Last night I spoke to a youth group in Houston, Texas and as I was talking with the youth pastor preparing for the night, I noticed one of the computer screens in their sound booth showing a slide that said “The Empty Chair.” It caught my eye and I had to ask what that was about. As the pastor explained the challenge he had placed before his students (6th grade through 12th grade) the next slide popped up, “Who in your life needs to fill this empty chair? Will you make an effort to bring them to Jesus?” Then as the night began, I started to notice the red chairs spaced throughout the room as a silent reminder for the students to be actively inviting their friends to church and sharing Jesus with them. The image and its meaning stuck with me.
Before hearing about “the empty chair” I had already decided to share one of the IDOP videos with the group; it was not until after the night was over that I saw the connection. The man on the video, an Iraqi believer and refugee, said, “I pray keep them alive long enough to meet Jesus.” His prayer is for ISIS, that they might live long enough to meet Jesus. This man wants to see ISIS, the same people who pushed him out of his home and continue to daily threaten the lives of believers to fill “the empty chair!” Immediately Matthew 5:44 comes to mind, “But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”
Our persecuted brothers and sisters understand the importance of sharing Jesus with others. And even more, they understand the urgency to do it today, for none of us are guaranteed tomorrow (Proverbs 27:1). Several years have passed since I first heard Nik Ripken, author of The Insanity of God, share the quote, “Never give up in freedom what we are not willing to give up in persecution,” but the impact of that statement has never left me. In fact, it seems to only grow in its strength and volume.
As we pray for our persecuted brothers and sisters may we also pray for us to follow their example of sharing the gospel no matter what it may cost us.
So now I am left with the question, who in my life needs to fill the empty chair?