‘Purposing Change’ Meditations: 23. Gradual Changes
Jn 3:4 “How can someone be born when they are old?” Nicodemus asked.”
One of the discouragements the enemy will whisper in your ear is, “See, nothing is happening, you’re wasting your time.” No it is never a waste of time to embark on a journey to seek the salvation, to seek God’s blessing on those you love, on those who don’t yet know Him or who have drifted away from Him. Indeed we might suggest that second to our own quest to ‘know him more clearly, love him more dearly and follow Hm more nearly’ (as Richard of Chichester prayed), THE most important quest in the world is to seek those in our own sphere of life who don’t know Him or who have drifted from Him. As James wrote, “Whoever turns a sinner from the error of their way will save them from death and cover over a multitude of sins.” (Jas 5:20) So when the enemy whispers, “Nothing is happening,” think of Nicodemus in Jn 3.
Nicodemus is a bright guy but he just can’t see what Jesus is getting at. Jn 3 is interesting in that it doesn’t show us any positive outcome to this conversation. So you may talk with your not-yet-a-believer and they may seem to walk away from the conversation unmoved. But Nicodemus wasn’t unmoved. We see him twice more in John’s Gospel. The first time he speaks up on Jesus’s behalf and gets rebuked for it (Jn 7:50-52), and the second time he turns up with Joseph of Arimathea (Jn 19:38-40) to claim Jesus’ body and embalm him. Oh yes, he came through to faith and is, no doubt, on the way to full commitment and belief in Jesus. Steps and stages. Be patient, persevere, believe, and watch.
Yes, remember that each one of us comes to Christ in steps and stages. Even the person who hears about Christ for the first time and immediately accepts him as Lord and Saviour, even that person will have been going through preparations, for that’s how the Lord works.
For people in Israel in Jesus’ days, they had years of history and a culture pointed in God’s direction that was their starting place. Although our nations in the West may have strong elements involving God in their history, it may be our loved ones know little of that and so the ‘background history preparation’, if I may call it that, pivots on the wrongs of each society that the Holy Spirit will point out to them, maybe even their own checkered history, and these concerns just simmer below the surface until God starts ‘raising the temperature’ so they become conscious concerns.
Then maybe they encounter another believer through work or even just in life’s circumstances and a few words are spoken and another seed is planted. It is sometimes suggested that there are usually six links in the chain that eventually brings someone to Christ. I believe those may be words, people or circumstances that the Holy Spirit uses. The trouble with the Holy Spirit, if you don’t mind me putting it like that, is that as Jesus said to Nicodemus, He’s a bit like the wind and He blows where and when He will and you never quite know what He’s up to. So Nicodemus went away from Jesus but we are not told in what state of mind. Jesus didn’t seem to rush to push him into the kingdom. He knew that it is a work of the Father (Jn 6:37) and of the Spirit and the time has to be right and, even more, these things often take time and He is able to work in stages in us until we come to that critical point where we are willing to bow the knee and surrender our lives. So keep doing what you do – pray, love, be alert, be there for them, and just watch and wait and speak and move when the Lord says so. Remember, it’s His work and we’re just helpers from time to time, and He is in no rush because He is thorough and persistent. While you wait, just continue to praise, worship, and thank Him.