That phrase may sound a little cliché, but that’s the only way to describe what God did this week. You have to hear this story…
On Thursday, I was supposed to meet a friend at Waffle House for breakfast before he left town. I showed up right on time and stood around waiting for him to come. The only seat in the whole place was at the bar, so I finally sat down and figured I’d save a seat for my friend, Jason, once he showed up. 10 minutes went by, 15, 20 – he never showed. I started to think of all the things I needed to do and almost got up to leave. However, I noticed the guy sitting next to me wasn’t eating, and I was hungry, so I thought I’d buy him breakfast and see if I could share the Gospel with him. That’s exactly what I got to do! We ended up having a pretty intelligent conversation about religion, the Bible, and God for about 45 minutes as everyone around us pretended to not be listening. He sounded like an Agnostic who believed that if God existed, He hated him. He also believed that there is nothing after death (the very thing we’d be studying on Sunday at Awaken).
I invited him to church, but he didn’t sound like he could make it. He lives in a city that’s about 48 miles from Clarksville and was low on gas money as it was. I got his phone number and left, praying that somehow, God would arrange the circumstances to get him to church. I texted him on Saturday to see if he’d be able to make it, and he said he’d try but he didn’t know. Jenn and I kept praying that God would arrange all the circumstances to get Ryan to church on Sunday.
A group of us pray on Sunday mornings before church, and we specifically prayed for Ryan to be there. As I walked out of our prayer meeting, Ryan walked in the door! The Greeting Crew was on it! They had already introduced him to everyone, showed him around, and were bringing him to meet me. I shook his hand and told him I was amazed he had made it. He said, “I can’t explain it, but I shouldn’t have been able to make it here. Everything literally fell into place, and I had no reason not come!” I knew why that was. We grabbed a cup of coffee and he found a seat.
I watched him during worship – he hadn’t been to church in a long time and didn’t know any of the songs. I kept praying that God would speak to him through the teaching. Then it was my turn, so I went up to teach. It was week 2 of our series, Speak of the Devil, and we were studying Satan’s accusation of Job in Job 1-2. Many of the things we studied were the things Ryan and I had debated at the bar at Waffle House. One of the main points I was stressing was that one of Satan’s strategies is to make us believe he and hell are not real. If they’re not real then they’re not a threat.
At the end of my message, I gave an invitation to the Gospel. With everyone’s heads down, I asked people to raise their hands to respond to Jesus. At one point, Ryan looked up at me, we made eye contact, and his hand was the one hand that went up in the room! I waited another minute to see if there was anyone else, but Ryan was it. So I closed out in prayer and I asked him to come forward to publicly dedicate his life to the Lord. He was the only one that walked forward, tears streaming down his face. I couldn’t hold myself together. I broke down crying as I relayed his story to the church. There was barely a dry eye in the place! I led him in a prayer to receive Christ, and he cried through the whole thing.
I sat down with him after service in the prayer room and we talked about what is next for him. His hands were clasped so tight that his knuckles were white, and he was shaking all over. I prayed for him, and as I finished, a few people came into the room. At least 3 or 4 guys came in and gave him their phone numbers, offering their support. Another person, who had heard that he was low on gas money, gave him a $20 bill! THAT is the church! He was completely overwhelmed, and sat in the prayer room for a few minutes to just soak it all in.
It was amazing to hear a guy who used to doubt God’s existence share how he so evidently realized that God had orchestrated this event. We’ve seen quite a few people come forward to give their lives to Christ at Awaken, but these are one in a million. He was completely broken and overwhelmed as he experienced first-hand the love of Christ and the love of the Church!
It was no accident that Ryan and I ended up at Waffle House together on that Thursday. I was bummed out that I got stood up, but in reality, I didn’t get stood up at all – I was right on time for an appointment that God had set up for me. You never know how your boldness with the Gospel will impact someone’s life. There will be one more person in heaven because of what God set up at a bar at Waffle House in Clarksville, TN. Amazing.