Perhaps my story of coming to know Jesus can encourage you to persevere in your evangelism. Have you ever felt as if the person you’re speaking to simply isn’t listening? Perhaps you’ve had those experiences when they are listening but don’t seem to ‘get it’. Just as likely you’ve taken the brave step to share your faith only to be rejected or ridiculed outright.
Whatever the situation don’t lose heart. There may be more going on than you realise.
Most of my testimony is pretty typical; raised with a nominal church background, attending Sunday school, even being confirmed in the faith before becoming a teenager. I can’t lay claim to any traumatic life event or any deep wrestling with existential questions about God, the universe and me. By the time I hit secondary school I knew the stories of the Bible pretty well and felt no reason to doubt them.
I knew the events of Easter week well enough but had no idea how they related to me, a young man living in South Wales in the 1990s. It’s also fair to say that I didn’t care what impact those events should have on my life. I knew that Jesus rode in to Jerusalem on a donkey, he was betrayed, he was crucified and killed and three days later he was alive again. But at the end of the day I’d shrug my shoulders and declare ‘So what?’
I suppose I saw it in much the same way as I saw other historical events such as the battle of Waterloo, man walking on the moon or India gaining its independence. I had no reason to doubt the validity of these events but was quite happy to go about my everyday life without dwelling on them or their impact on my life.
Things began to change when I started the sixth form in school and a new boy joined my class. He was a strong, outgoing Christian. He wore a little fish on his lapel and a wrist band with the acronym P.U.S.H. – pray until something happens.
As far as I recall I asked him about these items and told him that I was a Christian too. (I remember at this stage I thought this simply meant agreeing that the things I’d heard in church had actually happened). This seemed to satisfy him and from then on the focus of his evangelistic efforts were towards our class mates and he simply encouraged me to read my Bible and pray.
However, it was on those occasions that I overheard him sharing his faith with others, explaining why Jesus had come, why Jesus had died and what it meant for anyone who believed, that I really started to see that I wasn’t a Christian. I realised that simply knowing about these things wasn’t enough. I was coming to see that the things Jesus did had a purpose.
Around the same time I’d started attending the youth group of the evangelical church in the neighbouring town of Ammanford – not from any desire to learn more about Jesus; just wanting something to do with my Friday nights. Once again I presented myself to those leading the group as a believer and someone they didn’t need to worry about. Yet again it was during the times that the Christians gathered together to plan and prepare what would be taught that I overheard the very message I needed myself.
The final nail in the coffin was reading through a book I’d borrowed from my friend in school. My motives for reading it weren’t exactly pure. I’d taken offence that he was giving the non-Christians in our class books and CDs but all he seemed to have for me was an encouragement to read my Bible and pray. After much complaining he decided to lend me a book he was half way through to encourage his own faith.
The book was a collection of people’s stories from the last 2,000 years with one thing in common. They had all suffered greatly and ultimately died for their faith. As I read this compendium I was struck by the massive disconnect that existed between my faith – simply agreeing that Jesus had existed – and the faith of those I was reading about. They clearly understood not just the facts but the implications of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection.
It was while reading these stories that I really understood that my ‘faith’ wasn’t really anything of the sort. I asked God to work in me the same way he’d clearly been at work in these people’s lives; to help me have a full and proper faith in him and in what Jesus had done.
God uses people
Looking back it’s amazing to see that at each stage God was using people without them or me knowing. While they thought they were talking to others I was listening. While they thought they were preparing teaching material for others they were already teaching me. While books written to encourage faith were being passed around, God was using it to begin faith in me.
I’m so grateful that God can use us even when we don’t know who’s listening. I’m so grateful that God uses our witness in ways we’d never imagine.
My encouragement to you is that you never know who’s listening or how God will use your words. When you’re sharing your faith with someone and it seems hard, they reject outright what you have to say, realise that God can break through into the hardest of hearts but more than that, perhaps you’re speaking to someone you didn’t even realise you were speaking too.
Keep going with your evangelism because you never know who’s listening.