Our grandson's on a mission to Asia today! Literally, retracing much of my first overseas ministry trip many years ago.
When he texted about his landing there, I had a flashback. Of the people at the gate.
As I emerged from customs, here was this sea of people, waving signs with people's names on them. Folks they were looking for. Family members. Limo passengers. Business associates. Best friends.
It seemed like everyone was waiting for someone. Hoping they would come through that gate.
Suddenly, my imagination took off. To an eternal arrivals gate.
People in heaven, waving signs, with the name of someone they loved on earth. Waiting, hoping they would come.
But I picture some people at heaven's gate, still waving their sign as the crowd begins to thin. Until, at last, there are no more people coming through the gate.
Years ago, I actually saw a scene like that in a flight lounge at Chicago's O'Hare Airport. A mother and her children were waiting for the hoped-for return of their soldier from overseas. After watching all the emotional welcoming hugs, they sadly turned away. I hoped he was on a later flight. But, at least for now, the one they loved wasn't coming.
So who will I look for at heaven's gate? What names might be on my welcome sign? And what if they don't ever come?
I ask Jesus, "Lord, where are they?"
What if He asks, "Did you tell them I died for them and rose again to get them here? Did you ever tell them how to get here?"
And I didn't. Just imagining it hurts.
So why don't we? I've asked audiences that question, and invariably I hear the same answer shouted out all over the room. "Fear!"
Even the bold Apostle Paul said, "I came to you in weakness - timid and trembling" (1 Corinthians 2:3). Amazing. But I guess I shouldn't be surprised. I understand those fears that keep us from obeying that Resurrection Day order from heaven to "go and tell" (Matthew 28:6).
Fear that they might not like me. That I might lose ground. That I might mess it up. That I might not know what to say.
Our fears, for the most part, have one thing in common. They're all about "me." What might happen to me if I tried to go in for the spiritual rescue. But, then, rescue is about them. If firefighters thought only about themselves, they would never go into that burning building. It's all about the people whose lives depend on them going in.
Thinking of my "sign at heaven's gate" picture, I find two questions from Scripture particularly haunting. "How can they believe in Him if they have never heard about Him?" And then the question that seems to point right at me: "And how can they hear about Him unless someone tells them?" (Romans 10:14).
I'm the Jesus person in their life. If not me, who? And given how fragile life is, if not now, when?
So how do I get past the fear that leaves me silent and them lost?
First, act based on the greater fear than what will happen to me if I tell them about Jesus. Be afraid of what may happen to them if I don't. The consequence for me is temporary. For them, eternal.
Second, remember that I'm just the glove, not the hand. A glove by itself just lies on the table. But with my hand in that glove, it has the power to pick up all kinds of things! God promised a tongue-tied Moses, "I will be with you as you speak, and I will instruct you in what to say" (Exodus 4:12) and an insecure Jeremiah,
"Look! I have put My words in your mouth" (Jeremiah 1:9).
When you step out with faith in Him and love for a lost person, God will put His hand in your personality and give you His words, His courage. It's not about what this glove can do. It's about what the hand can do with the glove.
One final fear-buster comes from the D-Day invasion in June 1944. As scared Allied soldiers stormed the beaches at Normandy, knowing there were landmines and enemy fire from the cliffs above, a correspondent made an observation that goes to the heart of my rescue fears. "Courage is not the absence of fear. It is the disregard of it."
That's it! The issue isn't, "Am I afraid to tell them about Jesus and what He did for them on the cross?" I may never get over that. But the eternal question is, "Will I let my fear stop me?"
Not if I want to see them at heaven's gate.