Perhaps the very title of this article has already had a negative effect upon you. Perhaps botched attempts to share your faith in the past are flashing through your mind. Or, perhaps you fear being pressured into guilt-driven efforts in the future and the last thing that registers is joy and tastes of Heaven.
A shy coward by nature, I understand fully why such heel-dragging reluctance exists, but when these dark thoughts assault, I remind myself of the heavenly joy the Holy Spirit has given me over the years when – despite my fears, flaws and failings – I have obeyed his promptings and spoken of the One who loved me, saved me and through me longs to reach others.
Angels would be a poor substitute for this work, as they have never experienced the bitterness of sin and the joy and gratitude of sins freely forgiven. Can there be a higher calling in all the world than being used by God as his ambassador in changing a person’s Hell to Heaven? The incredible fact is that any of us can be involved in the lifting, healing and restoration of our fellow strugglers in life – if we are willing to be obedient to the voice of the Holy Spirit as he moves, directs and equips us.
Allow me to suggest a few headings to help us. There will be nothing new here. For most of us, our greatest need is usually not more information as much as inspiration.
Of course. We pray before, during and after, aware that without Christ we can do nothing. We remind ourselves continually that salvation is God’s work and we are totally reliant upon him to direct us and equip us. When we pray, God opens doors and gives us the words we need to speak (Col. 4:2-4).
Having prayed we can expect God to answer, so we must look for those ‘divine appointments’. In the book of Acts, we see Philip being led by the Holy Spirit to a man whose heart was prepared by the Holy Spirit (Acts 8:26). We too, must pray… and then expect to find ourselves in the right place saying the right things at the right time to the right person.
It may be helpful if we are not only willing and prepared to speak when the situation arises but also that we are ready with a piece of literature to give out. On your check-list when leaving home, ensure you have ‘tracts’ listed, or keep some in your pocket, handbag, wallet etc. ready for use.
We shouldn’t need to be reminded of this should we? Well, I’ll mention it just in case. After exhorting us to be ready to give an answer to those enquiring about the hope we have, the apostle Peter then reminds us that our manner must be fitting to the message of grace we carry, ‘but do this with gentleness and respect’ (1 Pet. 3:15). Here are three things to avoid:
- A superior attitude
- Talking too much. Do listen!
It’s hard, I know, when people are not pleasant to you. But warm, winsome Christ-like hearts that are tender and empathetic are vital. Remember, ‘a gentle answer turns away wrath’ (Prov.15:1).
Let us avoid any kind of cold, detached or mechanical approach. A woman converted under the great evangelist George Whitefield said, ‘It was not so much what Mr. Whitefield said as much as his joyful manner.’ So, when handing a tract, be sure to smile; not falsely, but with an overflow of genuine warmth and concern.
Practical kindness will work wonders with the hardest of hearts, and has the potential to break down all kinds of barriers and prejudices, preparing the way for the gospel. Babysitting, baking or helping fix something broken may not seem like gospel work, but on so many occasions it has led to opportunities that otherwise would not have come.
This is where ‘the rubber hits the road’! We all find it easier building a relationship than we do actually sharing our faith and speaking directly about Christ and salvation, but the time comes when we simply must ‘go for it’! I am forever thankful to the young man who graciously challenged me those years ago with the words, ‘You know you can’t go on like this, Mike’ and then graciously shared about the one who came to save and transform me.
Yes, we must be sensitive but if we really have a concern for people there has to be a time when we ‘put the sickle in’ and seek to reap. We do hell-bound men and women no favours by keeping silent. Love will take the risk of being misunderstood, even rejected.
We will not be great soul-winners without many mistakes. Remember, the Lord said, ‘Come, follow me… I will make you fishers of men…’ We are disciples, ever learning. I blush that, after all these years, I can still be so stupid or cowardly.
Remember that unconverted people are in great darkness, and things which seem so straightforward to us will not register until the Holy Spirit gives understanding.
Good news of great joy
It’s so easy to give up and leave this work to others, and as a result, allow the fire of your devotion to go out. I am convinced that sharing our faith is linked to our joy and assurance. We need to be utterly convinced that the gospel we carry is joy from beginning to end.
The announcement from Heaven to the startled shepherds on that pitch-black hillside outside Bethlehem says it all: ‘I bring to you good news of great joy…’ (Luke 2:10). Bible commentator, Matthew Henry, translates this verse, ‘I evangelise to you great joy.’
Engaging in personal witness is essential to a life of joy as we seek to align ourselves with Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit always seeks to bring glory to him, whenever and wherever he is mentioned. What greater thrill on earth can there be when we make ourselves available to be a channel of heavenly blessing!
C.H. Spurgeon testified: ‘Even if I were utterly selfish and had no care for anything but my own happiness, I would choose to be a soul-winner.’