few months ago I was in Nashville, Tennessee, for a meeting. It was late afternoon when it finished, and I was anxious to drive the 168 miles back home.
I was anxious because our daughter and son-in-law, along with our first and only grandchild, were visiting us. I had just finished mounting a beautiful child’s swing on the limb of a big tree in our back yard, and I was so excited about getting home before dark to watch Emily’s surprise when she saw her swing.
Rather than sitting down to eat somewhere, I pulled into a McDonald’s and bought an ice-cream cone to go. On my way back to the car, I saw him─one of the saddest, most despondent-looking men you could imagine. He looked completely dejected. He was standing by the entrance staring into space.
My first thought was, I should witness to this man.
My second thought was, I can’t take the time now. I’ve got to get home before dark to see Emily with her new swing.
I must confess I did what many believers do—I said a prayer for the man and got in my car for the return trip. I put the car in reverse . . . and then I saw him in my side-view mirror. He was perfectly framed in my mirror, still standing in the same spot. At that moment, this thought came crashing into my spirit: I put him there for you.
I knew then I could not drive away from this opportunity. That had to be the voice of the Lord speaking to my heart. Not audible, but real nevertheless: I put him there for you.
I put the car back into park and walked back across the parking lot.
The man turned toward me, and I said, “This is a wonderful ice cream cone. Could I buy one for you?”
The man said, “No, but I am hungry.”
I invited him back into McDonald’s and ordered a meal for him. I asked him if I could join him, and for the next 45 minutes we had the most wonderful conversation. After getting to know him, I was able to share my testimony and the message of salvation.
The man gave me permission to pray for him, and I did—out loud—right there in McDonald’s. I asked God to bless him and allow him to fully understand how to know Christ personally.
When I got back into my car, the greatest joy flooded my soul. I had helped someone move closer to the Lord.
That day I experienced the joy of witnessing. When most people think of witnessing, they don’t think of joy. The emotion it provokes in many is fear: What do I say? What if they reject me?
These are real questions we have to wrestle with, but I have found when we finish the wrestling and surrender to God, we discover that sharing our faith is one of the most life-giving, joy-producing activities we experience as followers of Jesus.
In John 15:11, Jesus said, “These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full” (NKJV).
How do we get that joy?
Perhaps you learned this definition of joy when you were a child:
Jesus. As Christians, everything we have starts with Jesus. Our relationship with Him is the beginning of our joy in sharing His story. The goal of every believer should be to glorify God by knowing Him and then making Him known.
It is possible to just read the Bible and recite prayers without ever coming to know Him. We have to go deeper—we must have fellowship with the living Word through the written Word. Our praying must become conversation with Him if we are to know Him. This must be our first priority—our relationship with Jesus. Let Him take every area of our walk and align it with our talk, in agreement with His Word.
Then we must make Jesus known to others. This happens when we allow Him to imprint Himself on our hearts, and our lives become a “letter . . . for everyone to know and read” (2 Cor. 3:2 GNT). Our witness for Christ overflows from our relationship with Him.
Others. Years ago, the Salvation Army was holding an international convention and their founder, William Booth, could not attend because of physical weakness. He cabled his convention message to them. It was one word: “OTHERS.”
Isn’t that why we exist? We live for Christ with one consuming goal—reach others with His story. The last words Jesus spoke on earth were, “You shall be witnesses to Me” (Acts 1:8 NKJV). The you in this verse includes all of God’s people. All who know Jesus Christ are called to be witnesses and servants to others.
In so many of the churches where I speak, only a select few do the ministry. A lot of God’s people are “unemployed,” like those in Jesus’ parable who said, “No one hired us.” The landowner replied, “Well, then, you go and work in the vineyard” (Matt. 20:7 GNT).
You. Saint Augustine said, “Without God, we cannot; without us, He will not.”
God has chosen to spread His message through us. I remember years ago attending a soul-winning seminar in which the leader quoted Matthew 13:8: “[Seeds] fell on good ground and yielded a crop: some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty” (NKJV). The speaker said, “Don’t even talk to me until you’ve won 30 people to Christ.”
I was so discouraged! I had to win 30 souls? I have come to discover God just wants us to be willing to begin with reaching just one soul. More will come later. Every day we should pray and position ourselves to be used of Him.
Pray, Prepare, and Produce
Pray. Ask God to use you to witness for Him, and He will open doors you cannot imagine. We call them “divine appointments.” These are the people God puts in our path so we can shine the light of the Gospel into their lives. To every believer He says, “I am going to put them there for you.”
Prepare. You must develop your own evangelistic style. When sharing Christ with lost people, aim for conversations. Don’t think of witnessing as giving a presentation. Avoid using “evangelical English” (brother, sister, amen, born again, saved, etc.). Let your message be spontaneous, not scripted. Tell your personal story of salvation.
Steve Sjogren wrote a book on witnessing, Conspiracy of Kindness, that changed my life. He says we should not be focused on “winning” but rather “nudging”─making our witnessing encounters Gospel experiences rather than Gospel presentations.
Sjogen’s servant ministry influenced me to write a book on doing evangelism in the home, community, and marketplace, titled Share the Gospel in Three Stories. If you would like to learn more, visit www.laityalive.com.
Produce. God’s desire is for us to grow a lot of good fruit—to be highly productive. Jesus said, “This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples. . . . You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit —fruit that will last” (John 15:8, 16 NIV).
This is the best deal for all believers: we can be fruitful and have joy at the same time. Remember the “Nike 1:1” mandate: Just Do It.