by Pastor Tim Burt
One day while traveling on a ministry trip, I jumped into a transportation van that was taking a group of us to a conference. Three got in the back and I got into the front seat across from the driver who was a middle-aged man, meticulously groomed and dressed in a sharp black suit and tie. I engaged him in conversation about his life. He revealed that he was the owner of the transportation company. This is a big company and yet you drive? I asked him. He responded, When you see me driving, you know we’re busy.
I love learning about people and so without trying to sound like I was interrogating him, I asked him to tell me more about his life. He shared some and then reciprocated asking me questions about mine. At one point I told him I was the fifth child of a family of ten children. He chuckled immediately sharing that he was the oldest of ten children. That opened the door for interesting stories on the joys and humorous dysfunctions of a large family. We both had plenty of stories and it led to many laughs. I was glad our trip wasn’t short. Talking with him was like talking with family and he was a super nice guy! He had done well in life and worked hard so that he could help some of his less-fortunate siblings that needed help. I was liking this guy more by the minute!
Suddenly he changed subjects to ask me a question. I am guessing that you were raised Catholic right? I told him he was right. We discovered we had both grown up with a Catholic education. So then, he continued, If you grew up Catholic, how is it that you are a Pastor in a non-Catholic church and what kind of church do you belong to? I explained to him that at the age of 24, through a friend’s encouragement, I began to read the Bible, something I had never opened much-less read before. I had told him that my friend helped me understand Jesus’ real mission on earth, which was to pay the price for my sins and washing them all away so that I could have gift of eternal life—the gift of Heaven because of what Jesus did for me, not because I have lived a good enough life.
This led into a great conversation. He grew up Catholic believing in Heaven but felt more like he was a prime candidate for Hell. Of course he tried to say it jokingly but I could hear the concern in his humorous way of saying it. He continued to tell me that he tried to live life with enough kindness and kind actions to earn Heaven, but was still plagued with doubts. He knew the sins of his life. He shared, I’m doubting plan A is going to work so I’m on to plan B. What’s plan B? I asked. Purgatory, he replied (which he wasn’t too excited about). And if that didn’t work, plan C. He didn’t like plan C which was Hell.
I looked at him and said, I was you before I came to understand the mission of Jesus. My thinking was exactly the same as yours! I continued to tell him I struggled understanding what Jesus’ death had to do with my going to Heaven. I couldn’t connect those dots. I also felt like I was at door number three and didn’t like it. Deep down I was so terrified of it and so the way I hoped to relive that was to declare I didn’t believe in God anymore. My secret was, I couldn’t convince myself that was really true. I could see God in nature. No matter how much I tried to suppress it, I secretly did believe there was a God. I knew I was lying to myself. I did believe in God. He immediately affirmed that this was exactly where he was at in life. It concerned him.
I had enough time in our drive to explain what Jesus did for him—for all mankind. I said that out of love for each one of us, He literally took our place at death taking the punishment we deserved for our sins, upon Himself and then out of His love and mercy, washing them all away. His death was beyond brutal and He went to Hell for us. But Hell could not hold Him because He Himself had never sinned. God raise Him from the dead. When we believe in Jesus, we believe He took our punishment upon Himself and through repentance, faith, and thanksgiving, we receive the gift of eternal life with Him. Of course we didn’t deserve it. And we know we couldn’t earn it. It was a gift to whoever would believe. I told him, I know it sounds too good to be true, but the extent of God’s love for us is so great, it will always feel too good to be true. If you read the Bible you will see for yourself. By the time we were arrived at the restaurant, I knew he was connecting the dots and experiencing great hope.
I told him that this gift was individual for each person to be received in his own heart personally as I had done many years ago and that is what He needed to do. I could have asked him to pray right there in the car and wasn’t afraid to, but was concerned he’d be embarrassed with the others in the back seat. I suddenly remembered something! I asked Him, Isn’t there a driver that works for you named Charlie that goes to a church in the area? I had remembered him from the previous year. Yes, he said. He works for me and has for over 15 years. I knew at that point that Charlie had to have talked to him before about the Lord. Charlie was very outgoing about his faith and church. I said, Charlie is a great resource to you with questions about the Bible. I know the church he goes to and it’s a good one. He can help you get to know more about what we talked about today.
We had arrived at the restaurant and as he opened the doors for those in the back, I noticed he had a big smile on his face. Without exaggerating, he looked different. I could see that the transformation had already started. I knew I wasn’t the first person to share Jesus with him. I’m sure I was one of many. As 1 Corinthians 3:7-9 NIV says, “So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. The man who plants and the man who waters have one purpose, and each will be rewarded according to his own labor. For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, God’s building.”
There are many things that are wonderful about life, but NOTHING, and I mean NOTHING compares to the joy of sharing the love and gospel of Jesus Christ. It is the greatest gift you can give a human being. And I know it takes courage. Sometimes it goes great and sometimes people shut you down. My grandfather shut me down on his deathbed, and it was hard on me. But at least I know that I tried!
It’s God who makes things grow in a person’s heart. He brings the increase of understanding and insight so that a person can see and receive. It’s God who connects the dots in a seeking heart. But they need to hear the gospel and that’s our part! As a believer, it’s a part of our assignment in God in life! You may be fearful to try, but ask God to help you and each time you present God to others, you’ll become a little bolder and more effective. And God will be there to work in that person’s heart whether it seems like it or not. You can trust that! There’s someone today thinking about their destiny after death wishing they had answers. You do! Take a risk. Lift your heart toward Heaven and pray, help me Lord. And as He leads, let the conversation begin!
Romans 10:15 (NLT) “And how will anyone go and tell them without being sent? That is why the Scriptures say, “How beautiful are the feet of messengers who bring good news!”
In His love,
Pastor Tim Burt
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