Within the Acts material this week, Acts 2:40-41, there was a challenge: “And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them saying, ‘Save yourself from this crooked generation’” (2:41). Rewrite this exhortation in your own words. Include it in conversation today!
I sat at my desk in the church building, reading through Acts and the workbook. I came to the challenge mentioned above and determined, “I am going to do it!”
I rewrote the phrase. “This world is awful, but there is hope in faith in Jesus Christ.” The easy part was done. Then I became filled with anxiety. I wanted to complete this challenge; I wanted to perpetuate Peter’s warning to people with whom I come in contact. At the same time, excuses filled my mind. “What if I don’t get the opportunity? What if it doesn’t come up naturally? I don’t want to sound forced or scripted.”
Maybe you have shared my anxieties in any of the times I have encouraged the congregation to be evangelistic among their friends, co-workers, and neighbors. There are two options, dismiss the challenge or to brave the task, walk through the awkward, and share the message of Jesus Christ. On Thursday morning, I met my anxieties with prayer. I asked God, “Give me the opportunity to share your truth; give me the courage to seize that moment when You provide it.”
I went to the Bible study at the Brownsburg Health Care facility. We didn’t talk about a “crooked generation,” but we did talk about “the valley of the shadow of death.” Jeff led us through a great study of the twenty-third Psalm in which we talked quite extensively about how hard the world could be, but how hope could be found in Jesus. It was as though the very topic I wanted to share leapt from the pages of Scripture into conversation.
But I didn’t feel as though I had truly met the challenge. I talk to believers about the Scripture all the time; there is great value in it, but I wanted to share the message with someone who didn’t already believe it. I was looking for the opportunity; I thought I might find it just talking to one of the other residents at the facility. I might start a conversation with them and share the hope of Jesus as I was passing through the hall. Sadly, I had somewhere else to be and was already going to be late. In that moment, I realized I was not going to meet my challenge in the way I had hoped.
I ended my day at Starbucks with a friend. This was not a Bible study, though it was a conversation with someone who has visited our church and is exploring the Christian faith. We talked about everything from German food to driving winding roads in a manual transmission. Over half way through the conversation, he began to talk about some of the lurking dangers at his job—people who will smile to your face and throw you under the bus when management is around.
In my head I knew, “This is my chance. This is the door of opportunity that I was praying about at my desk this morning!” Even then, I felt anxious. This time I am not sure why; there wasn’t an excuse that I could put into words. But in the moment, I was reminded of the prayer of Nehemiah when he was afraid and his opportunity to speak had come, “Grant success in the sight of this man” (Nehemiah 1:11; 2:4). I decided to wade in slowly.
I told him a story about David at a period in his life when he couldn’t seem to trust anyone. While he was being verbally assaulted, he responded with faith and trust that God was ultimately in control and that God may even have a purpose in the painful event he was experiencing in the moment.
After praising David’s faith, I finally said, “This world is awful, but there is hope in faith in Jesus Christ.” I honestly, internally, breathed a sigh of relief. The conversation segued into church, church attendance, Bible study and finding solutions for other areas of anxieties in his life.
Sometimes evangelism still makes me uncomfortable, and I do it all the time. This is most especially true when I am required to have a conversation with a seeker that is going to be personal and difficult. My shoulders get tense, my heartbeat escalates, and I am filled with excuses.
Whatever aspect of evangelism makes you uncomfortable, I want you to know that you are not alone in your feelings of anxiety and inadequacy. But this is what I have learned:
- Satan is working: He will never be able to convince me that the message of Jesus is not true; but he constantly allures me to keep that message to myself—to not have the conversations with unbelievers that will lead them to true discipleship. I must first recognize those anxieties for what they are; they are whispers of Satan who is a liar and a murderer.
- I am inadequate: Paul in 2 Corinthians gives two illustrations to say that he was inadequate to the task of ministry to which he had been called—a slave (2:14-17) and a clay pot (4:7). Neither of which are worth anything. In each, he saw the true power not in himself, but in God. I, too, am just a humble slave trying to do my Master’s work, and a humble vessel carrying a great treasure. While I may not be sufficient by myself, I know that He is!
- God can either work through me or around me: Mordecai’s words to Esther remind me constantly that God’s desires will be accomplished with me or without me. He said, “For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish” (4:14). In the moments that I am tempted not to speak the word of God to bring about His salvation, it just means that God will have to work around me, but the consequences of that are real.
- God answers prayer: Finally, I have learned that God does not let prayers for opportunity go unanswered. I have always found that He opens the door when I pray for a chance to serve.
I hope this helps you as you aim to meet the challenge to talk about Christ with those in your life.