The Gospel is about transformation — about God changing peoples’ character. It’s an exciting, mysterious process that sometimes seems excruciatingly slow—especially when you invest most of your time in the fast-paced lives of college students like those here at the University of Cincinnati.
Maybe that’s why a particular passage from Ezekiel made such an impression on me recently:
I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh . . . (Ezekiel 36:26,27).
A young man named “Nidal” had begun hanging around the students in our ministry in his freshman year. He was full of shame, anger, and cynicism, and he was hard to be around. Still, he hung out often with the Navigator kids on campus.
Nonetheless, Nidal was distant—apparently numb to any attempts to break through his protective shell. Last fall, however, while attending our student conference, something happened. Using his own experience as an adoptive father, the speaker shared about how God wanted to adopt us as His own—to be our Daddy.
Later, Nidal approached one of his Navigator friends, with tears rolling down his face and asked how he could make God his Daddy. It took three years for God to change Nidal’s heart—but what an amazing transformation!
God’s transforming work, however, doesn’t stop when we come to faith in Christ. I’d known “Stephanie” for three years as well. Even as she became increasingly involved in our ministry, I thought of her as kind of a “blunt instrument.” She was down-to-business, factual, driven—almost hard. I wondered to myself if she would even recognize a feeling if it smacked her in the face.
Then I received an email from her in which she talked about being brokenhearted about several of her friends who didn’t know Jesus—or who weren’t living out their faith.
I feel like God has been throwing people who aren’t following Jesus into my life since sophomore year. You told us about Jesus telling His disciples to ask the Lord of the harvest to send workers into His harvest. You cautioned us about asking that because God might choose us to be those workers.
After being around some of my friends who don’t know Jesus, or aren’t walking with Him, I actually sat in public and started weeping! Two years ago I would never have let myself do such a thing. Now, I’m so saddened that friends I love don’t know the love of God and the sacrifice and love of Jesus, that it actually breaks my heart.
I could tell you a hundred more stories just like these. God is transforming hearts of stone into hearts of flesh. Sometimes it takes years—but the process is both humbling and exciting. And it’s why we keep doing what we’re doing!
Navigators Evan and Kim Griffin have been ministering to students at the University of Cincinnati for almost 25 years\