Seizing the Opportunity

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Written By: Don Maes

I’ve been struggling recently with a phrase I’ve heard Christians repeat. A phrase that has brought me to scripture in search of validation. The phrase goes something like this, “We must earn the right to share the gospel with someone.”

When Jesus commanded the apostles “…that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.” (Luke 24:47), He doesn’t mention that they should first seek approval from those they’re preaching to. If this was the case, the apostles would have heeded the direct warnings and threats they received from the Sadducees in Acts 5, and remained silent. After all, the apostles had not earned the right or permission of the people they were preaching to, right? In direct contrast, the apostles did just the opposite:

And when they had brought them, they set them before the council. And the high priest questioned them, saying, “We strictly charged you not to teach in this name, yet here you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching, and you intend to bring this man’s blood upon us.” But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men… ” (Acts 5:27-29)

 

When we seek to earn someone’s permission, when we seek to earn the right to share the gospel, we are seeking the approval of man.

 

Paul’s words echoes this:

For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ. (Galatians 1:10)

Some may argue that we must build relationships, earn trust, and seek approval, before we share the gospel. Our ability to gain one’s approval and trust doesn’t draw them to Jesus. Only God can do that (John 6:44), and He does so through the power of the gospel (Romans 1:16).

I’ve struggled to share my faith at times and have been fearful of what others may think, taking the easy road to avoid confrontation. But we have to see the dire need of the gospel for the lost above our own fear. Our fear can’t excuse us from seizing the opportunities the Lord gives us to shine light into darkness.

I experienced this recently in an encounter with a tow truck driver. A twenty five passenger bus, from my place of employment, broke down at an observatory in the local mountains. I made arrangements to meet a tow truck at the location and caravanned up there with a replacement bus to pickup the passengers. I ended up riding back down the mountain with the tow truck driver.

As I was climbing into the cab of the truck, the Holy Spirit put it on my heart to share the gospel with this person. It was going to take a couple hours to make it down the mountain. As we got underway, we started with small talk and I felt fear begin to creep in as thought about how to start the conversation. I silently prayed asking God to take away the fear and open the door. The driver began to tell me his life story and mentioned that he has been smoking cigarettes for the past 30 years. The driver said, “I’ve been smoking these things for 30 years, I just know they’re going to be the death of me.”

I replied, “Wow, life goes by so fast doesn’t it? We never know when we will leave this earth. What do you think happens when we die?” The driver paused, and said “I don’t know, but I know I don’t want to die, I want to live. I love life.” He then turned and asked me what I thought. I said, “This is what God’s word tells us…”

I took him through God’s law. Talked about God’s holiness, and man’s sinfulness. Discussed God’s wrath and hatred for sin, and man’s bankruptcy before God and man’s eternal punishment in hell outside of Jesus. We talked about God’s desire for all to come to the knowledge of truth, Jesus’s birth, ministry, death on the cross, His burial and resurrection. We discussed the urgency of repentance and putting your full trust in Jesus as Lord and Savior, and the promise of eternal life through Christ Jesus and Him alone.

Think about this. By the Lord’s strength, the seed of the gospel was planted. I didn’t wait for the drivers approval. I didn’t wait to build a trusting relationship earning the right. But the gospel was shared with earnestness, and loving approach, but also, uncompromising and full of grace and truth. The driver could have lashed out, took offense, making it a very awkward drive the rest of the way down the mountain. But he didn’t react that way in this case. The rest of our conversation was very pleasant. I praised God for the opportunity, knowing that the seed of the gospel was planted, in hope that God would grow that seed into salvation.

We were given the right to share the gospel when Jesus said “Go therefore and make disciples…” (Matthew 28:19)

Philip’s encounter with the Ethiopian recorded in Acts 8, is another great example. An Ethiopian eunuch was traveling in his chariot to Jerusalem. Philip listened to the Holy Spirit telling him “Go over and join this chariot.” (Acts 8:29) Talk about fear, here the Holy Spirit guides Philip to approach an Ethiopian dignitary and his escorts, as a complete stranger, knowing nothing about him, to share the gospel. The Lord opened the door and Philip was obedient: Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning with this Scripture he told him the good news about Jesus. (Acts 8:35)

I pray that those reading this who are brothers and sisters in Christ, knowing that Jesus is the only way, the truth, the life, that you would not delay in sharing the gospel. Pray for the Lord to remove any fear, to fill you with boldness as did the apostles praying for boldness (Acts 4:29), and share the good news of Jesus to your neighbors, friends, coworkers, strangers, and family members. Understanding that no matter what happens as a result of your proclamation of the truth, you can rest in the power of Jesus to grow the seed.

Colossians 1:3-6

We give thanks to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you, since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and the love which you have for all the saints; because of the hope laid up for you in heaven, of which you previously heard in the word of truth, the gospel which has come to you, just as in all the world also it is constantly bearing fruit and increasing, even as it has been doing in you also since the day you heard of it and understood the grace of God in truth

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