Those who live their faith and shine their light are not alone. God is filling the world with believers and it is my frequent pleasure to connect with others. In the last few weeks, the Follow Illustrated project has made some friends around the world. Today, my new friend Julian from Adelaide, Australia is our guest author. Julian grew up in a Christian home but never truly gave his heart to the Lord until his late twenties. Since that time, however, he has zealously sought the truth of God's Word, and has a real burden to share the knowledge of God with others. Julian has been blessed with the opportunity of preparing and leading a number of small group Bible studies over the years, and has been shining his light in this world through various internet platforms, including his "100 Answers in 100 Days" blog project. Please check out and share 100 Answers.
A number of years ago now, my pastor forwarded me an email from a certain atheist gentleman who had written to him, expressing his offense over certain Christian teachings. As I read the email, I really felt as though this was written not by someone who didn’t believe in God at all, but rather by someone who believed in God and hated Him. What I read, as this man cursed the “inhumanity of God”, was the writing of a man who simply didn’t understand both the justice of God and the abounding love and mercy of God. I felt compassion for hm, and wished that I could answer him. But not by email - the man had not written to me, after all. However, the email mentioned that he was a member of a certain atheist organization, and a frequent contributor to their online forum. And so began the idea to visit that forum and share my faith with whoever would care to listen.
When this happened I had been a Christian for just two years. As much as I wanted to visit that forum, there was much trepidation to overcome. Who was I to speak to an organization of atheists!? Surely I didn’t know my Bible well enough for that. To me, this was only something that the “Lane Craig’s” of the world do. But as I thought about what I would say in my introductory post, I felt confident that it would at least speak to anyone who thought as that fellow who wrote to us did. And so I took a step out in faith. I logged into the forum ready to speak with people who I expected would be hostile towards me, and I was prepared never to answer back spitefully. And I went not as someone who had all the answers, but as someone who trusted that God did, and that He would help me.
When I posted my introduction on the Justice and Mercy of God, I received something like twenty responses in the first hour. And so began a week-long conversation between myself and probably 15 or so men, (though none of them were the gentleman who had written to my pastor). Many of them mocked me, as expected, but I never spoke down to any of them. Yet others, I could tell, had genuine questions they were (perhaps secretly) desperate to have answered. And so I patiently answered them in turn; there were more questions than I could handle. Many of the questions had me completely stumped, but one thing I never did was copy and paste some Googled response. I would simply go away and think about it for a while; and then I would return with great joy as I shared what I still consider to be some very insightful answers to the problems they raised. God was at work - He had the answers, and I was learning as much that week as many of these guys were!
During that week, some of those guys’ comments brought tears to my eyes as I could see their struggles against God being broken down. I left there well respected by most of them. We hear of “militant atheism” and many of these guys would have fallen into that category. My own pastor had advised me not to go there lest I become the target of persecution! I find that so tragic. But the Lord gave me so much love for them that it overcame my fear of them, and as I reached out to them I realized that so many of them really do just want to understand. They are like “sheep without a shepherd”. And what I learned that week was that God could use even me, a two year old Christian, to be that shepherd.
When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, "The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest." (Matthew 9:36-38)
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