NB: Sorry that I haven’t posted in a while, a combination of work and holiday time! It’s good to be back!
My day to day work as a Pastoral Assistant in a church naturally involves speaking about Jesus to a whole variety of people. And yet sometimes my courage fails me completely!
Its hard to be constantly transgressing one of the cardinal rules of Britishness. The one that states that polite people don’t talk of personal political or religious views in everyday conversations. Religion is a taboo subject these days, or at least one to be kept private.I clam up with my non Christian friends. I falter when someone suggests I might be wrong, or stupid. I change the subject when a new acquaintance raises an eyebrow at my career choice.
I’m a (fairly) normal person. I’m aware of social norms. And like most people I want others to like me.
How do I reconcile all of this with Jesus’ command in the Bible to “go and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19) – to actively tell people about Jesus so that they might begin to follow him too!
How do I find the courage to speak?
Some days I wake up and feel like a huge fraud in my job and my life as a Christian. Shouldn’t God have chosen someone braver and bolder, more articulate, better educated, with superior reasoning skills? (I tend to tangle my logic).
Don’t get me wrong – I am 100% convinced of what I believe, and that it’s the best news I can offer.
I know from my own experience, that knowing God personally is a wonderful, humbling, mind- expanding, peace-giving thing!
But some days I feel tongue tied.
I know that telling people that God requires their worship will be unpopular news! I know that many of my friends will reject this for a whole number of reasons. And I could have an easier life if I keep silent. But the stakes are too high. My private faith must be public, because God demands a personal response from every one of us, and we don’t know when he will return. The clock is ticking.
Jesus himself taught that many would reject him and his gospel as too hard, too easy, too unexpected, too explosive, or too challenging. In the Bible book of 1 Peter, we are told in chapter 2 that Jesus will be a “precious cornerstone” (like the key foundation stone of a building) and “whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.” But in the same passage we’re also shown a second, opposite reaction. For some, Jesus will be “a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense.” They will
dislike or disbelieve his message, and ultimately reject him.
Christians, we need to be clear on this. We can’t be silent and we can’t shape and sanitise the gospel into a message that is palatable and inoffensive to all in our time and culture. The message of Jesus Christ stands above all times, cultures and peoples as unchanging truth for all.
Finding My Voice
So what will give me the courage to speak? A couple of things:
When I think through what I believe and as I read the Bible, I am convinced afresh that it’s really good news! News I want to share.
Secondly, when Jesus left first left his disciples to continue his work he promised “Surely I am with you always” a promise that stands for Christians today, and this should give us courage. Christianity may seem passé in Britain today, but Jesus Christ is eternal, and his truth is timeless.
Thirdly, changing hearts and lives is ultimately God’s job. I speak confidently and sensitively of what I know and have experienced, and I entrust the rest to him.
This is what the Apostle Paul said on this subject “You know how badly we had been treated at Philippi just before we came to you and how much we suffered there. Yet our God gave us the courage to declare his Good News to you boldly, in spite of great opposition. 3 So you can see we were not preaching with any deceit or impure motives or trickery.
4 For we speak as messengers approved by God to be entrusted with the Good News. Our purpose is to please God, not people. He alone examines the motives of our hearts. 5 Never once did we try to win you with flattery, as you well know. And God is our witness that we were not pretending to be your friends just to get your money! 6 As for human praise, we have never sought it from you or anyone else.”
There’s a lot we can learn from this short passage. But notice in particular how Paul’s trust in God and the truth of ‘good news’ that he teaches, frees him from people-pleasing and cowardice, and the need for deceit and trickery. He speaks plainly and boldly, and trusts God for the rest.
I care about my friends, I don’t want them to face God’s anger, and I want them to experience his incredible love and forgiveness. And I want to honour God by speaking about him well, and leading others to esteem him.
I’m praying that God will help me to love him more than I love popularity or people-pleasing, so that I will be willing to be mocked and disliked, or worse, to ensure people hear about Jesus. When eternity is at stake even great suffering for the gospel pales in significance.
Do you have any comments? What helps you to speak about Jesus?
If you’ve found yourself reading this and you’re not a Christian, why not put me to the test and ask me all about it?