Saturday, February 28, 2015

Sergio's Stand

We sat out on a dirt street of Masaya, Nicaragua. Sergio had relented to talk with me, but not inside his house. He squirmed back and forth in one of the white plastic chairs he’d carried from inside as I shared the Gospel. His wife, Marta, sat off to the side, quietly listening and watching her husband’s reaction to the Good News. What she witnessed, no one could’ve predicted. 

Sergio leaned forward in apparent interest as I explained to him man’s dilemma: that we’re all sinners and our sin has separated us from God...but God has provided the remedy. Through Jesus’ death on the Cross, we’ve been offered payment for our sin, an incredible gift if only we’d reach out and take it. Many that I’ve spoken with over the years acquiesce at that point, realizing that they indeed need forgiveness and salvation...but not Sergio.

His powerful shoulders thrust back in his chair, as his dark eyes turned skyward. Sergio’s nostrils flared slightly and the muscles in his jaws tightened, his teeth clenching stubbornly. I sensed this was a journey that Sergio had been on previously, perhaps many times, but had never completed.

I leaned forward to speak to him softly, hoping to cool the rage that was building inside the man. Just then, God gave me a thought...

“Sergio, I’m going to tell you something that I’ve told no one else in Nicaragua. I didn’t really want to come here. I wanted to stay home, but my wife prayed about this trip and told me she felt God was wanting me to come. Sergio, I believe God sent me to talk to you, that you’ve run from Him long enough.”

My gentle touch on back of his clenched fist was like a spark hitting a powder keg, and the fury he’d been holding back erupted. Sergio forcefully raised himself up, momentarily standing over me. Knocking back the chair, Sergio whirled about and stormed into his house without saying a word.

The distant squeals of children playing penetrated the awkward silence of the situation. Sergio retreated into the confines of his darkness, a silhouetted figure pacing back and forth like a caged animal. 

“Dear Lord, stay after him,” I whispered, as I sat watching a man under the conviction only the Holy Spirit can administer. 

“You have pricked his heart of stone, I believe,” Marta said of her husband. 

“No, not me, but I do believe God has...”

We sat a while longer. Occasionally, the pacing would cease, as Sergio glared out at me from his lair. Respecting the boundaries that he’d initially set, I resisted the urge to go in after him. After a few minutes more, I reluctantly said my goodbyes to Marta. It certainly wasn’t the ending I had desired for our visit.

I began a dejected trudge down that dusty road – so very close.

There was no reason to turn around, but I did. His thick forearms crossed in defiance, there stood Sergio in the middle of the street, gazing my direction. Our eyes locked briefly. I invited him with one hand to come forward. At that point, the head that had once been reared back in pride, slowly bowed in brokenness. As Sergio put one foot in front of the other, his shoulders slumped and he began sobbing in repentance. 

“You listened to your wife and came to Nicaragua to see me. I need to listen to mine, and come to God.”

Brushing away a tear or two of my own, Sergio’s words reminded me how prideful I had been by resisting God’s will about Nicaragua. We knelt together in the dirt as Sergio called upon the name of the Lord, and received his salvation.

Addressing the church on the last night of the crusade, I asked for a show of hands from those present who’d given their hearts to Jesus during the week. All over the room, hands shot upward, as God had moved mightily throughout the crusade...but one man stood up.

No, a mere raising of the hand was not enough for Sergio. He wanted to stand in front of his community as a new man, now overflowing with the pride of the Gospel within him.

“But God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ...”
Galatians 6:14