I haven’t posted in a while due to an insane work schedule over the last month and traveling this week. God has blessed me with a 4-hour layover so I thought I’d take a moment and reflect on something that’s been eating at me today. I travel semi-regularly for work and since I work with the military, I have a wide variety of people I go on these trips with from all kinds of backgrounds. Some I have quite a bit in common with and we have a rather enjoyable time together. Others…we are polar opposites and it’s a struggle for me to be likeable. I usually try to find things in common with the other person so that I can be relatable so that we have some sort of positive interaction and develop a good interpersonal relationship, even if it only lasts for the duration of that trip. As a profound introvert, this can be excruciatingly painful for me if the gap is wide. Why do I put myself through this? I do it for the sake of the Gospel. You see, I realize that evangelism is definitely NOT one of my spiritual gifts. I also realize that this does not absolve me from the responsibility we all have to share the Gospel and do what we can to lead others to Christ. Knowing these things, I do what I can to develop relationships so that I can create opportunities to share my faith in more personally natural ways.
On this particular trip, my travel companion was of the latter, wide-gap variety. Not only are all of his recreational interests so different from mine that outside of work, there is almost a zero chance we would have met in the normal course of life, but he has made lifestyle choices that are fundamentally contrary to a biblical worldview. This is just a recipe for personal disaster for me because, as my wife will tell you, mercy-showing and compassion are also not on my list of spiritual gifts.
(At this point, you may wonder how in the world I lead/teach in adult Bible Study and discipleship ministries. The answer is, by God’s grace and an insatiable desire to serve Him with the gifts I do have.)
Anyway, over the months that this guy has been in our office, I have been very careful to treat him as I do everyone else and develop the same kind of working relationship. Now, here on this last morning of our trip, we were sitting in the hotel lobby having breakfast. I was up much earlier than he was so I was reading my book and working on my first cup of coffee when he came down. After he got his food and sat down, I closed my book and began to ask how his evening went (he met up with local friends so I went to dinner by myself). After a couple minutes he began to relate a slew of personal struggles that resulted from the lifestyle choices I mentioned earlier (yes, I’m being vague on purpose).
At this point, I begin groaning inside. I just didn’t want to ever have to address the topic at all. There was a part of me that truly hoped in the year he had left in my unit that this subject would somehow never come up in the course of conversation, and yet, here it came. Not only was it coming, but it was coming in a form that makes this introvert uncomfortable anyway: sharing of emotions! Aaaand I was in the middle of morning coffee (can I get an Amen from the java junkies). As he was confiding in me, I gave him generic comforts and platitudes. In my head I was thinking, “You don’t really want my advice on any of this because you obviously don’t want to hear anything about what God thinks about anything. If I say anything that you truly need to hear you’ll just get offended.”
Shame on me!! I was more concerned with my personal feelings and not wanting to create an awkward situation than I was with his struggles and need for Christ! Epic fail, Matt, epic fail. Satan was sure working on someone, but it wasn’t my travel companion; without a doubt it was me. You see, the Holy Spirit will never tell you not to talk about Jesus, but the Devil sure will. As I was telling my wife about the encounter, her first response was what mine should have been. She asked me, “Did you tell him *insert perfect response for the situation here**?”
That’s when I realized what a missed opportunity this was and immediately felt convicted about it. That may have been my one opportunity to give him he Gospel. I hope not, but it might be. A part of my daily prayers is that God will put me in the path of someone who needs to hear about Him. I ask Him to create the situation and make it easy for me to share the Gospel. God certainly delivered, but I unequivocally failed to hold up my end of the bargain. For as often as I teach about the need to be “soul-conscious” in my class, I missed the mark big time.
As I’ve had time to reflect on it, I’m reminded than we never know when will be the last opportunity to help someone find their way to Jesus. Each opportunity may be #4 of 36 or #1 of 1 for that person. It may be the final piece to their understanding that causes them to call on Jesus for salvation or it may be the beginning of a long road to a final decision. The great thing about being obedient to God in the area of evangelism is that we never have to worry about the results. Those are up to God and between Him and that individual. Our only responsibility is to do what He’s commissioned us to do. Don’t let these chances to share your faith become a missed opportunity. Make the most of them and share with boldness. You’ll never be sorry you did.