See that guy in the picture? His name is Jason. I love that guy. I’ve loved him for a lot of years—consider him a good friend and fellow fitness junkie. He is bright, creative, witty, committed, a good man, a family man, Iron Man, triathlete, runner extraordinaire, and a Northerner from Chicago (but I forgive him for that, and he did have the good sense to move to the South). Oh, and one other thing: until about a month ago, he was spiritually lost—didn’t know God. For most of his life he didn’t even believe there is a God—used to make fun, he says, of Christians and church stuff.
His wife works for the church as a publications secretary. A number of years ago, she talked him into coming up to the church gym and playing some basketball with us. He did. He discovered Christians weren’t going to judge him or twist his arm to repent. He actually had fun with us. He came back. He participated in church sports. When we developed a fitness ministry, he got involved in that—even got certified to lead fitness classes in our ministry. Next thing you know, he visited church with his family once in a while, and then regularly, and then Sunday School class—all at his own pace, no pressure just love and friendship. Added into that mix were occasional spiritual conversations—some initiated by Christian friends, some by Jason. And underneath all of that were the prayers of his Christian wife and many people over several years for Jason’s salvation.
Now, what do you get when you pour all that into an atheist, mix it well, and wait on God? You get a new believer. A few weeks ago, Jason put his trust in Jesus Christ. When I had the privilege to baptize him a few days ago, I couldn’t help myself but to do a little fist pump when he came up out of the water. That fist pump was a “Yea, God!” and a “Yea, church!” Another lost sheep found. Another lost son came home. God grinned. The angels danced. The people clapped their praise to God, and even the baptistery water did the wave.
There’s a lot more to his story. And though Jason gave me permission to post this blog, it’s really his story to tell, not mine. What I want to do with Jason’s story is reinforce some things his story teaches us about evangelism, and leverage it to encourage any of you who wonder if your lost loved one is a lost cause.
First, Christian friendship has great influence in getting someone to Jesus. Jason was never a project, never a potential notch in anybody’s Bible; he was and is a friend. Friends love unconditionally. Friends are patient. Friends influence but they don’t push. As Ken Medema used to sing, “Don’t tell me I have a friend in Jesus until I have a friend in you.”
Second, never underestimate the power of prayer in evangelism. I can’t explain the metaphysics of it all, but over time, God heard and answered the prayers of many to bring Jason to Jesus. When Jason came to Jesus, there wasn’t one person who thought he or she was responsible for Jason’s decision. We all know God did it, and He did it in response to prayer—years and years of prayer.
Third, if you are praying for a lost loved one to come to Christ, be patient. Don’t give up, don’t let up, don’t quit. Pray and wait. Wait and pray. God is doing things in that loved one’s life you can’t see and you don’t know. As Master Po used to say to student Caine in the TV series Kung Fu, “Patience, grasshopper, patience.” God is on the case. God is working backstage, putting people and events in your loved one’s path that are gifts to help that loved one get to Jesus. And God has the power to save your loved one. Keep on praying and don’t lose heart.
And fourth, God has a really long arm. It was long enough to reach Jason, long enough to reach across atheism and settled opinions and a hard heart and lift him from death to life, from being lost to being found, from “Jesus is a joke” to “My Lord and my God.” I’ve seen God’s long arm reach hard people before. I knew sooner or later, He would reach out and take hold of Jason. God’s arm is long enough to reach your lost loved one too. No case is too hard. No soul is too lost. No person is out of God’s reach.
Just how long is God’s arm?
Long enough to reach from heaven to earth,
long enough to stretch out and embrace the nails that fixed His Son Jesus to the cross on which He died for our sins,
long enough to pull His Son from death and the grave to resurrection life,
long enough to save me,
long enough to save you,
long enough to save Jason,
long enough to save all who call upon His name.
The prophet Jeremiah put it this way: "Ah, Sovereign LORD, you have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and outstretched arm. Nothing is too hard for you” (32:17).
The prophet Isaiah put it this way: “Surely the arm of the LORD is not too short to save, nor his ear too dull to hear” (59:1).
And songwriter Wayne Watson said it like this in a song that I hope encourages you today:
‘Cause you can never outrun
or go beyond the reaches
of the long arm of the Lord.