrilled when I heard the news. At the same time I wondered when I ever would have found that elusive ideal moment to have the same kind of conversation with him. In fact, long after he became a Christian, Tim confessed to me that he wondered why I had chosen to remain silent for so long about something as supremely important as the gospel.
Patience is important in personal evangelism. We want to validate the seeking process of others, and we don’t want to push someone any faster than he or she is able to go. All that is fine, but if we go too far, waiting for that absolutely perfect opportunity to talk about Christ, then there’s a good chance we’ll never get around to talking about spiritual matters at all.
If I lived with my own mortality in mind, however, surely things would be different. If I knew I only had a short time to live, there would be a new urgency injected into my evangelistic efforts. I would probably be more up front about spiritual matters. I wouldn’t wait endlessly for those ever-elusive ideal circumstances before I talked to others about Jesus. Let’s face it: those perfect moments rarely come anyway.
More often, if we’re alert to opportunities and attuned to the Holy Spirit’s promptings, we’re going to find some appropriate way to get into a conversation about Jesus. It may not be the ideal circumstance, but if we approach the situation with sensitivity and empathy, chances are that God will take our meager efforts and use them in the life of our friend.
Because the truth is, we don’t have all the time in the world – and even more important, our friends don’t either.