Something as simple as a list of parables
March 9, 2011
I’m always amazed when I hear another believer’s testimony — God reaches each of us in such different ways. Sometimes it is through a sermon, through a friend, or simply through reading God’s word. For me it was through the influence of being brought up in a loving Christian home, and then in middle school when I began reading God’s word on my own. Often it seems that God ends up using the most simple, forgettable encounters to draw others to himself. How ironic, we often think we need extensive training courses, programs and campaigns, expensive, snappy tools and strategies, only to be surprised when God uses our simple obedience. I love it when someone shares their testimony and says that God used a short Bible verse, a child-like conversation, even a simple gesture, to get their attention.
As I think about these things, I was struck by a paragraph in C. S. Lewis’s Surprised by Joy. He writes of a friend named Barfield: “The gospel first broke on Barfield in the form of a dictated list of Parables Peculiar to St. Matthew” (Lewis, Surprised by Joy, 113). And Lewis goes on by describing how friends all around him were doing the unthinkable — they were converting to Christianity! Perhaps this is a glimpse of God’s sense of humor, to see how these Oxford elites were being impacted by such simple things as lists of Gospel parables.
This causes me to ask myself: Do I really believe that God is the one who saves others, or without realizing it do I feel like it is up to me. Yes, I must be faithful with the opportunities He gives me. But I must also remember that the opportunities he brings me are often as simple as speaking the truth or sharing a verse or two.
This may be completely unrelated, but today I had an unusual “opportunity” (I’m not even sure I would call it that). I was at the gas station this morning at about 7:30 AM. As I sat there pumping gas, incredulous at how high the price was and trying to keep warm, I noticed a grey BMW parked nearby. As I finished pumping and took my receipt a woman got out of the BMW and approached me. “Good morning, I have some literature for you, are you interested?” she asked. “Sure” I said, “Let’s see what you’ve got.” She got out a magazine and was about to hand it to me when I noticed the words “Watchtower” at the top. Without even thinking, I raised both hands in the air as if being held at gun point and said, “Oh no! Not interested.” She was quite surprised. I explained that I was a believer in the Jesus of the New Testament, and that therefore she and I had nothing in common. She folded up her magazine and went on her way.
Perhaps I was too blunt. Perhaps I was not blunt enough. But in all likelihood that will be the only time that I see the lady. And maybe, just maybe, God in his mysterious ways, the same God who can use something as simple as a list of parables from the Gospel of Matthew, can use my “Godliness mixed with fear” to plant a seed of doubt in her mind.