I would have to believe that most of us would like to avoid conflict, especially when we are being attacked. And this is true when it involves being a witness for Jesus. All too often we allow the fear of others to mute our witness for Christ. The result is that our culture is robbed of seeing and hearing the truth that they desperately need.
This last week I got into a conversation with a young man that was pumping my gas (yes, I was in Oregon). It is amazing how God works. We had a pretty amazing conversation in a few minutes. I learned that he came from a broken home and was a casualty of divorce. It has caused him to question his faith in God. Now, was it a coincidence that I just happened to be there? No, God was working in his heart and God had placed an opportunity before me. How do I know this? Because when a person opens up like this, they are hurting on the inside and God is working in their lives. So, I took the opportunity to point this young man to Jesus. I was able to end our brief conversation with prayer for him and his struggles.
I have recently been meditating on 1 Peter 3:13-18. It is in these verses that Peter encourages us to face the challenges of being a witness for Jesus. Let me highlight several challenges for the serious follower of Jesus.
First, be controlled by faith not by fear. “But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled,” (1 Peter 3:14) Our greatest obstacle to bringing Jesus to others is fear. It could be the fear of what others will think. It could be the fear of being humiliated or embarrassed. It could be the fear of not knowing the answers. Yet, Peter challenges us to be bold and not allow fear to keep us from being used for Him.
Second, God and others are counting on me to speak. “but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect,” (1 Peter 3:15) We live in a hurting world. I drove away from the gas pump with a heart bleeding for this young man and many others that are lost. How are they going to find the truth if we remain silent? God’s plan is for them to hear it from us.
Third, we must treat others with dignity (notice “gentleness and respect”). We are expected to treat others the way that Jesus would treat them. It is easy to repay evil for evil. Yet the Bible calls us to break the cycle of evil with kindness.
Fourth, live an exemplary life. Peter reminds us that we should expect to be slandered. He reminds us, “having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame.” (1 Peter 3:16) Slander is nothing more than character assassination. The challenge is to live in such a way that our actions speak for us before others. Peter continues, “For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil.” (1 Peter 3:17 )
I believe that there are incredible opportunities to touch lives for Jesus amidst the brokenness and hurting of those around us. The challenge is will I let Jesus use me?
-Pastor Joe Parkinson