Peace in Witnessing (July 15, 2018)
Peace in Witnessing
I have a quick announcement that applies to the sermon today, so I hope you don’t mind me taking a moment to talk about it. When you are ushered out of church today, go to the bulletin board and take a look at the yellow sheet of paper I’ve pinned up. On it, you will see that I’ve assigned you a witnessing buddy and a neighborhood that I would like you and your partner to walk through and share the gospel with anyone you meet there. I’m not going to be giving you any kind of pamphlet or evangelism tract. Just speak from the heart what you know!
How many of you are feeling a little nervous right now? I bet you are feeling a lot like the disciples felt when Jesus did much the same thing. And notice, we are only in chapter 6 of Mark. This isn’t after 3 years of instruction by Jesus. This is shortly after Jesus called his disciples to follow him and appointed twelve of them as apostles. We aren’t told exactly how long Jesus spent with them. It could have been a few months, probably less than a year. Needless to say, the disciples were probably feeling scared, worried, and nervous.
How are you feeling? Have the nerves worn off a bit? What questions are going through your mind? Are you wondering what kind of people you are going to meet? Will they be kind? Will they be rude? Are you wondering what you are going to say to the people you meet? Where do I even begin! Are you worried about producing results? Bringing at least one person into church from your witnessing. I think I should tell you now that there is no yellow sheet. I haven’t divided you into pairs to go out two by two. I haven’t assigned you neighborhoods. But the great commission still stands! Jesus has called you to “make disciples of all nations” (Mt 28:19). He has called you to “preach the gospel.” And so this ought to be on our hearts and minds every day. But I know that you may feel anxious or nervous about witnessing. Sharing the good news with other people can be a nerve-racking thought. So let’s dig into this reading and see how Jesus eases our fears and gives us peace in witnessing.
The first worry of witnessing is, who should I witness to? Where should I go? When should I bring up my faith in conversation? Who is going to direct me and give me opportunities to share? Perhaps, at times, we are so busy thinking about all of these things, wondering when we should flip into evangelism mode, that we forget that being a Christian and witnessing isn’t just something you do some of the time. Being a Christian is who you are, and sharing the Good News is what you naturally do. Remember that it is Jesus who first called you to faith, changed your heart, and made you a believer. Included in that call to faith, then, is also an invitation to all that he is and does. He is your Savior – your good news! He is your message.
Having changed your heart, by calling you to faith, he also calls you to witness to that faith. Keep in mind, witnessing isn’t some highly-technical, carefully-crafted thing you do. A witness is simply someone who tells what they have seen or know. As a witness, you are simply sharing what you already know about Jesus. Tell your story! Tell how Jesus made an impact in your life. Tell others what he means to you. That’s it! And since the message is such a personal thing, it should be something you can talk about very naturally. As God plans out your life, he will provide opportunities in which you can naturally talk about how God has shaped your life.
The second worry you probably have about witnessing is what do I say? I’m not an expert in the Bible. I don’t know that many passages by memory. In fact, I don’t even know if David is in the Old Testament or the New! What can I tell anyone that will really have an impact on them? What if they want to discuss deeper or dispute some of the things I want to say?
As you worry about all of these things, I’ll tell you to hold your horses and remember just who Jesus sent out when he sent the 12. Today, we think of them as highly trained and courageous men who stand up to opposition even in the face of martyrdom! But remember, Jesus sent the 12 out here toward the beginning of his ministry. Four of them we know were fishermen – Peter, Andrew, James and John. Thomas, Nathaniel, and Philip may have also been fishermen. Just average, blue-collar workers who had no special training in the Bible; no exceptional speaking skills. Matthew was a tax collector, who probably had some level of education and reputation to acquire this job. There is no background information on the other disciples, but you noticed that Jesus called people from all walks of life. He didn’t go into the temple or synagogues asking for the most highly trained scribes or most skillful teachers of the law. He called ordinary people to follow him and be witnesses of all that he is and does.
That’s all it takes to be a witness. Jesus comes to you, wherever you are in life, and makes you his in your own unique way. Maybe Jesus found you when your parents brought you to church regularly, or the baptismal font. Maybe Jesus found you when you were settling down and reordering your life. Maybe he found you in the midst of addictive sin and turned your life around. In all of these situations, the good news had an impact on you. In all of these different ways Jesus changed you, and you can talk about that with others! Start with what the gospel means to you. Talk about the truths that sooth your fears and release your burdens. Encourage others with the same miraculous power that God has displayed in your own life. And as you talk about how all of these things relate to you personally, you will speak with passion and fire, because this is personal!
Then, continue to grow in your faith. Jesus instructed his disciples before sending them out in Mark chapter 6. And he didn’t end there. They didn’t graduate then. After they returned from their mission trips, Jesus continued to instruct and teach them. You also can continue to learn from God’s Word. Your confirmation was not your graduation. My graduation from Seminary was not a graduation from studying God’s Word. And when we gather together to study, like during Bible Class, our learning multiplies!
Here, Jesus instructs his disciples on some practical matters. “Take nothing except a staff – no bread, no bag, no money in your belts. Wear sandals but not an extra tunic” (Mk 6:8-9) etc. But this isn’t really a dress code for the disciples. Jesus was teaching them a very specific point. He was teaching them to rely on him for all they need. Don’t worry about what you will eat or what you will wear. In fact, Matthew records this same sending out of the twelve and even records Jesus saying, “do not worry about what to say or how to say it. At that time you will be given what to say, for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you” (Mt 10:19-20). I’ll let you in on a little secret. There are times when I stand up here and I’m not as prepared as I would like to be. Sure, I have a sermon written out, but it’s not as polished as I would like it to be, or doesn’t quite flow. In those time I especially pray, “Holy Spirit, it is your word alone that changes hearts. Speak through me that your people may be edified.” That same Spirit speaks through you and works in hearts when the Good News is proclaimed! Just as Jesus gave the disciples authority over evil spirits, you exercise the authority of the word to “demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Cor 10:5).
The final worry we have in witnessing is that when God calls us, instructs us, and sends us, we won’t be able to produce any results. I’ve spoken to people before about what I believe. I’ve offered the comfort of the gospel to someone struggling with sin. I’ve defended the faith. But I don’t see any results. No one has told me that they have become a believer. No one has come to church through my witnessing. But notice that in verse 12 of the reading it simply says, “They went out and preached that people should repent” (Mk 6:12). It doesn’t say that many people came to believe. It doesn’t give numbers. Mark simply tells us that the apostles faithfully carried out the ministry to which Jesus called them.
That’s all that Jesus asks of any of his called servants. It’s not my witnessing that does anything, it’s his gospel that is the power for anyone to believe. Moreover, I’m not the one who needs to worry about producing results. God calls you to witness. He says, “Preach the Word.” Paul talks about planting and watering, but ultimately God makes the see of faith grow. So be at peace in your witnessing. It is God who called you to faith and made you who you are – calling you to live as his disciples. It is God who grows that faith within you as he instructs you from his Word. It is he who works through the words you speak no matter how simply or how eloquently you speak. Witness the good news and share how God has worked in your life. Leave the results to him.