Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Going the Distance with Christ

Throughout my life as a Christian I have encountered many different reactions to my walk faith in Christ. Some have been very pleasant and some not so much. One thing I have realized is my faith has propelled me to experience the supreme truth of 2 Timothy 3:12, "Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution." Honestly, when I became a believer I was not really prepared for the things awaiting me when I made it my aim to be obedient in sharing my faith. But there I was and there they were—my Jerusalem—the lost souls of those the Lord placed in my path.

Becoming a Believer
After kneeling before God in prayer outside of my place of employment, God made Himself known to me in a very meaningful way. I have to admit that I had come to a point of brokenness before God. The previous two weeks had found me in a fallen and severely depressed state--despairing even of life. By age nineteen I saw my life going downhill with no clear hope to end the spiral. That evening, in humility, I prayed, "Lord, if you are real, please come into my life and change me. I know I have not been a good person and have sinned against You. Right now I feel my life is meaningless and going nowhere. But now I realize I need Your help. I know I cannot change myself...I have tried. Lord, if you will change me and bring peace into my life I promise I will live for you. Please forgive me of my sin. I turn my life over to You." That was all I prayed, but it was all that was needed. I wasn't stricken blind like the Apostle Paul on the Damascus road, but Jesus touched me unlike anything I had ever known and I knew then He was real. Because of this encounter with God, the next ninety days found me wearing the cover off a couple of New testaments as I read through the Bible three or four times. I was spiritually hungry. I wanted to know all I could about God. So I made it my life aim.

Chit-chatting about Church
Now at that time, there were around 17-20 people that worked my shift at a printing shop in Kansas and it wasn't long before they all knew I had become a Christian. (see "Christians Under Fire and 'The Sifted Generation'") Not only did I respectfully and courteously share Jesus with them on breaks, things I once practiced with and around them began to fall by the wayside. Jesus was changing me day-by-day. This also affected the media I was asked to print. Lest anyone think I was a dishonest employee I think I should make known that I was not a slacker in terms of work ethic. As a matter of fact, I was the sole production record holder in the plant during this time. I worked diligently at every level to maintain the highest quality of workmanship and all to the glory of God.I loved my job and I loved the Lord.

The Terror of Witnessing
Ray Comfort has become known as a solid and fearless witness for Jesus. He has produced several DVDs on the topic. I enjoy them very much. I was tuned into Moody Radio one day and Ray was sharing his experiences. A caller asked if he ever got scared when sharing his faith. Ray laughed and said, "Every time." He went on to explain that knowing Jesus, loving Jesus, and eternal consequence outweighed the fear. It was very insightful and fully described my experiences as well

Soon I was off and running heralding the good news as God gave me opportunity. One evening I overheard a coworker purposely and loudly tell another that he went to a Southern Baptist Church. My ears perked up because this person was known to all as a rough and wild "all caution to the wind kind" of guy. When he got off work he would bar tend at his families night club. On more than one occasion he bragged about the sexual orgies he and his wife hosted and participated in hoping to drum up some more participants.

Well I couldn't keep quiet because I knew his statement did not match his lifestyle. So I took the bait and went over and asked what church he belonged to. That was all it took. He went into a temper tantrum and in a yell began spewing the most hateful and filthy smut I had ever heard--all of this while bouncing like a two-year old with his intimidating finger square in my face. Yes...I was afraid. Yes, I wished I would have kept to myself.

When the Wagons are Circled
Okay, if you have ever felt exceedingly humiliated maybe you can relate somewhat to how I felt at the time. Soon every person on the shiftbar nonecame running over to find out what all of the commotion was about. And there I was, with a red-flush of embarrassment creeping across my face that complimented the mortified look in my gaping eyes. I just stood there wondering what in the world did I get myself into! What was I was going to do next? Obviously my other coworkers had thought that one of us had gotten their hand caught in the rollers of the printing press.  But to their surprise it was only little ole me asking a neighbor what church he went to. Honestly, I wanted to run but there was no place to go. I looked for a place to hide but there was none. The foreman told him to calm down and demanded an explanation from me. Soon after, he dissipated the crowds and escorted me to his office where I was promptly given a three-day suspension without pay.

Was it worth it? Yes it was. I will tell you why in a moment. But first let me just say, although clueless then, I now know that God was in it. God was refining me. I now knew how Jeremiah the prophet felt when he stated, "O LORD, You induced me, and I was persuaded; You are stronger than I, and have prevailed. I am in derision daily; everyone mocks me" (Jeremiah 20:7). He certainly had induced me to follow Him and I was by all means, persuaded to do so. But I was not ready for this. It was at this point I became what I call "gospel shy." Taken from the idiom "gun shy" used of a dog who fears guns because of being to close to the loud pop while one was fired. I even said the same thing as Jeremiah, "I will not make mention of Him, Nor speak anymore in His name"
(Jeremiah 20:9a) For awhile, that defined me.

What Next?
Today, I fear that many do not share Jesus because they too are gospel shy. Sure we know "The Great Commission" of Matt. 28:18-20. We know being a witness for Christ is one thing God requires of His church. Maybe they have been ridiculed or demeaned. Maybe they lost a old friend when they spoke of Jesus or risked rejection by family. Now they do not want to talk of it. It is a reality that hits hard. Sharing Jesus most certainly may cost you your life, your job, and even some family disassociation's. We love the fact that Jesus was persecuted for us but we are so often to fearful of man to return the favor (so to speak). In my case, I didn't lose my job, but I no longer shared Christ for some time. Satan had knocked the wind right out of my sails. I did not need anymore periods of humiliation; certainly not like that. Doubts invaded my mind and I let them nest. I now kept my faith private. I really needed an answer from the Lord on how to proceed. But like Jeremiah, His word was a fire shut up in my bones and I became weary of saying nothing. I couldn't hold back. God moved me to Colorado. For what happened next read: "A Modern Day Story of Faith."

Earlier I mentioned that sharing my faith was worth it. A few months after I left the job in Kansas to go to Colorado a former co-worker told me that after I had left, one-by-one, the people on that shift started going to church. God always comes through when we make it our aim to be obedient! To God be the glory!

How Can One become a Greater Witness?
Maybe a better way of phrasing that is, "How can one overcome their fears?" First of all, you have to settle it in your heart that being a witness for Christ is what God expects from all Christians. Before He ascended into heaven Jesus' parting words were, "But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth" (Acts 1:8). If sharing Jesus was only the responsibility of the Apostles and early disciples, then I would have to surmise that Christianity would have fallen by the wayside when the darkness of the Roman Empire slayed so many of them in the first century. The next generation didn't see things that way and the Holy Spirit was continuing to raise up witnesses just as He is today. So there is no excuse now. But here are a few tips I have learned:
  1. Never seek to God's work without speaking to Him first. Pray. Pray always. Pray as often as you can. Talk with God like He is your best friend. It is through prayer that we gain our confidence in knowing He has heard us and will lead us in the direction He has planned for us.
  2. Read the Bible and get to know God. Do not rely alone on a podcast or a Sunday sermon. Read your Bible daily. To be a witness you need to have an intimate and growing relationship with God.
  3. Realize that God loves all people and does not desire that any perish in Hell, (see 2 Pet. 3:9). God has entrusted His message of eternal life to you and to me. We are saved to be a representative of Jesus; an ambassador of the faith; a soldier in God's army.
  4. Build a foundation on the promises of God. Understand that before you can share your faith boldly you need to know that Jesus is surely going to have your back. He promised He would be with you. He promised that His power is greater than the powers of darkness in this world. He promised we were not to fear man more than God. God holds the keys to eternity not man. So do not fear mankind, (see Matt. 10:28).
  5. Get equipped. Understand that when you share your faith that you may be able to lead another to salvation! Get to know the passages that teach us about repentance, faith, forgiveness, baptism, and the importance of Bible study.
  6. Start with something simple. Just share your testimony with a friend. When someone asks you to participate in an activity that does not glorify God (remember the Scripture, "do all things to the glory of God") softly tell them that you no longer enjoy that activity. They will fuss with you and even try to persuade you to participate. Just tell them that you are a Christian and that God has changed your life; He has given you new desires. Then ask them if they would instead like to have coffee and learn more.
  7. Listen to God. Jesus told us to not to cast our pearls before swine, (Mt. 7:6). Swine is plural in number and genitive in case. He meant do not go into a situation where you know the group is specifically hostile to the gospel. Satan loves numbers. Unless God calls you to be a street evangelist, it is better to be trained to share your faith in one on one situations. As you draw closer to God you will begin to hear Him more clearly. Go only where He leads.
  8. Most importantly, quote the promises of God. Run them over in your mind as a reminder that Jesus promised to be faithful.
  9. Be willing to accept the outcome no matter what it may be. Since it is God's work we are doing He promised to take care of the consequences. Realize His power is greater than that of the Enemy, (see 1 John 4:4). The question is do we have enough faith to trust Him? This is a serious question. We want eternal life. We want to be forgiven of our sin. And we can trust Him for those things easy enough. But can we trust Him when the tide turns and the seas get rough? 
  10. Stay humble and always give God the glory. Never take any glory to yourself, nor think that you are indestructible. "For it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure" (Philippians 2:13). We are just broken vessels repaired by the Master for His use.
I do hope that all who read will consider what the cost of being a Christian really is and that trusting and believing in Him also means going the distance with Him. Will you?

God Bless