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How God Saved A Hardened Atheist

A hardened atheist

Hudson Taylor lived in the 1800’s, and was one of the first missionaries to inland China.

Before he left for China, he worked as a medical assistant.

One of his first assignments was a man with severe gangrene in his foot.

This man was an atheist with a violent temper.  When someone offered to read Scripture to him, this man loudly ordered him to leave.  And when a pastor had visited, this man spit in his face.

Hudson’s job was to change this man’s bandages every day.  He also started praying earnestly for his salvation.

The first few days he shared nothing of the Gospel, but focused on carefully changing the man’s bandages.  This greatly eased his pain, and the man was deeply touched.

Longing to share the Gospel

But Hudson Taylor was concerned for this man’s eternal destiny.

So the next day, after carefully changing the bandages, he did something different.  Instead of heading out the door, he knelt down by the man’s bed and shared the Gospel.

He explained his concern for the man’s soul, told of Jesus’ death on the Cross, and that he could be saved from his sins.

The man grew furious, said nothing, and turned his back to Hudson.

So — Hudson got up, gathered his medical equipment, and left.


This pattern continued for some time.

Every day Hudson tenderly changed his bandages, then knelt down by the man’s bed and spoke of Jesus’ love.

And every day the man said nothing — and turned his back to Hudson.


After a while Hudson Taylor started wondering — was he doing more harm than good?  Were his words causing the man to become more hardened?

So with great sadness, Hudson Taylor decided to stop speaking of Christ.

The next day he again changed the man’s bandages.  But then, instead of kneeling by the bed, he headed toward the door to leave.

He before he walked out the door, he looked back at the man.

He could tell the man was shocked — because this was the first day since Hudson had started sharing the Gospel that he had not knelt down by the bed and spoken about Jesus.


And then, while standing at the door, Hudson Taylor’s heart broke.  He started weeping.

He went back to the bed, and said — “My friend, whether you will hear or not, I must share what’s on my heart” — and he earnestly spoke of Jesus, again begging the man to pray with him.

This time the man answered — “if it will be a relief to you, go ahead and pray.”

So Hudson Taylor got down on his knees and prayed for this man’s salvation.  And — God answered.

From that point the man was eager to listen to the Gospel, and in a few days he prayed to trust Christ.

Hudson Taylor’s take-aways

  • “Often in my early work in China, when circumstances rendered me almost hopeless of success, I have thought of this man’s conversion and have been encouraged to persevere in speaking the Word, whether men would hear or whether they would forbear.”
  • “Perhaps if we had more of that intense distress for souls that leads to tears, we should more frequently see the results we desire.  Sometimes it may be that while we are complaining of the hardness of the hearts of those we are seeking to benefit, the hardness of our own hearts and our own feeble apprehension of the solemn reality of eternal things may be the true cause of our lack of success.”

(From Dr. and Mrs. Howard Taylor’s “Hudson Taylor in Early Years: The Growth of a Soul,” pp.178ff.)

I’m feeling convicted

I’m weak in both of these.

I need more faith in the power of God’s Word to open closed hearts.

And I lack that intense distress for souls that leads to tears.

So what can I do?  How can I grow in boldness and compassion?

That’s a topic for a future blog post.

Comments, feedback, thoughts?

I’d love to hear them.  Feel free to leave a reply below — thanks.

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Category: Help with Evangelism, Stories about Other People


16 Responses

  1. Craig Forbes says:

    I often wonder if I’m wasting my time with someone, if I should “shake the dust off my sandals and find another house of peace”. Persevering causes me to rely more completely on the power of God. Persevering causes me to more fully believe the finished work of Christ on the cross. Persevering I believe is a gift of grace that God gives us to more fully see Him. Persevering is His tug at our heart to care for that soul as He does.
    Thanks for the sober reminder.
    God Bless,

    • Steve Fuller says:

      You are so welcome, Craig. And thanks again for stopping by and sharing your thoughts.

      You raise an important question, because Jesus taught there would be times when we should move on.

      But maybe I should not move on until I have compassionately and earnestly and maybe with tears shared the love of Christ. Maybe I’m too quick to think people are closed.

      Like you said — “persevering is His tug at our heart to care for that soul as He does.”

      Thanks, brother,


  2. O says:

    Wow! What a miracle! Praise God!

  3. Sean says:

    Moving brother. Thanks for sharing this.

  4. Paul C says:

    This is both timely and encouraging to me. My family and I are missionaries in a foreign country. Hudson Taylor is a main influence of mine, but I had never heard this account.

    Thank you for sharing it. Every Saturday and Tuesday I go house-to-house with another believer in our small church plant. Sometimes it looks so daunting. “Can the gospel ever penetrate these hardened hearts?”

    But, as the post states, perhaps the better question is, “When was the last time I wept over sinners? He that sows with tears shall reap with joy!”

    To God and to the Lamb be the glory!

    • Steve Fuller says:

      Thank you, Paul, for letting me know that this encouraged you. I am so glad.

      May the Father give us even more compassion for the lost, so we would join his son in weeping — and reaping.

      Steve Fuller

  5. Brian says:

    Thank you bro. I have this delima with my wife. More harm than good…….too much talk…..not enough tears……poor example of His love as her husband…my thoughts run often along these lines. But God …..not me…is mighty to save. I pray for His Holy Ghost to stir up salvation in my wife. I love her and want her to know His peace.

    • Steve Fuller says:

      Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts, Brian. And you are so right — GOD is the One who is mighty to save.

      I, too, see a lack of tears and am praying for God to give me more compassion and love. He is faithful — and He will help me — and you.

      I will pray right now for you — and for your wife. Keep us posted on what God does.

      In Christ,

      Steve Fuller

  6. yankeegospelgirl says:

    I have a family member, and I’m just not sure… I often weep for her salvation. Sometimes I think God is working and answering my prayers, but other days are depressing. Thank you for this reminder. Perhaps God does hear our tears.

  7. Tami Lee Hughes says:

    This is a beautiful article. I have a friend who is drowning in the world. She calls me all the time to talk about her problems and even asks me to pray for her. I have shared my faith with her and told her about God but she won’t see it. Her eyes are blocked. At times I want to give up but I genuinely love her so I know I can’t. A godly friend told me, “Everything in God’s timing.” She’s right. . . Even if we’re watering the seed that someone else will harvest, everything will happen in God’s perfect timing. God never gives up on us so we should never give up on others.

  8. Lauryn says:

    I am an atheist and don’t understand how “God” answered. Actually…I’m more of an agnostic. Miracles have happened to friends o mine, and now I just don’t know.

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