There are many models of personal evangelism used in the church. Some people lead a new convert in saying the sinner’s prayer, some explain the four spiritual laws, or travel the “Romans road.” I seldom use any of these approaches. They seem rigid and they tend to assume a great deal about the person, which may not be true. I see every encounter as unique. I prefer to let each relationship develop naturally, without a predetermined direction or goal, and without a particular method in mind unless God has given me one in advance. I prefer to let the Holy Spirit guide me in the right direction, set the pace, and determine the issues we’ll discuss.
Sometimes all I do is buy my new friend a cup of coffee and interpret a dream or give them a prophetic word. With others I might answer a few questions they have about God. Sometimes it’s a prayer for healing and a hug. I never really know where an encounter will lead.
When I’m with people who don’t have a relationship with God, I try to approach the situation with only one thing in mind; I know God loves them and I want to give them one positive experience with Him. It may be the only one they ever have and I believe I owe that to everyone I meet. This is one such story.
We responded to a doctor’s office. When our patient mentioned that she cut her wrist intentionally, the receptionist called 911. She sat in a chair crying; her tank top revealed two arms covered with large bruises and small lacerations on both wrists.
As I walked through the clinic door, the weighty presence of God that I suddenly felt made me lose my balance momentarily. The fact that God let me feel His presence made me think He had something in mind for my patient. I was no longer the lead paramedic, but God’s partner, trying to follow the lead of the Holy Spirit. An overwhelming sense of compassion came over me that I would not normally have felt. When these feelings grip me, I’ve learned to recognize them as the feelings God has for others. Out of these feelings, He leads me in the way He wants me to interact with them. I felt His love for our patient and I was certain He was drawing her into a relationship that she was ready for.
She poured out her heart to us over the next half hour, relaying her long battle against alcoholism and drug addiction. She said she then turned to prostitution. It was the only way she could get money for the things she needed. Her life had become one long nightmare of abuse, neglect, and addiction. “I’ve tried to kill myself so many times I can’t count them anymore.”
As I listened to her story, I tried to gauge where she was at spiritually. In my mind I ran through a list of questions: How much did she know about God? How desperate was she for change? How did she feel about Jesus? Did she have any negative church experiences? Has God been speaking to her through dreams? Did she want to be delivered of demonic oppression?
In the ambulance, I sensed a desperation that was unusual for someone in her place. Many people who become trapped in a life of drugs and prostitution resign themselves to this fate and quit looking for a way out. Her mannerisms and speech told me she would do anything to discover a new way of living. I could tell she was ready for a serious discussion about God.
“Samantha, I want to help you find a way out of all this.”
“I need someone to help me. I can’t do this anymore. It’s killing me.”
“There’s only one thing that can change your life permanently.”
She beat me to the punch line. “It’s God, isn’t it?” In her spirit, she knew what the solution was.
“Yes, it is God. He’s the answer you’ve been looking for.
“I knew it. I just knew you were going to say that.”
“Samantha, I know you’ve had a rough life. And maybe you’ve wondered why God lets things like this happen to people. I want you to know that even if you don’t feel loved right now, God has loved you since the day you were born. He didn’t create you to be a mess. He made you to be a beautiful and wise woman. He still wants that for you. It’s always been His plan and it’s never too late to make it happen. Jesus said, ‘I have come that you might have life, and life abundantly.’ He wasn’t lying when He said that. He really can give you a brand new life that’s better than you could ever imagine.”
She sat on the gurney mesmerized, taking it all in. No one had ever told her anything like this. I find it helpful to speak positively, lovingly, and authoritatively against the negative things people believe about themselves, and to declare the great things God says about them. It seems to bring freedom to people who are trapped in the enemy’s lies.
“Sir… I want to have this new life.”
It was time to lead her in a simple prayer. It wasn’t a time to remind her of her sinfulness. She knew how horrible her life had been and I didn’t want to make it worse. “Samantha, repeat after me. Jesus, I want the new life you promised to anyone who believes in you. I want to feel your love for me. I accept your forgiveness of my past and I want to live the new life you can give me. I want you to change me in every way. Take away my craving for drugs and alcohol and let me desire only things that are good for me.” With a joyous smile she repeated everything I said. It was a special moment I’ll never forget. She became very peaceful and relaxed as we transferred her to the emergency room bed. She couldn’t stop thanking me for helping her.
I love the way God opens doors.
You may ask, will she live free of these things in the future? I can’t say. That’s a limitation I’ve learned to live with. My influence is small, my time with a patient is short, and I seldom know what happens after I leave them. I’m a sower of the seed, one who doesn’t know what the harvest will look like.
Our nation is in a tight spot right now in regard to caring for people like my patient. A major problem in our society is the ineffectiveness of our system of mental health treatment. Most patients are in a revolving door lifestyle that never “cures” their condition. Most people with severe addictions and mental illness are unable to work and have no insurance other than what the government provides. And our government is fast running out of money.
What’s the answer to our problems?
Jesus. He’s always been the answer. He is the great physician. When He heals, He doesn’t ask for an insurance card or a deductible. Prescription plans aren’t needed, only divine appointments, and the great physician is always available. He never takes vacations.