Preach Christ at All Times

Preach Christ at All Times

If Necessary, Use Words

by Leslie Ludy | January 1, 2013

A college student named Amanda recently asked me, “How can I share about God’s Truth to all the lukewarm Christians in my life? I get so frustrated seeing their mediocrity and I just don’t know how to get through to them!”

It’s a sentiment to which many of us can relate. When we feel passionately about Christianity, we long for those we love to know Jesus the same way we do; we see their lives of compromise and long for them to experience something better. But we aren’t quite sure how to get through to them.

When I first surrendered my life to Christ at the age of sixteen, many of my acquaintances noticed that my life suddenly looked different. A casual friend of mine, Staci, once asked me why I was no longer dating. I was thrilled that someone wanted to know about my convictions about true purity! So with great enthusiasm and zeal, I launched into a fiery ten-minute lecture about the sinfulness of shallow dating relationships and the dangers of temporary flings. “God doesn’t want us dating around,” I proclaimed. “We should be letting Him write our love stories!”

Staci gave me an odd look. “Oh, uh, that’s...interesting,” she mumbled before quickly coming up with an excuse to leave.  

It didn’t take me long to realize that zealously yapping about my convictions wasn’t enough to make someone “see the Light.” Whenever I tried to proclaim Truth to the people in my life, they simply shrugged it off as a youthful “phase” I was going through, and returned to their mediocre, sin-filled existences. 

Why isn’t anyone responding to all this great Scriptural Truth I’m giving them? I wondered. I’m saying all the right things!

But as I prayed about it, I began to realize that that was exactly the problem. I was saying all the right things. But that was all.

Instead of leaning on the Spirit of God to gently work in others’ hearts and lives, wrestling in diligent prayer for their souls, and allowing them to see a consistent example of Jesus Christ in my lifestyle, I was merely shoving Truth in their faces. I was expecting them to instantly “get it” because of my brilliant, compelling arguments.

When I read the statement from St. Francis of Assisi that says, “Preach Christ at all times, and if necessary, use words,” it completely transformed my approach. I realized that words were not my primary tool for communicating Truth – my life was.

The Bible says that a truly wise person uses few words (see Prov. 17:27), and in James 1:19-20 we are commanded to be quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to become angry: “So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath; for the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God.” 

There is a time and place for well-chosen words of Truth. There is even a time and place for righteous indignation when it comes to defending the name of our King. But primarily, it is not going to be angry, insistent words that will win others to Jesus Christ. A compelling argument can never take the place of a consistent example.

As I submitted this area of my life to God, He began to show me His pattern for communicating Truth to my friends and loved ones. He began to show me how to preach Christ at all times, even without using words.  

If you’ve ever wondered how to reach the people in your life with the message of Truth you know they desperately need to hear, consider these practical suggestions from God’s Word:

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Start with Prayer

First John 5:14-16 exhorts us,

Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him. If anyone sees his brother sinning a sin which does not lead to death, he will ask, and He will give him life(emphasis mine).

When we see compromise in someone’s life, our first response should not be confronting them or trying to convince them to change their ways. Rather, God’s Word says that if we see our brother or sister sinning, we are to ask in faith for that person to be delivered from sin and set upon the path of life. We are to have confidence that God hears us, believing that He will (not might) bring victory in the other person’s life through our importunate prayers.

Often our human tendency is a desire to rush headlong into the situation and try to use our debate skills to bring about change in someone’s life. But we must remember that true heart-change is a work of the Spirit of God, and not of the flesh. It is not something we can accomplish in our own strength. And if we give in to fleshly anger and frustration, we get in the way of God’s work in the other person’s soul. As it says in Zech. 4:6, “…‘Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit, says the LORD of hosts.’”

And as mentioned earlier, James reminds us that “the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God.” Prayer is a far more powerful weapon that human words will ever be: “And whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask anything in My name, I will do it” (John 14:13-14).

Even those people in our lives who seem like the toughest “nuts to crack” are not above the power of prayer – “For with God nothing will be impossible”  (Luke 1:37).

Live It Out

First Timothy 4:12 commands us, “...set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity” (NIV). 

If your life is going to make an impact on others, they can’t merely hear your convictions spoken; they must see your convictions lived. In my own life, I discovered that when I lived a faithful, consistent example of the things I believed, people would seek me out and invite me to share my convictions with them. I didn’t have to force Truth down their throats; rather, they saw something in my life that made them want to know more.  

I remember hearing the story of two young women in China who became Christians and went from village to village sharing the Gospel with everyone they met. They were so in love with Jesus Christ that their faces literally glowed. And many times they didn’t even have to seek opportunity to share their faith; people noticed the radiant glow of their faces and asked them, “What do you have inside of you? Whatever it is, I want it!” That should be the example of every set-apart young woman. Set the stage for your words by backing them up with your life. If you do, you’ll never have to force the Truth on people; they will come to you, wanting to know more. And they will look to your life to prove that what you speak is true. First Peter 3:15 sums it up well: “...Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander” (NIV). 

I will never forgetting hearing the true story of a cruel communist who was thrown into a prison cell with a Christian pastor. The pastor preached the Gospel to the communist relentlessly for months. Finally the communist had had enough. “That’s it,” he told the pastor. “I’m sick of hearing about this Jesus. I will give you once sentence to tell me who Jesus is, and then I don’t want to hear about Him ever again!” Without hesitation the pastor replied, “He’s like me.” After a moment of silence the communist said, “If He is like you, I am ready to give my life to Him.”  

Oh, may this be the testimony of our lives! When anyone asks us what Jesus is like, may we be able to say without hesitation, “He’s like me.”

 

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Want to reach people in your life with the Truth? Lean on the Spirit of God. Give yourself to faith-filled wrestling prayer, set a consistent Christ-like example, and shine the light of Jesus Christ everywhere you go. And let your words merely be an outflow of the Spirit within you. Let us follow in the steps of our Lord who said, “...The words that I say to you I do not speak on My own initiative, but the Father abiding in Me does His works”  (John 14:10 NASB).*