The Evangelism Marathon
We live in an instant culture. Want to watch a show? It is available on demand…now! Want to buy a book? Download it to your tablet and you can have it in a matter of seconds. Want some product delivered to your home? There is a good chance Amazon can deliver it to your doorstep with staggering speed. Our expectations are being shaped by a world that provides instant delivery on almost anything.
I can remember the days when I would fire up my internet and it took time for it to warm up! I would do a search and I could hear my computer grinding away while data was being gathered. Now we expect real time delivery of all the human knowledge on any topic in a fraction of a second, and we get it! Our brains are being hard-wired to expect immediate results because we get them in so many realms of life.
Into this instant gratification culture and tech-saturated world Jesus speaks. He calls us to share faith consistently, walk with people for the long haul, be patient as lost people stumble slowly toward the Father, and hang in there with those who are moving toward His grace at what seems like a snail’s pace.
Sharing the Good News of the Gospel of Jesus with friends and family members is often not a sprint. Sometimes it is a marathon.
Doing outreach with parents, siblings, friends, colleagues, and other people God places in our lives takes time and Spirit-granted patience. We have to commit to the long journey of loving, serving, sharing, speaking, praying, and loving some more.
I walked this journey with one family member who came from a very intellectual vantage point. He was a deep thinker and a committed reader. Over the years he waffled between thoughtful atheism and apathetic agnosticism.
I prayed for him, shared my journey with Jesus, and presented the Gospel to him on many occasions over more than two decades. Sometimes when I was praying the hardest and having some of the best spiritual conversations with him he seemed to move farther from God than ever. It didn’t make any sense to me. I knew there were spiritual battles taking place, but there was no rhyme or reason to his resistance to the grace of Jesus. One week he would be open, the next he would be pushing back. There were times when I was frustrated and felt like giving up.
If you have ever run a marathon, done a triathlon, or competed in some kind of endurance race, you know the feeling. There are points along the way where you grow weary. Quitting looks very attractive. You find yourself shutting down and you have to force yourself past yourself so you can press on.
This is how it felt as I continued walking with and witnessing to this family member. I loved him. I could not give up.
I would give him books like Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis, Evidence that Demands a Verdict by Josh McDowell, and The Case for Christ by Lee Strobel. He read a number of books I gave him, but he would not take that step of faith to receive the truth and grace of Jesus. I would ask what was getting in the way and he would talk about various reasons he was not ready to make a commitment to the Savior.
I was growing frustrated. It felt like there were few if any indications that his heart was growing soft or open to the Good News of Jesus. Numerous times, I was tempted to move on to “greener pastures” and focus on someone who seemed more open to the Gospel. But, God kept calling me to pray, share yet again, and look for new ways to connect him to Jesus.
After two decades of walking with this man, his heart began to soften. He started asking new questions about Jesus, the Bible, and the Christian faith. He had a new sense of urgency and openness. Over time he was able to think through many of his questions, but he also realized he could never make it all the way to Jesus through his intellect…there needed to be a step of faith, a genuine surrender.
When he finally cried out to Jesus for cleansing and new life, he was transformed. It was a joy to watch! The Holy Spirit swept in like a fresh spring breeze and brought life to this young man. A new kindness marked his interactions with other family members. A gracious spirit took over his heart. His whole life direction began to shift toward the things of God.
This spiritual marathon took over two decades of patient prayer, sharing, friendship, risk-taking conversations, and spiritual moments of confrontation…but it was all worth it. There were times I could have given up. By God’s grace I had the privilege of watching the miracle of conversation happen in this young man. I have also taken delight as I have watched him grow as a disciple, a Christian husband, and a wonderful dad who is teaching his children to love and walk with Jesus.
If you are on a marathon journey with a friend or family member who is moving slowly toward Jesus, hang in there! The world might be conditioning you to expect instant results, but sometimes the journey to Jesus is long and slow.
Pray for patience. Be in it for the long haul! Don’t give up. Stop right now and commit to keep loving, sharing, serving, and telling the story of the Savior! God is present and working, even when we don’t see it.
I still have members of my family and dear friends who are not yet followers of Jesus. I have been praying for some of them for over forty years. I’ve had hundreds of spiritual conversations, shared countless stories of how God has moved in my life, and have presented the Good News of Jesus on more occasions than I can remember. I grow weary and discouraged at times…we all do.
When we hit these moments of fatigue, when the race seems long, when we are growing weary, we need to look to Jesus. He took the Cross for us when we had no interest in Him. He has been eternally patient with sinful and stubborn people. He is our example.
Do you have a spiritually lost friend you have almost given up on? Ask God for fresh power and keep walking with them!
Do you have a family member who seems more hard-hearted than when you began praying for them and sharing your faith? Don’t give up!
God is still working. Their heart might be more open than you realize. Hang in there! Keep loving, praying, serving, and sharing. Keep running the race.