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Only God Can Change a Heart

When people claim to be saved and on fire for God, it's hard to see some of them crash.


by Kay Mathwig

My husband, Jake, is a mechanic, and he never knows what will pull into our driveway—Cadillac or logging truck, Volkswagen or bulldozer. The variety is as endless as the men and women who bring them. Sadly, many of these people are in worse disrepair than their vehicles. Yet they keep their malfunctioning parts locked inside, and they back away from close contact.

That's why this year was so exciting. Three unsaved men who brought their vehicles to Jake allowed him to introduce them to their Maker. First, there was Derek, a 47-year-old builder who came to install some trim in exchange for car repairs.

Although Jake was heading out on a service call when Derek arrived, he decided to leave his truck running to quickly greet Derek. Jake felt prompted to ask deeper questions when Derek admitted he "wasn't doing very well." As Jake's truck engine idled, Derek trusted Jesus as his Savior and both men wept. Then Derek hurried away to tell his wife and other close friends. Derek's enthusiasm for Bible reading was instantly turbo charged, and he began looking for ways to serve in the church. He discovered that he enjoys helping with the youth.

Next was Robert, a young man from the Indian reservation who kept returning to Jake's shop. He brought loads of firewood and eventually asked if he could become a paid handyman. Robert began expressing that he noticed something different about Jake—something he was missing in his own life.

After sharing some Scriptures with Robert one afternoon, Jake gave him a gospel tract. The next morning Robert returned beaming. "I did it, buddy … I'm saved!" Although Robert continues to be stalled by some tough life decisions and has trouble shifting out of some harmful gears, he seems to be slowly rolling in the right direction.

Something went wrong

Finally there was Jason, another part-time worker who won Jake's confidence with his efficiency. After helping Jake for several weeks, Jason came to work distraught because his girlfriend had left him. Jake instantly changed his plans for the day and treated Jason to a two-hour lunch, including a heartfelt presentation of the gospel.

Obviously moved, Jason chose to ask Christ to be his Savior. He immediately began attending a Bible study and asked thoughtful questions about spiritual things. Jake was elated. "After so many times of witnessing and getting no response, it's incredible for this to happen three times in a row," he said. "Thanks, Lord!"

But within months, something went terribly wrong. Jake's ashen face registered shock one morning. "My tools," he gasped. "The new die grinder and battery jumper box … they're gone!" I followed him back into his large shop, wondering if they'd somehow been misplaced. Jake pointed to a bare shelf by the phone and explained, "The phone cord was disconnected when the jumper box was yanked out."

"How did they break in?" I asked.

Jake's shoulders sagged. "He used his key," he sighed. "Yesterday, when he knew we were in church."

My thoughts whirled. "But—how do you know it was Jason?" I asked.

"I just know," Jake replied. "He's been slipping lately. First, he said he couldn't possibly maintain God's standards of purity in his dating relationships. Then, I had to send him home a couple of weeks ago because of his temper—he was cursing and throwing things. I also had him return my shop key, but he must have made a duplicate. He came back on Saturday to ask for money, so I loaned him some and took the opportunity to encourage him in his Christian walk."

Jake shook his head. "His ideas are totally confused! He now says that instead of believing the gospel, he thinks God has a three-strikes-and-you're-out plan. He claims that people see a welcoming light at the end of a tunnel when they die, and then they're given a couple of more chances to clean their act up."

We were forced to conclude that Jason's original profession of faith could not have been genuine. What had seemed to be a smoothly running engine was really cold and dead. Jake had labored to help Jason, giving time, concern, and prayers, and he was hurt. His shattered trust was a harder blow than the stolen tools.

I was also disappointed. When people claim to be saved and on fire for God, it's hard to see some of them crash before the test drive is through. And then, sometimes others whose start is shaky surprisingly stay on track and go the distance.

Out of our control

We are reminded in the parable of the sower (Matthew 13) that we have the privilege of planting the seeds of God's Word, but the outcome is out of our control. Vehicles are easier to diagnose and repair than the human heart.

Thankfully, God is the One who actually regenerates each soul. Time helps reveal evidence of this supernatural work, and as we wait, we can trust these words from Paul: "I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase" (1 Corinthians 3:6).

Eventually, Jason turned up to apologize for stealing the tools. Jake still hopes that this young man will someday realize his need for the Savior.

Copyright 2013 by FamilyLife.  All rights reserved.

FamilyLife is a donor-supported ministry offering practical and biblical resources and events to help you build a godly marriage and family.


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