A 'Chance' Encounter

A 'Chance' Encounter

Mike Barko recounts a serendipitous encounter that underscores the importance of sharing the Gospel opportunistically. He narrates an impromptu visit to a Subway to collect dinner for a friend, where he decides to distribute Gospel tracts. Conversing with an employee named 'Spicy' (Chance), Mike navigates a discussion on salvation, works, and grace. 'Spicy' reveals a mixed understanding of salvation, prompting Mike to gently guide him through the concept of justification by faith and Christ's finished work. This post beautifully illustrates the impact of sharing the Gospel unexpectedly and how divine grace can transform hearts.


Mike Barko

4/17/20218 min read

Thank you for your continued prayers and support. God continues to move as we share the Gospel. Thank you to Karen Brooks, Rob Gilmer, and Ben Varepa for your help in sharing the Gospel.

Since our last newsletter we have seen the following professions of faith: 1) Courthouse 36 2) J.M.U. 42
3) Cross Light 5


The particular story I want to share with you now happened outside of our normal sharing venues. It occurred on one of my 'off' days. I guess we need to remember the scripture which says...

'Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season;...' (2 Timothy 4:2(a))

Someone has said, "There are only two seasons in which we ought to preach the Gospel: (1) In season (convenient) (2) Out of season (inconvenient)

As I was leaving my office this past Tuesday evening, my thoughts went to Pete Poirot. Pete is a dear friend and our ministry accountant who has served us faithfully for the last ten years. Because it is tax season, Pete was staying late to serve his many clients.

I decided to call Pete to see if he wanted me to pick him up some dinner for the evening. Pete's office is in the same downtown building so I figured I would just grab him something downtown and then head home.

Yes, Pete wanted some dinner but the restaurant he mentioned wasn't downtown. Well, since I had offered and Pete is a good friend I decided to just faithfully love and serve my buddy.

I headed out to Subway with his order. I happened to be on the phone at the time with another dear friend and ministry partner Rob Gilmer. When I pulled into the Subway parking lot I thought, "Should I share the Gospel with the people behind the counter?"

Obviously, this is a different situation than sharing with someone on the streets. We must be very sensitive to the duties of the workers and also others who may be waiting in line to order their meal.

I actually recalled a time in North Carolina at a different Subway where I shared with two employees who were making my sandwich. Somehow I was able to share with them as they worked, and when we finished they wanted to pray to receive Christ. That was pretty amazing.

Well, if you try to reproduce something in the Spirit it generally doesn't work. Furthermore, on this particular occasion, I really wasn't feeling very anointed and honestly did not really even want to share.

I decided to do the next best thing and give them Gospel tracts. So, I grabbed a few English ones and then Rob on the phone prompted me to grab a Spanish one.

Into the store I went...

There were three employees behind the counter and no one else in the store. A young lady named Mila made Pete's sandwich while two other employees stood by. I really did not feel like I had it in me to read Pete's order and also share the Gospel. When another customer walked into the store, I knew I just needed to relax and order the sandwich.

I did have some fun talking with Mila and then also with 'Spicy'. 'Spicy' was a young man who was at the register to ring up my order. His Subway shirt on his chest read...SPICY. The other young lady looked Hispanic and she began to help the other customer.

After paying for my sandwich, I handed Mila and Spicy the two Gospel tracts and told them, "God bless you." I told the Hispanic woman that I would leave one for her as well. I grabbed a drink and chips for Pete and headed out to my car.

Well, once in my car, I decided to drive around the back of the Subway to go back to my office. Once in the back I pondered going off to the right or just continuing around the back of the store. I decided to continue around the back and then head back out to the front.

As I was heading back around to the front, guess who I saw walking out to his car...


I pulled up and said hi. I asked if he was getting off of work for the day.


It was then kind of obvious what I needed to do. When the Lord drops something into your lap, you really need to deal with it.

So, I exchanged pleasantries with 'Spicy'. I asked him how long he had worked at the Subway. He told me for two years and he really liked it because the two previous jobs had been difficult for him. I believe he was now an associate manager at Subway.

I remained in my car and offered 'Spicy' a bracelet. He was very excited to receive it and wanted to know what the colors on it meant. It was about this time that I got his name...


This was definitely a 'CHANCE ENCOUNTER'.

This was most definitely a 'GREAT CHANCE' for this young man.

Chance was 'hoping' that he would go to Heaven. He actually told me that he had recently started going back to church. His grandmother had been talking to him and he had started doing devotions.

Chance told me that he was "85% sure of going to Heaven because, 'I repent, I believe that He died for me, I try to do better.'"

This is what I call a 'mixed' answer. This person is trusting both self and Christ. They are mingling their works with Christ's finished work as the basis of their justification. This is a 'no go' with God.

"And if by grace, then it is no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then is it no more grace: otherwise work is no more work." (Romans 11:6) (emphasis mine)

There are two mutually exclusive systems by which we may be justified with God. One is by our works. The other is by grace.

Work is what we do. This is also called law.

Grace is what God does. Grace is the work of God plus nothing. Grace is the unmerited favor of God.

If you want to be justified with God by your works, just how good do you have to be?...Perfect.

Is this going to work?

"For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all." (James 2:10)

"For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse: for it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them." (Galatians 3:10)

"But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, The just shall live by faith.

And the law is not of faith:" (Galatians 3:11,12(a))(emphasis mine)

By which do you want to be justified with God?

1) law/works


2) faith/grace

And remember, Paul reminds us in Galatians that if we let ourselves be 'circumcised', Christ will profit us nothing...

"Behold, I Paul say unto you, that if ye be circumcised, Christ shall profit you nothing." (Galatians 5:2)

There were a group of people back then who were called Judaizers. They were telling the new Christians that Christ was not enough to save them. They also had to be 'circumcised'.

Today, we buy into this lie by adding just one work to the finished work of Christ as the basis of our justification. Christ and Christ alone saves. No added work of ours is necessary.

If we add one work to the finished work of Christ as the basis of our justification, what happens?

"For I testify again to every man that is circumcised, that he is a debtor to do the whole law." (Galatians 5:3)

We now move from the grace system to the law system. Just one work becomes two, three, four, five, etc. It is like a tread mill that keeps increasing it's incline. We eventually have to jump off. It's like Martin Luther climbing the steps on his knees.

"Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace." (Galatians 5:4) (emphasis mine)

Notice here again that law and grace are mutually exclusive. It's one or the other.

Also, notice here that we don't 'fall from grace' by sleeping with the church secretary. We fall from grace by adding one work to the finished work of Christ as the basis of our justification.

Back to CHANCE...

So I asked him, "Is your salvation what you do, what Christ does, or both?"

He answered, 'Both.'

Well, let's see if Chance did his part...

"Chance, let's see how you well you did your part?"

So, I took him to the law. The law is what we do. We looked at five of the ten commandments. Like everyone else, he broke all five...'liar, thief, adulterer (lust), murderer (hate), blasphemer'

How well had he done 'his part?'

Chance had no problem admitting to breaking all of these.

Would he be innocent or guilty?

Chance still thought that he would be 'okay.'


He replied, 'Because I've changed'

Many people think the same thing. Take them to a court of law. Chance told me that he had previously stood before a judge because of an accident where he had to pay a fine.

There were 2 months between his accident and his day in court. If he told the judge, 'I've changed', but he didn't pay the fine, what would the judge say?

Chance got the point...Changing doesn't pay the fine...The earthly fine or the heavenly fine which happens to be 'spiritual death'.

Did that concern Chance?...'Yes'.

What would pay this 'spiritual death' fine? What would get him out of God's electric chair? What would keep him from Hell?

He told me that he would 'repent'.

People know the 'church' answers. Ask them what they mean by that.

"Chance, what do you mean by 'repent'?"

He replied, 'I will confess and ask forgiveness.'

Take them back to the courtroom. I asked him,

"Chance, if you told the judge, 'I confess to the accident and I ask forgiveness', but you don't pay the fine, what would the judge say?"

Chance got the point.

Changing would not pay the fine.
Confessing would not pay the fine.
Asking forgiveness would not pay the fine.

What would?

Christ. God the Son incarnate in human flesh. He had already paid the fine for Chance. And, the resurrection receipt shouted paid in full.

I asked Chance what his favorite dessert was. If I bought that for him, and he tried to pay for it a second time, what would he be saying about 'my payment'?

He replied, 'Not valid'.

Chance got the point.

Chance had been trusting himself.
Was he the Savior?
Could he save himself?
Did he want to declare Christ's work 'invalid'?

Who did he want to trust?
Who was the only Savior?
Was his salvation what Christ did, what he did, or both?

When did Chance want to trust in Christ alone?

He replied, 'RIGHT AWAY.'

We prayed and then I asked what God had just done for him...


Chance now had tears in his eyes and he was choked up.

How did his heart feel?


When did he have eternal life?



Chance said he would tell his grandmother what had happened to him. He would continue in church and reading his devotions, but trust in Christ alone.

I explained more to Chance about the righteousness of Christ. I told him to surrender to the love of God in his heart. God was in his heart. God is love.

Love would now keep the commandments.
Not his love, but God's love.
The lawgiver on the throne would now become the law keeper in his heart.

Chance was justified by Christ alone.
Chance would be sanctified by Christ alone.

God removed Chance at the cross and took his place in order to justify him.

God would remove Chance from the throne of his heart in order to sanctify him.

God always works by removing us and taking our place.

A Savior on the cross to justify us.
A Savior in our hearts to sanctify us.

What was Chance's part?


"Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved." (Acts 16:9)