Most of us remember the little bedtime prayer: “Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray Thee, Lord, my soul to keep. If I should die before I wake, I pray Thee, Lord, my soul to take.”
For many of us this prayer is lovely and non-threatening because we feel fine, and we don’t imagine we will die in our sleep – at least not soon. For others of us however, our health might be unstable and that puts us in a position to wonder rather frequently if we ‘might die before we wake.’
Two of my friends have passed in this manner in the last couple of years and I can’t help but desire such a gentle way to leave this world and enter eternal life with Jesus. For me the Bible assures me that whether night or day when I die I will immediately be in the presence of God. That thought brings me great pleasure.
But what of those people that don’t know Jesus? Does this prayer bring them fear or do they put their own future death out of their minds so as to not address the issue?
I, like many of you, have non-believing family and friends. If they should die, there is no reason for me to hope that they will be with God. There is nothing in the Bible that encourages me to believe such a thing and there is much in the Bible to say that the alternative to eternal life is eternal damnation. Now, that is something to keep me awake at night – not fear for my loved ones but to be praying that their hearts might be softened to accept the words of Jesus as truth.
I just finished a book by a missionary that works for Campus Crusade for Christ. In the book he relates his life from a young boy attending church through the various stages of being taught and hearing about God, his turn during college to total unbelief, and then a switch to complete belief all by his sophomore year.
What an amazing journey he took to find proof that God was real and then to be so convicted of the truth of the scriptures that he became a missionary with the sole purpose of telling others what he knew. I was impressed with his boldness and firm faith that God was always in charge of his life. He was daring enough to go into a country behind the then-Iron Curtain with his entire family to tell others about Jesus.
Not many of us are called to suffer for our faith. But this man not only put his own life out there under threat by foreign governments, but was so sure of God’s will for those people to hear the Good News that his wife willingly joined him on this dangerous mission and agreed to bring along their children. They knew Christ in their hearts and were compelled to speak to others about Him.
I considered what a strong witness this family was to those that received from them the words of Jesus. This country was in perpetual lockdown with not a single personal freedom allowed. The hearers knew very well this missionary family could be subjected to interrogation, or worse, at any moment which made their boldness to witness speak evermore clearly to the truth of Jesus.
Oh, that I could be so bold that I would put my life on the line to tell others about Jesus. Unfortunately, I am intimidated even attempting to bring Jesus’ saving grace into discussions with family and friends that know of Jesus but do not know Him as their Savior. I don’t want to lose their love and yet by not having those discussions with them I risk that they will be condemned eternally if they should die before they wake to Jesus’ call.
I know I need to become bolder in my testimony about my Savior. I love Jesus and I can write about Him with ease but to speak to others and to answer difficult questions or worse, to be rebuffed by non-belief, seems too difficult for me. But, it is not too difficult for God. The Holy Spirit is the one that softens hearts and prepares them for His Word to come to life. I must then live in obedience to His call when He asks me to speak knowing He has prepared the way.
My nephew, a street evangelist for Youth With a Mission, tells the story of a young man he has known for several years who stops to pray with the evangelists in their work on the streets.
When they ran into him this week, he reminded one of the evangelists that the reason his faith is now so strong is because a few years back this same evangelist encouraged him to seek a deeper walk with God and get more involved in the church that he was already attending. That was it. The evangelist did not remember their first encounter, but he had encouraged this fellow and he has blossomed in his faith. That, I think I can do. One baby step in the right direction – I can encourage.
It is the season of joy and celebration of Jesus’ birth so let us encourage one another to walk with Jesus boldly that others may live with Him.
ED. NOTE: Amy Patsch writes from Ocean City. Email her at writerGoodGod@gmail.com