|A37 : by Steve Lewis |
First of all, you should be commended for witnessing to your friend. You are doing God's work by clearly presenting the good news of all that Jesus did for us on the cross, and why we so desperately need it! As one of God's laborers, you should have the same attitude that the apostle Paul described in 1 Cor 3:5-7. You are a servant who is a channel through whom God works. Paul used an analogy from farming where one person plants the seed, another brings water, and others tend the soil. Just like with farming, it often takes lots of time, labor, and preparation ("pre-evangelism" in the life of an unbeliever in order to produce the final outcome. And, as Paul said, "Neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but God who causes the growth." We must always remember that salvation is God's work, and we should entrust the salvation of our friends to God's sovereign timing and leading in their lives.
You should never feel like a failure after witnessing, but you should always consider it a success any time you can share the gospel! You have accomplished some necessary planting or watering in preparation for reaping in the future. How long is the opportunity there? As long as your friend lives there is hope that he may yet respond to the gospel. God is faithful, and when He calls someone into fellowship with His Son, He will accomplish it (1 Cor 1:9).
When your friend says, "I'm not ready now," this is a very common excuse that unbelievers give. They usually hope it will end the conversation, but one thing you might consider doing is simply asking, "WHY?" Often what people say in response to that simple question will sound pretty silly or insignificant (even to them). If they come up with some other excuse, like "I need to wait until I talk to my father," you can simply ask "WHY?" A series of "Why" questions can often get to the heart of the matter. And at some point you could say, "Are you going to let THAT get between you and a relationship with God?" If they are not willing to let something derail their relationship with God, then you can lead them to put their trust in what Jesus Christ has accomplished for them. If they are unwilling to trust in Christ at that time, then you can thank them for the opportunity to talk with them and ask their permission to check in with them later.
I once heard of a pastor who clearly presented the gospel message, and after the service one man he talked to said he wasn't yet ready to put his faith in Christ. The pastor said, "You heard God's message. If you were to die tonight, where will you spend eternity?" The man said, "Hell." The pastor just shook the man's hand and said, "Have a nice day." It didn't take long before that man was back in the pastor's study to put his trust in the Lord. The truth of his eternal destiny had become real to him, and he knew he couldn't wait any longer to ensure his salvation. Each of us needs to be faithful to plant the Word of God and water and nurture it in the lives of our friends — and we can trust in God's perfect timing for the result!