Cultivating Good Soil For the Long Haul
Stephen* and I only spoke about business when we first met in 2003. He and his wife of 14 years live in Asia with their three children and own a successful business there—employing between 200-400 people. I had called him to meet after I had been asked by my colleague in the States to find a factory abroad that could produce a specific product.
After about a year of communication about business, I had dinner with Stephen and his wife. During the evening I asked him what he thought the purpose of life was.
He, of course, did not know.
Very little happened over the next 4 years of our relationship. Then, in February 2008, a colleague and I went to have dinner with Stephen at his home. It was pleasant enough, but the conversation from a spiritual point of view, was going nowhere. I was going nuts on the inside. Soon, however, Stephen’s children came out to the patio to say goodnight. As I watched him kiss them and follow them with his eyes as they went back into the house, I could see his love for them.
Remembering some of the Good Soil Evangelism and Discipleship questions, I asked Stephen, ‘I’m just wondering, what are you going to teach your children about right and wrong, and the purpose of life?’.
By this point in our relationship Stephen knew me and was not surprised by me asking a serious question.
“That’s a really good question,” he said. “I don’t know. Do you have any suggestions?”
With my heart pounding, I told him of the sound truths that have served people around the world for thousands of years … found in the Bible. “This is the most published and most read book in the history of the world,” I told him. “I would be happy to help you study it so that you can teach its great truths to your children.”
We had a short, introductory Bible study on the spot. At the end of the evening Stephen agreed to start meeting with me to study the Bible. I also gave him the film “Hope” to view with his family; he said it watched it four or five times with his kids.
Because of business, there was still a delay in actually getting started on the Bible studies, but Stephen had expressed initial serious questions about why “all the scientists” believed in evolution. I gave him a film that I had picked up which dealt with the carbon dating and other issues, and he said it really helped him.
We didn’t start studying the Story of Hope until this past spring. When I arrived, Stephen had typed up answers to all the questions. I was quite impressed with his diligence, and his answers, which only needed minor corrections. I worked on explaining some of the contradictions he thought he saw in the book of Genesis and my answers seem to have satisfied him. We met throughout the summer, off and on, and spent time answering Stephen’s wide-ranging questions.
Finally, this fall, I knew that he was drawing close to understanding. I asked him, “Stephen, would you like to see the kingdom of Heaven?”
To which he replied, “Of course! What do you think I’m studying all of these events for?”
Then I asked him, “So would you like to be born again too, as Jesus said all must do in order to see the kingdom of Heaven?”
Stephen said he did, but added that he was concerned that after all “this study and work, I might not make it, or be accepted.”
This was the third or fourth time he had said something like that, so I lead him again to versus like Psalms 86:5, Matthew 11:28-30 and John 6:37. Finally, Jesus’ question to Peter came to mind and I had Stephen read Matthew 16:13-15. I pointed out that when Jesus says, “who do you say that I am?”, he is asking the most important question that any human must deal with in life.
It was late, so I left Stephen with the suggestion that he honestly struggle with this question.
When I returned the next week, I came to find out that Stephen had lost a fortune in the unsteady economy. Surprisingly, he said, “I’m ok with that.” “I have been thinking about Jesus’ question to Peter a lot…I’m not the same person I was last week,” he told me.
“Your statement about creation, that you can’t make something out of nothing, really made me think,” he added. “I don’t know, maybe I’m even ‘saved’ right now,” he said, with a doubtful emphasis that lost people often have.
I let him talk for a while and then asked him to explore his statement by reading John 10:27-29:
“My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish, neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand.”
“Stephen,” I said, “I just want to see where your heart is. Suppose Jesus was sitting here right next to you, and He asked you the same question he asked Peter, what would you say?”
“I would say ‘You are the Son of God,” he answered.
“Stephen, would you be willing to say to Jesus out loud “Jesus, I believe you died on the cross for my sins?”
“Yes. Jesus, I believe you died on the cross for my sins,” he replied.
“Stephen, are you willing to say to Jesus now, that ‘I want you to be Lord of my life?’ Are you willing to open your heart and let Jesus come in,” I asked.
“Yes, yes,” he responded.
We looked again at Romans 10:9-13 and I told Stephen that he believed all of the essentials. If he really wanted to be “born again”, have his sins forgiven, see the kingdom of Heaven and have Jesus rule his life, all he had to do was ask.
“Stephen, Jesus is waiting. It can be now. You can know for sure that if you died tonight you would go to Heaven,” I told him.
He paused for a few seconds, and then said, “Ok… let’s do it!”
It was amazing to hear Stephen follow my lead and pray out loud to accept Christ as his Savior.
After all of those years of working the soil of his life, and then planting seeds, it was time for a harvest. I asked him “Stephen, now do you know for sure?!”
I praised the Lord when I heard him say, “yes.”
*Names and locations have been omitted for security purposes.