I did it again.
When someone who claims to be a Christian suddenly said he didn’t believe in heaven, and he wasn’t sure if the Bible could be believed, I determined I would change his mind.
This led to arguing and to anger on my part because he seemed to ignore everything I said.
At the end of our phone conversation, I wondered if he just expressed unbelief to try to get to me.
This person battles depression and has many physical maladies. He’s elderly, and I felt bad for yelling at him.
Once again I was in the place I’ve been so many times over the years—feeling bad that I failed to get a person to believe biblical truths. God has gifted me with this, and I do have many successes in this through my writing and speaking ministry, but when I get connected with someone I care about deeply who rejects truth, it still upsets me.
I forget what God has reminded me of again and again—to give wise reproof only to a listening ear. (See 25:12 NASB) This man showed no desire to listen to me. I also realized that arguing was a waste of time and didn’t please God. A saying came to mind which God gave me years ago, that sometimes it’s necessary to “pray, not say.”
I apologized to this person for getting angry at him, arguing and raising my voice. The next time I saw him we got along well, and we didn’t speak of spiritual matters.
Another incident happened after a sermon not long ago at my church about answering God’s call on our lives and how God would give us another chance. All of I could think of at first was how many loved ones had rejected God and were not listening to or for Him or answering His call on their lives—even though they were so gifted and could do much for the kingdom if they would only use their gifts for God’s glory.
My mind started thinking of ways to speak to them in the days ahead.
But then suddenly, God spoke to my heart. What about you?
I asked God, “Are there ways I’m not answering Your call on my life?”
What came to mind is that God had called me to pray for my church when I first arrived there many years ago. And for a number of years, I was faithful to do so. He had never removed that call from my life, but I had backed off from doing it for a variety of reasons. A better word is excuses.
I went to the prayer room after Sunday school and repented for backing away from what God had called me to do just as Jonah had when God called him to preach in Nineveh. (Jonah was the main character of the “answering God’s call” sermon I had heard earlier.)
I realized that the issue when it came to praying diligently for my church was unbelief. I didn’t believe my prayers would make a difference. Yet, if I was honest, I recalled that when I was praying in the prayer room on a regular basis, great things happened—not only in our church, but also in my own soul. I remember one week I prayed in the prayer room, and a certain phrase came to my mind about our church. I don’t recall at the moment what it was, but I do remember one of the pastors said that same exact phrase the next Sunday.
I also remember that the pastor and I disagreed on a certain aspect of the Christian walk. Instead of talking to him about it, I prayed about it in the prayer room for a long time. Then one Sunday he said he threw away his prepared sermon, and he told us that God had changed his mind completely on what he thought and believed on that particular subject.
God gave me songs in the prayer room and calmed me so often. He also helped grow my love for my church and the people there. With a change in my work schedule and traveling more, I didn’t get to come to church as often, and I felt distant from other church members. But I realized that if I had been faithful in the prayer room, this probably wouldn’t have happened.
Once again I have committed to answering God’s call on my life to diligently pray for my church every week—at my church in the prayer room—whenever I was in town. He knows there are too many distractions at my home and elsewhere to do it at another location.
What I learned from arguing with a man who seemed overcome with unbelief and thinking that I needed to correct the prodigals in my life who also battled unbelief is that when I’m busy trying to fix others, I don’t give God room to work on me. I’m so busy telling others the truths I believe they need to hear, that I’m not listening for truth God wants to speak to my heart. I’ve written about this theme again and again, but I need to hear it again and again. I, too, can slip into unbelief—maybe not total like the prodigals or in what I consider “big” areas like the man on the phone—but it still hurts me and others when I’m not diligently listening for God’s guidance and following it.
The thought that came to mind in regard to various people in my life was that they need the Lord so much. But I realize I also need the Lord. I’ve come so far because I realized this along the way, but I can get into a place where I think I know a lot, and I forget how very much I need Him and how far He’s brought me—that I have not reached this point in my journey by myself, and I can’t move on by myself.
In my Bible study today, God reminded me of another instruction that He gave me in regard to my work with the mentally ill. I have committed to returning to carrying out that instruction. Once again I repented of not continuing to answer God’s call in a particular aspect of my walk with Him.
I praise God for all He’s teaching me lately. I feel willing to receive wise reproof from Him, but I do feel bad that it can take me awhile to hear what He’s trying to say to me. It seems many distractions get in the way.
That’s why I know it’s not just the others who need truth and prayer, but it’s also me.
Please pray for me that I will be able to hear God quickly and clearly and move closer to my goal to obey Him every day in every way.
“Standing in the need of prayer” sung by Bill and Gloria Gaither and others.