I admire the sudden “darkness to light” stories some people have.
They are inspiring and dramatic: they lose it all (or nearly so) and then Jesus comes in and transforms them suddenly and miraculously.
It can make you think it’s always supposed to happen this way. Certainly, sometimes it does. Most of the time, however, it’s a much slower awakening to the grace of God in Jesus.
We find an example of this awakening in John 1:32-52:
43 The next day Jesus decided to leave for Galilee. Finding Philip, he said to him, “Follow me.”
Philip, like Andrew and Peter, was from the town of Bethsaida. Philip found Nathanael and told him, “We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.”John 1:43-52
“Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?” Nathanael asked.
“Come and see,” said Philip.
When Jesus saw Nathanael approaching, he said of him, “Here truly is an Israelite in whom there is no deceit.”
“How do you know me?” Nathanael asked.
Jesus answered, “I saw you while you were still under the fig tree before Philip called you.” Then Nathanael declared, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the king of Israel.”
Jesus said, “You believe because I told you I saw you under the fig tree. You will see greater things than that.” He then added, “Very truly I tell you, you will see ‘heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on’ the Son of Man.”
New International Version
Philip doesn’t get a lot of attention and we don’t think of him very often. It’s understandable: he didn’t write any Scripture (although he certainly wrote to churches). And were it not for the Apostle John, we would know virtually nothing about him.
Usually he appears in close association with Andrew, Peter’s brother. Yet, Jesus is intentional with Philip and directly calls him saying, “Follow me”. You don’t get any more intentional than that! But this divine boldness was met with a unique response from Philip.
Philip, an effective evangelist, testifies to Nathaniel telling him, “We have found THE ONE…” (emphasis mine). The call of Christ in Philip’s life was predicated by a study of Scripture preparing him for the revelation of Jesus as the Messiah. This is the intentional nature of our Lord. Philip wasn’t just “dropped out of the sky” believing. He had been studying the Scriptures and recognized the voice of the Lord when he said, “Follow me”.
Jesus sealed the deal that was being negotiated in Philip and Nathaniel’s hearts from their childhood.
Too often, we reduce “the call of Christ” to a single event. Even in the life of Philip and Nathanial, it’s easy to see it in isolation, but they had been searching for a while.
We can share the Gospel of Jesus and if someone doesn’t accept it on our first try, we tend to give up.
A man I know personally took years of multiple Christians living out their lives in front of him before this man finally heard the voice of the Lord whispering to his heart: “Follow me.” When he finally accepted this call, it wasn’t a one-time shot. There were countless Christians who had interacted with him. There were so many prayers over a long period of time. So many opportunities, but it didn’t “click” until our intentional Lord “sealed the deal” and whispered, “Stop running. I’m right here. Follow me.”
Brothers and sisters, we work as if it all depends on us but we KNOW it all depends on Jesus! But the point is: we work.
We have to allow the time and space for the Lord to work in the hearts and lives of others. It takes patience. It takes grace. It takes not giving up.
Think about someone you shared your faith with but they didn’t receive it. Is it time to look for more opportunities to show them the grace of Jesus?