For far too long I have lived in fear. I’ve hesitated saying “no” to another responsibility out of fear that it would burden someone else. I’ve refused to join friends learning a new hobby out of fear that I would embarrass myself. I’ve allowed misunderstandings to fester out of my fear of confronting another. And yes, I’ve avoided sharing the gospel with others out of fear that I would fail to articulate the truth accurately and be held responsible for propagating heresy.
And so while I was a counselor at a Christian camp for five summers, received a B.A. in Biblical Studies, taught women’s Bible studies at college, and went to graduate school to learn more about the Bible, I was terrified of actually having to communicate the gospel to others. What was the correct plan to use in making a gospel presentation? Which Scriptures did I need to reference? How much did the recipient actually have to understand to receive God’s gift of salvation? I had a million questions, little faith in God’s ability to use me as his instrument, and a very real and paralyzing fear that subversively whispered, “You don’t know enough to share the gospel. You’ll misrepresent God. You’ll be punished for false teachings. Better to keep quiet than be held liable for leading others astray.” And good obedient girl that I am, I said nothing for several years.
If this were a tale of morality and works-oriented grace, it would end right there. The end of this blog post would be something to the effect of, “And I realized that I was ashamed of my faith and so I practiced presenting the gospel in the mirror every night until I got it down perfect. I prayed regularly to be wedged between the window and an earnest seeker on every flight that I took such that I’d have to overcome my fear and share the gospel. I memorized the 10 most frequent objections to Christianity and had a strong counter argument ready for every point. In the end, I overcame my fear and played a role in leading 5 people to Christ just in the past year. Praise God!”
But you know what? Our Lord is gracious and in his kindness, he gives us what we do not deserve. He uses whom he will for his good purposes, irregardless of our “good works” or lack thereof. You see, I did none of the activities mentioned above. Not one. And yet, in the past year God has granted me the privilege of forming friendships with three different ladies who each want to know more about God.
The first lady actually asked me to meet with her weekly and walk through the basic tenets of the Christian faith. My response? “Thanks, God. I guess this is your way of forcing me to overcome my fear. I am terrified of doing this, and so please show up.” One year later, I witnessed her pray to accept Jesus Christ as her Lord and Savior. She wept with the tears of one who has been set free. I cried as the Lord reminded me that on my 8th grade “bucket list” I had written “Be part of someone coming to Christ.”
Two months ago I found myself having lunch with a recent acquaintance who was grieving the loss of her mother and questioning the goodness of God. Somewhat more confident in the faithfulness of God, yet still sick at my stomach at the thought of misleading her, I simply prayed, “Lord, reveal your goodness and love to her.” She and I discussed the nature of sin, the hope that is in Christ, and the unfailing love of the Father. And while she didn’t make a profession of faith, we both left with full stomachs and the encouraging reminder that the Lord sees and hears us. My fear was loosening.
Then last week I met with an intelligent and committed skeptic. She had initiated the meeting, but made it clear that she was only asking questions. “I’m not here to be converted.” The old fear crept back up and whispered with fierceness, “You’re wasting your time. You can never convince her. You’re not even experienced at sharing the gospel with seekers, much less skeptics.” I took a long sip of iced tea. I wasn’t there to convert her. I was just the messenger. My role was to be present and to respond to the guiding of the Holy Spirit. I cleared my throat and simply said, “You’re right. I’m not here to convert you. I just want to have an open and honest dialogue about any questions you may have regarding God.” And then I smiled with the knowledge that her salvation was not dependent upon how effectively I shared the gospel. It is the work of the Holy Spirit.
“For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes…” – Romans 1:16