Friday, January 21, 2011

A Conversation on a Fence

The mood along the baseball fence that day was more serious than most days. Usually, fence-line conversations between coaches are filled with lighthearted stories with an occasional strategy talk for the next game. But this time, Steve and I had more to discuss than baseball. Steve was one of my assistant coaches for the youth travel baseball team our sons were playing on. Until then, our friendship simply revolved around sports we coached and our kids. But that day, Steve had some significant questions about life, God, death, eternity, heaven, and the Bible. This conversation wasn’t random, it was driven by something very serious—the death of his dad. Steve had just returned from his father’s funeral and the experience of witnessing his dad passing away was rocking his world. He was filled with real-life, vitally important questions.

Steve shared that his dad had lived a life of consistent faith in God. Steve said that his dad has died peacefully and that as he passed, he was quoting Scripture with a look of peace in his eyes. The memories Steve had of his dad collided with his death bed experience in that conversation. He longed for answers to a myriad of significant questions of life, death, and eternity. Then the big questions came. “Phil, how can I have peace like my dad had?” he asked in earnest. For the next few minutes, in the clearest words I could muster, I shared with him that we’ve all sinned and every sin brings about death and punishment. I shared with him that Jesus was the Son the God sent to earth in human skin to be the Savior and Redeemer for our sins. I explained to him the beautiful sacrifice that Jesus made through his death to pay the penalty for our sins. I shared that this is a gift from God that we cannot earn but we receive when we believe this wonderful truth. Then, I said… “That’s where true peace comes.”

Steve chewed on my words that day. Over time, our relationship grew deeper as our conversations continued. I know now that Steve is clear and confident in his relationship with Jesus. Our relationship has continued over the years and I lead a small group (that Steve took the initiative to form) with many of Steve’s friends. Now, we both take great joy in sharing our faith and the truth about having a relationship with Jesus with others.

In my heart of hearts, I know this story started much sooner than on that baseball field fence. Steve’s spiritual story, at least my involvement in it, began many months earlier. You see, during that time, I had a friend who was constantly challenging me to pray for people in my life who needed to develop a relationship with Jesus. Kurt would ask me every week, “Phil, who are you praying for to come to God? Who needs to hear the Good News about Jesus? Did you pray for them today?” Kurt knew that evangelism begins with prayer and the best thing he could do was to encourage me to develop a consistent habit of prayer for people in my life who need Jesus. Steve was on my list during that time and I believe God smiled as he answered my prayer. As I look back, I’m convinced that God was pursuing Steve, and God was pursuing me to join him in his work with Steve. How cool is that?

Who are you praying for today?

Ask (pray) the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field. Matthew 9.38

This week’s author—Phil Niekerk, senior small groups pastor

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