My high school friend Butch Roll invited me to church numerous times, only to receive excuses as to why I couldn’t attend.
He told God that he was giving up asking me, but God told him to ask me one more time.
On that occasion, I said “yes,” and God used the experience to change my life for all eternity.
Rudy Ross was a member of a Messianic congregation and had invited his son to attend special services with him.
Max was late and the father and son got into an argument. As Max was leaving, Rudy went to him, apologized, and asked him to attend the service with him.
That night was the occasion when Max became a follower of Jesus.
Both Rudy and I talk about these experiences on YouTube today.
A Parable About Patience
Jesus told a parable that underscores the importance of patience when dealing with unresponsive persons.
— Luke 13.6-9 – Then he told this parable: “A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard; and he came looking for fruit on it and found none.
“So he said to the gardener, ‘See here! For three years I have come looking for fruit on this fig tree, and still I find none. Cut it down! Why should it be wasting the soil?’
“He replied, ‘Sir, let it alone for one more year, until I dig around it and put manure on it.
“If it bears fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down.’”
Rudy Ross points out in today’s video that the fig tree represents people. Let’s think about how helping people meet Jesus and cultivating fig trees are similar.
(1) We don’t plant a tree and reap fruit in the same year.
The same principle applies to people. Life with Jesus is a relational experience and people come to him in the context of relationships.
I remember an occasion when an overly aggressive life insurance salesman attempted to sell me a policy. That encounter was fifty plus years ago, but I still recall the negative feelings I had with him.
The last thing we want to do is attempt to push someone into a relationship with Jesus, because we want a decision NOW!
One method I have used over the years is to build a relationship with a person over time. Somewhere in the relationship I will ask them, “Can I tell you about my best friend, Jesus?”
(2) Trees need care and so do relationships.
The gardener in the parable asked for time to fully care for the fig tree. There are things we can do to enhance the relationship.
— Be a good listener – The insurance salesman I referenced didn’t care enough about me to understand my needs. He was only interested in making a sale.
If we employ active listening to our relationship, we will see them blossom.
Active listening actually hears what the other person is saying, instead of merely waiting for them to stop speaking so we can resume.
— Genuinely serve and be willing to be served.
If you’ve ever spread manure, you know the kind of work that goes into helping a crop to grow. I have a funny story about operating a manure spreader in the wind that I’ll save for a video another day.
Friends are willing to take the time to serve their friends. They are also willing to be served. This is the give-and-take of relationships.
I know people who attempt to evangelize at bus stops or in shopping malls. Where is there an opportunity to serve in that setting?
We will be far more effective, if we ask the Holy Spirit to place one or two people on our heart. Then, intentionally build a relationship for Christ with them.
The Parable and Prayer
The parable that Jesus told can also be applied to prayer for someone.
The gardener represents someone who asks God to have mercy on someone and to give them time to come to Christ.
As we pray for others, let’s remember that in some mysterious way both the Holy Spirit and Jesus continue a ministry of prayer.
— Romans 8.26-27 – Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words.
And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.
The Holy Spirit uses people in the ministry of intercession. As we pray, let’s appeal to the Spirit for his guidance and and power in prayer.
Jesus plays a role in intercession, too.
— Hebrews 7.25 – Consequently he is able for all time to save those who approach God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.
Romans 8.32 asks this question: “He who did not withhold his own Son, but gave him up for all of us, will he not with him also give us everything else?”
The question in Romans reveals how God desires to answer our prayers. Combine this with the fact that both Jesus and the Holy Spirit are praying alongside of us.
Let’s be about the business of prayer and building relationships for the sake helping friends follow Jesus
Rudy Ross and I discuss this passage in a video today. Please note, we had camera problems and the video stopped at the six minute mark.
The video can be found on the Bob Spradling YouTube channel.
Please email your prayer request to firstname.lastname@example.org or private message me on Facebook. The Maywood prayer team will pray for you.