A Long Walk to Jesus

For the first 10 years I was a Christian, I prayed for Sally, who is a family member who had little interest in spiritual things. I asked the Holy Spirit to soften her heart. I prayed for opportunities for spiritual conversations. I did all I could to help her see how God was changing my life. 

Every outward appearance indicated that she seemed happy living without Jesus in her life. I was younger than her, and my words and actions seemed to have little to no effect on her view of faith. I was discouraged, but did not stop praying, sharing and seeking to love Sally. 

Never stop praying.

Over the years, my wife Sherry built a warm relationship with Sally, and seemed to be more effective than me in having spiritual conversations with Sally during that time. I realized that there are seasons when family members need people not related by blood to have those deeper spiritual conversations. I’m not sure why, but this was the case for Sally during that season.

Invite others to have a spiritual influence.

I found that sending Sally links to Christian songs and resources connected for her. She would give me a quick thank-you email or text when she enjoyed something I had sent her. I also encouraged her to consider visiting a Bible-preaching church in her town. 

She actually began attending a church and got involved in its choral program. I was moved by how God brought many other strong Christians into Sally’s life, and how they had more influence than I could in that season. 

Share resources and build bridges.

After more than 20 years of walking with Sally, I was flying to her city and knew I would get some time with her at a family gathering. I was really sensing that I needed to go deeper in our ongoing conversations about Jesus. I felt a deep conviction that the Holy Spirit was prompting me to ask her about where she was in relationship to surrendering her life to the Savior. 

As I talked with another family member who was also seeking to help Sally move forward on her spiritual journey, this person warned me, “Hey, don’t bring up spiritual stuff with Sally. She is really resistant right now, not open at all.”

Always listen to and follow the Spirit.

Should I listen to the concern of a Christian family member, or follow my sense of what the Holy Spirit was doing? I decided to go with the safe option: Follow God. 

When I got some time with Sally, I asked her, “What is getting in the way of you receiving and following Jesus?”

She looked at me. “I’m afraid.” 

I had never considered that her resistance was fear-based. So, I asked her, “What are you afraid of?” 

Sally looked at me with deep sadness. “The pastor at the church I am attending teaches that every person who has ever sincerely cried out to Jesus for salvation has been forgiven. I am so afraid I will be the first person Jesus says no to.” 

I was shocked. “That is a lie from the pit of hell. Jesus is waiting with open arms and longs for you to come to him.”

She continued, “If I become a Christian, I worry that I will mess up and let God down.” 

“You will. We all do.” 

I explained that even as a pastor, there is not a day that goes by when I do not need the continuing grace and patience of my Savior. We talked about God’s awareness of our weaknesses, the need to do our best to follow his will, and the grace that we receive when we stumble along the road of walking with Jesus. 

Listen, ask questions, then listen more.

“Is there anything else you are afraid of?” I asked. 

Sally said, “I am afraid of what God might ask me to do.” 

She explained that she had watched a couple of family members become Christians and then receive a call into some kind of ministry. She understood that following Jesus was a full surrender of her life to his lordship. 

“I can see why you might be afraid of that,” I said. “You realize that when a person becomes a follower of Jesus, they are called to surrender their whole life. But I tell you, there is nothing better than following Jesus, even when it might be challenging.” 

As we talked some more, it became clear that she had moved past all three of her fears. I asked Sally, “Is there anything keeping you from receiving and following Jesus right now?” 

She said no, so I asked her if she wanted to pray right then and there to receive the grace of Jesus, take his hand and follow him all the days of her life and for eternity. And she said yes.

We prayed together before walking into the family gathering. It was a sweet and sacred moment. During that prayer, Sally, who was family by blood, became family through the blood of the Lamb of God. She became my sister in faith by the amazing grace and gift of Jesus. 

Ask, “Are you ready to receive Jesus?”

Every journey to Jesus is different. If there is one thing I’ve learned over the years of walking with many people toward Jesus it is there is no one formula. Every person is unique, and their life story demands a fresh and Spirit-led conversation about faith. Organic outreach or natural faith sharing demands that we prepare well to articulate what we believe, and always have these conversations with a gentle and respectful heart (1 Peter 3:15–16). 

At the end of the day, when someone comes to faith in Jesus, we don’t get the credit. That belongs to God alone. We also don’t have to beat ourselves up and bear the blame when a person is resistant and stubborn (1 Cor. 3:6–9). What we get is the joy of walking and talking with people along their journey to Jesus. 

Share your life. Tell your stories. Articulate what you believe. Live like Jesus—as best you can. Serve in his name. Pray passionately. And trust the risen Savior to do what only he can do: change lives.

Do what you can do and trust Jesus to do what only he can do.

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Kevin Harney
Kevin Harneyhttp://KevinGHarney.com

Kevin Harney (KevinGHarney.com) is an Outreach magazine contributing editor, lead pastor of Shoreline Church in Monterey, California, and the founder and visionary leader of Organic Outreach International (OrganicOutreach.org). He is the author of the Organic Outreach trilogy and, most recently, Organic Disciples: Seven Ways to Grow Spiritually and Naturally Share Jesus, in addition to multiple studies and articles.