I read an article from a Christian magazine about a famous athlete who revealed he was a Christian. He describes himself as a “quiet” Christian, preferring to show his faith by action rather than use words. This seems to be a prevalent and acceptable approach to Christianity these days. Maybe even admirable! He certainly succeeded in remaining quiet because it appears no one knew he was a Christian even by his actions judging from comments such as these: “Great article! So good to hear he is a believer.” “Nice article. I had my suspicions about him but never knew for sure.” Many people admired him before he “came out” but now feel very comfortable with him as a role model. I feel almost silly pointing out the obvious. It wasn’t until he “used words” that the nearly one thousand people who commented on the article knew he was Christian. Just sayin’….
This shouldn’t be surprising in a society where Christians seem to prefer the “live and let live” approach to faith in Christ. We say things like “If people want to know what I believe, they can ask me!” “I would rather live my faith than speak it.” “I don’t want to get preachy. After all, I have issues too.” “I don’t want to force my beliefs on anyone.” “People don’t care what I know until they know I care.” “I don’t want to get too personal. If I keep the door open by being friends, I may have a chance to share Jesus at some point.” Well, a few things are for certain with this approach! We never need step out of our comfort zone – We may never need to share our faith in Jesus – And we can probably avoid all faith controversies. Unfortunately this also assures we stay in mediocrity in our faith journey or even worse, become lukewarm because we rest in the assurance of salvation without being willing to share our best friend, our Savior, Jesus Christ, with others.
We have come up with many excuses for not sharing the Gospel. We seem to be procrastinators when it comes to talking about Jesus, preferring to “wait and see” since we do not want to force Jesus down anyone’s throat. Christians pick up on sayings that convince us we don’t have to share the Gospel unless people ask or if it is absolutely necessary. For example, this well-known athlete was quoted, “I like the saying from St. Francis of Assisi, ‘Preach the gospel at all times, if necessary use words.’ I try to live my life in a way that reflects my faith in the Lord. I don’t like to get in peoples’ faces. The best way for me is: Let your actions talk about your beliefs, start a relationship with others, then finally there is a chance for questions.”
And though we can certainly praise the Lord for St. Francis, and even agree his quote might have been taken out of context, we should know if we live solely by those words, we miss what the Bible has to say about sharing our faith. One of the biggest problems with this approach to sharing our faith is the Word of God doesn’t’ support it. 2 Timothy 4:2 “Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching.” I suppose some might argue this was a word to Timothy from Paul, therefore is a word for leaders in the church. That is certainly true in one sense however these truths are not limited to leaders as we see in 2 Timothy 2:2 “And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” That pretty much explains it – these inspired spiritual truths were for Timothy and witnesses, faithful men (and women) and are to all of us who are taught. That would mean we all get to proclaim the Gospel message of Jesus Christ along with preaching all matters related to it.
Lest there be any misunderstanding as to the meaning of “preach” we discover that in the original language it has nothing to do with our actions but everything to do with our public proclamation of the Gospel and all matters pertaining to it. We are to talk about our relationship with Jesus! Part of the problem is that we have placed such a “negative” connotation to the word “preach” in society and even amongst Christians that we don’t want to get “preachy” and we don’t want to be “preached” to because we have equated preaching with pushy. Yet, preaching is exactly what we ARE to do as Christians as we convince, rebuke, exhort, and teach with patience.
Again, let me emphasize this athlete has been given center stage for several years and his actions have yet to speak of his beliefs since the public did not know he was a believer until he used words. And my question is what does a life look like which reflects our faith in the Lord if we do not use words? Is it a good life? A pure, holy, and free from sin life? If so, what does that look like? Is it about doing good to others? Is it not using God’s Name in vain, not over drinking or partying? Is it doing charity work? How do we live our lives in a way to reflect our faith in the Lord without using words when there are just as many people living a “good” life, giving freely of themselves, and being generous and loving who do not believe in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior?
My questions continue! When did sharing our faith in Jesus Christ using words equate to “getting in peoples’ faces”? And since when did the “best way for me” approach supersede the biblical approach to sharing our faith? When I hear Christians declare their “style” of Christianity is about “showing” their faith rather than “getting in other people’s faces” with the good news of salvation my only question is why does it have to be either/or? Why not both? Looking at the life of Jesus we learn He walked AND talked about His Father, the way to be saved, sin and its’ consequences, love and mercy, repentance and forgiveness, and all other matters pertaining to living in Him. He was blunt at times and at other times He spoke in parables. He didn’t have a “best way for Him” approach to sharing His good news but rather was ready to give people what they needed to hear when they needed to hear it even if that meant getting in their face.
I have always wondered if we are silent, resting in a “personal” and “private” relationship with Jesus Christ, how will those who do not know Him ever discover Him? I think for the most part we are deceived if we think people are going to ask us about our faith in Jesus Christ if we do not use words, especially since we also freely admit we struggle to live out our faith in Jesus. Another quote from this man is, “I am always struggling in finding time to daily grow in my faith. If you are not in the Word or focusing on Christ, or into prayer, you can’t help but slip at times.”
Now don’t get me wrong thinking I am judging or picking on this guy. I am simply using his words as an example of how this very common approach to sharing our faith is not effective if we want people to know our lovely Jesus! If we are struggling to find time to grow in faith, to stay in love with the Savior of our souls, how is our behavior going to reflect this great faith we have in Jesus? It won’t! Thus we must begin to do what the Word says rather than doing it our way. The Word says that faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God! (Romans 10:17) How will they hear unless we speak His Word to them? They will not!
It is difficult to find time to daily grow in faith but it is NOT difficult to take time with Jesus! It is NOT too difficult to be immersed in the love of God. It is NOT too difficult to be with Him, talk with Him, and know Him. It is NOT too difficult to make the choice to live in Him, choosing life over death, blessing over cursing. It is NOT too difficult to surrender our lives to Him on a daily basis. It is NOT too difficult to be zealous for Him and repent. It just is NOT too difficult to share the love of God anywhere and everywhere we go in this world. But the only way to assure it is NOT too difficult is if we speak of Him daily and stop separating our relationship with Him from everything else in life. Why must we develop a “the best way” to share Jesus with others? Shouldn’t it be as natural as sharing news about my family? Why must we pre-plan not to get into people’s faces? Shouldn’t we just be ready to tell them what they need to hear? Why do we fall back to our comfort zones and hope to win people to Christ “our” way instead of God’s way? Shouldn’t we be willing to step out of the boat and walk on water?
I was asking the Lord about this “approach” which seems prevalent in the body of Christ about sharing Him with others. We were discussing the fact we have no problem bragging about our spouses or kids, discussing the weather or politics, or sharing our weekend plans and vacations so why do we hold back our conversation about Him? His answer to me was simple: Because we treat Him like a religion! Since we don’t want to force our religion on other people we equate sharing this relationship with forcing it. With religious discussions, we need to know what and why we believe, then try and convince others we are right and they are wrong. If we were to treat Jesus like He treats us, He would be in every conversation we have. We would be bragging about Him, telling everyone how awesome He is, what we are doing this weekend together, how He is working good in our lives, how He deals with us when we do wrong, and so many other incredible things we do together.
If we are honest we are not as close to Him as we think we are! We fear having to explain Him to others which is why we avoid talking about Jesus altogether. When we struggle and cannot find time to grow in faith, to spend time talking and listening to Him in prayer and in the Word, we will not know Him as He knows us. And even though we love Him, we will not share His greatness with others unless they ask. The problem is not many are asking these days!
You see Jesus died for us and wants the world to know! He is not quiet about it! He is passionately in love with us and shouts His love throughout creation to anyone who is listening! He wants all people to know He will never leave or forsake us! His love for us is so deep, wide, and high there is nothing in this world or any other that can separate us from it. And the best part is we are in every conversation He has. He can’t stop talking about us. He doesn’t wait around for people to ask about us. He freely and willingly talks about His children. He exhibits His love for us in word and deed!
As I continued conversing with the Lord concerning our unwillingness to talk about Him with others, He asked me a question, “Who am I?” I instantly knew what He was seeking and saying! “Well Lord, You are many things! You are the Word!” If being the Word is good enough for Jesus, I would think the written and spoken word should be good enough for us! Words are what we use to communicate in our world today whether in person, by telephone, text, e-mail, or letters. Though non-verbal cues, lifestyle, and behavior aid in our communication, we do not rely on them to grow in relationships or to convey truths to other people. Likewise, words are the major source of communication we must use to share the Living Word, Jesus, with others.
The Lord has challenged His Church in 2011 to know His Word, the Bible! With everything I am hearing and seeing in the Church, He is right on target – Go figure! With that said, we must know what God says about sharing our faith and get serious about our actions AND speech because by sitting back and thinking we are great witnesses of Jesus Christ by our lifestyles, we have simply given Satan a stronghold in our society. Many, many Christians today have made a conscious decision to be “quiet” witnesses for Christ when in effect they are silent, non-existent witnesses.
Let us begin to preach the Word not just live it! Faith comes by hearing! How will they know unless we tell them? We ought to proclaim it every opportunity we get. We do not preach our opinion, our interpretation, or change the Word to make ourselves feel good. We are to be ready in and out of season, meaning anytime, anywhere we ought to be ready to preach. We can’t preach what we don’t know! We can’t know unless we hear the Word! We can’t hear unless someone speaks the Word! We can’t speak the Word unless we know the Truth! We can’t know Truth without knowing Jesus! We know Jesus more and more as we know the Word! I trust you see the cycle! We can’t be ready if we didn’t get ready. And that means we can’t sit back and let our actions reflect our faith. We most certainly need to live in Jesus and reflect Him in everything we do. But let us also speak His Word and let’s begin to brag about our Jesus so that others can brag about Him too! Our time is short!
2 Timothy 4:3-5 “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desire, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables. But you be watchful in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.”