I’ve tried to manufacture my own “divine appointments” before. Yes, I’ve been “that guy” who gives Christianity a bad name, caring more about checking “spiritual conversation” off my to-do list than I care about the person I’m talking to. I’m really trying now not to be “that guy.”
So when a real divine appointment shows up, it seems I still have some learning to do.
For about a year and a half, I have been regularly walking around the greenway near my workplace – weekly if I can. I’ll often see others as they walk dogs, jog, or bike. Rarely do I come across another walker going the same direction I’m going. But last time, I did.
Reaching my halfway point, I crossed the bridge over the river that runs through the greenway and started back to the office. My path joined that of another walker, who greeted me.
“Looks like our paths have crossed.”
Now, I’ve been praying pretty much every morning that God would send a divine appointment. This sure looked like one. I asked the man where he started his walk. He explained that he had recently taken a job nearby, and pointed out where his location entered the greenway. I had been walking much faster than he was. I slowed my pace a little, but not enough for us to walk together.
Then I felt the clear prompting of the Holy Spirit.
“Talk to him.”
My brain froze as my feet continued walking. Again I was prompted, “Talk to him.”
Well, I would, but I can’t think of what to say. I don’t see how to get from “Where do you start walking?” to “If you died tonight, would you be in Heaven?” without being an annoying turn-off. I don’t want to be “that guy.”
I continued my quick-paced walk, while he ambled along farther and farther behind me.
I pondered – What could I have said to him?
Well, I knew he was new to working in this area. I could have asked, “Do you have a good church you go to?” But I’m not even from around there; I wouldn’t recognize his church if he named it, and I didn’t have one to recommend if he didnt. Besides, that seems like an awfully abrupt and leading question. Again, I don’t want to be “that guy.”
Then I remembered the prompting. The Holy Spirit simply told me to talk to him. He didn’t ask for a guaranteed outcome; He just wanted obedience.
Of all sad words of tongue or pen, the saddest are these, “It might have been.”
John Greenleaf Whittier
I could easily have given him a walking companion for a few minutes. I could have been genuinely interested – instead of caring only about my own agenda and checklist.
I could have simply talked and learned about him. But I didn’t.
Was I that man’s only chance?
If he never hears the gospel, will his blood be on my hands? No, I believe God is too powerful to be thwarted by my disobedience. If He can use even deliberate sin to work his purposes, He doesn’t need me to draw others to Himself. He’s certainly capable of bringing another Christian into that man’s life.
But that doesn’t mean I’m off the hook.
I’m convinced that God has a plan for me. He has a place of service where I can be useful for him. By failing to take advantage of this opportunity, I lost.
- I lost an opportunity to grow at sharing the gospel. Maybe I wouldn’t have ever made it to sharing the plan of salvation. That was my fear, and it kept me from even trying. But even if I tried and failed, I would have had another experience to grow from.
- I lost an opportunity to have a pleasant conversation. As an introvert, I don’t often seek out conversations, but once I can finally enter into a conversation with someone, it’s almost always a good thing.
- I lost an opportunity to meet a new person. I have no idea what kind of interest or friendship might have been built from that chance encounter. He talked first, so he was clearly interested in meeting new people.
- I lost an opportunity to build my faith. I believe God had a plan for that chance encounter. Because I walked on, I’ll probably never see the grand design of God working behind the scenes in ways that only He can.
I’m sure there’s much more that I lost by brushing off the prompting of the Holy Spirit.
But despite all that loss, there is one thing that I gained.
I gained an understanding that treating people as simply a stepping stone to achieve my goals robs the blessing from a divine appointment. That’s true whether that divine appointment is real or manufactured. God calls us to labor in His harvest because He loves every one of those people we happen across.
He also knows when they’re ready to hear.
Next time God brings someone across my path (figuratively or literally!) I hope I will follow the prompting of the Holy Spirit and simply speak. With true compassion for people, I can share the gospel without being “that guy.”