Acts 74, Acts 20.18-27
You had the chance
The table was set for you…
You even knew it was a golden opportunity and yet
you said nothing.
You wanted to say something about God, you wanted to tell her that you became a Christian, that you truly believe in Him…yet you just didn’t know how to bring it up, didn’t want to look like an idiot. Got it.
I suppose Paul wondered what others would say about him initially . . . but not for long. Just why was he so bold? Paul knew what life apart from Jesus looked like; he remembered how laborious it had been to try to be righteous by keeping all of the Law--613 laws to be precise. So, when Paul was convinced that Jesus was his Messiah, he could not, would not keep it from others.
We have witnessed his radical conversion in Acts chapter nine, we have watched over his shoulder as he went on first one missionary journey, then a second tour, and has now embarked on his third and last. And then, in the only message spoken to believers in the book of Acts, we get a real inside look at how Paul viewed his purpose, saying: from the day I set foot in the province of Asia until now I have done the Lord’s work humbly and with many tears. I have endured the trials that came to me from the plots of the Jews. I never shrank back from telling you what you needed to hear, either publicly or in your homes. I have had one message for Jews and Greeks alike—the necessity of repenting from sin and turning to God, and of having faith in our Lord Jesus. . . and then a bit further But my life is worth nothing to me unless I use it for finishing the work assigned me by the Lord Jesus—the work of telling others the Good News about the wonderful grace of God.
I declare today that I have been faithful. If anyone suffers eternal death, it’s not my fault, for I didn’t shrink from declaring all that God wants you to know. From Acts 20.
I didn’t shrink back, he said. I am so personally challenged by this.
I do not want to shrink back from sharing the Good News either, though I have.
So let’s consider again what opportunity looks like and what could be said--in short, how to start a spiritual conversation. Sometimes you talk with people who seemed to never even take a break…you start to venture a comment, they cut you off and keep going; then it happens again, okay and again. There is not much opportunity there as you are not really in a conversation! In that case, if this is a regular occurrence, (like with a neighbor or a coworker), pray that God will make a way, that God will give you an opening and the other will listen.
In most cases, there is a give and take in sharing information. Quite clearly, at this unique time, Covid and managing its fears and restrictions, is a natural topic to launch. I have said things like, ‘I do not know how people are managing without faith in God--I am so grateful that I can trust him each day, and with my future.’
Do not go on and on. I’m a fan of Ecclesiastes 5.2 - let my words be few. A question is a great facilitator here: ‘Do you have a faith?’
Right here, many folks say, ‘O I used to go to church… or I went all through Catholic school…’ Ask the next question. Listen. ‘Oh, what happened?’ Perhaps the person has confused religion with relationship, felt burned by the Church, and you will be able to empathize and possibly say ‘while I do go to church, I really do not think going to church is required--it is connecting with God that has given me peace and hope.’
Make quiet your friend. A pregnant pause is good. Hopefully, the person will ask the next question ‘how do you connect with God? Or what church do you attend? Or do you really think there is a God or do you really think God answers prayer?’ Then you can answer from your experience.
Remember, in the court of law, the most powerful thing is the witness who simply gives their personal testimony. The same is true when sharing the Gospel; share what Jesus means to you! But first, you have to seize the opportunity. Oh, and should the person turn to you and say ‘this is just what I needed…please, can you tell me how to become a Christian?’
Breathe a silent of prayer of thanks, and then know you really can’t mess it up--it isn’t about you; it is about the intent of the person’s heart, and God knows that. I humbly respond with something like, ‘this is the easiest way I can explain it--you know, like even to grade school kids who I have taught: A.B.C. Admit that you have blown it, you’ve sinned… Believe in Jesus because he died for our sin--and he was the Son of God! Confess aloud you want Jesus to lead your life! Then lead them in a very simple prayer.
There are a number of Scripture verses on this life-altering news, but these are great: If you openly declare that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by openly declaring your faith that you are saved. Romans 10.9-10. Saved from what? Eternity without God.
Opportunity is knocking - actually, if you just look around you, you will see it. People are dying for hope and will practically sell their souls to get it, even when it has no basis in truth. You have the truth, so share it, for your friend’s sake!
What If? Matthew West, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tt7dpZU6rUY
No regrets, No ‘what ifs’~