Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Out of Season

"You are a fanatic!" Alexandra yelled, towering over me and pointing her index finger right into my face. Five-hundred pairs of eyes were focused on us, wondering how this drama would unfold, as she just turned away angrily and stomped out of the packed university dining hall.

In an attempt to share my faith with fellow students I had made it a habit to sit beside someone else for each meal. My strategy was to involve my peers into conversations in order to find out what their questions in life were. Then I would present Jesus as the answer. This time it definitely did not go over too well. Should I stop?

The Apostle Paul challenges us in 2.Tim 4:2 to preach the word and to be ready in season and out of season. What does it mean to preach the word out of season? My family enjoys eating many kinds of fruit, pomegranates being one of our favorites. When pomegranates are in season, this fruit is readily available in most grocery stores. Since they are out of season right now, you can search the produce aisle as hard as you want, you will have to wait for the next harvest to ripen. This principle is also true in evangelism. when we preach the word out of season no immediate fruit is to be expected. The time for a person to respond might not have come, yet - at least not in a positive manner...

I have countless examples of having shared the gospel "out of season". If God had used my efforts regularly to bring about instant fruit, I probably would have proudly published an instructional manual for you to imitate my method. Instead, let me share with you my most devastating "out of season" experience:

During my junior year I applied to the Gideons to come and distribute Bibles at my high-school. Responding to this invitation they came early one morning and gave each student a green German New Testament. I had eagerly anticipated this day and was greatly encouraged to have these fellow believers join me on my mission field. Unfortunately the other students did not share my enthusiasm. As I walked into my classroom I was taken aback to see a big tower of Bibles stacked on my desk. "We know this was your doing", one classmate mocked, "and we want nothing to do with it!" Two boys decided not to add their Bibles to the pile. Instead they they demonstratively stood in front of me, tearing up their N.T.s, one page at a time. This day, which had started so marvelously, had turned sour rapidly. All day I looked at my Bible stack, knowing that it was not me, but the Lord they were rejecting. At the end of the school-day I began gloomily piling all the New Testaments into my book-bag, when suddenly a hand reached over and grabbed one. "You never know, I might have need of it one day", Friebel decided. I have no idea whether this young man ever opened his Bible and found the treasures inside - I pray that his season will come.

Do you remember the girl in the dining hall? Following her angry criticism, Alexandra's season came surprisingly soon. Two weeks after the explosive episode I had the privilege of praying with Alexandra as she and I knelt down together in my apartment.

When sharing the gospel, we are not responsible for the outcome. Our only charge is to obey God's call to tell people the Good News, even when it proves to be "out of season". The rest is up to the Lord, who does not let his word return void, but lets it accomplish its purpose. (Is. 55:11)