The Heart of a Champion: Share Christ
A certain mother was having guests for dinner…you know how it is when a mother has guests for dinner. Everyone gets drafted for the effort of getting everything ready. Well, on this particular occasion everything went wrong. She tried to bake a cake and it fell. She tried to cook a roast and it burned. She tried to vacuum the floor but the vacuum cleaner broke, and the dust went everywhere. But finally, by redoubling the effort, they got everything ready—just in time for the guests to arrive. At last, when everyone was seated at the dining room table, this mother called on her little son, Johnny to pray. “Johnny”, she said, “would you please say the blessing?” The little boy said: “No.” The mother, a little bit shocked and a little bit embarrassed said: “Now Johnny, why won’t you pray?” The little boy said: “I don’t know how.” Immediately, the mother said: “Oh, yes you do. Just pray like you’ve heard mother say so many times before.” So the little boy bowed his head and prayed: “Oh Lord, why in heaven’s name did we ever invite these people over for dinner!”
Obviously, on that occasion, sharing the hospitality of her home had become a real burden for that mother. And I will tell you that one of the things which troubles me greatly is that so many Christians regard sharing the Good News of Christ with others as a real burden as well. The fact of the matter is that every Christian is called to be a witness. Every Christian is called to share Christ with others. Jesus said to his disciples: “You shall be my witnesses.” It’s an order. It’s a command. It’s a directive. It’s a commission. Why is it then that so many Christians shrink from it, dread it, resent it. Perhaps it’s because they are intimidated by other people—those to whom they ought to be bearing witness. Or perhaps they are put off by the bad examples of witnessing they observe on the part of other Christians. In an effort to overcome these obstacles, I would like to focus for a few minutes on how we can share Christ in winsome and winning ways. Our role model is Philip, whose story is told in Acts 8.
The first thing we learn from the story is that to share Christ in winsome and winning ways, we must have confidence in Christ.
Philip had that kind of confidence. He knew that he had been saved by the Lord and that the Lord was a great presence in his life. That’s what gave him the confidence to be a winsome and winning witness…He received instruction to “get up and go to the road that goes from Jerusalem to Gaza.” Now that was a desert road—a hot, dry, forbidding place in the heat of the day. Not the kind of place where you want to be. Yet the Bible says that Philip “got up and went.” He immediately obeyed. Then when he got there, he saw this prominent Ethiopian riding by in a chariot, surrounded by a royal retinue, a rather forbidding and intimidating circumstance. And yet the Lord said to Philip: “Go over to this chariot and join it.” Again, the Bible says, Philip obeyed instantly. Now that kind of instant, almost instinctive obedience testifies to the confidence in Christ which filled the heart of Philip. So when the command came to share Christ, Philip did so without hesitation because of his confidence in Christ.
I heard about a man who wears his wedding ring on the second finger of his left hand. When asked why he wears his wedding ring on the wrong finger, he replied: “I wear my wedding ring on the wrong finger because I married the wrong woman!” He doubted his relationship with his wife. No such doubt infected Philip’s relationship with his Christ. He was married by the power of the Holy Spirit to Jesus Christ, and therefore he was supremely confident in Christ and immediately responsive to Him.
My friends, we are living in a time which calls us to proclaim the claims of Christ more powerfully and more winsomely than ever before. Yet we are living in a time when it is also more difficult and more intimidating to share Christ than ever before. Listen to Loren Mead:
“No longer can we assume that everyone is a Christian and no longer does the community, through schools, festivals, associations and standards reinforce Christian values and belief. No longer are we living in a society which encourages the growth and development of the spread of the church. In the years ahead people will not be Christian because they were born in Christian homes, because their parents were Christian or because being a Christian is the socially acceptable thing to do. Instead, to be a Christian is going to require a conscious and costly choice; a deliberate and difficult decision.”
Pointed words. However, before we can invite someone else to make that choice, we need to have a deep, fresh, vibrant experience with Jesus Christ in our own lives. Listen carefully, please. I am not referring here to some kind of emotional spasm which may mean something today or next week but will be forgotten next month or next year. I am talking about something infinitely deeper and dynamic than that. I am talking about saying quietly, genuinely and sincerely: “Lord, I offer myself to you, nothing held back.” That’s not an act of emotion, it’s an act of will. And from that act of will you gain the confidence of knowing that Jesus Christ is the unconquerable force living at the center of your life. You see, if we are shy about sharing Christ with others, more than likely it is because we are shy about a vibrant, powerful experience of Jesus in our own lives. Philip could be a winsome and winning witness, even in the most intimidating circumstances because of his confidence in Jesus Christ.
The second thing we learn from the story is that to share Christ in winsome and winning ways, we must be competent in things of the faith.
Notice that when Philip approached the Ethiopian, he heard the Ethiopian reading aloud from the prophecy of Isaiah. So Philip asked: “Do you understand what you are reading?” The man replied: “No, how can I understand when I have no one to teach me?” So Philip volunteered to become his teacher. And the Book of Acts is very careful to note that Philip began his witness at precisely that verse in Scripture where the Ethiopian was reading. In other words, Philip had such a confident understanding of the Old Testament and such a confidence in what faith is and ought to be that he could start right at the point offered to him and, beginning there, unfold his winsome, winning witness to Jesus Christ. Competence counts.
Andy Rooney delivers himself of his weekly complaint every Sunday on “60 Minutes”. Recently, he was lamenting how the art of conversation is disappearing in our time. He said, for example, everyone now is afraid to talk about politics and religion. Those are subjects which are never a part of deep, rich conversation. He shared several reasons why politics is not talked about, and then with regard to religion, he said: “No subject is more interesting to discuss than religion, but people are so uncertain about what they believe that they would rather not have the subject brought up.” Yikes! That hurts. But the old curmudgeon is right. We are living in a time when people want affiliation without obligation. They want to be part of something without making an investment in it. They want to claim Christ and claim citizenship in the kingdom of heaven and claim fellowship with the greatest body of people on earth, which is the church. They want to claim these things, yet they do not pray regularly or study the Scriptures seriously or develop disciplines of the Spirit in their lives. Consequently, not only do they miss the joy of our faith, they also miss the joy of sharing that faith with those who are around them.
Philip’s confidence in the things of the faith is quite clear in the story. He didn’t climb on board that chariot and start spouting Bible verses at the man. Instead, out of his own understanding of the faith, he interpreted the story the Ethiopian was reading, and he pointed out how the story was testimony to the sacrifice of Christ and how that Christ was a reality in his own life and how that Christ could be a reality in the Ethiopian’s life as well. The Bible calls us to be able to give a reason for the faith that is in us. If we are not able to do that, then we weaken our witness. Yes, when it comes to being a winsome winning witness for Christ, competence counts.
The third thing we learn from the story is that to share Christ in winning ways, we must be concerned about other people.
Remember, please, we are talking about winsome witness. That means that as we share Christ with others, we must be congenial, we must be caring, we must be loving, we must be concerned about them.
I have a terrible joke to illustrate the point. I cannot believe I’m even going to tell it, but here goes. It’s the story of a pirate. He had a wooden leg, a hook for a hand, and no right eye, with a black patch covering it. A young pirate said to him on one occasion: “How did you lose all those parts of yourself?” The older pirate said: “Well, once we were in a storm and the mast broke and fell on my leg. They couldn’t save it and that’s how I got my peg.” The young pirate then asked: “Well, then how did you lose your hand?” The older man said: “We were attacking a Spanish merchant ship. We were fighting our way toward the treasure on board. The captain of the merchant ship slashed me with his sword. I couldn’t save my hand and that’s how I got my hook.” The young pirate said: “All right then, how did you lose your eye?” The old pirate said: “Well, one day I was walking along the beach and I looked up. There was a seagull flying overhead and some grains of sand fell from his claw right into my eye.” The young pirate said: “Wait a minute. A couple of grains of sand is not enough to make you lose your eye.” The old pirate responded: “Well, unfortunately, it was the day right after I got my hook!”
Well, I couldn’t use a story like that if it didn’t make a point (no pun intended!) but here is the point. I have seen some confident witnesses and some competent witnesses who stabbed themselves, who hook themselves, who hurt themselves with their own attitudes. They lack congeniality and grace with those to whom they are seeking to share Christ. Look at Philip. He didn’t try to manipulate or coerce the Ethiopian into faith. He didn’t grab him by the lapels and try to shake him into the kingdom. He didn’t put him down, and he didn’t let him down. He approached him with care and concern and warmth and sensitivity. He listened before he spoke. He asked questions before he offered the ultimate answer—Jesus. He expressed concern before he ever spoke of conversion. I’m convinced that it was Philip’s congeniality and his concern that paved the way for the Ethiopian’s conversion.
I remember hearing about a young couple who were both committed Christians. However, the wife’s father was a successful businessman, but he was not a man of faith. This young husband loved and admired his father-in-law but he was also concerned that he had no relationship to Christ in his life. So after several years of witnessing in more subtle ways to no avail, the young man made an appointment to visit his father-in-law at the office. When the young man entered, this very powerful business leader was seated on the other side of a massive desk. The young man sat down and nervously, but lovingly, began to share with his father-in-law how much he cared for him and how he wanted him to share the same faith experience. The father-in-law said nothing. There was an awkward pause. The young man thought he hadn’t made himself clear. So he tried a different language and he talked about what a powerful impact Jesus was in his life and how he wanted his father-in-law to know Christ too. Still the father-in-law said nothing. But he did pick up a pencil and he wrote on the paper in front of him. He pushed it across the desk to the young man. On the paper these words were written: “I did not know you loved me so much and I am so moved that if I speak I shall most certainly weep.” The young man got up, walked around the desk, and the men embraced as his father-in-law became one with him in Jesus Christ.
Most people are anxious to speak about the things of their hearts and their souls, but they don’t because they don’t often find people congenial enough and caring enough to hear them. I learned that from Philip.
During the Napoleonic Wars, a young soldier fighting for the Emperor Napoleon was shot in the chest. A field surgeon was probing to find the bullet. There was no anesthetic and it was very painful. As the surgeon probed deeper into the bleeding body of the young soldier, the young man said: “Doctor, do not press closer to my heart, for if you do you will wound my emperor.” You see, he had his emperor in his heart. It is when we have our emperor, the King of Kings, Jesus Christ in our hearts and when we live out His model for our lives that we become winsome, winning witnesses for Him.
Do you have Jesus in your heart?