God Is Not Slack -- When Someone We Love Is Lost

"The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance." (2 Peter 3:9)

One of my favorite pastors, Dick Lincoln, of Shandon Baptist Church, often tells the story of how he came to faith in Christ.  As an undergraduate, Dick roomed with a man named Bob Harper.  Bob was, in Dick's words, "a very sincere born-again Christian."  Dick tells how he would watch Bob read his Bible every day, pray, and live out his faith..  Not interested in spiritual things, Dick would sometimes challenge Bob's faith, arguing about the validity of scripture. Sometimes he would mock it.  Always he watched Bob.

Over a period of four years, Dick watched him "handle disappointments, injustice, all kinds of bad things, and do it with equanimity, with peace, with grace. . . he was happy and I was not."  In the spring of his senior  year, Dick Lincoln accepted Christ as his Savior.  Within six months he had surrendered his life to the ministry, cancelled his acceptance to law school at Florida State University, and enrolled at Southwestern Theological Seminary.  Today he serves at the senior pastor of the 6,000 member Shandon Baptist Church in Columbia, South Carolina.

I wonder if Bob Harper ever got discouraged?  Four years is a long time to witness to a closed-minded, sometimes hostile roommate.  I wonder if he was ever tempted to give up on the hope that his friend might ever come to Christ?

My friend Maryann began her relationship with Christ as a young college student, too.  In her words, she was "loved into the faith," through the consistent witness of her boyfriend's family.  Almost immediately, she began praying for her own family.  Experiencing peace, forgiveness, and a sense of purpose for the first time, she was eager for her family to share that joy.  Most importantly, Maryann wanted the assurance that she would see her family in Heaven one day.

Thirty plus years later, Maryann is still praying for her family to come to faith in Christ. 

Like Bob Harper, Maryann has been a faithful witness.  She has demonstrated the validity of her faith through tremendous adversity. She has sacrificially served her family, shared her faith in winsome, personal ways, and has prayed, prayed, and prayed some more.  Sometimes she sees glimmers of hope.  Other times she gets discouraged.  Thirty years is a long time.

I take comfort in the story of the Apostle Paul.  In his ignorance, he was about as far from God as he could be.  A self-righteous Pharisee, it was his personal mission to destroy the church of Jesus Christ.  I am sure that many believers thought he was too evil to ever be saved.  Listen to his testimony in Ephesians 2:1 (pronoun changes added my me).

And (we) He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, in which (we) once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath. . .  

But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 

For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.

Faithful friend, we can take comfort in the fact that God loves our families and friends even more than we do.  It is His desire that they have a relationship with Him, and He is going to do everything possible to make that happen.  Best of all, He is going to allow US, through our prayers and faithful witness, to be a part of their salvation.

So "be not weary in doing good," for we, like Bob Harper and my friend Maryann,  "WILL reap a harvest if (we) do not faint."    PRESS ON!

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1 comment:

  1. Anonymous10:27 AM

    I'm still praying for unsaved family members going on 32 years. I know that God is faithful and doesn't want anyone to perish. Susie