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stress in the saving game

“Why won’t he understand?” “What the heck is wrong with him? Why can’t he see the light and realize how much he needs Jesus?” “He’s a family member, I want him to understand his freedom in Christ. Why won’t he listen to me?” “I’m so frustrated, I’ve tried and tried to get him to see Jesus.” “Why does he keep up this pattern of going back to the bottle?” “Why doesn’t he get it and just surrender?” “Dang, he’s a Christian, why doesn’t he understand he is TOTALLY forgiven, and he can let that situation go?” “As a Christian, why is he still so bound by legalistic tendencies? Why doesn’t he understand how free he truly is through Christ?” “I can’t talk to him about Jesus, he will get just pissed off anyway. Why does he do that? I’m just going to back off.”

Oh, the uncountable times I’ve asked myself these questions after talking with men (and women) about their need for salvation, their identity in Christ, their need for Jesus, etc. Like me, do you ever get frustrated in your dismal success rate in convincing others to believe on Jesus? Especially those times you’re with someone else in the ministry and they are talking about how they went out and convinced 10 people to turn to Christ over the weekend outside the mall? I hear TV evangelists say that thousands accepted Christ at their revival, or their website makes a statement of the millions that have been saved through their ministry. Man, if God is keeping score for how well I’m doing saving souls, then this game is over, and it’s only the first quarter! What the heck? I better buckle up, gear down, concentrate more, be more diligent, be more deliberate and get a new strategy in trying to save people. I need to improve and get better at the “Saving Game”. At least I gotta try to make the score respectable because when I get to the “Pearly Gates”, Peter is going to go over my number of saved souls before he sends me in to meet God face to face. Did I save enough? Try hard enough? What about those I talk with that don’t accept Christ? Man, this ‘saving souls” game can be stressful!!

Why is that? Why do we put so much pressure on ourselves to evangelize and spread the reason for our hope? Why do we keep track of people who say a prayer of salvation after our guidance and wear it like a badge of honor? (More on that prayer in another devotional) I know Jesus called us to share the good news with the world, but why do we beat ourselves up or question our techniques if the people we share the good news with might not be willing to accept Christ at this point in their life?

Through this ministry we always steer away from a performance based religious mindset. I even dislike using the word religious today, knowing Jesus isn’t about religion, being religious or working harder. Being a believer is about growing in the knowledge of Christ in us; the knowledge of who we are, through Christ; and the power, peace and freedom we have in Him through his crucifixion and resurrection. HE will then guide and inspire us for works for the greater good. Our mission at MPACT is simple, we try and help men discover grace one man at a time. The bottom line is, that person has to DISCOVER the reason for our hope. He/she must have revelation from the Spirit who is inside of them upon their belief.

This mission statement for MPACT, which I wrote myself, really came to life one day when my brother, Michael Thomas, said something to me that hit me like a ton of bricks. After communicating my frustration with a man, we both know, and my failure in enlightening him to Jesus, Michael looked at me and said, “Who do you think you are man? Is it your job to save this guy? Or is that God’s job? YOU CAN’T BE HIS HOLY SPIRIT BRO! So quit trying to be and let HIM do His work. You’ve planted the seeds. Now come along side of our brother, walk with him arm in arm and just let him see Jesus, HIS HOLY SPIRIT, through you. You gotta let God do the rest bro. He always comes through. You gotta trust Him with our mission. It ain’t all on you! Your stress and frustration are evidence that you aren’t trusting God to do His thing. Come on man!”

His words were so powerful. (It seems I wasn't practicing what I'd been preaching) Seems I’ve been so focused on growing this ministry through all of the platforms, setting up the big events and groups, talking with dozens of men per day with the thoughts of them not accepting Christ going through my mind. (What kind of mindset is that?) I’ve stressed over friends and family members as I’ve worried about their salvation. I’ve been keeping score of everything so much that it sometimes brings me down . . . and that’s where the enemy wants me. He wants me focusing on my performance as a Christian, knowing one failure, one slip up, one person that shuts me down, will allow him to get into my head hoping it will confuse me and slow me down. He actually knows I’ll try so hard playing the saving game that I’ll get frustrated, look at my scoreboard compared to others and possibly throw in the towel. That’s his goal with all believers today. He doesn’t want us sharing the good news at all and will deceive us into giving up. Yup, he's been busy trying to fool me lately. Thank God for brothers to help me see truth, like Michael, and Chris, and Jeremy, and Brad, and . . .

After my conversation with Michael, then a doctor’s visit with a stress test, followed by a heart catheterization and hearing the doctor’s words, “You can’t do this on your own. Stress will kill you”, God gave me the revelation that: A) There is a God and . . . B) I’m definitely not Him! (Yeah, that’s a line from the movie Rudy. Brother Michael’s favorite. (Yeah, Notre Dame still stinks bro).

But seriously, today, through grace, my revelation as it applies to anything in this world is . . . I’m stressing WAY TOO MUCH, and this stress is NEVER coming from Jesus. I have never saved one person. EVER! That’s way above my paygrade! I’m just a messenger, a vessel to shine the light of Christ for others to see. We believers are all His messengers. We simply need to give the message and trust His promise for others according to His will. Not ours! Some key revelations for me (hopefully you as well) moving forward are:

  1. He’s not keeping score since I believed in Jesus. (Psalm 103:10, Psalm 130:3, Hebrews 9:24, 10:10, Romans 8:39)

  2. My focus on our ministry and helping men everywhere to discover grace should never overshadow my focus on Jesus. (John 15:5, Matthew 22:37, Colossians 6:6-15)

  3. Though I’m always ready to speak truth and share the reason for my hope, all I can do is plant seeds. He is the cultivator and harvester. Not me. And sometimes all I may need to do is to be patient and wait to be asked to share my story of how Jesus impacted me. (1 Peter 3:15-16)

  4. His timing is always perfect. The people we reach every day are His, not mine. He knows His people much better than I do. (2 Peter 3:8, Psalm 139:1-24, John 10:14-15, Matthew 10:26-31, Isaiah 43:1)

  5. He is so powerful inside of me that I might not even need to say a word to others about my faith. They will actually see Him in me and be stirred. (1 Thessalonians 1:8-9)

  6. There will never be condemnation for me or other Christians for we have been set free by His Spirit (Romans 8:1)

  7. My anxieties are not from HIM. In fact, He wants to take on those anxieties. (Philippians 4:6-7)

  8. My identity is not based on what I do or how well I do it, but on who and WHOSE I am. (Galatians 2:20, 1 Corinthians 6:20, 2 Corinthians 1:21-22, Ephesians 1:3-8, Colossians 2:9-10)

Friends, do you ever get so caught up in your mission, life, job and family that you lose the focus on He who is inside of you? It’s crazy how we do so many things with great intentions, we try so hard to accomplish and succeed on our own. Do we keep score of where we stand so much that we don’t trust and let Jesus be our inspiration and motivation for everything in life, knowing he will provide and guide us to do his will? Are you frustrated that you’ve tried so many times to help your relative or friend see the light of Christ and they just haven’t had the revelation and discovered Him yet? (Notice the word “YET” at the end of the sentence.) Please remember, our role is to share the reason for our “HOPE” in Christ. God’s job is to instill himself it into all who hear and accept His grace according to his will. We have to remember we are sealed through our belief and God trusts us with His Gospel. (1 Thessalonians 2:4). We can definitely trust him and His holiness, without stress and anxiety, with those we minister to. We just need to let him shine as we make a difference in Him, through us, ONE MAN AT A TIME!

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