What? Our grocery store had burned down the night before? I was shocked, and not just by the news. The worst part for me was that I had been there the previous day. I had felt the nudge of the Holy Spirit to talk with the cashier about knowing Jesus. For some reason I avoided witnessing, saying to myself, “I’ll talk to this girl next time.” Now the store was gone, and it was unlikely I would ever see the cashier again. I grieved that I had not obeyed the Lord. He knew what would happen.

This lesson from about 25 years ago reminds me to open my mouth when the Lord stirs my heart. I haven’t always been faithful since, but I have seen growth. 

A scary step of faith

Even though I have been in full-time Christian ministry with Cru since college and have initiated many conversations about Christ, I would still say that sharing the gospel always takes a scary step of faith. But I’m always glad when I take it. 

Here are some things that have helped me in my journey as a witness for Jesus:

  • “Success in witnessing is simply taking the initiative to share Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit and leaving the results to God.” – a Cru saying that makes sharing the gospel easier! The Holy Spirit prompts us to witness and gives us the words to say. It’s His job to work in the other person’s heart. Success is simply obeying the Spirit’s leading to open my mouth and tell the good news.
  • “Talk to the person you’re with right away.” – A former team leader. For example, if you’re waiting with someone in a doctor’s office, or sitting by someone on a bus or plane, ask a simple question to break the ice. Then it’s easier to get into a conversation — even in Co-Vid days.
  • “Listen respectfully. Look for common ground.” – Steve Douglass, Cru president
  • “Pray first.” – my husband, Ed, reminded me!

These tips have helped to make witnessing a joyful adventure for me. In my neighborhood, or out and about, it often seems that God has put me in a particular place at a particular time to talk with a particular person.

A young man stocking the shelves at my current grocery store is one example. I had asked him where to find something in the store when I felt I should talk with him a bit about the Lord. I said a few words of explanation and offered him a card for EveryStudent.com, a website that explores questions about God. He said, “I can’t believe you are talking to me about this. I have been thinking about this!” 

‘It was not an accident’

On a plane a few years ago, I talked about Christ with my seatmate, Chris, a young engineer from the Philippines. After our conversation I wrote this prayer in my journal: “Great talk with Chris on plane today. Wow. So open, such a special talk. Bind the evil one. Bring him in.”

Chris and I became Facebook friends. He moved to Japan, and after a while I noticed posts about his church. I wrote and asked him if he had turned his life over to Jesus. He replied: 

“Yes Judy, you’re right.☺ I started going to a Christian church here in Yokohama … I made friends and got interested about Christianity. Eventually, I got to know more about their way of life and how they live like Jesus every day. Mid of this year, I got baptized and finally accepted Jesus as my Lord and Saviour. It then changed my life and I have now started on a Christian path! Thank you too for the support and prayers! It was not an accident that I met you at the plane. God really works in mysterious ways.”

God uses us as His ambassadors. What a joy it is to me that God allowed me a small part in Chris’s decision to follow Him, and then let me hear about it. 

The only One who can rescue us

There are fires burning today that might prevent an intended witness. Wildfires. Fires in protest. These are painful things to think of. Still more painful and difficult to think of is the everlasting fire of God’s judgment awaiting those apart from Christ. God is holy and just; no sin can come into His presence. Yet He is merciful, not wishing for any to perish, but for all to come to repentance. He sent Jesus, the only One who can rescue us “from the wrath to come” (1 Thessalonians 1:10).

Fellow believer, every person we meet has either trusted Christ or needs to hear about Him. They are bound for heaven or for hell, as we once were. We may be too busy or distracted to witness to them. Or, we may be so concerned about what they might think of us that we fail to clearly present the seriousness of their situation. 

I never want to forget my painful lesson of the store fire long ago. I hope you will remember it too. Obey the nudge of the Holy Spirit. Don’t let a fire, any disaster — or daily life — rob you of the joyful opportunity to share salvation in Jesus with the people around you. Speak first. More than likely, they’ll always be glad you did.

Need more training in how to share the gospel? Try https://www.cru.org/us/en/train-and-grow/share-the-gospel.html

GodTools is a great app to have on your phone, containing several gospel presentations

Photo at top by Jen Theodore on Unsplash; lower photo by Kaung Minn Kent on Unsplash

If you haven’t discovered life in Christ, don’t hesitate to check it out. Life is too short to miss His love and perfect plan for you. Read About “The Nearness of God” or see EveryStudent.com for more information. You can also read my story of coming to faith in Christ in: How My Song Began.

4 thoughts on “I Grieved the Missed Opportunity When the Store Burned

  1. what a shining glimmer of Christ Jesus in this dark world. Thank you, Judy. I loved what you said, here: “Success in witnessing is simply taking the initiative to share Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit and leaving the results to God.”
    also, I was edified in hearing the story of the guy stocking shelves, how God has been preparing his mind to hear your word and guide post to Christ.
    The story of Chris, wow!! : )

    1. You’re so welcome, Patricia. Amen! The Lord’s work is wonderful! Thank you very much for your encouraging comment!

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