We call them “desert” or “wilderness” experiences, which are normal for most Christians. They start innocently enough – through illness, death, job loss, even the hormonal changes that come after a child’s birth can bring it on through postpartum depression. And somewhere along the way, we lose our feeling of closeness to God. We become disinterested in anything to do with the church or the Bible. We make excuses to avoid our Christian friends because we don’t feel “spiritual” enough. Before we know it, we are wandering in the desert, wondering if we have lost our faith in God forever or if we were ever saved in the first place. But there is good news. By looking at Jesus’ desert experience, we can have victory over Satan’s attempts to lead us away from God. Today, if you are going through one of those times, it is my hope that you will be encouraged by what you find.
Have you ever read the Christmas story when it wasn't Christmas? Perhaps not, but Luke 2:4-20 gives us a great example of what qualifications (if any) are needed to proclaim Jesus to others. If you have ever felt that you needed a degree in theology before you begin a ministry God has called you to, just remember the shepherds who were out in the fields the night of Jesus' birth and what happened to them. If you need a refresher, the story can be found in Luke 2:4-20.
During biblical times, shepherds were despised among the general populace. They were thought of as untrustworthy, illiterate, uncouth, unclean misfits. The religious leaders held them in the same regard as they did prostitutes. They were quite literally the social outcasts of their day. This is what makes their story so amazing.
Angels did not appear to anyone else the night Jesus was born. The angels appeared to despised shepherds, trusting them to spread the news that the Messiah was born. The shepherds knew their position in society, and so did God, which is why their story is so unique. The first thing they did after seeing the angels was to immediately go to Bethlehem to verify if a baby had been born. The second thing they did was to tell everyone they met about the child and how they had heard about him. The third thing they did was to return to the fields to watch their sheep, all while glorifying and praising God for what had happened to them. In other words, they praised and thanked the Lord for the privilege of proclaiming Jesus as the Messiah.
Do you know what that makes them?
The first witnesses/preachers in all of history to proclaim that Jesus was Lord!
Now let's think about this for a moment. Jesus came in the lowliest of manners. His birth was proclaimed by men considered outcasts by society. I personally don't understand the archaic reasoning as to why shepherds were so despised at the time. But they were, and God chose them to be His mouthpiece. The angels did not appear to the learned religious leaders of the day. Just like Jesus' lowly birth, those considered the least important in society were the ones elected to spread the news about his arrival. I don't know about you, but this brings me comfort to know that the great God of heaven chose to use men of little influence to announce His coming.
While God does use those who have been ordained and trained in theology to preach, He can and does use anyone to proclaim His message - if we are willing to take that first step of obedience by declaring Him before others.
Unfortunately, it is the one thing most Christians don't act on because of fear. Fear that they will say something wrong. Fear that people will react negatively, fear of being ridiculed, and doubt that they are not qualified to teach or preach because they do not have diplomas to back up their authority. Did you know that the only disciple with a "real" education was Paul? He was taught by the great Rabbi Gamaliel. All the rest of the Apostles were (to put it bluntly) uneducated people with a message to share. So if you are not sharing your story about Jesus with others because you feel you need to go to school first - think again. God revealed Himself to you in a specific way. He has called you to go and share that story.
So, what are four steps to sharing our faith?
How and when did you first hear about the Lord? We need some uplifting stories today. You never know who might be encouraged by your "faith story." How did you come to know the Lord? Share in the comments below.
When I was very young in my faith and knew little of how God works, I learned this verse: “Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8). Unfortunately, while it made me aware of obvious sins like lying or stealing, I was never prepared for the subtle ones. They crept in like thieves in the night.
How do we learn to have faith? Is it acquired through osmosis by being part of a Christian family? Is it something that grows over time? How do we grow in faith? More importantly, how do we instill our faith in God, in our children and other family members?
people. I shudder to think of how I once made my best friend sit down at the dining room table and read the Bible aloud with me. I was 17, and a first-class idiot.
We had just moved to a new city for the fourth time (my parents moved every year during my highschool years) and I knew no one. The friends I did pick up along the way were a mixed bunch. Some liked to party and drink (a lot) and others were the same way, only they called themselves Christians because they believed in God and had "youth group meetings" and "Bible studies". I couldn't actually differentiate between the two groups as far as their lifestyles went, so I joined those who liked to study their Bibles like me, because I was pretty sure my unsaved friends were getting sick of me always talking about Jesus. But, much to my dismay their belief in God was only that. They believed, but they weren't about to change their lives for Him. Some of them did, but the majority just kept on partying and drinking. I began to think it was okay to be like I was before I knew Jesus, so I would read my Bible, learned lots of stuff, continued to share with those who didn't know the Lord and yet - not make an impact on anyone. Why? I was still living as an unsaved person. Taking my cues from the "Christians" around me.
I didn't know what being "born again" actually meant.
Then, one day I finally met a different kind of Christian. Someone who was committed to God in all aspects of their lives and I started taking my clues from this person on how a Christian was supposed to behave. Unfortunately, I didn't realize, due to my young age and my lack of Scriptural knowledge, that this person was too legalistic and I became afraid to speak my mind or do anything really, without feeling judged for it. I continued to read my Bible, discovering new insights and comparing Jesus' life to how people behaved at my church. But kept these insights to myself. And I became horribly confused on why Jesus' life and attitude were so different from my fellow church goers.
By the time I met my husband I had already begun a singing ministry. I had decided to continue with my Bible studies and voice my discontent through my songwriting. When we relocated and found a church home we inadvertently stumbled into the most legalistic church I'd ever been in. And I felt smothered. People would actually chastise me for raising my hands while singing worship songs. Oh, my! I was not only feeling smothered, I was becoming depressed. For a long time (at least a good 15 years) I would "learn" what it meant to be a Christian from critical, judgemental people. People who were quick to think the worst about you, would spread gossip and lies behind your back and basically do everything Jesus had explicitly told them not to do.
I began to hate going to church.
I buckled down, continued singing and ignored those who "hated" my exuberance during worship. And finally new people began coming to my church. Christians who showed me the love of God and accepted and encouraged me in my walk with the Lord. They prayed with me, loved me and encouraged me to study my Bible, because it was through my Bible that I would truly learn what God was like and what He expected from me. This was when I began to grow in the Lord.
And I began to change.
It took a while, I'll admit, before I started to change. I had been so long with critical people that my spirit had become damaged. But I finally began to morph into the person I was when I first came to know the Lord. Someone who loved the Scriptures and wanted to dig deeper into them, letting the wisdom of God change me from the inside out. I finally began to accept that my quirkiness was something God built into me and I shouldn't have allowed others to silence me.
My love of Scripture and the desire to share what I learned was a gift God had given me when He first filled me with His Holy Spirit. And all the stuff in between (life in general with all its ups and downs) had all been God ordained. My incurable disease, my loss of my singing voice, a fall down a flight of stairs that left me disabled, cancer scares and more - all of it - was to help me grow and change into the person I am now. Someone with faults. Someone God has forgiven and is using despite those faults. A sinner saved by grace.
My mother in-law was a very wise woman. She once told me never to place your trust in people, because people will always let you down. Place your trust solely on the Lord. Let your Bible and God be your influencers. I'm glad I finally listened to her.
So, what about you? Where are you in your journey with God? Are you letting the Holy Spirit lead you, or are you letting other people determine who you will become?