The elliptical trainer was doing its work on me. Sweat dripped from my brow as I peered into the soft light of the gym at 24 Hour Fitness trying to distract myself from the exhaustion that accompanies an accelerated heartbeat. A big, ugly dude approached one of the weight training machines. On the front of his T-shirt was the word EVIL in big red letters. On his short-sleeves and back were skulls and crossbones, also in red. And a sentence—some quote—I couldn’t quite read. It would not be unreasonable to assume this guy was headed straight for Hell…
While continuing to pump away I wondered if I should give this ruffian a Million-Dollar bill Gospel tract. How would this EVIL guy react? Would he take the tract, crumple it, and then throw it in my face? Would he crumple me and toss me over the stairwell? Maybe his skinhead friends would take a branding iron to my eyes. As I wondered how I would approach this man with the good news of Jesus, I thought about the many dangers I get to experience when sharing my faith with strangers. My mind drifted to an incident that happened a few days prior:
It was an early Sunday morning before church and I wanted to get in a quick workout. The place was completely empty except for two people behind the counter. I plucked two crisp Million-Dollar bill Gospel tracts and asked, “Did you get one of these?” Jason and Ashley smiled and said “No.” “May I ask you the million dollar question? If you were to die today, would you go to Heaven or Hell?”
“That is so funny,” Jason replied, “I was just talking to Ashley about what church I should go to, since I just moved into the area.” I asked a few questions, and they acknowledged that they would be found guilty on Judgment Day and would end up in Hell. Right after telling them about the Savior—BOOM—the lights went out. I finished my conversation by saying, “You want to make a decision for Christ soon, before the big black-out happens.” After all, these are dangerous times.
Time was about up on the elliptical trainer and I noticed that the EVIL guy was finishing his workout too. “Lord,” I silently prayed, “If EVIL man goes away, then I know you don’t want me to talk with him.” He disappeared.
One… minute…Huff! …left. Puff! Whew! Done.
Oh no! EVIL man is going into the locker room! Darn! I don’t want to talk to that guy Lord; I have a wife and kids. Cautiously I walked into the locker room. There he is! Is that a swastika on his arm? I picked the million dollars out of my gym bag. This guy is going to pummel me; I just know it. “Excuse me. What does that say on the back of your shirt?”
“Oh,” EVIL man said gruffly, “it’s just a saying from Mohammed Ali.”
I held out my hand with the Million-Dollar bill and noticed it was trembling, not out of fear, but because I just finished some hard cardio. If he has an axe he’ll chop off my hand! “Here’s a million dollars for you.”
“Is that some Jesus stuff?”
“It is,” I answered with a half-hearted smile, fully expecting a baton to the head.
He waved his hand in disgust. “No, man,” he said, and lumbered out of the locker room.
Walking to the shower I reflected upon the danger I face everyday when sharing my faith, the danger that resides primarily in my mind.