One of my good friends fell off a ladder while doing some building work at our church. In doing so, he fractured one of the vertebrae in his neck, which also affected the nerves, causing severe pain (and difficulty moving) in other parts of his body. He had scans in hospital down here in the Great Southern, and was flown to Perth by RFDS. The spinal surgeon in Royal Perth vacillated between operating, or just seeing how it went, ultimately sending him home with a brace for 3 months, to be reassessed regularly to see if they needed to change course and operate.
At his first review, 8 days after his accident, 2 days after being send home with a neck brace, he was told that he was all fine, could remove the neck brace and go back to work. There was no fracture any more.
This is a powerful tribute to the grace and mercy of God, and an answer to many prayers in a miraculous and unexpected manner (I had been praying for provision for his family while he recovered, and no permanent damage!).
And yet, when I tell people this story (as I do regularly), I hear two responses from people who aren’t Christian. 1. Well, that was misdiagnosed badly; or 2. I guess that’s just one of those things.
The idea that there are scans and tests which show a major medical issue, and then none, is either not considered note-worthy, or is dismissed as incorrect.
Which, I think, goes to show that our society is determined not to be impressed by things, and that it is unwilling to test or question its fundamental beliefs.
This is a pretty big hurdle what we as Christians need to recognise when it comes to our task of sharing the gospel with others.
First: A one-off event isn’t going to change many people’s minds, so stop waiting for one to show up before you tell people about Jesus. We need to keep giving testimony about the work of Jesus in our lives in an on-going manner. One big testimony isn’t going to do it, so don’t wait for one!
Second: If any of us thinks that because most people in surveys say they believe in God that makes people more open to hear the gospel, we need to dismiss this idea. No matter what most people say about what they believe, they don’t actually think that God makes (or can make) any tangible impact on their lives today. Don’t rely on assumed knowledge or common ground.
Third: We need to reflect hard on the difference God makes in our lives – to the way we think, the way we understand the world, the choices we make, and our views of right and wrong. We need to think about this daily, in all that we do, and be explaining that to others (having first explained it to ourselves). Being a Christian can’t be a lifestyle choice with little (or poor) understanding of how we live and why. It must be active and thought out, so we can explain it to bridge the gap with others.
Fourth: Evangelism is a spiritual battle – not just one of realising truth or recognising facts as they are presented. These help. But the most important thing we can do is Pray. Pray for the Spirit of God to do his work in people’s hearts to help them hear and understand the gospel, and turn to Jesus in repentance. Without this, any efforts we make are in vain.