Saturday, June 13, 2015

A Time to Plant

Photo by Dragfyre 2011


Romans 10: 13 For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. 14 How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?… 17 So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.

What’s your excuse for not witnessing? Mine is fear. Fear of rejection, of offending, even of not being politically correct. But love, even if human and therefore not perfect, should cast out fear (1 John 4:18).

We are told to plant the seeds of belief in Jesus (Matthew 28:19-20). But shouldn’t we also accept the responsibility of tilling the soil, watering the green shoots of faith, shedding light on the new growth, and tending it as it matures and bears fruit? What if we are the only gardener in one soul’s life, from sowing to harvest if we fulfill our mission (John 4: 34-38), or from sowing to withering if we fail?

When I first saw Sathit’s picture, he was a gaunt, solemn lad of 11, standing with his parents and younger sister before a fragile ornamental cherry tree in full bloom, in his native village in Thailand. He was an average student who liked to garden, or “to sprinkle plants in his leisure,” as the awkwardly translated letter put it.

My intentions were honorable. I had picked up a brochure at church and had decided to sponsor a foster child. But I failed him. I didn’t know then that I would commit the cruelest sin of omission possible (James 4: 13-17).

The sponsoring organization had “Christian” in the name, so I naively assumed that my monthly monetary gift would provide Christian outreach, along with food, school supplies, and contributions to community projects such as better wells in Sathit’s village. Providing for physical needs is important, but securing our eternal future even more so (Matthew 6:31-33; 16:24-26).

Eventually, I learned that their resources were too limited for missionary services, but by then, it seemed unkind to withdraw my support. Despite the thousands of miles that separated us, I came to know and love Sathit from his letters, drawings, and progress reports.

As time went on, I also sponsored other children through Compassion International, another organization that does offer Christian teaching. It is never too early to nourish children in the Word of God (Mark 10:13-17; 2 Timothy 1:5; 3:14-17). Reading letters from these children telling me that they loved our Lord and Savior brought me great joy. Arakiados, from India, even drew me an awe-inspiring picture of Jesus, as if he had seen Him face to face (1 Corinthians 13:12).

But Sathit was not that blessed. I sent him Christmas cards, and I wrote him about Easter, about celebrating the resurrection of Jesus (Matthew 28:6-7) through which all believers can have eternal life (John 3:16; 1 Corinthians 15:1-4).

He wrote back about offering food to the monks in the temples and about Buddhist festivals: “I would like you to throw water on Songkran Festival in the province very much.”

I always wanted to tell him more, to share the Good News (Proverbs 25:25) that Jesus came to save sinners like all of us (Luke 19:10; Romans 3:23) and to reconcile us to Holy God through His shed blood (Romans 3:25; 1 John 2:2; 4:10). I wanted to prepare the way so that the Holy Spirit could convict him and so that he would be born again and welcome Jesus into his heart (John 3:3-8; Romans 10:9-10).

But I was still a babe in Christ (1 Corinthians 3:1), and I failed to do this. After all, I reasoned wrongly, Sathit lived in a Buddhist family and attended a Buddhist school, and I didn’t want to complicate his relationship with his parents or make trouble for him with his teachers or classmates (Matthew 10:34-40).

Anyway, he was growing up so fast, and now that he was a young man of 16, perhaps his circle of friends would widen. I hoped he would travel outside his village and learn about other cultures and beliefs. I thought others would germinate the seeds of Christian faith I had sparingly scattered across his path (2 Corinthians 9:6; 1 Corinthians 3: 5-11).

Sadly, I thought about it too little and too late (2 Corinthians 6:2). A letter from the sponsoring organization notified me of an emergency situation – could I please call for more information? My prayers in those 12 hours before the office opened were for the problem to have a solution, even if difficult – crop failure, housing destroyed in a storm, even illness in the family. Surely I could help somehow. After all, with Christ, all things are possible (Matthew 19:26).

But without Christ, there is no hope (Ephesians 2:12-19; Romans 5). I learned that Sathit was riding a motorbike when a pedestrian darted across the road. Sathit swerved to avoid him, crashed into a tree, and died instantly. His young life was plucked up before it even had time to take root.

“Well, at least he’s in Heaven now,” well-meaning friends said upon hearing the news. How I wished that were true. How I wished I had another chance to make a difference, to tell him how he could be saved.

Had I know Sathit had so little time (James 4:14) to make the most important decision of his life – to choose where he would spend eternity – would I have been less afraid, more persistent, more committed? (Galatians 6:9) Would I have given him the Word of Life (John 6:63-68) instead of speaking idle words (Matthew 12:36), for which I will have to give an account to Jesus at His judgment seat? (1 Corinthians 3: 10-15; 2 Corinthians 5:10)

May God help me to remember Sathit every time He gives me an opportunity to witness, to nurture the growth of belief in Jesus. For many souls we meet, we may be the only gardener they’ll ever have.

John 14:6 Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.

© 2003 Laurie Collett
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21 comments:

  1. Dear Laurie,
    That is a tragic story about Sathit. As it is tragic that everyday a great number of people of all ages die without Christ.
    But when it comes to sharing the Gospel, one of my biggest obstacles is not so much about fear or timidity, but rather of two other things:
    1. Bring out-argued - that is when the person I'm talking to poses questions or counter arguments I'm not able to challenge, leaving me with an embarrassing silence. That has happened quite a number of times.
    2. Concern that my testimony about Jesus Christ may be offset by some sin, something I have said or done, showing lack of patience or compassion, or feeling irritable.
    As for Sathit, and others like him, we believe that God will judge fairly, "according to his works". There is a world of a difference between the death of a Buddhist youth who had no intention of insulting God, to that of a much older man who cursed God everyday of his life as well as deliberately pushing away the Gospel that was designed to save him.
    I'm not saying that Sathit had escaped Hell, but rather I believe that eternal punishment is graded according to what one has done in life, very much perhaps like Dante's version of Hell, which was graded from an irritable breeze which never blow itself out, to the hottest of fires reserved for the likes of Judas Iscariot,with a host of unpleasant things in between.
    But I grieve for the loss of the boy. It makes us think how precious life really is, and we should be thankful for it.
    God bless.

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    1. Dear Frank,
      A mentor from our former church, who was gifted at witnessing to whomever crossed his path, had a great strategy for dealing with your first obstacle above. Even if you win the "argument," you'll lose the battle of presenting the Gospel if you get sidetracked by "chasing rabbits." Preaching and God's Word are foolishness to the unsaved, so it is best to avoid heated discussion over Bible "inconsistencies," why a "good" God would allow suffering and not let everyone be saved, etc., etc. Our mentor used to say that he would answer such interruptions with, "That's a really question, and I'd like to get back to it later, but please let me explain this first and then I think you'll understand the answer to that question better." Then he would continue with a clear presentation of the Gospel.
      As for the second obstacle, I believe that the Spirit will give us grace to preserve our testimony while we are presenting the Gospel, if we ask Him to.
      I agree with your belief that there are degrees of punishment in hell, with worse punishments for some, but the Bible clearly describes it as a place of eternal torment and separation from God for all who are banished there.
      My only hope for Sathit is that in the last weeks or even moments of his life, the few Gospel seeds I had scattered in his life had germinated and had led to saving faith, even if never verbalized aloud to anyone. We won't know until we reach glory what impact we have had on those whose lives we touched.
      You are so right -- life is so precious; every day is a gift; and may we thank God for it.
      God bless,
      Laurie

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  2. What a terrible tragedy with an amazing lesson of witnessing for Christ right now and not waiting until we feel we are ready. I am much like you and feel fear and that I don;t know enough to spread the love of God. However, I have been chosen and God will always equip us with what we need. I have a little girl that I sponsor through Compassion International who is receiving Christian education and she is only three. I look forward to the day that I can visit her. Have a blessed Sunday!

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    1. Praise God that He will equip us for whatever mission He gives us! May God bless you richly for sponsoring a child and spreading God's love across the globe! Praying that you will be able to meet her in person very soon.
      Thank you so much for your lovely comment.
      Love in Christ,
      Laurie

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  3. Praise God that He will equip us for whatever mission He gives us! May God bless you richly for sponsoring a child and spreading God's love across the globe! Praying that you will be able to meet her in person very soon.
    Thank you so much for your lovely comment.
    Love in Christ,
    Laurie

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  4. Hi Laurie,
    I hope the fact that God understands our weaknesses in the flesh will comfort you regarding this. Many times our carnal minds try to question and reason what the mind of Christ speaks to us. I have to say that in the twenty eight years that my friend and myself have evangelized in the streets, I have never had fear of rejection or offending, and we have never had any rudeness from one person.
    I think my lack of fear may come from an initial happening when we felt the Lord was first sending us out into the streets. We believed He had told us to go up to London to take our leaflets and guitar. I had just told my husband that we were going up to London, I think he may have thought it was just for shopping.
    However, on the day we were going I was a little nervous and prayed. The scripture that was highlighted to me was Matthew ch. 19 v. 29 :- ' And whoever has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life.' It strengthened me and I felt that it was God's will that we should be going out.

    I came downstairs with my guitar in my hand and had to walk past my husband, who said 'Where are you going with that guitar?' I had to tell him all of the story. He thought I was 'bonkers'.
    When we reached London, we felt drawn to go to Mayfair. There was a fashion shop in a street, in which was displaying a pair of shoes priced a few hundred pounds,(crazy to us), and an artist's easel with a painting on it as part of the window display. At the bottom left hand corner of the painting was the scripture Matthew ch. 19 v. 29. I could hardly believe what I was seeing, but knew straight away that the Lord was confirming what He had spoken to me from the scriptures. Then we went and stood outside a jeweller's shop and started to sing and give out our leaflets. The prices in the jeweller's were extremely high, and the jeweller kept coming to the door looking offensively at us because we were stood there. However, we knew it was where we had to be and knew that the law allowed us to stay for a certain length of time. A policeman came along and we thought that perhaps the jeweller had called him, but he smiled, took a leaflet and walked on. After a while we saw a traffic warden approaching, and the jeweller came running out of the shop, and jumped into a fancy Porsche car that was parked on double yellow lines outside his shop. With all his money and offensive looks, he was actually the one who was in the wrong. Strange eh?
    That incident showed me all I needed to know that God was in the sending us out into the streets, and we have been guided in through scripture regarding time and place many times and loved every minuet of it.

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    1. What a lovely testimony, Brenda! I love how God led you to that verse and then confirmed it, giving you a "map" of where you were to minister. There have been times when God has opened the door for me to witness ad I have felt no fear because I had no time to think about the consequences -- it was simply a matter of obeying immediately or quenching the Spirit, and when I obeyed, the Spirit gave me exactly the right words to say and softened the hearts of those listing. The fear and doubt come in when it comes to witnessing to those unsaved people with whom I have more frequent contact, and I rationalize that I don't want to alienate them and should just sow a little seed and then wait for a better opportunity to water. Sadly, sometimes that opportunity never comes.
      Thanks again for sharing this story. May God bless you and your witness.
      Lsurie

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    2. Hi Laurie,
      where you say about finding it difficult to witness to those you have more frequent contact with, Luke ch. 4 v.24 comes to my mind:- 'And he said, “Truly, I say to you, no prophet is acceptable in his hometown.'
      I think it is true, and this scripture backs it up, that our witnessing is not so acceptable to those who know us fairly well.
      God has blessed you to witness to all whom He directs you to witness to, and that is what matters Laurie.

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    3. oops, sorry to be a pest Laurie,
      just to mention you left your last comment to me on my previous post, so I have responded to it on that post.

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    4. Brenda, you could never be a pest -- you are such an encourager and a blessing! Sorry that I commented on your previous instead of your latest post, and thank you as always for responding so thoughtfully.
      Luke 24:4 does tell us that our message is most difficult to convey to those who know us. May He give us grace and boldness to witness as He opens the doors.
      God bless you,
      Laurie

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  5. Thanks for this stoy! I am thinking about it ...

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    1. Thanks, Ariella, for your comment! God bless,
      Laurie

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  6. Over the centuries, many preachers have laid a sense of guilt on Christians for not telling someone about Christ, while others have said we shouldn't tell them because then they will not be responsible. Romans 1:18-20 tells us; "For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness; Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath showed it unto them. For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse:" Though God commanded us to share the gospel with every person, they will not go to hell because we didn't tell them. God has revealed himself to them so they can know about him. Acts 17:27 That they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him, and find him, though he be not far from every one of us:" If they are interested enough to seek him he will reveal himself to them. If they choose not to look, they have no excuse, whether they have been told or not. They have chosen to ignore what God has shown them. If that were not true it would be unfair for God to condemn those who have never heard. While it doesn't relieve us of our responsibility to tell them, we are not responsible for their going to hell either.

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    1. Thank you, Donald, for this reassuring comment. Clearly God is in control and orchestrates our lives to bring His Word to those who will ultimately accept Him. We are blessed when we use the opportunities He gives us to witness, and He rewards us on earth and in Heaven when we do this. If we fail to use those opportunities, He will user others to accomplish His perfect will, but we miss out on the blessing. It is true that all of creation speaks to the existence of the Creator, but knowledge of His Son Who died on a cross to pay for our sins and to save us is possible only through hearing or reading the Word of God (Romans 10:13-17).
      Thanks again for your comment and God bless,
      Laurie

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  7. Over the centuries, many preachers have laid a sense of guilt on Christians for not telling someone about Christ, while others have said we shouldn't tell them because then they will not be responsible. Romans 1:18-20 tells us; "For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness; Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath showed it unto them. For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse:" Though God commanded us to share the gospel with every person, they will not go to hell because we didn't tell them. God has revealed himself to them so they can know about him. Acts 17:27 That they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him, and find him, though he be not far from every one of us:" If they are interested enough to seek him he will reveal himself to them. If they choose not to look, they have no excuse, whether they have been told or not. They have chosen to ignore what God has shown them. If that were not true it would be unfair for God to condemn those who have never heard. While it doesn't relieve us of our responsibility to tell them, we are not responsible for their going to hell either.

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  8. My goodness what a heartbreaking story about Sathit dying so young. I always wonder about foster child programs and if they do what they claim they will. I'm sure he appreciated your love and support. Thanks for sharing with Small Victories Sunday linkup. Pinned to our linkup board.

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    1. Thank you, Tanya, for your sweet comment and for pinning this! As I learned the hard way, we should be good stewards and check on what services foster programs actually provide before we take on a foster child.
      God bless,
      Laurie

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  9. What a heartbreaking story! Yet, too true. We worry about offending when what is offense in the light of eternity?? Something to remember - always. Thanks for linking up at Christian Fellowship, and I look forward to hearing from you this weekend as well! Blessings!

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    1. Amen, Dalynn -- may He give us the boldness to shout the Gospel from the rooftops, knowing that it alone can change each person's eternal destiny! Thank you for your comment and for hosting.
      May you have a blessed weekend in Him,
      Laurie

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