Due to a health issue, I was unable to attend church today, so I turned on the TV to see who was preaching today. Low and behold I ran across Charles Stanley preaching on sharing the Gospel. His text was Romans chapter one, where he pointed out that Paul was both Obligated and Eager to preach the Gospel. This took me back to the last time I was at UGA, for their last home game.
As I was reading the Gospel of John, I noticed a man standing in front of me, looking at me. I assumed, wrongly, that he was there to mock and say something irreverent about Jesus. He walked up to me, shook my hand, and looked me straight in the eye saying something close to, “Thank you for being out here, and for being better than I am.” I assured him that I was not better than him, but he insisted, He shook my hand for what seemed like a long time and then went on his way. The only thing I can figure is that this man was under conviction for failing to share his faith.
You may be wondering why Dr. Stanley’s sermon took be back to this moment in time. The reason it took me back is because of the word, “eager”. Now the man I was referring to above, may have felt obligated. In fact, I am almost certain he did, but he may have lacked the eagerness to share the Gospel. Before we go on down that road, I want you to understand that this blog is not about that man and his failure. It is about the failure of Alex.
You see, I have never had a problem, since I was saved on 1997, understanding that I had an obligation to share the Gospel. In fact I cannot remember a time since then when the Holy Spirit was not pressing that thought into me. God sent men like Ray Comfort into my life, when I came across his message, “Hell’s Best Kept Secret”. To this day, I have no idea how I obtained my first cassette of that sermon, but it changed my life. From the moment I heard that sermon, I knew evangelism was it. That was my purpose in life. Shortly after Ray, God sent me a book called, “One Thing You Can’t do in Heaven”, by Mark Cahill. This book is full of Mark’s experiences of sharing his faith. These men seemed to echo and magnify the Great Commission as stated in Matthew 28 and Mark 16. I would have had to be a total idiot not to see that God was guiding me in the direction of evangelism, so the obligation has never been the problem. Eagerness, however, is a different animal.
While I am obligated and accept that obligation fully, I lack in eagerness. Don’t get me wrong, when I am out preaching open air or sharing one on one, I know I am where I should be and I am, at that moment, eager to be doing what I am doing. It is before I go out to minister that the Eagerness eating monster attacks me. It is so easy to find reasons not to go out. It may be cold or raining. I may have a slight ailment, or my knees and ankles, which often betray me, may be causing me pain. Then there is the human nature aspect of not wanting to be ridiculed and mocked, which will happen. Although the skin gets tough and God always gives grace, the flesh is weak, and does not like to be ridiculed. Is it persecution? I would say, no. It is simply harassment and to be expected from the lost.
The thing that makes me angry, with myself, is that I know I am supposed to do this and I know God will always provide grace for every situation, and yet I still have an eagerness deficiency. The key is to remember that God’s grace is sufficient , even in my self-centered weakness. The mistake I have made in the past, and am still working through, is forgetting that there is a battle going on. A study of Church history and of preachers down through the ages will reveal that it isn’t going to be easy. George Whitfield had pieces of dead cat thrown at him while he was preaching and even the Apostle Paul was stoned, for proclaiming the Gospel. Who am I to think I should have an easy road to travel? Now, to be clear, I am not comparing myself to Whitfield or Paul, for I am less than nothing, compared to these great men of God.
The root of the problem is not the lack of eagerness, but the lack of preparation and practice. The lack of eagerness is simply a natural product of the lack of preparation. I have noticed, the more time I spend in prayer and study prior to a ministry activity, the more eager I am to get on the street. The more easily the remarks and nasty comments roll off my back. The more easily the words to say come and it seems the more opportunities God sends my way, to minister to a young man or woman in a one on one situation. The more people you are able to speak with and minister to, the more you desire to reach people.
You see, the man who thought I was better than him was actually better than me, if you want to keep score. I have been doing this off and on for many years, and by now I should not have a lack of desire or even a hesitation, before I stand up to preach, but I do. I am weak, hesitant, and yes even scared, every time I go out to minister on the streets. God continues to use Ray Comfort in my life. Speaking of “fear” Ray once said, “Just ignore it and do it anyway”. That simple, almost silly, piece of advice runs through my mind every time I become hesitant to stand up and preach.
The obligation to share the Gospel is learned.
The Eagerness to share it is cultivated by prayer, study, and practice.
Until All Hear!