I have often thought, and sometimes worried, about being prepared, willing and able to share the gospel when God was asking me to. I used to try to memorize certain Scriptures that would really “hit the nail on the head,” that would drive the idea of salvation to an iron-clad choice, leaving my conversation partner with no where to turn but Jesus. I wanted to be a good evangelist, I wanted to fulfill the Great Commission outlined in Matthew 28:18-20. I wanted to be a fisher of men and to bring the catch home with me.
I don’t think my opportunities for sharing the gospel have ever worked out the way I’ve envisioned them beforehand! And I’ve been following Jesus for 41 years now. I have to sit back and smile at the many different ways God prepares people to hear the good news, and to smirk at my strategies to try to make this happen. It’s like God says, “Nope, I’m going to do it this way this time.” And then, “I think I’ll do it THIS way this time.” And so on and so on each and every time, as different and unique as the individuals that He is calling.
Recently I was talking with my brother at my younger sister’s hospital bedside. My brother and I have had quite a few conversations about God over the years, usually ending with a respectful skepticism on his part. I’ve learned not to push the subject on him, or anyone else in my family for that matter, but just to pray for them and try to live with integrity before them as a Believer. I’ve heard plenty of their stories disdaining the “unchristian” behavior of so many Christians they have known or witnessed over the years. My family is a tough crowd.
The only “religious” thing that I offered to do was read a short Scripture to my sister with my brother and other sister surrounding her bed. It was Revelations 21:1-5, a depiction of the new heavens and earth and that the Lord was making all things new. Shortly after that my brother asked what kind of Bible I had read from. Then, kind of randomly, he asked me where the Arabs came from. Really? Arabs? Now? Well, I told him the story of Abraham and Ishmael and Isaac and a very brief history of Jacob and Joseph and Egypt and the Exodus. He was riveted. Really? At a time like this? Jews and Arabs? Where was this coming from? I told him there were even better stories than this in the Bible. The Bible is full of stories. It was like he had never heard that before. He was all ears. Later that day, he talked with my wife, Laura, about all the different Bible translations and he ordered one for himself. Later that evening he called his wife who was at their home 300 miles away to find out that she too had just ordered a Bible. They hadn’t spoken about any of this.
As we parted company, my brother was mystified that he found himself crying when talking about God with us. Well, Laura and I know what that means!!! Praise God! He is certainly calling my brother to Himself during these days. Surely my sister’s illness and the whole question of life and death loom large in his mind and heart right now. And how did the Lord want me involved? What great evangelistic sermon did I need to prepare for this big moment? Absolutely nothing I could have prepared for…. simply recounting a little Bible history about the first Arabs! Who would have thought?
The point of all this is that, though we are to be prepared and willing to share the good news with others when the time is right, God truly does all the work. He stirs the hearts of those He is calling and opens those He loves to help them see with new eyes and hear with new ears. This is all the work of His magnificent Holy Spirit….and all He really asks of me is to BE there, living life alongside others who might at any seemingly random moment be sensing the presence of God.
Do not worry about what to say or how to say it. At that time you will be given what to say, for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.
Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience.
1 Peter 3:15