Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Nervousness: An Evangelist's Silent Friend

What I tell you in the dark, say in the light, and what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops. And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. ~ Matthew 10:27-29

Hundreds of times in the Word of God, the child of God is encouraged, warned, and commanded to not be afraid. The Christian is not to fear life, death, persecution, tribulation, people, consequences, or circumstances. But Christ came to save sinners; and even redeemed sinners fall short of God's glory (Romans 3:23) and sin against Him by being fearful, from time to time.

As an evangelist, I find great comfort and encouragement in Jesus' words, in the above passage. The most common fear among evangelists, the most common fear among Christians in general, is the fear of man. And Jesus makes it clear that man is not to be feared because the worst thing one man can do to another is take his physical life. The only one to be feared is God, for God alone is the Lawgiver and Judge (James 4:12). God alone will judge both the living and the dead (Revelations 20:11-15). That being the case, the Christian has nothing to fear, for there is no condemnation awaiting the Christian (Romans 8:1-2) and nothing will ever separate the Christian from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus their Lord (Romans 8:38-39).

While I encourage Christians every day not to be afraid to share the gospel with the lost, while I encourage Christians to allow their love for the lost overshadow their fear of the lost, I also encourage them to welcome a bit of nervousness. The reason: nervousness can be and often is an evangelist's silent friend.

This morning I went to the Los Angeles County Superior Courthouse, in Valencia. I went there to open-air preach. Having spent almost twenty years in and out of this particular courthouse during my career as a deputy sheriff, I know the courthouse and the surrounding complex very well. Back in the days of "The Way of the Master Radio," the courthouse in Valencia was one of my favorite fishing holes for the reoccurring "Street Fishing" segment, with Ray Comfort and Todd Friel. But, prior to this morning, I had never open-air preached at the Valencia Courthouse.

When I arrived at the courthouse the line of people waiting for the doors to open was relatively small. I sat in my car for a few minutes and watched people get out of their cars and make their way toward the courthouse. I prayed, asking God to grant me the courage to preach the gospel to the people in line.

I got out of my car and walked toward the courthouse. I could feel my heart pounding as I reached the front of the courthouse and the line of people. And there I stood, for several minutes, trying to muster the courage to do what I had come to do.

The minutes quickly ticked away and I knew the doors to the courthouse would open soon. So, I prayed again; and then I handed our Million Dollar Christmas tract to everyone in line.

"Each of you just received a million dollar bill. I would ask you the million dollar question..."

I preached for about ten minutes, thanked everyone for their patience and for listening to me, and walked back to my car. As Ray Comfort often says about his own evangelism efforts, such was the case for me. I went to the courthouse dragging my feet, but left the courthouse clicking my heals.

I sat in my car for a few minutes thanking God for the opportunity to preach His gospel and praying that some who heard would be drawn to repentance and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

I was nervous as I approached the line of people. How would they respond? Would they be angry? Would deputies come out of the courthouse and ask me to stop and leave? I was nervous--more nervous than usual.

I thank God for this kind of nervousness. I thank God that every time I open my mouth to share the gospel, whether as I hand out tracts, engage people in conversation, or preach in the open-air I am nervous.

Nervousness is like a silent friend, one that causes me to look to Jesus Christ and to seek His help in prayer.

Nervousness is like a silent friend, one that reminds me not to rely on my own fleshly strengths and abilities, but to rely on God the Holy Spirit, lovingly given to me by Jesus Christ as Helper and Intercessor.

Nervousness is like a silent friend, one that needs not be feared or despised, but one that is welcomed for spiritual accountability and one that encourages humility.

Far better to be an evangelist who is nervous in the application of his cherished responsibility and (for some) ministerial office and vocation, than an evangelist who is self-confident, self-assured, and self-reliant. For the former will trust in the Lord with all of his heart and lean not on his own understanding (Proverbs 3:5-6), while the latter will eventually begin to lack meekness and begin to grow in selfish ambition (James 3:13-15).

So, if you are nervous when it comes to evangelism don't worry. Instead, thank God for the nervousness. Seek His face and His guidance in prayer. Trust the Holy Spirit will answer your prayer by giving you the words to speak when it is time to speak. Go and preach the gospel to every creature (Mark 16:15) and make disciples (Matthew 28:18-20) in spite of the nervousness.

Pray the Lord will never completely relieve you of nervousness during your evangelistic endeavors. Over time, you will find nervousness is not your enemy, but a silent friend.