I would like to tell you a story…
There once was a baby born to a Christian family, when he was only a few months old, he had to have an operation. Unfortunately for him, the anaesthetic they decided to use, caused an allergic reaction and he stopped breathing for twenty minutes! Some say that it caused his brain to work abnormally!
When he was in infants school, he somehow had so much conviction in knowing God was real, that he tried to convince one of his school friends to believe in God, many years before he decided to follow Christ himself!
He discussed as young children do, with his siblings what job he would like to do, almost every suggestion was countered with a reason why it was not a good idea,
Fireman – too dangerous!
Bin man– too dirty!
Milk man – have to get up early!
He didn’t know what he was meant to do, almost to the point that giving it all up was a tempting option!
He used to sit in church services, some more boring than others and write stories about being a missionary in far off countries. When he was about 12 years old, he met a group of Africans and he was besotted with the idea of visiting a mud hut and apparently drew an exact replica of the compound where the visitors had come from!
While his family became more and more involved with the African people, he was battling with self-confidence, in his year 7 class he challenged a fellow class mate who kept claiming to be God! He asked this arrogant young boy if he was God, then surely he could move one tree to another spot in the field behind them! Another class mate spoke up and told him to “stop preaching!” Which was considered bizarre to our boy as this new voice was coming from a boy from a church-going family?!
The young boy of our story, walked home regularly with a few other boys who lived near his home, and every so often he would be asked by one of these boys if he was a christian, something within him wasn’t able to be confident and brave enough to say “yes I am”, “yes I did go to church on Sunday!”.
As time went on, the boy grew up and his school friends became more and more derogatory, not being physically abusive but to him it was mentally draining, his confidence dropped and he was less outspoken about the gospel and his beliefs.
He did however manage to stand firm and not swear, despite the attempts from others to get him to swear in foreign languages and questions about why he didn’t swear!
It was only after he left college that he found some confidence again, His grades were not amazing and he still didn’t speak up about being a Christian, but he just kept on trying to be good, kind and respectful to others, only asking others about their beliefs when he was on his last week of work before moving to new employment!
When he spent an entire month in Africa, staying with a family friend, he was laying on his bed and reading his bible, before he dozed off. Whilst napping, God gave him a dream,
I dreamt that I was on a boat, floating on a river, I was oblivious that the water was taking me closer and closer to a waterfall, suddenly a four by four came along the bank and managed to rope my boat and drag me to safety. I felt God say “I saved you from destruction! Now go and rescue others!”
During the months stay in Africa, this young man saw the passion and faith in God that the African teenagers and children had, testifying every night to those gathered about the goodness and love of our heavenly father! Like a torch bearer, this young man wanted to carry the fire back to the UK, Back to his home town and spread it within the young people in his church!
He made attempts to discover how he could share this “fire”, but still a teenager himself, he wasn’t sure and confident enough in himself to know how to do it! God then led him away from his home church, to a place where he could be a “Christian” in a “Christian” workplace! God challenged him on his prejudices towards “organised religion” his belief that his home church had it right and “disorganised religion” was the way to go!
He met other young Christians who seemed to have a very immature faith and relationship with the holy trinity, the few bible studies they did as staff made him realise that he knew more than he thought that he knew, suddenly understanding things about God’s word despite never reading that passage of scripture before, gave him confidence that God was with him!
He met the woman who was to be his wife, despite a few bumpy moments, they were certain that God had put them together, not 100% sure why as they were not what dating websites would have classed as a “match” but slowly over a decade of marriage, they realised their own strengths were what the other needed to support their own weaknesses!
A few years later, whilst working in a church, the young man decided to ask the minister, if the church would support his application to train as a qualified youth pastor. He got an answer that he wasn’t expecting!
“No, you are not a confident enough person, you would be fooling yourself and it is unfair of my colleague to encourage you down that road!”
This struck the man in our story, yes he wasn’t the most confident of people, but surely this was what God was calling him to do?! The minister had enough doubt in our man, that he phoned up the man’s wife and questioned whether she felt he was right for a different role and showed concern that if it all went wrong they may struggle financially, the man’s wife challenged the minister on his faith saying
“if he is meant to do it, then he will succeed, if not God will provide the next step”
So our guy plodded on, doing what he felt God was calling him to do, getting involved with children’s and young people’s work, but not 100% sure of what he was to do with his life, until events brought him back to his home church that he grew up in, given another chance to apply for a course to train and test the calling to youth work, he asked for support, did all he could to complete the course
He is still looking for the next step in his life, but he is confident that whatever it is, God has it all planned out, he can knock on doors but only the right one will open at the right time!
I have watched many an interaction between atheists and street preachers, I don’t know about you but I don’t think I could stand in the middle of a city centre and preach the gospel, telling everyone that they are sinners and bad people!
In 1 Peter 3:13-16 it says
Who will harm you if you are eager to do what is good?
But even if you should suffer for doing what is right, how happy you are! Do not be afraid of anyone, and do not worry.
But have reverence for Christ in your hearts, and honor him as Lord. Be ready at all times to answer anyone who asks you to explain the hope you have in you,
but do it with gentleness and respect. Keep your conscience clear, so that when you are insulted, those who speak evil of your good conduct as followers of Christ will become ashamed of what they say.
I don’t think we are called to be street preachers! In that passage Peter is confirming what Jesus said, we will suffer, we may even be persecuted for believing and following what the bible says, but we need to have good conscience in what we do so that those who falsely accuse us of things will be ashamed when the truth comes out.
Those outside of our church walls, in our neighbourhoods and those who live around our own homes need to know the gospel! They need to know that God loves them, they need to know that everyone has areas of their past which they regret, that they may hope no one will ever know, but that the people inside our churches are no different to those outside, in the sense that we are not perfect, we make mistakes, we fail to listen to God’s direction, and we fail at times to show love to others.
I know that more people are brought to Christ, by us acting as Christ would than by us preaching at them! The Westboro Baptist church are deluded, if they think telling everyone possible that they are all going to hell, is the way to get others to follow Christ! I wouldn’t wanna set foot in a church like that and I am already a believer!
Millions of people around the world gather together, because they know that there is someone who can help us with our guilt, our pain our sadness and our stress. We are blessed to know that there is a saviour, there is a helper, there is a friend and a loving father all wanting the best for us.
I used to pray that God would give me the words to say when I needed them, but he already does! What my wife does and I have forgotten to do at times, is to pray that God opens our eyes to see those he wants us to talk to, and when we meet those people give us wisdom in what we say and do!
St Francis of Assisi is quoted as saying
“Preach the Gospel at all times and when necessary use words.”
He also said
“If God can work through me, he can work through anyone!”
I agree with him there, in 1 Corinthians 1:27-31 it says
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.
God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things – and the things that are not – to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him.
It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God – that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption.
We have a friend who spent years training to become accredited by the Baptist union as an evangelist! That qualification means diddly squat when it comes to sitting down with someone and having a coffee and a chat with them as they need an ear to listen!
We have the card above in a frame at home, but it is one of the hardest things to practice, especially for us males who want to fix things that are broken, we don’t like people upset, I don’t like my children coming home from school crying!
There is so much evil in the world, we sometimes regret bringing our children into it all, in this country we are not as persecuted for our faith as they are in other countries but if someone came up to you and challenged you on your beliefs or tested them in the workplace, would you stand up to fight for your beliefs? Do you know your bible enough to love them at the same time as knowing why you don’t agree?
In 2 Timothy 3:16-17 it says
All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching the truth, rebuking error, correcting faults, and giving instruction for right living,
so that the person who serves God may be fully qualified and equipped to do every kind of good deed.
I thank the lord that our salvation isn’t based on our intimate knowledge of the bible, yet we should strive for it. However unless we read God’s word we will be like Adam and Eve who were tricked and convinced by a creature, telling them white lies about what God said to them, because the devil is twisting words even today!
- “O God didn’t really mean that”
- “That’s ok, you can change your body to fit in that outfit”,
- “You are too fat/skinny/stupid/useless to be loved by anyone!”
We read in the Gospels that Jesus himself was challenged on his faith, the devil took him to the highest points and offered him power if he worshipped the devil. Jesus refused to listen and countered the lies with truth! Like the story, no one can successfully argue with the truth, no one can successfully argue with your testimony!
It’s your life, it is your story, first person eyewitness testimony is some the best evidence anyone can use in a case. More importantly and what we must never forget is that our story is God’s story too!
All of our lives are interwoven in the greatest story ever told! Jesus was with God at the beginning of the earth, was on earth as a baby, grew up as a boy and into an adult about 2000 odd years ago, he saved us from the eternal punishment we deserved for all our mistakes and then he sent the holy spirit to help and counsel us until he returns to end the story!
I want to challenge you this week, to look back at your past and see what God has done for you!
Look out for what God is doing now in your present; pray that he opens your eyes to what he is doing around you!
Lastly pray that he helps you with your future, giving you the confidence to face whatever life and/or other people send your way,
Just remember “Emmanuel” God is with us!