Thursday, February 11, 2016

Sharing Our Faith

I'm no expert on sharing my faith, but I do know that Jesus commanded us to share the good news.   And I also know that I have not been very good at doing it.  The biggest challenge for me is knowing that it's very easy to push people further and further away from Christ while we are trying to share what has changed our lives.

It's a frequent battle - knowing I should be doing *something* but not knowing exactly what to do.   I know one thing - I am not comfortable walking up to a perfect stranger and asking them if they died today, where would they go?  And why would God accept them in heaven?  It might make some people think, but it would have left me feeling angry and not particularly good about Christians or Christianity in general.

In thinking about what pushed me away from God to begin with, I see things I want to be careful never to do to anyone else (if I haven't already).

     1) I don't want to threaten someone with hell because of their lifestyle, job, particular sin, etc.- that's not my job.

     2) Many people consider their beliefs to be a private thing.  I would have been extremely offended if a stranger, out of the blue, demanded to know what my beliefs were, and then insisted on making me justify them.  Having a discussion like that with me would have been extremely counter-productive for someone trying to win me over to Christ.

     3) I don't want to hit someone over the head with the wrath of God.  I've had that done to me, and I can tell you my reaction wasn't good - unfortunately, if you don't know God and think that's all there is to Him, you'd never want to learn more, and would miss out knowing the great love God has for us, and His desire to help us, not harm us.

In looking back over the events that brought me *to* God, I noticed that there were seeds planted by people along the way.  Others came along later and watered those seeds.  And God, in His time, made them sprout.  The "planting" and "watering" were such simple acts, but at the same time, with a profound effect. Based on my own experiences, I have come up with a list of things I can do, in hopes of planting and watering for someone else.

     1) Hurting people usually appreciate hearing from someone who has hurt in a similar way and come through it, and this is a great opportunity to let them know what God has done in my life during these dark times.  Christ is hope, even in a "hopeless" situation.

     2) We can tell our stories of salvation when we have a chance to do so.  We all have an interesting testimony about how we got from Point A to Point B.

     3) Our actions give a testimony to those who don't know Jesus, and particularly to those who are hostile toward Him.  At all times, we represent Christ, but we're all human.  When we make a mistake or behave badly, we need to rectify it promptly and to the best of our ability.

     4) We can be God's hands and feet.  When we see a need, we can try to meet it.  Take cookies to welcome new neighbors.  Refuse to speak badly about anyone.  Assume the best about someone's motives.  Be encouraging.

     5) We can support local outreach efforts, either financially or with our time and talents, to help spread the word to those who need to hear it.

     6) Most importantly - we can pray for those who haven't accepted Christ's gifts.  Pray that their hearts and minds be open to Him.

Many of these small actions may seem to go unnoticed, until trouble strikes.  If someone can remember that they once heard about the hope that is in Christ, or that they have a God who loves them dearly and wants to be called on in times of trouble, it can make a huge difference to them.  It has to me.

I don't believe sharing our faith needs to be scary nor offensive to the unbeliever.  I know there are many ways we can accomplish this.  Please share your own thoughts on this, and ideas you may have to spread the Good News about the love of Christ, and the hope we have in Him.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

The State of Faith in our Difficulties

About the time I think I've got a good handle on this life and faith business, something comes along to remind me that I have a long way to go.  While we may feel our faith grow over the years and see how far we've come, there’s such a depth to our relationship with God that we can't "max out" on it, not ever.   There's always room for significant improvement in our faith in the Almighty.

No one likes to struggle with life's situations, especially the big ones.  One situation that frequently comes to my mind is when the apostle Paul took his request to God three times for deliverance from a debilitating malady.  And God told him "My grace is sufficient." [1] It is one thing to know it in your mind, but another to feel it in your heart when you can't see how God's grace can possibly be sufficient.  And given a choice, you'd be tempted to choose being healed over grace.  Ouch!  What a yardstick with which to measure our faith!  Our shortcomings are no surprise to God, but they can be to us.  

While it's not pleasant to see our spiritual deficiencies, it gives us the opportunity to work with God to deal with the situation and make appropriate changes.  Charles Stanley, in his “30 Life Principles,” states, “The dark moments in our life will last only so long as is necessary for God to accomplish His purpose in us.”[2]  I suspect the difficult times may not be so much about the specific thing we struggle with as much as the state of our faith in general.  And the thing we struggle with is only there to shine a light on the real problem.

Perhaps we tend to ask God for the wrong blessings.  In addition to prayers of healing, maybe the better prayer after a certain point is to ask for understanding and faith: understanding what God is saying to you in this struggle, and faith in God’s promise that His grace really is sufficient.  I feel confident of one thing: there is a reason and a purpose for every struggle.  And on the other side of that struggle is a blessing; a blessing bigger and more significant than the difficulty.