“I saw you while you were still under the fig tree before Philip called you” (John 1:48).
Jesus saw Nathanael before Nathanael saw him.
That statement reveals a huge spiritual truth:
Salvation is of the Lord.
Salvation doesn’t start with us. It always starts with God. It is a work of God from first to last. We need this truth because it’s easy to fall into a man-centered way of thinking. We often speak of “finding” the Lord, and that is true. But it is equally true that if Jesus did not find us first, we would never find him on our own.
Jesus was moving to call Nathanael before Nathanael knew who he was.
This ought to give us great confidence in our prayers and in our evangelism. We have a part to play because God has ordained both the means and the ends of his work on the earth. We pray for the lost precisely because we fully expect God to work in the hearts of the lost long before they come to faith in Christ. We can’t say in advance exactly how God will work or when or where. That part we don’t need to know. It is enough to know that salvation is a gift of God, and that every part of salvation is “not of ourselves” (see Ephesians 2:8-9).
Think of it this way:
Philip still had to say to Nathanael, “Come and see.”
Nathanael still had to come.
But when he came to Jesus, he discovered that Jesus had been watching him all along.
Let this thought encourage you as you think about friends who today are far from the Lord. Jesus sees them too. He knows where they are. He prepares them to respond so that when they are invited, at just the right moment, they come to Christ.
We’ve all got friends who are “under the fig tree” right now. If they seem unreachable, remember Nathanael and do not lose heart. Jesus sees the lost, he knows where they are, and he calls them by the Holy Spirit.
Keep believing, and keep on praying. You never know what God will do.
Give us faith, O Lord, to believe your Word, and to keep on praying for our friends who do not know you. Amen.
Dr. Ray Pritchard is the founder and President of Keep Believing Ministries.