Most of us have a good idea what a ‘nudge’ is to our inner man, our spirit. It may be doing something as routine as taking a walk when we feel a ‘nudge’ to look a little closer at a plant or a tree. When we do we something of the intricacies of God’s created beauty that we would have past by had we not taken that moment.
I had one of those unique experiences this past weekend. Having had the privilege of preaching at the three services at North Way Wexford, I spent a substantial amount of time in preparation. When it came to describing a few of the qualities of a healthy small group community, my second word came right out of Ephesians 2:8-9. It’s the word grace… which is abundantly present especially in the New Testament scriptures.
In those verses in Ephesians it refers to our relationship with God through His Son Jesus and how it all comes as a result of undeserved or unmerited favor, not works, but faith and even that comes from God so that there’s no room to boast.
There’s so much to unpack in reference to that word in our relationship with God that I didn’t think much more about it. I went on to try to describe how grace works at the horizontal level, that is in our relationships one to another especially in a small group.
I wrote down my thoughts and added another scripture and a brief illustration. As I was about to move on to the next point I had a nudge, a very distinct impression from the Lord that was something like this, “There will be people present this weekend who do not understand grace in the vertical sense of receiving My love and forgiveness.”
When a nudge takes place there is always a moment of decision as to how seriously we’re going to take it. At times, other circumstances may prevent us from acting on that prompting in the way we would like and other times it simply won’t be ignored.
I finished the message and then went back and simply thought about what God might be saying to me regarding the word grace and the people that would be present at these services. It didn’t take me a very long time to realize that the only reasonable response to that nudge would be to somehow take time to explain that a true relationship with God is not established through works or behavior or any other things that we tend to associate with religion. Rather it’s a free gift that has to be received with a humble and open heart.
This prompting stayed with me the last day or two before our Saturday evening service. As the worship team and all the folks that helped to bring the service to life met to pray, I shared with our worship leader that I wanted us to be prepared for me to give an invitation at the close of the message should the Lord confirm that as I preached.
This next acknowledgement is difficult. By the close of the message on Saturday evening I had gone slightly over the allotted time and somehow felt like I needed to close the service. I did so without an invitation. The Sunday morning service at 9:15 a.m. was very engaged and responsive and though I was prepared to close with the invitation, something circumstantial prevented me from doing so and I realize that I had missed two opportunities. (It’s at times like this you begin to wonder if it really was a nudge from the Lord or just something that was in your own mind.)
At the close of the 11:00 a.m. service I was very aware that the Lord was reminding me of how specific He was when He said, “There will be people here who do not understand how grace works in relationship to me.” At the end of the message at the 11:00 a.m. service I simply transitioned into a two or three minute explanation of the difference between religion and relationship and how grace is the only way that we can be sure that we’ve received forgiveness of sin and the hope of eternal life through the sacrifice of Jesus.
And though it had been many, many months since I gave an invitation, I knew in my heart that people had responded and though the lighting was extremely bright and I’m not sure I could see every person who lifted a hand and looked to the platform, I know that I acknowledged six specific people and had at least two more who came up after the service and told me that they had prayed.
Many years of doing invitations has taught me that for every person that I acknowledge at least two others have prayed but I didn’t see them or they weren’t ready to take that step quite yet.
In any event, it’s not really the number of people that responded, it’s the fact that some did and it’s only because of a nudge that I even gave the opportunity for people to pray. Needless to say, I look back on that time with a sense of profound thankfulness at the goodness of God in a way that I wasn’t looking for it.(I also have had to ask forgiveness for not being more responsive in the other services and the opportunity that may have been lost in those moments.)
So whatever the nudge is for you, learn from my experience this weekend. Don’t let yourself be talked out of it and by all means, even if you don’t see an immediate response or understand the “why” of that nudge, leave it in the hands of the Lord and be confident that every time He speaks and we obey something eternal takes place.