In Isaiah 59:1 we read, “Surely the arm of the LORD is not too short to save, nor his ear too dull to hear.” The story of Dan, as told by Mercy Hill team member Carter Mundy, reminds us that this verse is most certainly true. This is the third and final story in a brief series on how we have already seen God at work. But we trust and believe that these stories represent only a small portion of what God will do in Greensboro through the ministry of Mercy Hill Church. We simply ask that you pray with us to this end.
How do you tell a story that began before the start of time? It’s wrapped up in God’s mysterious plan of grace and redemption for all of his creation. He offers hope to all. Yet, within the limits of human freedom and choice, only some respond. It’s a sad story when a person never does. But, it’s also a cause for great celebration when someone does respond; and that’s the case with our friend Dan.
My wife, Tamara, and I moved to Raleigh about three years ago now. We had no idea who we’d become friends with as we settled into new jobs. Tamara had to drive a little farther than she wanted to get to work, but she did for about a year. She worked with Dan. She has since switched locations, but it was just enough time to build a relationship with him. As their relationship started to grow in the workplace, Dan’s life became difficult at home. So, Tamara introduced me to Dan and invited him over for dinner. I often look back on that time and recognize that God was bringing us to Dan (or vice versa) so that we could be a part of extending to him Christ’s love. I’ve told Dan before that it must have been divinely inspired because, in all truthfulness, Dan and I really have nothing in common other than Tamara. But God was gracious in building our relationship.
Dan was really inquisitive about our faith in God, because it seemed to be well thought-out. He was never exposed to “religion” much as a child, and had questions. But, he also expressed surprise at our thoughtfulness on the matter. I kept telling Dan that the questions he was wrestling with about God, I had already wrestled with (and still wrestled with, in some cases). The first night he came over for dinner was the first night we shared the gospel with him—it was a little awkward because it came out of a discussion about hell. We could tell he wasn’t too keen on this idea, and for very personal reasons. But, he heard what we were saying and kept coming back as Tamara would invite him.
Over the next several months, we really pushed Dan to seek out some of the answers to his questions—questions like the veracity of the Bible. We also encouraged Dan to come to church and small group with us, and he did. He got to know some of our friends who really had an impact on him. He also seemed to be understanding the gospel. He really understood that our hope was in the grace of God through Christ, and nothing else. He also understood that we would change (at a heart level) because of the power of the gospel, doing better and better things for God because of a love for him, not out of duty or obligation. Our hopes for Dan’s salvation were high.
Then the time came for Tamara and I to stop going to small group and start meeting with the Mercy Hill team weekly. Dan didn’t really want to keep going to small group without us, and his church attendance became, at best, sporadic. My hopes turned into lament as I saw Dan’s progress toward God seemingly turn into regress. Our interactions with Dan became further and further apart. I would email or text him every once in a while to inquire about his life, as well as his interaction with God. He would confess not having really considered it too much, and I would express my doubts to Tamara about any hope of his conversion. But, little did I know, God’s Spirit was at work.
Finally, a month or two ago, we had Dan over for dinner with a couple whom Dan had gotten to know well in our small group, Tony and Tina Ross. We spent most of the evening enjoying each other’s company, and at some point we began talking about Jesus. Between the four of us, we really laid it all out for Dan. Our biggest concern was to express his ongoing rejection of God. God had pursued Dan for quite a while, and it was obvious. Dan knew he had to make the decision; either walk out the door having rejected God, or having surrendered to him. Through the power of the gospel, as the Spirit did his mysterious work in Dan’s heart, Dan surrendered. It was awesome. Watching this man’s heart change right before my eyes was a special moment. He asked how to approach God, and so our friend Tony prayed for Dan, then Tamara prayed for Dan. He said that after she finished praying, he felt almost compelled to pray, recognizing that it was what he needed to do. Dan approached God that night, for the first time, with a humbled heart.
Dan’s case was almost like a “text-book” example of God’s pursuit of sinners. God used his people to draw Dan in various ways, including personal interaction and gospel declaration, but also through much prayer. He used individuals, as well as the witness of the church. He used Dan’s circumstances to awaken a longing for something more than mere happiness or frivolity. He gave Dan the opportunity to seriously consider the implications of the Christian faith and life—Dan counted the cost of being a disciple. And finally, God saved Dan. The process took quite a while, but it was worth every moment of my own frustration. God was not frustrated, nor was he surprised. He began Dan’s story and he will finish it.