One of the most important things to do before you share the gospel of Jesus Christ with others is that you need to pray for the lost by their name. You need to pray daily for the lost. You are praying for those people that God has put in your sphere of influence. You need to pray for them by their name that they would come to know Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. Trusting that the Lord will not only use you but through your prayers, He will send someone else to share the gospel with them.
One of my favorite stories is how the Lord sent a believer to share the gospel with an unbeliever found in Acts 8:26-35.
"Now, an angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Rise and go toward the south to the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” This is a desert place. And he rose and went. And there was an Ethiopian, a eunuch, a court official of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, who was in charge of all her treasure. He had come to Jerusalem to worship and was returning, seated in his chariot, and he was reading the prophet Isaiah. And the Spirit said to Philip, “Go over and join this chariot.” So Philip ran to him and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet and asked, “Do you understand what you are reading?” And he said, “How can I, unless someone guides me?” And he invited Philip to come up and sit with him. Now the passage of the Scripture that he was reading was this: “Like a sheep, He was led to the slaughter and like a lamb, before its shearer is silent, so he opens not his mouth. In his humiliation, justice was denied him. Who can describe his generation? For his life is taken away from the earth.” And the eunuch said to Philip, “About whom, I ask you, does the prophet say this, about himself or about someone else?” Then Philip opened his mouth and beginning with this Scripture, he told him the good news about Jesus."
When I read this text, I notice two important things: First, how God brought Phillip to share the gospel with the Ethiopian eunuch. Secondly, I wonder who the person is that gave the Ethiopian eunuch the scriptures? Who prayed for his salvation, that he would come to know Jesus Christ? It is incredible to see how God led the Ethiopian eunuch to read the exact text that talked about Jesus dying on the cross. When you pray for the lost by name, God not only will move you to share the gospel with them, but he may send someone else to answer your prayer!
Two weeks ago, I met Bob at Panera Bread to visit and talk about our spiritual walks with Jesus. Bob is one of my good friends, and he is also a prayer and financial supporter for Go & Tell Ministries.
As we were talking, he began to share his heartfelt compassion for his nephew. Alan is 68 years old and had received prostate cancer a year before. He was now in a nursing home under hospice care and knew he didn't have much time to live. Bob said to me, “ Jim, you know it's hard to share the gospel with family members. I've tried, and I've struggled, but I am praying for Alan and his salvation.”
As we talked, I looked at Bob, and I asked him where Alan was living. Bob told me that he was in town, at a nursing home nearby. I looked at Bob and said, “I'll go share with Alan. Let's go together and visit him.”
A few days later, Bob and I met Alan in his nursing home. As we talked with Alan, I introduced myself, and I asked about Alan’s background. We talked about Alan's family, and he shared with me about his wife, Jeanne. He lovingly shared that they have been married for almost 50 years. He talked about how he worked at the same job for over 44 years and had retired five years ago. He spoke about his three sons, his grandkids, and the life he had lived.
I asked him about his church background, and he shared about his church attendance. Then I asked him if I could ask him a spiritual question, and he said “yes.” I asked Alan, “If you were to stand before God, and he would ask you: Why should I let you into My heaven, what would you say?”
He was taken back by that big question and said he does not know. I said, “I know it is a big question, Alan, but I know you're facing that big question right now.” He responded by basically saying that he is a good person, tries to be good, and tried to live a good life.
I said, “Alan, you know that God's standards of goodness are far different than ours. His standard is much higher than ours, and He doesn't grade on a curve. Can we look at God's standards of goodness and see how well you've done?”
He agreed, and I said: “Let's look at God's standards of goodness found in the ten commandments. One of those commandments is: Thou shall not lie. Have you ever lied?” He responded, yes, and I asked him, what do you call someone who lies? He replied: “A liar.” So, I explained that another command is: Thou shall not steal. Have you ever stolen? He said yes, and I asked him what you call someone who steals, and he said, “A thief.”
I lovingly looked at Alan and said to him, “Alan, you just admitted to me that you're a lying thief before a holy God, and we haven't looked at the other commandments. If you stood before God, would you be innocent or guilty of breaking His laws?”
He paused and humbly said to me that he would be found guilty of breaking God’s laws. I asked him, “Would you go to heaven or hell?” Again, he paused, and with fear in his eyes, he said: “I would go to hell.”
I told Alan that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. I asked Alan if he knew what the Lord has done for him, to take away his sins? We then talked about Jesus; I told him how Jesus died on the cross, He rose from the dead to take away his sins and mine. I told Alan that Jesus could only impact your life if you repent of your sins and profess your faith and salvation in Jesus.
Allen and I talked for a while about how salvation only can be found in Jesus. I prompted him: Remember when I asked you that big question before? You were trusting in your goodness, and you were not trusting in the righteousness of Christ. We talked more about the gospel of Jesus Christ, how he needed to repent of his sins and to trust in Jesus and after our half-hour conversation, Alan repented of his sins and professed faith in Jesus for his salvation.
That was two weeks ago that Alan professed faith in Jesus Christ, and today was his funeral. Bob and I talked yesterday as we both attended his viewing at the funeral home. Bob thanked me for sharing the gospel with his nephew. I told Bob that this would have never happened if he didn't pray for his salvation with a heart full of love.
Sometimes God answers our prayers in ways we do not expect. Bob continually prayed for Alan and sought to share the gospel with him, but he felt the doors were closed. Bob continually prayed, and the Lord sent someone else to communicate the gospel with Alan, just as He sent Phillip to share with the Ethiopian eunuch.
I want to encourage you to continue to pray for your family members, neighbors, coworkers, and friends’ salvation by their name. Having faith that the Lord will open up their heart to respond to the gospel message. The Lord is sending you to share the gospel with them, or He may be sending someone else to share the gospel with them. I pray that you could rejoice, as Bob and I did yesterday at his viewing/funeral.
Philemon 1:6 says, “I pray that you'll be active a sharing your faith that you have a full understanding of every good thing we have in Christ Jesus.” That good thing is seeing someone come to repentance and faith in Jesus and knowing that they have eternal life.
One of my fondest memories is having Allen's wife, who is a believer, embrace me and thank me for sharing the gospel with her husband. I pray that you'll continually pray for the loss by name and go and tell others the glorious good news of Jesus Christ and salvation alone in Him.