The other day on the way into town Mary Ann was reading from one of our homeschool books to our girls. She shared a story out of Egypt some years back where a Muslim Egyptian postal employee, seeing that a large bag of mail was from the "rich" U.S.A., took the bag to his desk and went through it. He found a thicker package, stuck it in his coat pocket, and took it home. That night he opened it, envisioning money, only to find a New Testament that was being sent to a teacher. Thinking something to the effect of, "So this is the holy book of those Christians" he started to read. By the time he got through the gospels he knew Jesus was real and by the time he got to the question cried out in Acts, "What must I do to be saved?" he eagerly read the answer and believed on the name Jesus Christ. He bought a new Bible to replace the one he'd stolen and now his name is protected as he distributes all the Bibles he can get from America to people and places in his homeland.
To contrast, I once, before being a Christian, worked with a kind man who was, simply, brilliant. He may have had one of the highest SAT scores ever. He studied New Testament studies at a university because he was deeply interested in it. He poured over Biblical archeology magazines. He could quote and talk about the Bible and archeology and word origins and original manuscripts "better" (in an intellectual sense) than I ever can hope to and yet . . . to him the Bible was a good story, had some historical relevance, but was certainly not the revelation of God coming to earth. He was involved in a lifestyle contrary to the Bible, and seemed to feel that while it was intellectually fascinating, the Bible (and the God it reveals) had no bearing on his life.
As I reflected on the man I knew, and the man Mary Ann read about, I thought, "What an amazing difference in responses!" One man spent years in the New Testament and it has meant nothing to his life. The other read four books of it and by the fifth knew Jesus was real and God and gave the rest of his life to Him at great risk to himself. What it reminds me is:
1. The true work of conversion will be a transaction between an individual and the Holy Spirit, and we never know when it may happen. We are called to be God's witnesses, not His attorneys. We aren't going to "win the case" for Him. We share what we know, as God leads us, and realize the results are up to Him and between Him and the person involved.
2. Be ready in season and out of season. I shared some time back the story of Daniel (you can click here to read it), a man I met on the street in Los Angeles while I was walking to get a toilet part, who approached me and who, within 10–15 minutes I was leading to Christ. On the other hand I have shared Christ, and defended Christ, and argued Christ, for sometimes years with other people and seen no conversion. We never know when it is "the moment" that God has prepared and when the person will make their decision.
There is great freedom and responsibility in these realizations or reminders. Freedom—it is not our job to convert someone. We just are faithful to share as we are led. Responsibility—we need to be available to be led and position ourselves to be receptive to God's nudges. With Daniel, a simple decision to walk on the other side of the road and the contact wouldn't have happened. With Paul, resisting the Holy Spirit would have sent him to a region the Holy Spirit didn't want Him (even though he would have been doing "God's work"). We never know the time or season or moment, nor what seeds we are planting even when something seems futile. We must let the Spirit guide us—let Christ in us live through us—and then trust Him with the rest.
I close with a similar example. One of my earliest youth camps almost caused me to quit youth work. I had taught on multiple different evidences for our faith, including the evidence in Creation. I felt like no one had heard a thing. Mary Ann and I were so discouraged and went to a pastor's home, ready to quit. He asked one question, "Did you do what God asked you to do?" That question has changed my life. As I realized I had he said, "Then that's all He's asked you to do. Trust the results to Him." About a month later God gave me a glimpse of the fruit of that time I thought had done nothing (we don't always get those glimpses, and that is why we must trust!). One of our high school girls in the youth group came up to me and told me that in science class that day the teacher had told the class that if they didn't believe they'd come from fish to get out of the class . . . and she had gotten up, in front of the whole class, and walked to the door. The stunned teacher asked what she was doing and she replied, "I don't believe I came from fish. I believe God made me." The teacher sputtered and told her to stay in, just not to say anything.
We never know. We simply do what He asks, and trust. All we are responsible for is what He asks of us. By the way . . . the parents of that girl gave us a homemade plaque that still hangs in the center of our living room which ways, "I know I'm somebody, 'cause God don't make no junk."