Nigel drove toward church, knowing he was probably too late for the fellowship dinner that preceded the weekly bible study at his church. As he pulled into the parking lot, he sighed and his stomach rumbled. He knew that he'd definitely missed the meal when he spied Tom having his usual after-dinner cigarette at the back corner of the lot. He knew Mary and the kids would have eaten already anyway so, on impulse, he strolled over to talk to Tom instead of heading straight inside. Nigel prayed as he approached the man, “Father, I thank you for the abundant mercies you shower upon us in Christ. They truly are ‘new every morning’. Lord, I humbly ask that you would direct my conversations tonight, and that you would use me as I speak with Tom. I pray that your name would be praised, Christ would be exalted, and your Gospel would be embraced. Help me, Lord to be your ambassador”.
Nigel had a good bit in common with Tom. They usually had interesting and stimulating conversations during church gatherings and occasional friendly competition on the golf course. Tom and Nigel were both engineers and had even graduated from the same college – although some years apart. However, while he enjoyed their friendship, Nigel always felt that Tom was a bit guarded around him. Even though they had long been members of the same church, it seemed that when their conversations came around to faith, Tom would typically remain somewhat distant and abstract.
Coming up to Tom, Nigel gave the man a warm handshake. “How’s it going, buddy? Did you enjoy the meal tonight?”
Responding in a somewhat distracted manner, Tom commented, “Oh, yeah, it was fine, if you like fried chicken…”
“Oh wow, I do like fried chicken! I’m sorry that I missed it – I played in a soccer game with my brother’s team after work today, and it went a bit longer than I thought it would,” said Nigel. He noticed, as he was speaking, that Tom looked a bit distracted and distant, and he added, “By the way, Tom, how’s work going for you lately?”
Tom briefly hesitated, and then, with a shallow sigh of resignation, he responded “Well, actually, I found out today that I have been caught up in the nasty business of “corporate downsizing. I’ve been laid-off.” Nigel was stunned. Tom had an excellent reputation, and was well respected as a very good engineer.
“I’m really sorry Tom!” Nigel’s heart ached for the other man as he gently probed for more information, “Did they give you any kind of notice? Will they at least keep you on until the Whitestone project is finished?”
“Well, no. Actually, they plan to have the office in Lansford finish the design work. They say it just makes more sense from a ‘bottom-line’ point of view to thin out the office here.” Tom answered. “But I am grateful for the fact that they did, at least, offer a small severance package. It should be enough to hold us over until I can find another position.” Nigel could see Tom trying to be optimistic, without much success. His next words were more vulnerable. “It’s so frustrating, Nigel! This lay-off couldn’t have come at a worse time. Sometimes I really wonder why God would allow this! If God really loves us, like you’re always talking about, then why does this kind of thing happen?”
Nigel searched for the right words to say.
“Tom, the fact is that God truly does love us. But sometimes we get caught up in thinking that His loving us means that we shouldn’t have any pain or loss or trials or problems.” Nigel hesitated, searching for some common ground with the hurting man. The last thing Tom needed right now was someone preaching at him with a simplistic and unthoughtful answer to his problems.
“It’s an easy temptation to fall into – we’re all prone to think that we know what’s best for ourselves, and to suspect that God doesn’t love us if things don’t work out like we expect,” Nigel said. “But of course, you know there are lots of times when we simply can’t see what God is doing. Do you remember when your old company, Davis, Barnes and Dowling, went out of business? After you landed your new job, you told me that losing your old position was the best thing that could have happened! Tom, the point is that God is continually working things out for the best even when they seem the worst.”
Tom was looking off into the distance while contemplating the truth Nigel offered to him. “Yeah, I guess you’re right, Nigel. I guess this is just part of living in this fallen world – like you’ve told me before. But it’s still hard to deal with.”
“Yeah,” Nigel agreed. “But we’ve gotta remember what Jesus said; ‘In this world you will surely have trouble, but do not fear for I have overcome the world…’”
Tom thought for a moment, then said, “I know, but sometimes I just wish God would make things clear, that He would give us the answers - that there wouldn’t be so many unresolved questions and conflicts.”
“Tom, I know that this might sound strange, but I wonder if there’s some good in the struggle you’re having with this. It seems that God may be working in your life, calling you to question much of what you had always accepted as truth. I know how difficult this can be – when everything you believed to be important and true suddenly becomes questioned and those things that seemed unimportant, like God and His word become the most critical. It may seem like your world is being turned upside down – and in a way, it actually is.”
Tom slowly turned to Nigel with a questioning look. “Did you go through these kinds of thoughts and questions too?”
“I believe that we all do at some point.” Nigel confessed.
Both men leaned back against Tom’s van and didn’t speak for several moments, dwelling on their discussion. Finally, Nigel said, “Hey, it’s getting late. Our wives are going to begin to wonder where in the world we are. Let’s go in and see if there’s anything left for dessert. Okay?”
“Sure Nigel – that’s fine, let’s go, said Tom. “But, I was wondering; if you have any spare time later this week, could we possibly grab some lunch? I’d like to get your thoughts on Innovative Design – that company over on Baxter Boulevard. They recently advertised for a senior engineer, and I thought I’d go over and see them. Didn’t your firm consult with them on several large projects last year?”
“We sure did Tom. I’d be glad to fill you in on their growth and planning objectives. How about lunch this Friday?”
“Sure, Friday would be great. And, if you have time, I’d also really like to continue this conversation about what in the world God might be doing, too.”
Nigel and Tom turned and walked toward the church building - they heard laughing and talking as they turned to enter. Nigel smiled as he walked silently beside the other man and prayed.
“Lord, thank you. You are abundantly loving and merciful – beyond measure and imagination. Your gospel is good news and you’ve shown me many opportunities to share bits of it today. Help me to continue to be hungry for Your Word and show me the ways I can grow in learning to communicate it clearly in whatever situations I find myself in. Help me especially to be Your ambassador as I rejoin my family tonight. I thank you in Jesus’ name, for all the ways you’ve blessed me this day. Amen.”
I hope you enjoyed following along with Nigel in this encounter with people that may be similar to the people that we all know with similar attitudes towards the gospel and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
If you have a story of how you have been an "Ambassador for Christ" send me an email, I would be interested in hearing your story. > firstname.lastname@example.org<
Grace and Peace,