Colossians 4:2-6. Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which which I am in chains. Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should.
Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned as with salt, that you may know how to answer everyone.
Yesterday I asked God for an answer to the doubts and fears I have about sharing the Gospel. Today, the reading in my devotional, Jesus Calling (by Sarah Young) was based in part on Colossians 4:2. So I looked it up.
First of all, "watchful" jumped out at me. I had asked God for an answer or direction in prayer yesterday. Today as I sought Him, first in prayer then in the Word, He brings me to this verse. "Are you being watchful, my girl? I'm about to give you an answer."
Next I read about Paul wanting another door to open for him to share the Gospel, e.g. the mystery of Christ. I love it that he calls the Gospel a mystery. (That's a whole other post). Then he seems to have a moment of doubt. Hey, I'm in chains because of it.... pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should. Even though I'm afraid it's going to get me in worse trouble.
That's exactly where I'm at right now. I've been going to a Bible study where we've been watching "The Way of the Master" videos by Ray Comfort and Kirk Cameron. They show how they share the Gospel "the way the Master (Christ) did it" - first speaking to people's conscience about their sin so that, with a realization of their sin, comes a realization of a need for a Savior (examples: Jesus speaking to the Samaritan woman at the well, and to the rich young ruler).
It's been a very convicting study. I love to share my faith with people who are interested, and I have no hesitation to share the Gospel on this blog - for whoever may be reading. But where I stumble is in everyday conversation with "outsiders" as Paul calls them, those who do not believe in Christ. I don't remember that this might be an opportunity, or if I do, I suddenly freeze up in fear. It's a fear of awkwardness - changing the course of a conversation into an area where I will end up stumbling over my words, or giving up ina half-baked or lame attempt.
I also have a dislike of coming across as judgmental, forcing my opinion (unasked for) on other people. But a lot of that can be circumvented with wording just like what Jesus used: "it is not the healthy that need a doctor, but the sick... I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners." (Matt 9: 12). I keep telling myself that if I practice more I'll get more comfortable with it.
Another thing I keep telling myself is "just share your story." That's what Paul did, multiple times, in Acts. He'd share how he persecuted believers and then Jesus spoke to him directly, how he lost his sight and three days later regained it at the touch of another believer. I LOVE to share my testimony, even just a short thirty second version. But I almost NEVER get the opportunity (or take advantage of an opportunity). I need to pray more like Paul - for that open door, and for the willingness to walk through it even though at first it may feel awkward or scary.
At church, our pastor encourages us to "raise our flag" when we meet other people - let them know right away that you're a believer. As in, "So what do you do?" "I'm an engineer at such and such company. How 'bout you?" "I'm a pastor." Hey, it's easy for him! But I've been reminding myself next time I'm asked I could say something like, "I'm a GIS analyst at the university, and I'm also a follower of Jesus." He says that a lot of time if you just let people know who you are, that will naturally start a conversation and may raise some questions, very often leading to the opportunity to "share your story" and with it, the Gospel.
A little more about this "Way of the Master" study. They show clip after clip of going out to public places and saying "hello" to strangers and then asking them a question ("hey, have you seen one of these?" while handing them a gospel tract), and then following up with a series of questions that ends with the Gospel. All the examples they show the people listen and answer semi-politely and many of them appear to have a change of heart as they are confronted with their sin.
This is a typical conversation:
Ray: "Hey have you seen one of these?" (Hands a gospel tract.) "Do you have a Christian background?"
Other person: "I used to go to church, but I don't any more."
Ray: "Do you consider yourself to be a good person?" (doesn't get sidetracked about why the person doesn't go to church anymore.)
Other person: "Yes, I consider myself to be a good person!" (of course!)
Ray: "Do you keep the ten commandments? Have you ever lied?"
Other person: "Only white lies. In some cases lies are okay."
Ray: "But you have told a lie. What do you call a person who lies?" (doesn't get sidetracked into argument about whether white lies are okay or not)
Other person: "A liar."
Ray: "Have you ever stolen something? It doesn't matter how young you were or how inexpensive it was."
Ray: "What do you call someone who steals?"
Other: "A stealer." (grin). "A thief."
Ray: "Have you ever looked at another person with lust? Jesus said anyone who even thinks about another person that way has committed adultery with them in his heart; that's another commandment." (Jesus showed us that God isn't just concerned with the outward keeping of the commandments, He's also concerned with what's going on in our hearts).
Other: "Well, who hasn't?"
Ray: "So you have looked with lust on another person. Have you ever taken the Lord's name in vain? That's called blasphemy."
Other: "Yes." (usually be this time they aren't offering arguments or excuses any more.)
Ray: "So, by your own admission, you've broken at least four of the ten commandments. If God were to judge you by the ten commandments, would you be innocent or guilty?"
Other: "Innocent. God is understanding. We all make mistakes."
Ray: "If you were guilty of a crime and standing in a court room and you told the judge, 'Let me off because I know you are a forgiving judge and everyone makes mistakes', what do you think the judge would do? Just let you go?" (another thing to say is, "if you believe God won't judge you for breaking the commandments, you are basically creating a god you can be comfortable with. That's breaking the 2nd commandment - you shall not make yourself a graven image, or in other words you shall not make another god for yourself").
Ray: "If God judged you by whether you kept the ten commandments, would you go to heaven or hell?"
Other: "I don't believe in heaven or hell."
Ray: "Okay, hypothetically, if there was a heaven and hell, which would you get for breaking the ten commandments?" (avoids getting sidetracked into argument about whether heaven or hell exists).
Other: "Probably hell."
Ray: "Does that concern you?"
Other: "No. It doesn't concern me." (acting a little belligerent)
Ray: "Let me ask you this. If I offered you a million dollars for both your eyes, or even one eye, would you sell it to me?"
Other: "No way!"
Ray: "Our eyes are valuable to us, more than anything else we could buy with money. Now, if our eyes are so valuable to us, how much more so our souls? Jesus said, 'What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul?' So, if your soul is in danger of going to hell, shouldn't that concern you?"
Ray: "What if you're in that courtroom and the judge is about to send you to prison for life, and someone steps in and says, 'I'll take the penalty for him, so he can go free.' Would you take it?"
Ray: "That's what Jesus did for you. He died on the cross for our sins, so that anyone who turns from their sins and believes that Jesus took the penalty of their sins, can be set free and be assured of heaven. Will you turn from your sins and trust in Jesus to take your penalty?"
Other: "I'll think about it."
Ray: "Get a Bible and read it and see for yourself. God speaks to us through the Bible, His Word." (Always leave them with the source of the Truth).
Listening to these conversations is the most amazing experience. You see the people start out doubtful or belligerent. Then their attitude changes as they become convicted (at least in the ones they show. I'm sure there's many a case they aren't showing where people get angry or just walk way).
The thing about these conversations, the ones they show are all with strangers. When I think about trying to have this conversation with my father, who is very, very, VERY opposed to anything Christian, or to my stepdaughter, who lately has taken to rolling her eyes about anything we share about our faith, I could see this conversation turning out very badly, maybe even damaging my relationship with them.
But maybe that's the Enemy whispering to me, too. "Don't even try it, it's going to turn out very badly. They'll hate Christianity even more. They may even hate you for confronting them so directly."
Just like the Enemy surely whispered to Paul while he was in chains. "Don't keep trying to share the Gospel. You'll end up even worse than you are now."
But then again, what about all those times when Paul shared the Gospel at the synagogues and after all the angry Jews had chased him away, two or three or more found him later and begged him to tell them more? Who am I to guess where a person is in their life, that they might not be suddenly eager to hear of hope, of freedom from the pain and guilt and brokenness they are experiencing? For many years I scoffed at any attempt friends made to witness to me. Then, one day after a long stretch of depression and misery, I remembered what they'd said, and I wanted to learn more.
That image at the top of this post says "Faith is the bridge between where I am and where God is taking me."
Where I am right now: scared to share the Gospel. Afraid of damaging relationships because it is offensive to those who are still blind.
Where God is taking me: excited to share the Gospel because for all the rejections and scorn I may face, eventually there will be one or more people ready to hear it. Or if they aren't ready now, maybe they will remember someday what I shared. So, in the meantime, can I trust him about the "damaged relationships" part? Can I trust Him?
So many things in life we have to ask ourselves, can I trust Him?
In everything else I have trusted Him with, He has always carried me through.
There's my answer.