Q: An intellectual friend of mine asked me for materials that would enlighten him on the person of Jesus Christ. Wanting to impress him, I started searching for the works of great Christian writers—which took me some time. I didn't know my friend had cancer. He died before I could give him anything. Please help me find peace.
—Serge Pena, Poway, California
A: Serge, it sounds as if you are heartsick. But please don't blame yourself. God loves you more than you could know, and he doesn't want guilt and regret to be what you take away from this experience.
Many of us can relate with you. We've missed opportunities to lead friends or family members to Christ. And years later, we're still haunted by the "what-ifs." What if I hadn't been too busy? What if I hadn't been so shy?
Often it's our pride that gets in the way. We're waiting until we can impress them with a profound and perfectly prepared presentation. For some of us it's fear and self-doubt. They might not listen to us. We might not say things the right way. Either way the focus is on us and our performance, not the salvation of our friends.
In Matthew 28:19, Jesus said, "Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you." This Great Commission is for all believers, not just those with the "gift of evangelism." In Acts 1:8, Jesus told His disciples, "You will be My witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth."
Sometimes we forget that at the most basic level, the word witness means "one who tells others what he has seen or heard." It turns out that one of the most powerful ways to share the gospel is to follow the instructions Jesus gave to a man He had just healed in Mark 5:19: "Go home to your family and tell them how much the Lord has done for you."
We don't have to quote the words of noted scholars and theologians. We don't have to have memorized all the verses in the "Roman Road" or the Four Spiritual Laws (although it may help). The main thing is to share simply, openly, and honestly what we have experienced for ourselves—introducing others to the Savior we have come to know and love.
Having said this, it's important for you to remember that your friend's eternal destiny did not depend on you. Ultimately, it is God who calls us to himself. There may have been other believers whom God used to share the gospel with your friend in his final days. The Lord heard the cry of your heart—your desire for your friend's salvation and your prayers on his behalf. You may be surprised, after all, to find him in heaven someday. Until then, the best thing you can do is to learn from this experience. And realize that you don't have to be perfect to share God's love.
Christin Ditchfield is the host of the syndicated radio program Take It To Heart, and the author of A Family Guide to Narnia: Biblical Truths in C. S. Lewis's The Chronicles of Narnia (Crossway) and Take It to Heart: 60 Meditations on God and His Word (Crossway).
Copyright © 2005 by the author or Christianity Today/Today's Christian magazine.
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