Monday, September 1, 2014

I'm a Witness

Until recently, I've had a sheltered, extremely limited worldview and I've been secure in my decision to remain separated from the world around me...until now. Some might say I've elevated shutting out the world around me to an art form. I don't watch or read the news (too depressing), and I go to great lengths to avoid anything where I will be forced to meet people. However, God has been helping me to see that my worldview is too limiting for him and for me. While I support mission in my heart, in prayer, and with resources, I've never stepped out in faith, even in something as easy as serving at a shelter because that would force me out of my comfortable sheltered existence. I justify this to myself and others with a list of reasonable explanations: 

  • My health won't permit it (mission trips)
  • I'm not qualified or I don't know how and wouldn't know where to begin
  • I can't afford to miss work
  • I get panic attacks when driving in unfamiliar areas, so I can’t go
  • I need to be available just in case my mother needs me so I can't commit to anything right now
  • I don't have that kind of time
  • I'm an introvert and it's not in my God-given personality to be that outgoing
  • That’s not my calling. I'm a helper. I'm the one who does the unseen work so that others who are better and greater can do what needs to be done.
I also have several excuses ready for why I don't talk to people about Jesus in my own neighborhood and community:
  • I don't want to offend anyone.
  • I'm willing, but spirituality never really comes up in the conversation. If God wanted me to say something, the other person would just ask me a spiritual question directly.
  • I'm likely to say the wrong thing and push someone further away from God.
  • You've got to have a relationship with someone before you earn the right to talk to them about Jesus and I don’t have any relationships outside of the few people I know who are already in ministry.

But God has been working on softening my heart and I have to tell you that those excuses no longer seem...reasonable.

Yesterday, I listened as a man of God and missionary, shared God's Plan A (and there is no plan b) for spreading his glory and his message of grace throughout the whole earth—through his disciples' witness. Or more to the point, through the witness of each and every person who calls him Lord and that includes me. My missionary friend shared that he has met many "Hearers" in his four years in a foreign land, but few go past the passivity of hearing. He explained that listening requires an act of will on the part of the Hearer. They show their intention by being attentive and as a "Listener" respond to and obey, becoming a Follower (disciple). 

Discipleship is a way of life in which we continuously respond to and obey Jesus (or at least try). My missionary friend, in expounding on the life and discipleship of Peter, helped me to see that witnessing to the world is just as much my call as it was the call of the first disciples. Peter didn't know who Jesus was at first. He didn't know Jesus was the Son of God, the Savior of the world when he dropped his nets that first day on the shore. Peter had been a hearer who became a listener who heard an invitation and responded, becoming a follower (disciple). He spent time with Jesus and was changed by it through years of discipleship. It was only after two years in the continual presence of our Lord that the Father revealed Jesus' true nature to Peter. As a follower, he became a witness to the glory of Jesus, and in sharing his experience of Jesus with others, they became hearers who listened and obeyed, becoming disciples who witnessed. 

Peter was a passionate, impetuous man who sometimes got it wrong. His faith journey was marked with some of the same potholes mine is and he tripped over and even fell in a few of the same ones I do. Peter's call to ministry was the same as mine...hear, listen, follow, and witness to the community, the nation, and the world. Witnessing is not for the few, the elite, the specially-trained super Christian—it is the privilege and duty of every follower of Christ.

The most encouraging thing my missionary friend said was that going up to a stranger and starting a spiritual conversation is intimidating and it scares him. Here is this guy who is so obviously called to be the voice of God in a foreign land--he's an intelligent, successful business man, an extrovert with a good sense of humor and a humble heart for God, and let's not leave out the fact that both his parents are pastors—he is certainly qualified and able to be a missionary in distant land, more so than me for sure. And he needs to rely on God's grace, wisdom, and providence just as much as I do when sharing with others about Jesus. All of a sudden, all my excuses, reasonable explanations and objections were laughable even to me. 

Me being a witness to my neighborhood, my community, and the world is not a new understanding for me. I’ve been dancing around it for some time trying to find a way to limit it to my comfort zone, but I just can’t do that anymore. (Relax Mom, I’m not packing up and moving to some third world county next week to be a missionary.) I don't know what it means. It’s just that I can’t ignore God’s call anymore to completely surrender. Maybe the life I live will look very similar to the one I’m living now or maybe it will be completely different. I’m not going to change overnight and God’s got a lot of work to do in my heart and mind to teach and lead me to be the witness discipleship demands. But now that I’ve heard and am listening, I want to and hope to consistently respond, "Jesus, show me the world in a new way and how I am to be your witness in it."

Meanwhile, the eleven disciples were on their way to Galilee, headed for the mountain Jesus had set for their reunion. The moment they saw him they worshiped him. Some, though, held back, not sure about worship, about risking themselves totally. Jesus, undeterred, went right ahead and gave his charge: "God authorized and commanded me to commission you: Go out and train everyone you meet, far and near, in this way of life, marking them by baptism in the threefold name: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Then instruct them in the practice of all I have commanded you. I'll be with you as you do this, day after day after day, right up to the end of the age." Matthew 28:16-20 (The Message)

When they were together for the last time they asked, "Master, are you going to restore the kingdom to Israel now? Is this the time?" He told them, "You don't get to know the time. Timing is the Father's business. What you'll get is the Holy Spirit. And when the Holy Spirit comes on you, you will be able to be my witnesses in Jerusalem, all over Judea and Samaria, even to the ends of the world." Acts 1:6-8 (The Message)

1 comment:

Audrey said...

I too struggle with witnessing, and appreciate your honesty about this issue. I look forward to following the journey God has set you on!