Why Can’t We Make Them Become Christians?

Al and I became friends about a year before I became a Christian. Early in the friendship he joined the military and was stationed in another state. Right away we began a correspondence that lasted a little over seven years.

Once Jesus had taken over my life, my letters to Al centered mostly around my efforts to evangelize him. Between letters (particularly in the first year), I prayed passionately for his salvation and begged my Christian friends to add their prayers. Each time he visited home, I shared the Gospel with him, imploring him to give his life to Jesus.

After I graduated from college, I came to understand that my obsession with Al was unhealthy. Rightly or wrongly, I wrote a final letter explaining that I had made him into an idol and that I had to let go of him. Since mailing that letter, I’ve only prayed for him a handful of times.

I’ve been thinking about Al lately. To be more specific, I’ve been thinking about my consuming desire to bring him to Jesus.

In and of itself, my desire for Al’s salvation honored the Lord. Surprisingly, I didn’t expect his conversion to benefit me romantically, so from that standpoint I had pure motives. I didn’t want him to spend eternity in hell.

From another standpoint, my motives we selfish. I wanted to be the one who won Al to the Lord.

People often cautioned me not to assume the Holy Spirit’s role in my evangelistic efforts. You see, the situation with Al was my most pronounced example of my attempts to bring people into the kingdom, but it was by no means an isolated situation. I wanted to have converts under my belt!

And having converts under my belt necessitated forcing friends and family to bow the knee to Jesus.

All these years later, I know of only one genuine Christian who believes God used me in her salvation. Interestingly, I don’t remember dire witnessing to her. To God’s glory, He brought her to Himself in a way that prevents me from patting myself on the back. In fact, she didn’t tell me for many years that the Lord had influenced her through me.

Scripture repeatedly commands Christians to present the Gospel to the lost. Sometimes it even admonishes us to plead with them earnestly. But it also says that we serve only as the Master’s tools. Remember Paul’s words to the Corinthians:

What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each. I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. He who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive his wages according to his labor. For we are God’s fellow workers. You are God’s field, God’s building. ~~1 Corinthians 3:5-9 (ESV)

Each Christian reading this blog post has someone that she earnestly prays for. And because God created women as nurturing beings, we very much want to help our loved ones come to both salvation and spiritual maturity. As a result, we can struggle to trust the Lord to be sovereign over how and when our loved ones respond to the Gospel.

Just keep planting and watering. The Lord doesn’t hold you responsible for anything more.

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