“When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus.” (Acts 4:13 NIV)
I have been giving thought to the results of the poll I took last Sunday as part of my sermon on “Convincing the Unconvinced.” The heart of my message was that faith sharing should be easy because the responsibility for persuading others of the truth of the gospel belongs to God. (John 16:8)
One of the questions I asked using our audience response system was “What keeps you from sharing your faith?” In the list of ten choices the top answers were “not sure what to say” and “don’t know my Bible well enough.” Statistically we were not any different as a congregation than other Christians across the country. Not surprisingly feeling ill equipped is the major reason even mature believers usually give for not sharing their faith. Why is that?
For one reason, there is a tendency to believe that education and training are prerequisites for effectiveness and success in doing anything including faith sharing. But that can end up being an excuse when it comes to personal evangelism. Most classes offered on that topic are usually very poorly attended. That in turn might indicate another underlying reason why more people hesitate to share their faith – apathy.
The account in Acts 3 & 4 of the apostles Peter and John boldly preaching the gospel reveals the secret to evangelism effectiveness. When Peter and John healed the cripple man at the entrance to the temple they ended up being arrested. The Jewish leaders were disturbed that a crowd of five thousand had gathered to hear them preach about the resurrection of Christ. After spending a night in jail they were brought before Annas the high priest, Caiaphas and the same Sanhedrin leaders who had interrogated Jesus just months earlier and sent Him to His death.
Under questioning Peter was “filled with the Holy Spirit” and confronted them about their crucifixion of Jesus. He proceeded with great boldness to preach the gospel to them telling them that “Salvation is found in no one else” but the name of Jesus. (Acts 4:4 & 12)
Now the remarkable thing is that the source of their confidence was not their religious education or training, but that they “had been with Jesus.” (See Acts 4:13 above.) The Sanhedrin saw this and was amazed that they were just “ordinary men.”
There is an important lesson to be gleaned from this story of Peter and John’s preaching. The determining factor in supplying both their courage and their effectiveness was in their spending time with Jesus and not their knowledge. And that is meant to be true for all followers of Jesus as well. Apathy and/or ignorance cease to be hindrances to sharing the Gospel when time is spent in His presence. Being with Jesus is what fuels passion for those who don’t know Him. And being with Jesus instills confidence and courage in His anointing and not in our knowledge.
Therefore feeling ill-equipped and ordinary should never be considered liabilities, nor used as excuses. Effective and confident faith sharing grows out of time spent in the presence of Jesus in Bible study, worship and prayer. And it is a natural expression of carrying and practicing the presence of Jesus in everyday life. When Jesus called you to Himself He did so with the same purpose He first called His twelve disciples. “He appointed twelve–designating them apostles–that they might be with Him and that He might send them out to preach.” (Mark 3:14)
Please note the order – first they were to be with Him, then they were to be sent out to preach. That is absolutely critical. Presence was to precede preaching. In other words, telling our story as a witness to the life of Jesus must be preceded by time in His presence.
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