A few years ago, a man sitting beside me on the plane asked why I was traveling to Guatemala. I told him about the children’s home I had been visiting for 12 years. That was the last time he asked any questions about my life. Instead, he spent the next hour telling me all about himself.
When the man finally paused, I pulled out my earphones with the intent to shut down the conversation. But I felt a strong conviction that this was not what God wanted from me. Perhaps this was a divine appointment. Perhaps I needed to learn something from this chatty man. So I proceeded to ask him about his dreams and aspirations. I asked what would be required for him to experience success at what he was created to do.
That is when the man informed me he was once “born again” (he actually used that terminology) but he no longer believed in Jesus. “Really, tell me more,” was all my shocked mind could get to come out of my mouth. He informed me that he had “advanced to a more enlightened state of mind.”
I didn’t challenge this man, partly because I sensed a bit of obstinacy in his statements, partly because I wanted to learn from him and mostly, because God was not leading me in that direction. I think that it is not my job to convince others to believe. My job is to communicate the gospel. The Holy Spirit will do the rest. To me it seems to be a very mysterious process that God often uses to reach teachable hearts who are open to hearing truth.
I had a lot of questions. I asked, “As a follower who is crazy in love with Jesus and who seeks to know Him better, please tell me how one can walk away from Him?” I assured the man that I wasn’t challenging him but I wanted to know more…and honestly, I wanted to understand because I wanted to guard myself against wandering away from my relationship with Jesus.
I also asked the man to tell me honestly if he thought he was more intelligent or more spiritually advanced than me. He quickly denied those opinions but opened the door for me to ask more questions.
I don’t know the end of this man’s story. He told me that he would never change his mind but I wonder if God chuckles when He hears the word “never.” I know that He overcome the “never” that left my mouth and turned it into a testimony for His acclaim. So I am more than confident that God continued to pursue this man and continued to place believers in his path, perhaps placing them beside him on more airplanes.
Even though I didn’t experience it in my brief time with this man, I know that those who oppose Christ and anyone who follows Him can quickly extend their cynicism into the realms of anger and hostility. We shouldn’t be surprised. Jesus said the world “hates me because I testify that what it does is evil.” (John 7:7)
Jesus has always been on trial which I find interesting since His mission on this earth was and is to rescue people from the guilty verdict of the trial we will face on Judgement Day.
Jesus enters the spiritual climate of our communities and He draws a line in the sand. His life declares, “Either you are for Me or you are against Me. Either you are My disciples or you are following false doctrine.” It is impossible to straddle the line. You are for Him or you are against Him. It’s that simple. And it’s that dangerous.
As I read John 7:10-36, I saw this displayed when Jesus attended the Jewish Feast of Tabernacles. Among the crowds there was widespread whispering about Him. Some said, “He is a good man.” Others replied, “No, he deceives people.” Some questioned His ability to teach without a proper education. Others accused Him of being paranoid. And yet many in the crowd put their faith in Him.
Opposition began to intensify during this period of time but so did the number of those who believed. Perhaps we will see the same thing in our day…as opposition increases (and it is on the rise), may we also see many find the One who loves them beyond what they could ever imagine.
Questions to ponder:
Where do I stand? For Jesus or against Him?
Am I prepared for what that decision will cost me?