I can honestly say that I was filled with fear when I read, “The punishment for not growing the Kingdom is abandonment by the Master… This is a parable meant to stop us in our tracks and consider the goal of the Master: growth. That is the only result rewarded” in chapter 4 of Stewardship in Fasting & Stewardship today. My throat clenched and my mind whirled into motion, thinking back to a time when I tried to evangelize and ended somewhere on the opposite side of growth.
Learning from My Mistakes
When I was in high school I became really close friends with a girl who was an unpracticed Christian. I felt called to minister to her and encouraged her to come to church and small group with me. I was so excited when she agreed to come with me and starting attending on a weekly basis. Our friendship flourished and we talked about God more and more often. The path that she was going down was so promising for a rededication of her life and I was thrilled to have been the bridge between her and God.
Unfortunately, during a stressful period of our friendship she said some things about God that got me really angry. I yelled back at her, saying very hurtful and close-minded things. I knew immediately after saying them that I had made a huge mistake, but it was too late. No matter how many times I profusely apologized and tried to reconcile with her, she tuned me out. Our friendship disintegrated and she stopped coming to church with me.
How Can I Move On After Messing Up?
Ever since, I have felt hesitant to evangelize. I have thoughts like, “What if I screw up again? I’m scared that I’m going to be the cause of someone turning away from God. I am totally unworthy of being an evangelist because I hurt someone.”
Recently I told a friend the story of my high school misstep. Instead of berating me, he just shook his head, smiled encouragingly at me, and said, “You shouldn’t feel so regretful about that. It’s okay that you made a mistake. Everyone says hurtful things. Just because she stopped going to church back then doesn’t mean that she’ll turn away from God forever. You planted a seed, and one day it could still grow into a true love for Christ. Not only that, but you definitely learned what not to do!”
It’s Not Too Late – God Uses Us Despite Ourselves
I was shocked hearing this. For so long I blamed myself for leading someone away from God permanently. But his words reminded me that evangelism is so much more than a one-person show. It can take some people years and many interactions with Christians before they turn to Christ. It’s actually selfish and utterly wrong for me to believe that I could be the sole reason stopping someone from coming to God. He is so much bigger than me and will find the friend I hurt, continuing to love and pursue her.
This realization is why, after I read the quote in Fasting & Stewardship, I shook that fear off as best I could and tried to remember that my mistake with my friend was still a step toward growth. Even though the situation soured and didn’t end the way I had hoped, the fact that I put myself out there and, most importantly, learned from my mistakes is what matters. God doesn’t need us to be perfect in order for him to use us. The fact of the matter is that we are actually used by God in spite of our tendency toward sin and our missteps. How cool is that: God can use our fallen hearts, minds, and bodies to reach other fallen people and actually turn them toward him!
All this to say:
Don’t Rule Yourself Out of the Game
We all make mistakes. We all will make mistakes. The beauty of this is that God will always, always come after us, mop up the mess, and finish the job with grace, love, and abundance.
Remember that growing and helping others grow is what God loves to see and what will make him jump for joy. But don’t let that breathe down your neck and trip you up. Think of that as a backup safety net. God wants me to evangelize, even though he knows that I’m probably going to screw some things up. He will help me and give me the wisdom to do everything to the best of my ability.
If we earnestly, whole-heartedly, and lovingly do our best—learning from our mistakes and always pushing ourselves to be more Christ-like—we are pleasing God and stewarding his Kingdom well.