During September we’re focusing on responding to God’s call. Each of the posts published this month will be about the situations in which our authors have responded to His leading or have witnessed others respond to His leading. Please see the Prayer page to read our strategic prayer request for this month and pray with us that we would see the people of the Lower Ramu area respond to Him.
By Jim Bliffen
Jesus said that if we lift Him up He will draw all men to Him (John 12:35). This has always been a comforting verse to me. It tells me that I am not the one responsible for drawing people to Jesus. It is Jesus’ job to draw men. That is a job that is way above my pay grade. My job is to lift Jesus up before men. It is the work of Jesus to draw men, the work of the Holy Spirit to convict men of their sin, and it is God’s work to forgive men and grant to them eternal life. Paul says of his own message to the Corinthians, “When I came to you, brothers, announcing the testimony of God to you, I did not come with brilliance of speech or wisdom. For I didn’t think it was a good idea to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. I came to you in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling. My speech and my proclamation were not with persuasive words of wisdom but with a powerful demonstration by the Spirit, so that your faith might not be based on men’s wisdom but on God’s power.” (1Corinthians 2:1-5) It is required that we be faithful in our work so that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit can do their work. Being faithful to lift up Jesus requires us to speak at appropriate times, but there is more to it than that. Our words must be validated by incarnational living that lifts up Jesus.
While ministering in Alabama, a friend and church member named Dan Duke was at a party when he suddenly collapsed. I was out of town that night so Joni was called to accompany his wife, Linda, to the hospital and was with her when she was given the news that Dan had died on the way to the hospital in the ambulance. It was a tough night, but after those events we got to hear Dan’s life story.
Dan had called himself a Christian for many years, but he certainly did not live like one. He drank too much, partied too hard, and cheated on his wife. Dan had started coming back to church desiring life-change a short time before I arrived to become his minister. I never saw the bad side of Dan’s life. He was a real blessing to me and Joni in our ministry. He was always there to help no matter what we were doing or what he had to do to help. Once I was preparing to go to Kentucky to preach a revival at the church where my older brother serves as minster. I admitted in my sermon the Sunday morning before I left that I was a bit intimidated because this brother of mine encouraged me to leave Kentucky Christian University and go to a different college so that I could train to do something else with my life instead of going into the ministry. He said that, “preaching isn’t for everyone.” I asked the congregation to pray that my sermons would be effective so that my brother could witness that I was doing what God had called me to do and that lives would be transformed. After that sermon Dan stopped me and said, “Don’t you ever listen to your brother or believe that you should do something different with your life because you and your preaching have made a big difference in my life.” Now we all know that it was Jesus who was making that difference, but I did attempt to faithfully lift Him up every Sunday morning. Dan was drawn to Him and it changed his life dramatically. Twenty eight days before Dan passed away he was in the church’s presentation of ‘The Living Last Supper” pictured above. Dan played the role of Simon the Zealot and is seated at the right end of the table. No one in his family could believe that Dan would take a speaking part in a church play. I remember that when I asked him to take the role he was very hesitant. He said that he didn’t think that he would be very good at speaking, but if I needed him to help he would do his best. He worked hard at the part and did a good job.
The change in Dan’s life lifted up Christ to his son-in-law, Mike LeFevre. Mike’s life was just as bad as Dan’s used to be. Mike started coming to church and Bible study after Dan passed away. He admitted to me that he wanted to know what had made such a difference in Dan’s life. After attending for a few months, Mike came to the Bible study one night and said I have two questions to ask you: #1 Is baptism really necessary? I told Him I think it is and told him why; #2 can I get baptized right now? I said that if he believed, he could. He said I believe in the One who changed Dan’s life and I want him to change mine. I postponed the start of Bible study and baptized Mike. His life changed dramatically as well as the life of his family.
Dan’s and Mike’s response to God’s call did not require clever persuasive words of great oratory ability because I am pretty short on both those talents. The main thing was the constant lifting up of Jesus before their eyes. He drew these two men, the Holy Spirit convicted them of their sin, and God forgave them. I thank God that I don’t have to do His job, but I am thrilled when He lets me help a little bit. Now we all have the opportunity to help in the Lower Ramu project and in other tasks throughout the country. IF we are faithful, He is faithful and if He desires it, and I believe He does, there will be revival in the land. Let us be faithful to lift up Christ in all that we do and watch with amazement as He transforms lives through the power of His word.
Jim serves in the area of Scripture Impact.