Yesterday at evangelism, an incident occurred that reminded me of the truth that when I go out to share the gospel, I go out as a redeemed sinner, whose only hope is the very same gospel that I preach. Through what happened I saw graphic evidence that even when I am most full of desire to do God’s work and think I have prepared well, pride, self-love and idolatry are competing for my heart.
The incident I’m referring to occurred as I approached my fourth bench full of people in the park. I was by myself, since illness had struck our team and there was no one left for me to go with so I was grateful it was not one of those days where you encounter great religious hostility. In fact, the first three benches had received me with unusual friendliness, if not with a great sense of urgency. Though the conversations didn’t go as far as I would have liked, four people were now sitting on their benches reading a very clear gospel presentation by Albert Martin and one lady had gratefully received a New Testament. One man had even told me he was letting his daughters read the tract in order to teach them a lesson in ecumenicity!
But now I approached the fourth bench, where two ladies sat, evidently, judging by their appearance, from the countryside. The mother accepted a tract willingly and was happy to talk with me, but I simply couldn’t understand her, due to her lack of teeth. So I turned to the daughter. But as I began to explain the main idea of the tract to her, I saw the corners of her mouth begin to twitch in amusement. I tried to ignore it, but the more I talked, the more serious I tried to be, the more evident it was that she could barely keep from laughing. This disconcerted me more and more, because, though the woman did not seem very serious about God himself, I suspected she was not laughing at Him, but at my Romanian and I had never ever experienced that reaction before. It became a barrier I didn’t know how to get past, but one I felt I must get past so that she could hear His voice. But the more she snickered, the more self-conscious I became, and underneath more irritated, though I tried to hide it. And the more bothered I became, the worse I feared my Romanian was coming out! Finally, feeling that I was making no headway at all, I left in complete defeat. After that I had no heart to approach any other benches. I was done for the day.
Later, I had to ask myself why such a small thing like this woman’s amusement had affected me so profoundly? If I had loved her better, and been more humble, if I had been more interested in her and less in my pride, if I had asked more questions and talked less myself, would she not have looked past my accent and faulty grammar to the heart of Christ? Maybe she would have and the missed opportunity makes me sad. But today I see God’s sovereign hand over both my failure and the woman’s snickering lips and I can acknowledge His love in allowing it. I needed that test for God to keep me utterly reliant on Him, both to communicate His truth, and even more, to love other undeserving sinners like me with His love. How I need Jesus every moment that I seek to do this work! How I need to look continually to the cross, both for forgiveness and for power to live a risen life. “But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.” 2 Corinthians 4:7