On Friday, a 13-year old 8th grader, we’ll call him John, was at a retreat with his “Christian” school, even though he wasn’t one. He came to the retreat from a broken home, his dad having moved halfway across the world, back to his family’s home country.
In the middle of the retreat’s last session, the speaker, with no emotional pleading, spoke frankly to the kids: “If you know you don’t have a relationship with God, but you would like to begin one, raise your hand.” John summoned up the courage to raise his hand, and even more courage to walk to the back of the room to talk about all of this with an adult.
I left the back of the room with John and two other boys and walked down to the nearby lake. I then had the privilege of telling the beautiful story of the gospel in a way these middle-schoolers could understand:
“Guys, I am so glad you want to begin a relationship with God. I was eleven years old when I made the decision to follow Christ, and it was the most important decision I have ever made. You have have heard this story before – I had it heard it many times before the day I believed it – but let me share this story again with you . . .
God has created everything you see – including this lake, the annoying mosquitoes that have been attacking us, and each one of you. He wants to have a relationship with you, but I bet you guys know some things you have done that have messed that relationship up.”
“Back-talking to my parents” . . . “not always telling the truth” . . . “not spending enough time with God” were their answers.
“You know, guys, each one of those things reveals alot about our heart – that we are not in the kind of relationship with God that we need to be. But God wants to be in a relationship with us, so He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to live the perfect life that we should have lived. You guys have heard that even though he was perfect, Jesus was rejected, even crucified on a cross.
The amazing thing is that Jesus got what we deserved to get. And if we believe that Jesus lived a perfect life and died on the cross for our sins, we get what Jesus deserved – a relationship with God.
(Pointing to the volleyball court we were standing next to) – it would be like you, Ryan, training for the Olympic volleyball team – working really hard and making the team. And then at the last moment, you let John go the Olympics instead. John didn’t deserve to go – he hadn’t practiced, he didn’t work hard, but he got what you deserved because you gave it to him. That’s how it is with us and Jesus. He earned what God wanted from us, a real relationship. And yet if we believe in His life and death and resurrection, we get what he earned.”
After encouraging them talk to God by themselves, and then leading them in a prayer, all three of the boys seemed to genuinely decide to follow Jesus Christ. I asked them to tell me what they were thinking, and John said, “I think I can finally be the person I am supposed to be.”
Later that night, John emailed me the title of this post: “Thank you for helping me become saved today.”
I share this story with you for two reasons. First, every one of you who has prayed a prayer, given a dollar, or supported us in any way is part of John’s life-changing experience. I hope that makes you smile.
I’ll share the second reason in my next post.
If you haven’t visited the blog for awhile, you may want to check out the new pages. The “pray” and “give” pages have also been updated.