"And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple"
We had been pouring into the young lady from China for two years...two years of praying for her, witnessing to her, ministering to her. Two years of rejoicing with her when she rejoiced and mourning with her when she mourned. Thank God, finally it seemed our prayers were answered. Here she was, sitting in our backyard, seemingly ready to surrender to the Lord, and to open her heart to the King of kings. Our response...? We sent her away.
I had first encountered Annie* on our local university campus. I had invited her to an event held by a partner ministry. A few months later, she attended a game night at our home, unaware who was hosting the event. She soon became a regular at our 'seekers' Bible study. At first, she was quite adamant that she was an atheist. After a few weeks, she began submitting prayer requests. A fairly dramatic and emotional answered prayer seemed to get her attention and she began to regularly participate in prayer. She was still resistant to the Gospel, however. She was ready to acknowledge that there was a God, but surrendering her life to Him was an entirely different matter.
The Holy Spirit quickly gave me a check, however. She wasn't ready. She needed to count the cost.
My wife and I continued to pour into her. A few weeks ago, she asked to come over to the house to speak to us. She had a relationship issue about which she sought our counsel, but the conversation quickly turned to her faith. She was much more open than usual, and seemed receptive. At this point she understood the Gospel on an intellectual level, she just needed to accept it. My instinct was to encourage her towards a decision.
The Holy Spirit quickly gave me a check, however. She wasn't ready. She needed to count the cost. We knew that her family would likely be very resistant to this decision, and we reminded her of this. She had aspirations to return home, but her decision to become a Christian would likely make it much more difficult to find a job in China. We made certain that she understood this. Moreover, we reminded her of the recent increase in government pressure on Christians in China. We made sure that she understood that, though salvation is a free gift, there would be a cost to pay in this life.
After praying for her, we sent her away. We continued to pray for her. I second-guessed myself...did I do the right thing? The following Friday, at our seeker's Bible study, I was relieved when she showed up. Even more, my wife and I were surprised and overjoyed when she stood up in front of the entire group of mostly non-believers and boldly declared "I have decided to follow Jesus!" Praise the Lord!!
I am convinced that hers is a faith that will withstand pressures. Hers is a faith that will endure persecutions and trials. Hers is a faith that will follow Jesus no matter the cost, because she understood from the beginning that following Jesus means that we must deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow the One who made the way.
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* Annie is not her actual name