Monday, April 22, 2013

"I Dare You"...Life changing words

Back in those "thrilling days of yesteryear", when I was young and foolish, for whatever reason if someone dared me to do something I would find myself unable to resist.  Most of the time I wound up doing something stupid and either got in trouble or at the least very embarrassed by following through with a dare.  And of course, the reactions of others...either in amazement that I would take the dare, or hearing their laughs when I proved to be a bozo, was worth it to me.

But one of those dares was to do something life changing and although many think it foolish, it turned out to be one of the best dares I ever accepted.

I guess it was my junior year of high school.  For me it was a time when my heart was regularly being challenged to follow Jesus all the way, and because of God's grace my heart was receptive to the Spirit's nudging in my life.  None of it was because I was so spiritually-minded on my own.  That was definitely not the case.  On my own I was selfish, and were it not for the people God put around me - teenagers and the adults who shepherded us in our church - those years would have been spiritually fruitless for me.  I know that.

One of the adults God used to inspire and push me to take risks for God was a young soldier by the name of Ricky.  He was fifteen years my senior, and at a time in his life when God was molding him, too.  Ricky volunteered to serve the youth in our church, and while I don't remember any formal programming, he spent time discipling several of us.  His life was an example of service.

Sometime that year he taught a Sunday evening class for teenagers on how to share our faith.  We called it "soul winning" and "witnessing".  He gave us the Scriptures that specifically point men and women to their need for Jesus to become their Savior.  He talked about how to answer questions about the Bible and Christ and how to engage someone in conversation about eternity.  I highlighted those verses in my Bible.  I memorized them.  My head became full of what was needed should I ever be confronted with someone needing Jesus.

That's often what happens to us as believers.  We go to church and hear sermons.  Maybe we even take good notes and underscore verses in our Bibles.  When special classes are offered we take them, knowing that the info given will be beneficial to us in some way.  And like me as a junior in high school, we get loaded up with knowledge - good knowledge - that for whatever reason stays in our heads or on paper but fails to be applied in our lives.

The Apostle Paul predicted that in the last days churches would be full of people who were "always learning and never able to come to a knowledge of the truth."  That describes us when we soak it all in like a sponge but never get squeezed so that it comes out.  Sometimes it takes being dared to be squeezed like that.

One particular Sunday evening, as Ricky was wrapping up his lesson he looked at us and simply and bluntly said, "I dare you to go out witnessing with me".  I honestly wasn't concerned about how anyone else there responded, but the guy had hit my "dare" button, and I knew I was in.  I couldn't resist the dare.  So, I told him, "I'll go".

Over the next weeks those of us who took that dare met with Ricky in the evenings and went out to do what most would never consider doing.  We went to the city's parks and to the downtown streets at night and approached people "cold turkey", striking up a conversation with them that would lead to the big ask, "Would you like to know for sure that you'll go to heaven?".  And if they nodded or said "Yes", we would share our Scriptures and explain in a simple fashion how Jesus could become their Savior and give them eternal life.

Ricky's dare was used by God's Spirit to enable some teenaged kids in Southern California to become evangelists and apologists.  No doubt there will be men and women in heaven who listened to us talk about Jesus and then received His free gift of eternal life.  I remember a few who did so on street corners and sidewalks.  I don't remember their names, but God does, and He has their names written down.

I'm reminded about this chapter in my life because I just got word that Ricky passed away a few days ago.  We haven't seen one another for 40 years, although we have reconnected via Facebook.  I don't know if he ever realized how momentous that dare he issued was in my life and others.  But my hope is that when he stands before the Lord he'll hear those words, "Well done, Ricky", even if just for saying "I dare you".

How about you?  If you're a Christian who will be in heaven because you shared the Gospel?  I'm often reminded of the old Gospel song that asks, "Must I go and empty handed?  Must I meet my Savior so?  Not one soul with which to greet Him, must I empty handed go?".  Of course, the answer is "No".  All of us should have others with whom we've shared the Gospel, maybe through our own stories who then by faith turned to Christ.

So, to continue the legacy of the man who challenged me, I challenge you.  I dare you.  And my friend Ricky would be humbled to hear your story one day. 

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