A practical lesson on sharing your faith with others
There once was a young man who got saved. He was a logger, and he worked in a remote area. The men he worked with were notoriously tough, strong, hard men, so the man who led him to Christ warned him, “When you go back to the logging camp, it’s going to be very difficult for you when they find out you’re a Christian, because most of those men don’t like Christians! You’ll no longer be the same man you were before, cursing God, speaking foul language, and doing evil things. You’re going to be so different they’re going to mock you and ridicule you, and try to get you to give up your faith!”
A few months later, the young man returned to town, and the two met again on the street.
“How did it go?” the man asked.
“Fine, just fine,” the young man answered.
“Well, I told you it was going to be hard, didn’t I?”
“No, it wasn’t hard.”
“You mean they didn’t ridicule you or make life hard for you?”
“No,” said the young man. “They never even found out!”
That’s not being much of a Christian! If you have the love of Jesus you cannot hide it. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hid, and if someone has a lighted candle, they don’t put it under the table, but on the table so it will give light to others (Matthew 5:14-15). If you have found Jesus, the Light of the World (John 8:12), you don’t hide it! You tell others about Him! If you have His love in your heart, you’ll share it. This is what faith is all about—standing up and witnessing for Jesus and the truth!
The Bible says, “He who wins souls is wise” (Proverbs 11:30). It takes a lot of wisdom and a lot of love to win souls. Here are a few valuable witnessing pointers to remember, starting with the four steps of witnessing.
Step 1: Ask questions! How are you going to find out who the people you witness to are, or anything about them at all, unless you ask questions? You’re a soul doctor and it’s your business to gently probe so that you find out what people’s problems are so you can help them.
Step 2: Listen to the answers! Even if it takes an hour or all night, it’s vitally important to show others that you love them and are concerned and interested, and you can do this by taking time to listen. All some people need is for somebody to listen, somebody to pour their hearts out to. So that’s half the job of being a witness—being a good listener!
Step 3: Give God’s answers! Let them do most of the talking until finally something is said that turns the knob that opens the door for you to witness and give them God’s answers to their problems—and the main one, of course, is accepting the Lord.
Step 4: Get a decision! No matter how good or poor your witness was, or how receptive you think they’ve been or haven’t been, you should always ask them to receive Jesus as their Savior. Sometimes you’ve got to take a chance, because you may never see them again and they may never get another chance. Pop the question: “Do you want to receive Jesus right now?” You may get a “yes,” or “no,” or a “maybe later,” but get a decision!
One of the simplest ways to pop the question is to say, “I’m happy because I have Jesus in my heart! Do you have Jesus in your heart? If you did, you’d be happy too!” And if the person hasn’t received Jesus, then say, “Well, you can have Him right now if you want Him. Just ask Him to come in. He promises to do so if you ask Him.”
Show them a couple of Bible verses on salvation, have them pray with you, and it’s done!
Then they and you have to believe that it happened, whether they feel any different or you see any signs of it or not. I’ve seen all kinds of different reactions, from an absolute explosion in the spirit, to a cool intellectual or mental acceptance where there was no outward indication that anything had happened, and I just had to trust that they meant their prayer.
How do you know whether they got saved or not? By how loud they shout hallelujah or how high they jump? How do you know? How did Jesus say you would know? “By their fruits you will know them” (Matthew 7:20). What effect does it have in their lives? If they sincerely prayed to receive Jesus, sooner or later they’re going to change.
In your witnessing, try to find points of agreement. Don’t dwell on your differences or things that you know they’re going to disagree with. You’ve got to win people over to yourself first, really, before you can win their hearts or convince them to believe what you’re telling them about Jesus and the Bible and get saved.
Try to stay away from controversial issues, and don’t get into arguing. Jesus never argued. Even when His enemies forced Him to give an answer, He simply told them the truth. Some argumentative types argue because they are skeptical, unbelieving, and just want to cause you trouble and waste your time. But some sincere seekers will seem to argue with you because they really want the answers—they want to be convinced.
And always remember, your own personal testimony is just about the most effective argument you have. Sometimes people won’t listen to anything else. Everybody loves a story, and life stories are a much more effective witness than getting into theological arguments and preaching sermons on doctrine. That’s one thing they cannot deny.
American cowboys in the Wild West had a saying: “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink!” Well, that’s true of people too. You can lead them to the truth, in love, but you can’t make them drink it! If they don’t want it, you can’t drink it for them. To make the decision to receive the truth is their job, not yours. You can win their heart, but only the Spirit of God can win their soul.
Our job is to witness and to show them the Word. Show them Revelation 3:20: “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him.” When they hear that He’s promised to come in if they ask Him to, God by His Spirit can give them faith to believe it and receive Him. The Word is the foundation of faith (Romans 10:17). You just have to give them the Word!
That’s why I am so sold on the Word and so convinced that the Word is powerful enough to do the job! The wonder-working Word will do the work. His Word will not return to Him void, but it shall accomplish His purpose (Isaiah 55:11). Once you’ve given others the Word, your job is done. They can then choose to go to Heaven or not. Don’t try to cram the Gospel down people’s throats. If they don’t want Jesus, that’s their decision.
You’re offering them a marvelous gift, the greatest in the world—free salvation, eternal life! If you were offering them a million dollars, you wouldn’t be begging them to take it. You’d say, “Here, do you want a million dollars? You can have it if you want it. Just reach out and take it. You don’t want it? Then I’ll give it to someone else!”
Just give them the answers in the Scriptures, and if they don’t accept the Word, they won’t accept anything. Jesus said that if they won’t accept Moses and the prophets—the Word—then they still wouldn’t believe you even if you raised somebody from the dead! (Luke 16:31). In other words, they don’t want to believe it.
Once you know they’ve heard the truth, you don’t have to keep trying to convince them. That’s the mistake many Christians make: They think they’ve got to convince the person. But the Holy Spirit is the only One who can convince anybody, the only One who can persuade anybody or win anybody. If people won’t accept the Word and the Holy Spirit tugging at their hearts with the truth, they’re not going to listen to you no matter what you say.
So don’t try to force salvation on people. I don’t mean you shouldn’t be persistent, that you shouldn’t keep praying and doing what you can, but have a little common sense. Forget about trying to convince people who don’t want to be convinced.
And when you give the Word to someone, remember that it’s better to use a few good salvation verses that you know very well than a whole bunch of verses that you forget or can’t find in the Bible. In fact, it’s often better to harp on one verse—just one verse! I once knew a man who had been in the hospital when a little old lady came by and quoted Ephesians 2:8-9 over and over to him: “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” He said those few words burned themselves into his mind until he couldn’t get rid of them, and he finally woke up to the fact that he didn’t have to work his way to Heaven. As a result, he was saved and began preaching the Gospel!
The Word of God always has an effect. It is “alive and powerful and sharper than any two-edged sword” (Hebrews 4:12). No one can hear the Word of God without being affected in some way. And the most effective way to get it across is not to quote it to people, not to read it to them, but to let them read it themselves. You remember about 80% of what you see, but only about 40% of what you hear—which means reading it is twice as effective. Besides that, having them read it takes you out of the way as a target for their objection. If they’re going to argue, then they’re going to have to argue with God because they’re reading it straight from His Word, the Bible.
But no matter how effective a witness you are, the fruits are in the Lord’s hands and the response is up to the individual. You have no control over that. You can’t force people to have a good response. You can’t force results! One sows and another waters, the Bible tells us, but it’s God who gives the increase (1 Corinthians 3:6).
If, after all your witnessing, they still claim that they don’t believe in God or the Bible, if they have any sense of fairness at all, you can suggest to them, “Why don’t you say, ‘God, if there is a God out there somewhere, show me. Reveal Yourself!'” Even if they don’t believe the Bible or anything, if they sincerely want to know, God’s Word promises that if they sincerely seek Him they will find Him! “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled” (Matthew 5:6).
That’s one of the best ways in the world to witness. It’s that old formula: Try it—you’ll like it! They’ve either got to try it or they’re not really giving it a fair chance! “All right, now what have you got to lose? Just pray, ‘God, if You are real and if Jesus is Your Son, the Messiah, show me!'” Many times I’ve known God to do something supernatural to convince people.
So you still have to leave most of the results up to the Lord. You can’t force people to receive God’s love in Jesus. You can only try to prepare the ground, soften it with your tears and your prayers, and sow the seed, the Word. It’s up to the ground to receive the seed, and it’s up to God to make it take root and grow and produce fruit.
Jesus said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice.’ For I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance” (Matthew 9:12-13). Jesus came to preach the Gospel to the poor, to heal the sick, to mend the brokenhearted, and to set the prisoners free! (Luke 4:18).
(Prayer:) Help us, Lord, to try to find Your lost sheep, the hungry ones, those who are looking for help. Help us to find the ones who will receive and respond, who are hungry and needy, and whom we can help—not the full ones that You send empty away, not the self-righteous ones who have no need of a physician, but the hungry, empty sinners who know they need help and are thankful for it!
Help us to do our best and to not fail them or You in any way, so we can one day hear You say, “Well done, good and faithful servant. Enter into the joy of your Lord” (Matthew 25:21). Thank You for the joy You give us every day, Lord. We’ve already entered into it in many ways and have been rewarded. Even witnessing in itself is a form of reward because it encourages and inspires our own hearts as we see You work. We count it a privilege that You’ve called us to be ambassadors for You! It’s an honor—a high honor—and we thank You for it!