Last night, I was asked by one of my Personal Evangelism Class students, “What is the most difficult question you encounter in your studies with people?” A flood of different memories came to mind of challenging questions I have encountered. Questions on baptism, the One Church, acceptable worship, among others came to mind. While these all are very FREQUENT questions, none of these really fit the description of the most DIFFICULT question. There really are numerous questions that arise in the course of a Bible study, but for me, there is only one answer to this question. The most difficult question I have received is not on baptism, or worship, and it is not even on the Church. The question that has led me to tears is: “But what about my father? What about my mother? What about my grandparents? What about my family? What about my best friend? Does this mean they are lost?”
Truly no greater obstacle stands in the way than the decision to follow God’s will when those closest to you have not done so. The, “But what about my _______” is the toughest, most emotionally charged moment of a Bible study. Most of the time, they have seen the truth about salvation, about the church, and about God’s will, but the implications on their loved ones provide the greatest temptation to not submit. I have had people look me in the face and tell me that they know they are lost, they know what God is asking them to do, but they just cannot make a decision that condemns their loved ones. In this moment, what I say next can either lead them to submit to God, or lead them to leave and never even entertain the idea of submitting to God’s will for the rest of their lives.
Knowing the tremendous weight on this person’s heart is key to knowing what to say next. The first thing the person conducting the study must understand is, the truth about God’s will is something that person probably has never seen in their entire life. That is something to handle gently and lovingly (Ephesians 4:15), in an effort to take them where they are… and bring them to where they need to be. So many times, we want them to be where we are and have the understanding we have with the blink of an eye. Not only is that not realistic, it is not fair. Put yourself in THEIR shoes. How hard would it be to know that the faith you have had your entire life or what you had been told your entire life was wrong? How would YOU respond? How would YOU react to that news?
God’s Word has not left us hopeless or abandoned in a case like this… in fact, far from it. There are numerous examples from the Scriptures that we can lean on even in a heartbreaking moment like this in the midst of a Bible study. The first place I am going to take someone that is burdened with this weight is Philippians 2:12-13 “Therefore my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.” Showing them that each one of us needs to work out our ownsalvation is the first step to helping someone through this burden.
Jesus gives us a very hard saying in Luke 14:26 that I would take them to next…“If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple.” To follow Christ, we must put HIM first in every aspect of our lives. Without doing so, we cannot be true followers or disciples. Obviously we know that Jesus was not saying that we should literally hate our loved ones, but He is saying that we must be willing to put Him above them. Jesus is not downplaying the vital role that these people can play in our lives, He is simply stating how much BIGGER a role He should play in our lives. Jesus Christ, our Redeemer, our Savior, our Lord, our Master, our Propitiation, our Advocate, and our Friend must have complete submission above all others. Therefore, when He calls me to believe (John 8:24), to repent (Luke 13:3,5), to confess (Matthew 10:32-33), to be baptized (John 3:3-5; Matthew 28:19-20), to obey (John 14:15; 15:14), and to be a part of His Church (Matthew 16:18)… then we, as followers and disciples, must submit!
The last place that I think helps someone with this burden is found in the example of the Rich Man and Lazarus found in Luke 16:19-31. This may be the most haunting passage in all of Scripture to be able to see and feel and almost hear the torment of the Rich Man begging to be able to tell his brothers lest they fall to the same condition. “Then he said, ‘I beg you therefore, father, that you would send him to my father’s house, for I have five brothers, that he may testify to them, lest they also come to this place of torment,’” Luke 16:27-28. Simply asking them the question, “What would your ________ want you to do? What would your ________ do if they had been shown this like you have today?”
At the end of the day, I am not the judge. I am not here to say that their loved ones are lost. I will never allow those words to come out of my mouth in the midst of a Bible study, because that is GOD’S call and His alone! The person has discerned that for himself or herself. However, I do know that Jesus said, “Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it,” Matthew 7:13-14. Also He said, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven,” Matthew 7:21. I know God Almighty is a JUST God and will make the most fair and JUST choice (Isaiah 30:18-19). Lastly, I know God desires to save every single person He ever made, (2 Peter 3:9, 1 Timothy 2:3-4; 1 Corinthians 6:9-11; John 3:16-17) and if I wind up losing my soul it is my fault and my fault alone. He gave me every chance to follow His will; He even gave me His One Unique Son as a perfect sacrifice so I could be saved.
The burden is real; the decision to submit to God’s will above your very own loved ones is difficult. However in some cases it is what God has called us to do. Whenever I think of the, “But what about my _____?” I often think about God the Father pleading, “But what about My Son I gave for you?” Praise God that He has made it possible to follow Him, that He has made it easy to be understood, and that He has given us His Word to submit to! God truly is good, ALL THE TIME!
-Ben Hogan, Minister of Evangelism