This devotional was originally published on May 10, 2013
Penn Jillette, of the unconventional illusionist duo of Penn and Teller, is an outspoken atheist. In an episode of his web series, Penn Says, he described an encounter he had with a Christian man who gave him a pocket-sized version of the New Testament and Book of Psalms after a show in Las Vegas:
“The man handed me the book, looked me in the eye and said, ‘I’m kind of proselytizing.’ It was really wonderful. I believe the man knew I was an atheist, but he was not defensive. He was truly complimentary, kind, nice, sane. And he looked me in the eye!… I’ve always said, how much do you have to hate someone to believe that everlasting life is possible and not tell people that because it would make it socially awkward?”
Even as an atheist, Jillette mentally acknowledges the gravity and importance of the Gospel message, and the love that motivates some Christians to share it with others. He witnessed first-hand an authentic messenger of the Gospel speaking confidently in a spirit of love. Even Jillette, who does not believe in heaven or hell, recognizes that our love of others and belief in eternal life should compel the spreading of that message. And that is true even when it seems socially awkward.
One truth that Jillette cannot understand as an atheist is the supernatural, convicting power of the Holy Spirit.
“And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment”
— John 16:8
So, if we follow through on our conviction to share the Gospel message, the Holy Spirit can supernaturally perform the work of conviction in those with whom we share. Or he can begin the work of restoration. Or encourage them to stay the course in a tough situation. Or infuse them with hope during one of those gray seasons of life.
As Christians, many of us struggle to maintain the strong conviction to share our faith or reach out to those around us. Social mores, fear, inattentiveness, political correctness, self-absorption, myopia and judgmental attitudes are a few of the things that prevent us from sharing.
So how do we maintain our vigilant awareness of the people around us? How do we avoid missing an eternal opportunity or meeting an immediate need?
For me, the closer I am to the Lord, the more I am in tune with the needs of those around me. And the closer I am to the Lord, the more willing I am to open up to those same individuals.
So the lesson for me is this: stay close to God!
After all, the next person with whom I share could be the recipient of a mighty work of the Holy Spirit.
God, give me an opportunity to share your love with someone in need today. Help me to know when I encounter that person. When you show me that individual, help me to have the courage to share with them the love of Christ, and the message of hope and redemption. Amen.