On January 13, 1982 Lenny Skutnik dove head first into the icy waters of the Potomac River to save the life of Priscilla Tirado. Priscilla had been on a flight from Washington DC to Fort Lauderdale, FL with 74 other passengers. After the plane’s wings became iced over, it crashed into an Interstate bridge and into the Potomac River. Thanks to passerby, Lenny Skutnik, Priscilla was one of 5 survivors on the flight. Later, Lenny would say, “I could see the look on her face, it looked like she was going into shock…I absolutely knew she would die if I didn’t go in and get her.” Lenny helped Priscilla hang onto the life-line from the helicopter and got her safely into the hands of rescue workers. His heroism was praised later by President Ronald Reagan.
As Christ followers, we have been given the gift of eternal life and know that those who haven’t accepted this gift from God will die in their sins. When you look at the people around you, do you see people who are dying? Do you feel the urgency of diving in and rescuing them?
Lenny is a prime example of someone who didn’t let the fear of the rescue keep him from going after someone who was perishing. He knew that the water would be cold and that he may even die or suffer for his decision to jump in, but he also knew that he had the ability to save this woman from death. When we have the opportunity to share the Good News of Life with someone, fear often freezes us in our tracks. We worry about what they will think of us, and if we will lose the friendship, or if we will suffer rejection for our decision to speak up, but we have to look past our fears and recognize that we have the ability to save that person from death.
LaNae and I had the opportunity to join an online Evangelism Seminar* earlier this month and were challenged to look at the Lost with a stronger sense of urgency, see ourselves as Rescuers and were given several tools to help share what we know to be true. We want to share a few of these tools with you today!
“And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should.” Colossians 4:3-4
There are 3 things that we should each be praying for everyday and they are based on Colossians 4:3-4.
1. Pray that God will open a door.
2. Pray that God will open hearts.
3. Pray that God will open your mouth.
Everyday we need to be praying for the people that we will come in contact with. Pray that God will give us opportunities to reach out to people and the ability to recognize them before they slip by. These are Jesus’ sheep that are lost, it is His job to lead us to them, and to open their hearts to His message, but it is our job to call out to them and plant seeds with our words and actions.
Many times, we are in a situation where we feel prompted by God’s Spirit to do something that may be outside of our comfort zone. Often, we dismiss this feeling and continue on with our day. This is usually because what God is prompting us to do is either uncomfortable or time consuming. We rarely want to give up what is on our schedule for what we perceive is a feeling. But if we recognize that the Creator of the Universe is asking us to take a detour, we will dive head first into anything He puts in our path.
Finally, if we ask God for opportunities and we begin listening to His voice and obeying His prompting it is important that we speak His Truth. If you are in the middle of a conversation and want to turn it to spiritual things here are five conversation turners that will help you share Jesus with others.
- What do you believe?
- Can I share something with you?
- Do you ever think about spiritual things?
- Do you go to church anywhere?
- If you were to die suddenly today, where would you spend eternity?
To use these conversation turners, it is important that you are prepared! You need to know what you believe, share it with authenticity, gentleness and love, and have a piece of solid Bible material or a New Testament to give them. Remember that we have the opportunity to call out to the lost sheep, but it is Jesus who will bring them to himself. Our responsibility is not to make someone believe, but to give them the chance to believe. It’s not to get them to church, but to first help them get to Jesus. Something we say should hopefully spark in them the desire to know more of God’s love, their need for repentance from sin, His plan and His salvation, causing them to dig deeper after your encounter with them. You may never know what the seed you plant will do, but if they allow God to continue to make it grow, they will be eternally grateful for the person who cared enough about their soul to pray, listen and speak!
Lenny’s story is inspiring because he wasn’t a trained professional and he wasn’t hired to save people, he was an ordinary citizen who saw someone in trouble and couldn’t bear to watch her suffer and die. He risked his own comfort and life for Priscilla and it was all because he was in the right place at the right time and was willing to listen to a tug on his heart-strings. We want to offer you a challenge to accept alongside us. God has given us a gift of eternal life, how many dying people can you offer the gift to?
* This story and thoughts were compiled based off the Evangelism workshop done by Don Sunshine Ministries