Steering Conversations

“Then the Spirit said to Philip, ‘Go near and overtake this chariot.’ So Philip ran to him, and heard him reading the prophet Isaiah, and said, ‘Do you understand what you are reading?’ And he said, ‘How can I, unless someone guides me?’ And he asked Philip to come up and sit with him.”

Acts 8:29-31

[7] Often we don’t need to seek out people to witness to. Most of us encounter opportunities when we are not even looking for them. You might not feel eager or confident enough to actively engage strangers, but the one preparation that every Christian should consider is to be willing to be used. Trust God to bring the kind of encounter that suits your personality and background, and then tell Him you’re open to those opportunities.

You might go weeks before the moment arises, but then one day you might be running errands, or at work, and something gets your attention. Likely, it’s God giving you a little nudge. It’s your turn to see where the encounter goes. Sense what God might be using you uniquely to do. Be yourself, and be an encourager for the Lord.

For me, it happens when I might notice someone looks a little sad, or out of sorts. I might say, “How ya doing today?” and they might just say “Okay,” but many times they are honest. They are often so full of fear, or sadness, or discouragement, or pain that it just spills out of them. I have students also, and sometimes they are going through so much that they really need someone to listen.

Whenever and wherever this type of conversation starts, I am mindful of the opportunity to encourage them, and to share the love of God. I begin to steer the conversation, and I do it with questions.

When someone is really having a difficult time, I first like to ask:

“Do you have a faith?”

People are more open to discussing faith when they are discouraged because they sense (and I believe the Holy Spirit does this) that you care and that you have a good answer to help them.

If they have a faith, I ask if they believe in God. If they say yes, then I tell them:

“That’s so good, because God really loves you. He cares about everything you are going through, and He has a good plan for your life. You are very special to God, and if you believe in Him, the Bible says that, ‘He will never leave you or turn His back on you.’

“Ask Him, and He will help you through this. He’ll open a door, or give you wisdom, or the breakthrough you need (or whatever the situation calls for). Open your heart and He will fight for you.”

At this point, I have shared something encouraging about God’s love. I might share more about God’s love, I might offer to pray for them, I might check with God to see if I’m supposed to help them in some way.

I also gage whether I should continue. If so, I then ask if they believe in Jesus. If they do, I like to make sure:

            “Okay, let me ask. If you were to die today, would you go to heaven?”

If they are a believing Christian, they will say “Yes,” but I still always ask them: “Okay, how will you get there?” A believing Christian will point to Jesus. Sometimes people will tell you right away that they are Christians, and of course you can skip the other questions. When this is the case, tell them that you are too, and ask if you can pray for them. Do it right on the spot. The Holy Spirit will show up, give you some wisdom to pray over them, and it will encourage them and help them see that God is active in their situation.

However, if the person is unsure if they are going to Heaven, or if they need Jesus, then I like to ask another question:

“Do you think there is a Heaven? Or do you think that our life just ends when we die?”

Most people think there is a Heaven, and very few people adamantly confess that they don’t believe there is. Then I ask:

“Okay. So what do you think Heaven is like? Nice? Peaceful? Beautiful?”

They usually agree. So I keep going:

“Can you imagine if we went to heaven, just like we are now? With all our problems? I have to be honest, I’ve been mean before—you know, I’m not perfect. Are you mean, or impatient, or do you make people feel bad sometimes?”

They usually agree.

“Me too!” I’m a stinker sometimes. I want my way, and I’ve been pushy. Has anyone ever been mean, or overbearing, or rude to you before?”

They say yes.

“So you see that we CAN’T take all this junk with us to Heaven. It wouldn’t be peaceful. It would still be scary, and uncertain—we’d have the same problems up there as down here. That wouldn’t be Heaven, would it?”

They agree. Then I explain that this is why Jesus came and died to pay for our sins. I say:

“You see, Jesus was God, who loved us—loved you—so much that He wanted us in Heaven with Him. But all our junk and bad behavior couldn’t go up to Heaven where it is perfect, and full of peace. So God came down as Jesus, laid down His life, and rose to life again so He could pay for US breaking God’s laws.

“We’re like kids playing in the mud, too dirty to come into the clean house. But Daddy wants us to come home, so He left Heaven to come get us, and He washes us off so we can come in. He did that for all of us. We just have to believe, and accept His offer.”

I don’t know how far your conversation will go. Just know that God allows people to hurt so that their hearts will be tender toward Him. And when people are hurting, you have the answers—you have the love. You just need to have the right questions ready.

God will guide the rest.

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