Two weeks ago I blogged (here) about boldness in sharing the Christian faith. Here is part 2:
What do you do once you’ve finally plucked up the courage and spoken? What if it doesn’t go well? What if it surpasses your expectations?
God answered my blog post the other week, (and its accompanying prayers) by giving me several opportunities to speak to people about my faith. It was a mixture of excitement, good conversation, robust debate, daunting moments, and whispered prayers!
And it got me thinking even more about this issue.
I realised more than ever that it’s scary telling people the gospel! It takes a lot of courage. It takes the willingness to speak in faith and then leave the rest to God.
It requires being well thought through, and prepared to answer questions, engaging with people’s real life responses honestly.
It might mean:
Risking the shame of being thought stupid, out of touch, or intolerant.
Feelings of inadequacy or shame.
The chance of salvation, and the good news of Jesus being grasped and accepted by another person!
I have to be honest that this time around I felt shame. I felt so stupid and weak in my presentation of the gospel, their arguments seemed so logical and firm. Sharing something precious makes you vulnerable when it’s despised. I left feeling certain of my convictions, but foolish in their eyes.
Yet the very next day I read the following exchange in Pilgrims Progress, (a brilliant book you’ve probably heard of that allegorises the Christian life.) It dealt with the very feelings I’d been struggling with and gave me Biblical reminders to strengthen me too:
[Part of a conversation between characters ‘Christian’ and ‘Faithful’, after the latter has a troubling encounter with a traveller called ‘Shame’.]
Faithful: “I did not know what to say at first. He pressed me so much that I became red in the face from embarrassment. This Shame tried to make me feel shame and attempted to beat me up with
it. But, at last, I began to consider, that ‘that which is highly esteemed among men is an abomination in the sight of God’ (Luke 16: 15). ‘And I thought again about the fact that this Shame tells me what men are, but tells me nothing about God or His Word.
I also thought that on the last day, we will not be doomed to death or life according to the wicked spirits in the world, but according to the wisdom and law of the Highest. Therefore, I thought, what God says is best, is best indeed, even though all the men in the world are against it.
…seeing that those who make themselves fools for the kingdom of heaven are the wisest; and that the poor man who loves Christ is richer than the greatest man in the world that hates him – Shame, depart! You are an enemy to my salvation! – Shall I entertain you against the wishes of my sovereign Lord? How, then, can I look Him in the face when He comes again? If I am now ashamed of His ways and His servants, how can I expect His blessing? (Mark 8:38).’
Indeed, this Shame was a bold villain – I could hardly get rid of him! He haunted me and continually whispered in my ear about the failings of religion. But, at last, I told him it was useless to attempt anything further, for the things that he despised, I saw in them the most glory.
Chapter 10, Pilgrim’s Progress, John Bunyan (Modernised by J. Musselman)
When we face rejection and mockery for our proclamation of Jesus we should not be surprised, but neither should we give in to shame!
‘Faithful’ is wise in his response: He remembers that the Bible warns him that God’s wisdom is not the wisdom of the world, that it is God who will by his wisdom judge one day, and that “the poor man who loves Christ is richer than the greatest man in the world that hates him”.
Shame is an enemy of our salvation, and we should be wise to notice its advance, and expose it with gospel truth, before it silences us!
The Wisdom of God
1 Corinthians 1-2 has been hugely helpful in encouraging me, and guiding my thinking on this – here are a few excerpts:
8 For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God…
20 Where is the wise person? Where is the teacher of the law? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. 22 Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, 24 but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God….
26 Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong… so that no one may boast before him.
2 And so it was with me, brothers and sisters. When I came to you, I did not come with eloquence or human wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God.[e] 2 For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. 3 I came to you in weakness with great fear and trembling. 4 My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power,5 so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power…
14 The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit.
As a follower of Jesus I need to remember that my time of vindication is not now. Although I do my best to be clear and coherent, I may often feel weak, foolish, and vulnerable as I proclaim Christ in a world that thinks him irrelevant. The Apostle Paul warns us that the message of the cross will be rejected as foolish by some. But for others it will be the power of God for their salvation!
I don’t have to allow worldly wisdom – in its appearance of sophistication and knowledge – to make me lose my gospel confidence. God uses the weak to shame the strong, and his wisdom comes with his power to save those who believe!