Later, as Nigel was wrapping up the last of his work, he found himself still marveling at the day's events. He thanked God for giving him these opportunities to be a vehicle of the gospel; especially with people he would have otherwise thought impossible to talk to about God. That phrase from II Corinthians had been going through his head all day: God making his appeal through us... "Incredible!" Nigel thought.
Straightening the last stack of papers on his desk, Nigel decided to give Mary a call before heading out for the day. He told her excitedly about how he'd ended up talking to Larry more about God and the Bible than he probably ever would have been able to if he'd just pushed for his "right" to hold a Bible study. He told her about the incredible lunchtime conversation with Sam and asked her to pray that both men would ask more questions, and that God would continue to open their hearts.
"Don't hurt yourself, Nigel!" his wife teased him, when he told her he had to get going to meet his brother Karl at the Sports Zone. Tonight was the first game he'd play with Karl's soccer team, and though he was happy he'd get to spend this time with his brother, he had to admit that he was a little apprehensive. It had been a long time since he'd played, and Mary's teasing warning was probably well worth taking to heart.
Driving to the soccer game, Nigel was delighted when he turned on his radio to find his favorite radio pastor preaching from the same II Corinthians passage he'd been reading that morning. He smiled and straightened his posture at the preacher's reminder that ambassadors carry the message of a king: that we carry the message of the King of Kings. "Incredible!" Nigel found himself thinking for the second time in less than an hour. Shaking his head, he said out loud, "Ambassador of the king – the King of Kings! Me! Incredible!"
He reached the Sports Zone and grabbed his soccer gear, feeling the apprehension again as he approached the sounds and smells of the other middle-aged men who were already working out on the soccer field: men drenched in sweat, heaving and gasping for air. He knew that very soon he'd be gasping himself.
"Here he is!" Nigel heard Karl's voice as he approached the other players. Karl introduced him and Nigel felt immediately more comfortable in the presence of his brother. While he was lacing up he cleats, he made small talk with Karl about their kids and families and remembered what a blessing it was to spend time with his older brother. He just wished that of all the things they shared in common, salvation were one of them. He wasn't sure about Karl's faith and it made his heart ache.
Karl's best friend Travis was starting in the game that day and came over to the bench. "Hey, Nigel! Great to see you! You can be my sub since we play a lot alike."
"Sound's great to me," said Nigel. He liked Travis and had known him for years. "But, hey, Travis, I forgot to ask: what's the name of this team?"
"The Fighting Llamas," said Travis with a grin that acknowledged that it was a ridiculous name for a men's soccer team.
The team won and Nigel enthusiastically congratulated his big brother for scoring the winning goal, even as he wondered just how sore his own calves were going to be in the morning, and what on earth he'd gotten himself into....
When Travis invited the whole team to the bar for a celebratory beer, Nigel looked at his watch and said, "Yeah, I can hang out with you guys for a few minutes, but then I've gotta run to meet Mary and the kids at Bible Study." He saw the knowing look pass between his brother and Travis, and wasn't surprised at the next teasing comment from Travis.
"Heck, we gave up all that stuff when we grew up, didn't we Karl? When we graduated from high school, we figured the parents couldn't make us do all that 'churchy' stuff any more." Travis winced as his brother grinned and nodded.
"Of course, we still try to do the 'Christian thing' from time to time... you know, we try to get along with people, and everything…" Karl chimed in, and Nigel's heart sank all the more to hear his brother equate being a "nice guy" with being a Christian…
When the group got to the bar, Nigel tried to reopen the subject in a way that made some authentic connection with the men. "Hey, by the way, Travis," he said. "I noticed you handled that foul by Number 20 really well! When he apologized for knocking you down, you accepted his apology right away!"
"Shoot, I've been in his shoes in the past," said Travis. "I know what its like to receive threatening looks for something you didn't mean to do. I figure that we could all use a little forgiveness from time to time."
"That's remarkable, Travis, are you sure you aren't going to church?" Nigel said teasingly. "I admit that's a better attitude than I've seen from some Christians I know. What's keeping you from going to church, anyway?"
"Oh, you know," said Travis, "I figure there can't really be a God with all the evil junk that goes on in this world. I just gotta do my best to try to do some good where I can, but I don't need a church to tell me that." Nigel could see Karl out of the corner of his eye. He was obviously listening intently as he fidgeted with his beer mug. He'd told Nigel in the past to lay off the "religious talk," but he didn't seem particularly offended right now as far as Nigel could tell.
"You're right, Travis," Nigel said. "There is a lot of evil in this world. But that's exactly why God had to send His Son." He saw Karl role his eyes, but he continued. "You actually made a good case for the existence of God, Karl."
"How so?" asked Travis.
"Well," said Nigel, "You indicated that there is 'evil' in the world. In order to objectively declare something to be evil, you also need to be able to know when something is 'not evil' or 'good.' I believe that sense of what's good and evil can only come from a good and moral God, who's made us to recognize such things."
Travis seemed to think about this for a bit, and then said, "Well, I have to admit I've never really thought about why I think there's such thing as good and evil."
Nigel decided to go a bit further.
"You know why I actually love to do the 'churchy' thing, Travis?" he said. "It's because I believe that the only way a truly good God could keep from wiping us out, would be to do what the Bible says He did. He gave his Son to live the perfectly good life that we couldn't live and die for our sins as a sacrifice we couldn't even begin to offer. The Bible says that 'He made Him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.' That's what Grace is. When we trust God's goodness, and count on what He's done for us in Christ, instead of counting on the 'good' things we think we can do; we get the heaven we don't deserve and mercy that keeps us from the wrath we do deserve! I actually like doing the churchy things because, well, I guess because I'm just grateful…"
Nigel let his voice trail off and looked at Travis and Karl. They were clearly thinking, and he breathed a sigh of relief that they seemed to have actually been listening and hearing.
Glancing at his watch, Nigel stood up to go, but thought maybe it was worth a try to say: "You're welcome to join me, tonight, you know."
Karl spoke up, "I think I'm going to head on home. Tomorrow’s a busy day."
Nigel wasn't really surprised that his invitation to the Bible Study wasn't accepted. He was simply grateful that, once again God had given him an opportunity to speak to others about Him. He prayed, as he got in his car, for more opportunities with both Travis and Karl.
He didn't know the opportunity might come so soon. When he was just a few miles down the road, his phone rang and, to his surprise, it was Karl on the other end.
"I've been thinking about what you and Travis were talking about back there," his brother said. "Would it be OK if I met up with you at your church after all?"
"Of course, Karl." said Nigel, trying to keep his emotions under control. He could feel the tears starting to well up as he said "I'll meet you there in just a bit. Mary and the kids will be so glad to see you, too!"
"Incredible!" he said out loud, after he'd hung up the phone. "God making his appeal through us… Incredible!! Thank you, God, for allowing me to be an ambassador – to my own brother!"