Years ago, I was talking to a good friend. We covered a variety of topics. Then, it happened. Without warning, she looked at me and asked, “Russ, have I ever told you, my witness?” This is her story, so I will try to do it justice.
She went to visit her mother, who was near the end of her life. She existed in a cloud of depression. She had been widowed for several years, and everything was wrong. Nothing was right in her world. Every word she uttered was critical. My friend dreaded those visits to her mother. However, on one visit, she experienced the unexpected. Her mother greeted her with a smile. Relieved, she walked in and received an unusual question. Her mother asked, “Does God ever speak to you?” The daughter responded, “Mom, I talk to God all the time. I think he responds to me from time to time.” The dying woman said, “He speaks to me all the time. He is a fun guy, and he tells me unusual things.” She continued, “I’m going to die.” The daughter said, “We are all going to die someday.” The mother said, “No, I am going to die in one week. Your father came to visit me and showed me what heaven is like. Heaven is a fun place! He told me I am going to die in one week.” Lost in her mother’s words, she just listened. The daughter looked at me and asked, “Do you know how my witness ends?” I didn’t have a clue. She said, “My mother died exactly one week later.” She finished her story with a smile and these words, “I know my parents are together again, having fun in heaven!” How could I ever forget that story? How could I ever forget that witness? That takes us to our scripture reading for today.
We find ourselves in the first twenty-two verses of the fourth chapter of Acts. I don’t care how you turn the story. It is a story about witnessing. According to the text, Peter had just healed a cripple. Listen to what I am about to say. No one was questioning the authenticity of the miracle. For years, the man had sat there begging in the shadows of the temple. His existence depended on the generosity of others. He had no future and no opportunity to live a full life. Everyone had pity on him, but no one would have traded places with him. That is why they could not believe their eyes. This long-time beggar was whole, healed by Peter. Everyone is happy except two groups. First, the other beggars were not happy. They were asking, “Why not me?” Second, the leaders of the Orthodox faith were not happy. His healing signaled a continuation of their Jesus problem. They thought it would end with Jesus’s execution. They were wrong. Not really knowing what to do, they had Peter and his companion, John, arrested. In verse seven they asked, “By what power or in what name did you done this?” Peter answers the question in verses ten through twelve.
“It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed. Jesus is “‘the stone you builders rejected, which has become the cornerstone. Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.”
Does anything else have to be said? Those are impressive words from a common blue collar-man. If you study those words, you discover Peter answered their question by using Bible. He was saying to them, Jesus was the fulfillment of prophecy. That is true, but this is equally true. Never underestimate the value of your witness. It is nothing more than sharing your experience with God. When was the last time you experienced God?
American clergyman and Bible teacher Warren Wiersbe (1929-2019) once said, “Let God be the judge. Your job is to be the witness.” That quote is important because witnessing is misunderstood. Has anyone ever tried to share their witness with you in a pushy, aggressive way? Those individuals forgot they are not the judge. I know that is true because I have experienced that kind of witnessing.
Years ago, I was running late for an appointment, so I decided to drive the back roads to save time. I would have made it, but I was stopped at a railroad crossing. Frustrated, I sat there and watched the train inch along. I shut my car off and rolled the windows down because it was a hot day. As I studied the various cars on that train something unusual happened. A young un-groomed man wearing a red flannel shirt suddenly appeared from the surrounding weeds and ran toward my car. I snapped to attention. I didn’t have a chance to say a word. The stranger looked at me and said, “Brother, you are going to hell if you haven’t accepted Jesus!” He picked up one of my windshield wipers, and placed a track under it. As fast as he came, he was gone. As I sat there reading his literature, I could not question his theology. However, I do have a few questions about his method. I am not sure if it is story of poor witnessing or evangelism. Can anyone here relate to that story? Have you ever been assaulted by someone else’s witness? I am convinced most of us haven’t shared our witness because we don’t want to be like the un-groomed red flannel shirted man. Witnessing is so misunderstood.
This week, I “Googled” the question, why don’t Christians share their witness? I didn’t come up with one reason why people don’t share their witness. I came up with nine reasons. Maybe you can relate to one of them? This is the list.
- Ignorance – They don’t know they are supposed to witness
- Education – They don’t know what to say
- Wrong Assumptions – They assume everyone knows the Gospel
- Apathy – They just don’t want to witness
- Procrastination – They will tell their story later
- Worldliness – They don’t want to look like a religious nut
- Preoccupation – They don’t think about sharing their story
- Inadequacy – They don’t think their story is interesting
- Rejection – They don’t want their story to be dismissed
I think people don’t share their witness because witnessing, itself, is misunderstood. What is witnessing? It is nothing more than sharing your experience with God. There is no good witness or bad witness. There is just your witness. You are not the prosecutor, defense attorney or judge. You are the witness. The only thing you are required to do is share what you have experienced. When was the last time you experienced God? When was the last time you shared your story? When was the last time you witnessed to someone? Never forget, witnessing is important. If you do not believe me then look at the scripture lesson.
Peter simply expressed his understanding of Jesus. According to Peter, Jesus was more than a wise teacher. Jesus was more than a positive role model. Jesus was more than a miracle worker. According to Peter, the events of Jesus’ life were all part of the divine plan. The ultimate expression of his love was the cross. Without the cross, there is no hope of salvation. His understanding of the divine plan is amazing. Can I tell you the truth? I am intimidated by his witness. My simple witness can’t compare. Are you intimidated by Peter’s witness? If you are too, it really doesn’t matter. The people in your life don’t care about Peter’s witness. The people in your life care about your witness. They care about your witness because they care about you. Your story reminds them that God is still active in our world. Your story, your witness reminds people we are not alone. God is with us! Your story reminds people there is still hope. I challenge you to share your witness because our world is desperate for hope.
When I was in seminary I served a small membership church in Garrard County, Kentucky. There is an old tradition among the Christian Churches in that area. On the fifth Sunday of every month, they gathered for a hymn sing. That means they gather four times a year. That event was a big deal to those congregations. My church, the Pleasant Grove Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), never missed one during my tenure. Each service was about the same. Besides the singing, there were the host pastor’s opening welcome. Everyone was encouraged to stay for refreshments. There was a long list of prayer requests so everyone could get caught up on the news. There was an offering to support the local food bank and a powerful message about the importance of accepting Jesus as your Lord and Savior. After all, hell is hot! However, the best part of the service, in my opinion, was when the host pastor stood up and asked the question, “Is there a witness in the house?” That was when the laity had the opportunity to grab the spotlight. One by one, people stood up and talked. Some told how they came to know Jesus. Some told how Jesus had supported them during some personal crisis. Some reported on some divine coincidence. It was a time for the spiritually mature to shine. Each witness ended with the congregation shouting, “Amen!” So let me ask you the question.
Is there a witness in the house? In other words, what is your story? When was the last time you experienced God? Your story may be about the moment you accepted Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior. Your story may include some freak coincidence that reminded you that God was with you. Your story may include the words of a stranger, your angel, who gave you the strength to continue. Your story may include that overwhelming feeling that everything was going to be fine when everything was wrong. Everyone has a story. What is your story about God? What is your witness? I challenge you to share your story, your witness, with someone and remind them that God is with us. Do you remember the quote from Warren Wiersbe, “Let God be the judge. Your job is to be the witness.”