Pray For the Ice to Thaw
They met in the cold in a house in Iceland and made history. But like so much else we encounter throughout our lifetime; the ultimate outcome wasn’t quite realized on a short timetable. In October of 1986 Reagan and Gorbachev gathered and dreamed big. On the table was a proposal to eliminate all ballistic nuclear missiles. They made progress. They didn’t get everything. Not then. But the ice was thawing.
The journey to salvation many times is just that… a journey. In the book of Acts, we read account after account of those who, upon hearing the gospel, responded. And without a moment to spare.
Three thousand devout men from every nation under heaven on Pentecost. (Acts 2.37-41)
Men and women alike in Samaria along with Simon. (Acts 8.12-13)
A eunuch from Ethiopia. (Acts 8.38)
Cornelius, a centurion, along with his household and close friends. (Acts 10.48)
A jailer and his household in Philippi. (Acts 16.33)
And the list goes on and on. Overall, we find over thirty conversion stories as we read chapter after chapter. The effect of the message preached was not without notice. “They have turned the world upside down” (Acts 17.6).
And then there’s Agrippa.
Paul, who is in custody, is seen pleading his case before King Agrippa and Festus, the governor of Judea. Festus cries his claims are sheer bunk. “Paul, you are out of your mind! Your great learning is driving you mad!” (Acts 26.24). Pauls’ response?
25 But Paul said, “I am not out of my mind, most excellent Festus, but I utter words of sober truth. 26 For the king knows about these matters, and I speak to him also with confidence, since I am persuaded that none of these things escape his notice; for this has not been done in a corner. 27 King Agrippa, do you believe the Prophets? I know that you do.” 28 Agrippa replied to Paul, “In a short time you will persuade me to become a Christian.”
I’ve often wondered if Agrippa later in life ever recalled his encounter with Paul. Was his heart ever pricked? We simply don’t know. History alludes to the fact that he perhaps died childless. No mention of ever coming to Christ. Just another forgotten footnote.
I’ve heard it said that “one ‘no’ means you’re one step closer to ‘yes’”. Sounds good. We hear that. But in reality, it doesn’t make it any easier, does it? Especially when confronted with reactions that are at best indifferent. Some just downright hostile. From children. A parent. Friends. Co-workers.
Why do some, like Agrippa, turn a deaf ear to the good news? What more can be done or said to awaken hearts to the gospel call? Frustration mounts especially when so much heartfelt time is spent sowing the seed. We come to expect immediate fruits of our labor like those we see throughout Acts. Truth be told, many, if not all of our efforts, turn out like Agrippa. Almost. Not now.
So the question becomes do we have the fortitude to withstand the winds of frustration? The potential ridicule? The risk of fracturing existing relationships? We can. We must. Go out into all the world and preach the gospel is not simply a charge to the twelve. Christians everywhere and for all time are called to take up the mantle as well. Souls are at stake.
The humbling truth of 1 Corinthians 3.6 must never be missed. We do what we can. Whenever we can. Some plant. Some water. All pray. Fervently. That hearts will melt at the message of reconciliation through Christ. And know this… human agency is needed but God gives the increase. The new covenant is one where all can come to know the Lord and can choose. Sadly some choose their own path. Recognize that the harvest is indeed plentiful despite moments when we feel otherwise. And the laborers are few. Perhaps out of a sense of disappointment or annoyance for those who don’t respond. But never underestimate the power of a planted seed. Ever.
29 And Paul said, “I would wish to God, that whether in a short or long time, not only you, but also all who hear me this day, might become such as I am, except for these chains.”
I wish the same. And so do you. So I say don’t lose heart. Take advantage of the moment whenever the opportunities arise. Right here. Right now. No excuses. Stay the course. On this side of heaven sometimes that’s all we can do. Pray that hearts will be touched by truth whether in a short or long time.
And for the ice to thaw.