FIRST-PERSON: Pursuing the lost with Christ
“With Christ after the lost.” Those words, which also compose the title of L.R. Scarborough’s famous book on evangelism, weighed on my heart as a daily burden to pursue Bob** until he finally came to Christ one day.
On a sunny August afternoon, I sat in a crowded lobby of a school district’s sporting venue trying to register families for a back-to-school event. The battery in my laptop was quickly fading, but I was nowhere near a power outlet. I decided to get help from a custodian, and that was how I met Bob. Connecting me to a power source took some creativity, and I needed Bob’s help more than once that day. Regardless of what I needed, Bob was always willing to help. I had nothing to repay him but repeated thanks and grateful smiles. Only later would I learn the impact of those expressions of gratitude.
Ten days later, I returned with my supervisor to unload pallets of water in preparation for the back-to-school event. Bob was there to help us unload. Soon after we arrived, Bob complained about his injured right hand, which was visibly swollen. I felt the Lord impressing upon my heart to pray for Bob at that moment. Before my supervisor and I left that day, we each put a hand on Bob’s shoulders and prayed for his hand to be healed. From that moment, the Lord burdened my heart to witness to Bob. As we prepared and executed the back-to-school event over the next two days, I looked for the opportunity to share Jesus with him.
That opportunity finally came after the event ended. Worn out from the event but remembering Bob’s need for salvation, I chased him down. “How’s your hand?” I asked. “It’s about the same,” he told me.
I uttered “Mmm…” as I nodded. “But how’s your heart?”
He knew exactly what I meant. “Well, see, I’m not religious or anything,” he replied. “Like, I know I need to go to church and stuff on Sunday, but when Sunday comes, I just sleep in.”
As we talked, he revealed his inner struggles with me. “I feel like such a fake when I am here. I would always go, ‘Yeah, yeah, everything’s cool!’ and put on a smile. Do this and that. But when I go home, I would argue with my girlfriend over nothing. Sit in my room. Got no one else to talk to.”
Then he shared with me an interesting observation. “But, see, I noticed that you are always smiling. And everyone who volunteered here from all these churches are always smiling. But I’m not like that. When I am here, I feel like such a fake.”
I shared with Bob about having joy from the Spirit and that he would not have to “feel like a fake” when Jesus lives in him. I also told Bob about God’s love and purpose for him, realized through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. I told him that Jesus loved him, gave Himself up for him, and rose again. Bob understood what I said but was not yet ready to confess Christ as Lord.
Ten more days later, Chris, who heard me share the Gospel with Bob that day, went with me to have lunch with Bob. We sat with Sonic burgers and fries in the custodian’s break room, visiting Bob as he shared about his life. Before long, I asked Bob if he remembered our previous discussion and directed the conversation to the Gospel.
“Yeah, but I want to get my life together,” he said. “I need to take care of this thing and that thing. And I still need to deal with my girlfriend.”
I shared with him how Jesus said not to worry in the Scripture, and that Jesus came not for the healthy but the sick. Bob also confessed that he had done wrong in the past and wanted to live a better life. I told him that lasting transformation is only possible through new life in Christ.
Bob remained reluctant to surrender to Jesus. However, he told me something interesting. “It’s like, on one side, I could hear a voice telling me that I should say ‘yes’ and follow Him,” he said. “But then other voices are telling me I need to take care of these other things first. And at the same time, I feel like there is this wall. And I am here.”
How my heart wished at that moment for Bob to receive Jesus! Even so, I knew not to force a decision out of him. Before Chris and I departed, I let him know that we would remain friends and regularly have lunch with him.
After several days, I visited Bob at his workplace. As we sat and talked, I revisited the Gospel with him. Once more, he shared his concerns over his life not being right. I reminded him again that Jesus came not for the healthy but the sick. He resurfaced the same worries and this barrier in his mind that kept him from surrendering.
Eventually, I grabbed the Gideon Bible on his table and had him read aloud Matthew 6, where Jesus says not to worry. I asked him, “Who is the One that takes care of the birds and clothes the lilies?” “The Heavenly Father,” he replied.
“So, who is the One we should seek?” “The Heavenly Father,” he answered.
Bob then shared with me how he feels as though someone is encouraging him to commit now. Perceiving that the Lord was drawing upon Bob, I asked, “Well, are you ready to start living for Jesus today and follow Him?” Bob nodded and said, “Yeah, I’m ready.”
I made sure he understood the decision he was making and led him in a prayer to repent and receive God’s forgiveness through Jesus. After the prayer, he let go of my hands, sat back, and simply said, “Wow!”
He then explained how “it seems like there’s more to life now … like it’s clear.” With that, we celebrated together what God had done. Before I left, I encouraged him to pray often and read the Bible daily.
I returned the next day to make sure Bob understood what happened. He told me, “It’s like a weight has been lifted off my back! It was like I apologized to God for the first time yesterday. I’ve never done that before.” He also shared how he has a new sensitivity toward what is evil and an inclination toward doing good things. I rejoiced with him once more and marked 1 John 5:11-12 in his Bible for him to memorize. As I left, we made plans to see each other again.
Praise the Lord for chasing after us until we are back in His fold! I am glad that the Lord prompted me to pray for Bob that day because he told me that the prayer made an impact on him. I am also grateful that God used me to chase after Bob. Though Bob did not receive Christ the first or second time, yet I knew that the Lord would win him over in due time. I hope to discuss church and baptism with him the next time I see him. May we all go with Christ after the lost!
*Alex Ng is a Ph.D. student at Southwestern Seminary.