Never Give Up

by Jeffrey W. Hamilton

He first contacted me because he was struggling with sexual sins. Conversations were not the greatest because English was his second language and I could not speak his. There was also a cultural gap because he only knew the Orthodox church and its teachings. It was also frustrating because he would say, "I know this" whenever I made a point. But I stuck with it.

It wasn't just his personal sins that were on his mind. We got talking about numerous topics, such as pride and ambition, whether a person should work on the Sabbath, ... and salvation. In about a month he wanted to be baptized, but the only congregation I could find was in the capital city of the country, which was far from him. I contacted them and found out that there was actually a small congregation in his town that had recently started. He contacted them, but he was facing pressure from people he knew in the Orthodox church as well. Two weeks later he was baptized.

Like many people, he was disappointed that baptism did not take away his desire to sin. He began to doubt if he had done the right thing. He was also facing a huge culture shock as worship in a small home church following the New Testament is very different from worship in a big Orthodox church. He would still visit the Orthodox church to pray when he was tempted, but the brethren there did not sound like they were very patient with him. They could not understand why he was not eager to make a complete break from Orthodoxy.

Then I got a note saying that he gave up. He went back to his old sins and said he didn't care. At least he was willing to talk and we discussed whether he could be forgiven after purposely sinning. He became hyper-concerned about doing everything exactly right and seeing potential sin in every action. It wasn't helping that those in the small church he attended were also relatively new Christians and were confused on points, such as confusing making signs of the cross with passages about miraculous signs. And he was still struggling with sin. And it was my fault.

He stopped talking to me for several months.

Then I had a note that he realized that repentance was more than being sorry for what he had done. That he actually had to change his attitude about sin. But it was still a struggle. He also got mad at the members of the church there because they were insisting that he break all ties with the Orthodox church. While he wasn't going to the worship services, he still liked going to the building to pray because it was peaceful there. He was so mad he decided to quit. Being a Christian was too hard in his mind. And it was my fault.

A month later he asked if he could turn back to Christ, so we talked about what he needed to do. But a week later he sent a fuming note that he gave up and was going back to his old ways. I really don't know what triggered it, but he blamed me.

However, over a month later, I got this note: "Hello, I just wanted to give you an UPDATE: I am doing GREAT! My mother was baptized, and she is a member of the church. I started evangelizing every Saturday with a preacher from your great USA, And, yes, in the past when I told you that this doesn't seem to work, I did NOT continue to sin. Just wanted to let you know. Still keeping you in my prayers."

His note was a wonderful start to another day. Persistence and a thick skin pay off.

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