This week, I had a remarkable phone call. A young man from a London financial company wanted to sell me his products. I interrupted him right after his first sentences and said we were not interested in his offer. But he turned out to be an extremely skilled and eloquent conversationalist who was not at all dissuaded from explaining who he was and what products he had to offer. So at the first opportunity, I briefly and clearly explained the reason for my disinterest and asked if I could tell him at least who I was.
After he agreed, I told him that we are people with faith in God. We believe in God and intentionally live with God every day. We ask His advice in all matters of life and experience how God provides answers and direction, helps and blesses us every day. We live with eternity in view, because we know that heaven provides the highest interest rate and the best and safest investment of our capital. I told him that God has given us sufficient material goods that we have plenty for ourselves and enough to share with others. Therefore, we have no desire to invest in his products. Upon this frank discussion, a very interesting conversation ensued that he may not soon forget. When the conversation ended, I promised to pray for him as he requested. However, I urgently advised him to ask God what HE had to say to him.
Does your neighbor need God? It is quite obvious, especially in our time, that people are very much burdened by insecurity and many fears and questions about life and the future. An oppressive feeling of helplessness and a lack of perspective weighs on our society. Currently, the threat seems to come mainly from the Coronavirus, but doesn’t the pandemic only reveal the core issue that was present long before: the absence of salvation through Christ? Without Jesus, no one can possess true serenity, peace, joy, and contentment in his heart. Without Jesus, the real meaning in life is missing. Sooner or later, the lack of meaning in life inevitably leads to serious crises, to deep sadness, and often to hopeless despair.
Very many people I have met and gotten to know better have no greater need than the grace and love of God. I am deeply grateful for each day that I was able to share with someone what God has done for me and the treasure He has put into my heart. Opportunities are often found just where you least expect them.
In the last while, I sense more than ever the great tragedy of many people struggling through life, although there is help for everyone! God has prepared a table with the most substantial and delicious food, yet people are hungry and starving. Shouldn’t we extend a warm invitation, encourage them to reach out, to take, to enjoy, and be satisfied?
The plan was that I would stay in the hospital for two nights after minor surgery. Therefore, even before being admitted, I asked God to give me a roommate with whom I could share something about God and have meaningful conversations. But when I saw her, my first impression was, “There’s no point in saying a word to this young woman!” She had such a cheerful, confident manner. Her whole demeanor gave the impression of a positive attitude and that she was happy and content with a good handle on life. There was no indication of weakness or a need to hear anything about faith. The first evening, we went to supper together and talked about general topics.
But before going to bed, after reading my Bible and praying, God gave me an unexpected nudge. I felt I should simply ask my roommate if she would mind if I knelt by my bedside and prayed quietly, as I was accustomed to doing at home. I was completely candid at that moment, and so I asked her. No, she didn’t object. And even before I could kneel to pray, a deep conversation about God and faith developed. My roommate opened her heart to share her longing for God, the questions, the doubts, and the need in her life.
As she told me later, it was the authentic, open confession of my faith that opened the door to her heart. How misleading that first picture, that first impression, was! In the years since we met, we have developed a close friendship. She believes, prays, reads God’s Word, has experiences with God, and God works in her heart with love and patience. How grateful I am for this experience!
How can we meet people who need God? If we have a sensitive heart, we will notice the many encounters that God ordains and directs. He creates opportunities to share about the riches in the Lord. Often, these are moments outside in the garden with neighbors or with workmen or service providers who are doing some work in the house. We run into friends and classmates of our children; we may be at a Christmas party at school. God gives opportunities in conversations with doctors and patients, with teachers, co-workers, in the gymnastics group, often with strangers with whom one starts a conversation about some topic.
The immeasurable treasure in our heart has such a high value that we can and should proclaim it everywhere and to everyone. A word spoken in love inspires hope and trust, reaching sad hearts and serving like soothing balm to the soul. Rarely, extremely rarely, have I truly experienced rejection. Even if people happen to say they do not believe or think that the way of faith is not for them, as a rule, they are considerate and respectful. The prerequisite is that we do not merely pay lip service but share an honest, vibrant, and joyful testimony of faith.
Is God preparing us for opportunities to be His witnesses? Looking back at my life, I can say that God has led me in special ways. Often, the path did not seem good at all. It was a path of gradually learning to let go of everything, especially that which was near and dear to my heart. After successful and truly blessed years as a young family, it pleased God to allow everything that was precious to us to shatter. That hurt a great deal for a long time, for many years. It cost me many tears, many struggles, much pleading and praying. But God’s answer, which finally silenced every storm in my soul, was simply: “It is your path. It is the path God intended for you.”
I clearly recall the time when my path was becoming brighter again and God put it on my heart to visit a man. We had known him for many years. He had led an immoral life, and, subsequently, God confined him to his bed after a stroke. I remember especially well our first visit with that man. Tears of joy and gratitude overflowed when he saw us again after years of absence. Therefore, we visited him often and God richly blessed these visits.
In retrospect, I know: During this difficult time, God opened my eyes to see others again and to recognize my duty to my neighbor. For many years, I had been stuck in my own misery. But after this time, I learned that the soul of any person has no less value to God than the soul of my loved ones. Even the soul of anyone from any distant land is as valuable to God as my soul and the souls of those whom God has given to me.
God has repeatedly placed people in our path whom I would have rather avoided. Among them were professing Satanists, drug addicts, prisoners, and difficult personalities for whom every effort seemed pointless. But again and again, I can say: God has richly blessed and rewarded us in this ministry. Last but not least, God worked in us and changed us by this ministry.
How urgent is this ministry? In the course of my life, one particular thought has been a powerful guide. When I am faced with the decision to do something or not to do it, I feel this gentle nudge – a wish, a prayer: “Lord, let me not miss any opportunity you give”.
I would rather venture to do something for my Savior than neglect to do it, even at risk of not hitting the mark one hundred percent of the time. How great the sacrifice God made for the salvation of mankind! God’s work here on earth is that all should be saved! Living a life of true gratitude means doing whatever we can, wherever the opportunity presents.