Watching the Lord do His work is incredible. And encouraging. I want to share how we have seen Him stir a heart that is dear to my family:
My husband has a close relative that is an atheist. He is a proud, determined atheist - it is what it is. I am not placing judgement, rather I am simply stating that his eyes haven't been opened and he is firm in his unbelief. My husband has had multiple conversations, stemming from love and desire to share the light of Christ, which have turned south due to heated response to the sharing of the Gospel. He often walks away discouraged and a feeling of hopelessness with this individual. Resistance is expected and appropriate. Nobody wants to hear - even in the most loving way - that they may not be living or looking at life the right way. It is uncomfortable to hear or accept...the anger my husband was met with, while hard to appreciate, means there is turmoil inside the person expressing that anger. It means something is working inside him that makes him uncomfortable.
It's a start.
I have faith God is working. He is using these seeds planted by my husband and watered by other believers in this relative's life to sprout desire, spark intrigue...soften a heart.
This past week, this relative was at our house visiting with my husband. My husband had mentioned something about a group at church (which may have previously been met with an eye roll), and this relative used that as a segue: He told my husband that his friends have a life group with their church and they meet every week. They have invited him...and he wants to go. Y'all. He wants to go. He also wants my husband to join him. He feels uncomfortable because he doesn't know anything and he would feel more comfort with my husband there. The very person he got frustrated with for sharing the good news of Jesus Christ, is a light in this situation for him. My husband said: "Any time. Any day. I'll be there." He also reassured this relative that in no way is this invitation going to lead to shaming or rebuking. It is because they love him. Lack of knowledge is never a reason to not go (lots of negatives there). It is all the more reason to go! I promise you, a believer will be nothing less than elated to share good news with you and teach why it is in fact such good news - and willingly answer questions.
How many prayers have gone up for this person's salvation are numerous and this makes my soul sing. And this isn't anyone's doing except God's. There is nothing my husband could say or do apart from the Lord's sovereignty and grace. I don't know what this will lead to, but this is a step in the right direction.
Jesus, in his perfect wisdom, knows exactly what our broken nature is capable of when it comes to unbelief and what it takes to truly believe and he teaches it in a parable:
Mark 4:4 - 8:
Again Jesus began to teach by the lake. The crowd that gathered around him was so large that he got into a boat and sat in it out on the lake, while all the people were along the shore at the water’s edge. He taught them many things by parables, and in his teaching said:
“Listen! A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants, so that they did not bear grain. Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up, grew and produced a crop, some multiplying thirty, some sixty, some a hundred times.”
He goes on to explain the meaning of this parable:
The seeds are His Word.
The birds: They represent Satan plucking truth before we have time to believe it to be true. It is Satan planting that destructive doubt in place of these seeds of truth.
The rocky places: This represents people who receive the good news with joy. They like it, but there are no roots so it does not last. When met with trouble due to living or believing the Word, they abandon it.
The thorns: This is when the Word falls on our hearts and we believe; however, the idols of this world choke it out as we drift into culture, wealth and other flesh desires and they replace it as our focus and attention. This makes it unfruitful and we stray.
The good soil: This is when we hear and listen to the Word. We let it feed us. We seek to understand more...we seek to live it. And it produces good fruit that then shines a beautiful light for our Lord and Savior: it is where we see a glimpse of the Kingdom of Heaven with the light and love we live in because we intimately know and walk with the Lord.
I can't tell you how these seeds are going to fall with this relative. I cannot tell you how the truth of the Gospel will fall with each of you. I know I have been rocky ground in earlier seasons of my life...walking away from the Lord in many ways. It took a long time for my heart to be soft enough to turn into good soil. And when it did, there was no doubt: The thorns don't stand a chance. I have roots that will dig deeper in times of trouble or trial. I have someone greater on my side than the enemy of doubt and fear.
My prayer is that whatever is working in your heart and whoever you are praying for: soil is becoming rich. That whatever season this person (or yourself) may be in, that you can trust it has the Lord's perfect plan as a part of it. And I want to pray for perseverance: loving and patient perseverance. Perseverance with your own walk: Keep sowing seeds and watering so they root down and bear fruit, praying for reassurance in your own faith and finding time to strengthen it with His Word. And perseverance with those around you: sharing your love for the Lord and lovingly share what you have learned about His providence - shining that light that can (Lord willing) remove blinders over unbelieving eyes.
These are all good seeds...and you never know what kind of soil you are about to drop them in.
To close: if this relative reads this. Praise the Lord! And welcome. We love you. We have open arms and hearts. We have been praying for you.