Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Barriers to the Gospel

You are the light of the world. Matt 5:14

When I first committed to share Christ with my patients, I made plenty of mistakes. I began to see the importance of seeking to know God’s unique approach for each patient.

I realized that I did not know what God was doing in each patient’s heart, but he did. And he was willing to empower my feeble efforts. Sometimes this meant simply caring for the physical needs, providing encouragement and raising a faith flag in hopes it would fall on fertile soil. Sometimes this meant showing kindness and establishing a basis for future spiritual conversations. Occasionally, it meant being able to recognize the root of a spiritual problem quickly and attend to a hurting heart.

God knew each need and how I was to be part of his plan. I needed only to follow. With each patient we should pray, “God, teach me what to say.” Such earnest prayer results in the Great Physician being in charge.
–Gene Rudd, M.D.

Each person we meet is unique in personality and unique in past experience with God. These life encounters and experiences often build barriers between people and the God who loves them; barriers that they must penetrate before they see God clearly and hand their life over to him.

The first barriers are emotional. Many non-believers in our culture have negative attitudes toward the gospel, the Bible and Christians. This is often manifested as 1) denial, 2) indifference, 3) fear/mistrust or 4) antagonism. These attitudes may result from bad experiences with hypercritical/judgmental Christians, those who lack integrity, or those whose message and lives are irrelevant. The first step for individuals with these emotional barriers is not a sermon; it is a person who cares for them.

The next barriers that non-believers must overcome to accept Christ are intellectual. People often have misunderstandings about God and his invitation through Jesus Christ. They may also want answers to some of life’s perplexing problems. As Christians we can help them overcome these barriers by challenging them with the truths of God’s Word – challenging them to consider the life and teaching of Christ. Sadly, most of us are not prepared to do this. It is even intimidating to many theologians. But the key is not having all the answers; the key is being willing to seek answers, sometimes together with the one who is asking.

The final barriers to hurdle are volitional. For many, the biggest issue is giving up control of their lives. Within each of us is a measure of pride and independence that is not easily given over to God. There is inertia and there are social pressures, each trying to deter a life change. This is where our persuasion, prayer, and the power of Holy Spirit are needed.

Underlying each of these obstacles (emotional, intellectual, and volitional) are spiritual barriers. Coexistent with each person’s consideration of Christ is an intense spiritual warfare. Satan does not let go easily. People without Christ are spiritually dead. Satan wants them to stay that way.

Faced with such a challenge, it is important for us to remember that our success in witnessing is not determined by the outcome; our success is determined by our participation. Only God can raise the dead. We, as God’s representatives in the world, do not have that power. But God, in his infinite wisdom, has chosen a plan of redemption that grants us the privilege of participation – of being on his team. We do not control the outcome, but we do control our willingness and availability for service.

As doctors, we have an awesome opportunity to be used by God for an eternal difference. Most non-believers in our culture will never darken the door of a church, read a gospel tract, or listen to a sermon on the radio, but they will get sick and have need of a doctor. God has put you right in the path of those who need his healing. We should anticipate that each patient is a divine appointment.

Dear God,
Help me to see each visit with a patient and each encounter with a colleague as a divine appointment. Live through me with the right words and right action so that the barriers between them and you are shattered and they may come to know your grace. Amen

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