Your story

A few weeks ago, I was talking with a couple of the guys at church and going over how it can feel difficult to share the gospel with others. We talked about ways that we’ve used in the past and how to approach people, but I know for me I sometimes feel almost like I’m burdening the person and for whatever reason feel the need to say “not that I’m trying to preach at you.” I find it hard to be comfortable sharing the love of Jesus and I’m not okay with that. Rudy said something that I agreed with, that even bringing this up with each other was a good way to practice. I thought about this for a few days, wanting to find my voice. I prayed to discern the proper way to speak my faith to others without smacking them in the head with it. I think one of the best ways is to use our own story. Making our faith personal not only sounds more real but allows us to speak in confidence.

I’ve had things occur in my life that I feel had to be God speaking. I’ve had some rough patches in life. I grew up in church but only recently really came to know God outside of my reading. The changes in my life I feel like are evidence of something that I couldn’t have accomplished on my own. I feel by revealing my experiences to others, it can be seen as more real. I looked to my own story to speak from. When Jeremy was speaking last Wednesday, he made a point that really tied all this together for me. These personal stories are great and probably the easiest way to relate to others, but they only mean anything if they come back to Jesus. The entire concept of Christianity isn’t some set of rules to follow, but a love story. We aren’t saved by adhering to the rules, but by believing in the story. Our story only has power because of his love. Sometimes, meaning to or not, we can imply that we’ve overcome a tremendous struggle on our own power. Our efforts come off as trying to be heroic. That we are the one who brings about the change in our heart. In the Bible, we can look at many stories and relate them to ourselves at any given point. But all of these are examples of God’s power./p>

Until we’ve been through rough patches, we can can still love others, but God specializes in using broken things to show his glory. In facing opposition, we can look to avoid the trouble and seek less conflict. But sometimes we act like Jonah instead of going where he’s leading, we decide that we know better. We resist the difficulties and can miss the opportunities hidden within. We ask to have our lives be more substantial, but shy away from the trial. We seek just the rewards of serving instead of allowing God to show himself when we’re unable to work out the results. I find myself pausing during hard times when I just want to be out of the situation, remembering that God works good in all things for those that love him. I can be so sure of myself in thinking that I’ve already learned my lesson, deciding that I’m ready to move on, and not resting in God that his glory will be shown. I act like I know best for myself, even as I ask for help in prayer. So if you’re facing something now, don’t just seek an easy end, head into prayer to find where you should be heading. Winston Churchill said something I love, “if you’re going through hell, keep going.” Grit your teeth and trust in God. And encourage your fellow believers to keep the faith. Be helpful in their situation, but not just in aiming to be free of it. Often the miracle only comes with persevering long enough to see God at work. Maybe sometimes that leads you to a place you didn’t want to be. God spared the city of Nineveh. Would you be willing to go?

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Speak life.

In life, people enter and leave our life so constantly, it’s easy to hold on tightly to a few close relationships and not extend ourselves emotionally past the normal conversations about the weather and winning football scores. It’s easy to miss out on sharing joy with others. The sadder truth is that we all too often miss the opportunity to place words of hope into the life of soul facing struggle. Life is stinking hard. We could all use a little help.

I am a pretty confident guy. I face most things with a strong face and a belief that God has equipped me for for hardships. But the fact is that we’re created for fellowship. We need it. We’re called to stir one another up to love and good works. The church body is the most obvious example of fellowship but unfortunately can be the first place where an opportunity to love is missed. It’s easy to be thinking about what you’re grabbing for lunch after church or be so wrapped up in the craziness of the day or week ahead that we don’t see someone going through something rough right next to us. And when we can miss someone that close to use, it’s saddening to think of how many we might run across in need of a few words of love in other areas of life.

The time when we least think about helping out like this is when we’re having trouble ourselves. But letting go of worry to lift another up isn’t just a calling but is good for the soul. If we’re always worried about building ourselves up, we’re always going to be looking down. By lifting a brother up, our gaze is lifted. Proverbs 18:21 says that death and life are in the power of the tongue. I really believe that sometimes all someone needs is that bit of encouragement to keep that bit of hope alive as they fight life’s battles. So speak up. You could just save a life.