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Richard Bennett :: Chapter 6 Time to Tell

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Food for Faith — Chapter 6

Time to Tell

  Lord, speak to me, that I may speak
In living echoes of Thy tone;
As Thou hast sought, so let me seek
Thy erring children, lost and lone.

O teach me, Lord, that I may teach
The precious things Thou dost impart;
And wing my words, that they may reach
The hidden depths of many a heart.

O fill me with Thy fullness, Lord,
Until my very heart o’erflow
In kindling thought and glowing word,
Thy love to tell, Thy praise to show.

             —Frances Ridley Havergal

One night after I had been speaking at a service, a father came to me and asked if I would pray for him. God had been with us in unusual power. The father told me that he had a problem witnessing to colleagues and friends. As I often do when seeking to help somebody, I silently asked the Lord for discernment as to what was the real need in this man’s life. I found myself replying, “I don’t think that’s the real problem. Would you kneel with me now and ask God to show you why you have a problem with witnessing?” Without hesitation, the father knelt and prayed.

As he did so, it seemed to me that the Lord Himself was exposing a deeper problem than that of silent lips. With great brokenness, my friend was telling the Lord what a tyrant he had been in his home and particularly how dictatorial he had been in regard to his children. With heartfelt repentance, he asked the Lord for forgiveness.

That night we never did discuss his problem in witnessing, for Jesus had revealed Himself to this father in a new and living way. The following night, he came to the meeting with a radiant face, and joyfully told me, “I haven’t been able to keep quiet all day telling others about Jesus!”

Nowhere in the Bible are we told to present a contrived ‘plan of salvation’ to unconverted people! However, we are exhorted to walk in constant fellowship with the Lord Jesus Christ so that, when we do share the gospel message with them, the overflow of His love through us will incline their hearts to hear the truth of the Word of God.

However, on those days when our hearts are not attuned to Him in living fellowship, we will discover our witness is not significantly effective and fruitful. In fact, on such days our lips will be sealed from sharing the Word of God with other people, and we will be unable to spontaneously reveal the Lord to the Christ-rejecting world around us.

Beginning each day with God in a vital Together Time is the first step in helping you to rid yourself of those inhibitions which so easily intrude when you have the opportunity to tell unconverted people about the Lord Jesus Christ. There is a vast difference between genuinely experiencing a spiritually fruitful life in a godless world, and that of being a ‘gospel salesman!’ No, the believer is not commissioned to stand up in the world to say certain words that seem to bear witness to Christ. Instead, the born-again Christian can be assured that he is already in Christ, and from that position he will gladly talk of Jesus.

As the Lord said to His disciples: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without Me ye can do nothing (John 15:5 NKJV). Abiding in Him and telling others of Him are your responsibilities; the fruit is His responsibility!

After the day of Pentecost, the disciples could not contain their enthusiasm and joy, having already personally walked and talked with their risen Lord. Everywhere they went they told people—even those who were hostile to the person of Christ—about the wonderful works of God (Acts 2:11 NKJV). Their hearers’ curiosity was aroused, and as a result thousands of people gathered to hear Peter publicly preach on the theme of the Lordship of Christ. And as He preached, a deep conviction of personal sin fell upon the congregation. The very people who had recently been responsible for crucifying Christ bewailed: Men and brethren, what shall we do? (Acts 2:37 NKJV). On that day the personal testimony of the disciples and the public preaching of Peter combined to reap a great harvest of souls!

Later, while living in an adversarial environment, the disciples again met with God in a vital prayer meeting. ‘Religious’ men who hated both the disciples and their message had told them to stop talking about Jesus. Earlier on, in the Upper Room, the Lord Jesus had not taught a course on personal evangelism to instruct the disciples how to witness; however, because they were now filled with the Holy Spirit, these enthusiastic Christians spontaneously responded: We cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard (Acts 4:20 NKJV). They had again been in the presence of God! Their hearts were burning with the reality of the risen Christ. They could not keep silent!

In the early sixties, Dorothy and I ministered behind what was then called ‘The Iron Curtain’. In answer to an inquiry about the difficulties of pastoring under a totalitarian regime, a faithful pastor replied: “We are fewer in number now, but at least we know who we are. Those of us who remain know the risen Christ and we are invincible.” (Such testings are already the experience of some of my readers, but the way things are going, if the Lord Jesus does not quickly return, many of the rest of us will also be called upon to venture all for Christ in ways we never thought possible.)

Dorothy recently recorded in her Together Time notebook: “But the cost of His death must be felt with each breath if His Spirit would flow through me.” Certainly the early disciples paid a great price for their bold witness. But when they were threatened with imprisonment for talking about Jesus, they met together for prayer. We read: They were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and they spoke the word of God with boldness (Acts 4:31 NKJV).

Effective evangelism results from overflow—the overflow of the Holy Spirit from the life of the Spirit-filled believer, thus revealing to others, the reality of the indwelling Christ.

As we read the New Testament, we notice that evangelism in the early church was not only the result of a persuasive platform personality. There would have been no crowds to hear Peter preach on the Day of Pentecost if the disciples had not first gone forth to personally proclaim the wonderful works of God (Acts 2:11 NKJV).

When the purity, the life and the love of the Lord Jesus Christ flow from a believer’s heart to a despairing world, people are softened and made ready to hear God’s truth. That is why we need to meet the Lord each day in the light of His Word so as to be constantly filled with the Spirit (Ephesians 5:18 NKJV).

Overflow Evangelism

In the early days of my Christian life, I was part of a fellowship of young people. We certainly possessed more ‘enthusiasm’ than ‘knowledge!’ In spite of this (or maybe because of this!) God saw fit to use us among our unconverted friends. Let me relate a few of these experiences in which, as young believers, we became involved.

Vocational life: At the time of my conversion I was working and studying in the Civil Engineer’s Office of the Town Council. Working in the Town Hall, I was one day summoned to the plush offices of the Town Clerk! There I was severely admonished: “I have heard of your ‘extra-curricular’ activities,” said this boss of bosses. He was obviously referring to the evangelistic services that we young people were conducting. Each night, just after the public houses had closed, we held open-air evangelistic services at a popular gathering place in the town. To begin with, the passers-by would not readily stop to listen so we were often glad when somebody began to heckle the speaker. As the antagonist gave him a hard time, other people joined him, while yet others gathered to support ‘the poor man on the soap-box.’ Before long we would have quite a crowd to preach to, and on some nights one or two people would make a profession of coming to the Savior! The Town Clerk warned me that such ‘fanaticism’ must not be associated in any way with the professional prestige of the Town Hall! He strongly warned me to cease all such activity. But since the open-air meetings seemed to be bearing fruit, all of us young people felt led to continue!

Later, when attending Bible College, I remember our College President saying in the weekly chapel service: “If you can’t hold a crowd in the open-air, don’t bore a captive audience in a church!” When I heard this, I was again thankful that we young people had persisted with our open-air evangelism!

Immediately after my conversion, I had testified to all my professional colleagues about my new faith in Christ. But then I remembered one person associated with the office to whom I had not had an opportunity to witness. It was the lady who came each night to scrub the dirty floors. One night after my colleagues had left, I located the scrub brushes and buckets. Soon, the floors were clean and I waited for the scrublady to arrive. “Your work is done,” I joyfully exclaimed. After a stunned silence, she sat with me over a cup of tea. Of course, in our conversation I was able to tell her about Jesus. I will always remember the tears that flowed from her eyes as we talked and prayed together.

Social life: I also recall my twenty-first birthday, which in those days was always a very special occasion in England. Such an event was often celebrated with a big dinner followed by a dance. But by the time I was twenty-one, God had already taken the dance out of my feet and put it into my heart. So I saw my twenty-first birthday party, which my parents so lovingly provided, as yet another opportunity to win my friends to Christ. Accordingly, I invited an evangelist for the occasion! The invitation cards to my unconverted business associates and friends explained that a friend of mine would be giving a speech after the meal! “Your presence and not your presents is requested” was the indelicate invitation on that card. And on that night, one of my friends was wonderfully converted!

Later, when I became Assistant Pastor at a Baptist Church in London, the young people never organized a trip down the river, a ramble through the country, or a sports evening without making the occasion attractive enough to invite unconverted friends. Without exception, they ended every such activity with a solid gospel presentation. Why not? The young people recognized that the purpose for the existence of their Young People’s Fellowship was firstly to build themselves up in the Lord and secondly to see their friends converted to Christ. It is little wonder, then, that the Young People’s Fellowship flourished under the blessing of God.

Spiritual life: I had never been interested in seriously studying the Bible before I was converted at the age of nineteen. Consequently, at that age I knew very little about God’s Word. But after I had accepted Christ as my Lord and Savior, every Monday night a few of us new converts would gather in a home to study the Bible together. Our enthusiastic motivation was to get God’s Word through our heads and into our hearts as quickly as possible! Even in those early days we conducted our Bible studies in the basic way that I have already suggested in this book. No, we did not look upon God’s Word as a religious textbook, but rather regarded it as a compass to guide us through life.

As the direct result of those simple Bible studies, a few other young people were converted and together we conceived ways to carry the gospel message further afield. Because none of us owned a car, we hit on the idea of making a bicycle trailer. One or two of the fellows who were mechanically-minded also engineered an amplifying system, complete with a wind-up ‘gramophone.’ On some of our weekends, we would cycle out to the surrounding villages, towing our trailer and amplifier behind us.

I well remember the particular village where the Methodist Church had been closed and its doors securely locked. In our enthusiasm for spreading the gospel, we located the keys, obtained permission to use the building, polished the dust off the pews, and then proceeded to the Village Green with our amplifying system. Outside the ‘village pub’ we established our pulpit and began an open-air meeting by playing a brand new record of an American soloist Bev Shea. He had just visited England with a young man by the name of Billy Graham, who had recently made his first appearance in the country. In between the gospel songs, we took turns standing on the soap-box and giving personal testimonies of our faith in Christ as Savior and Lord. After a short while, some of us tried to preach to the curious people who came out of the pub to listen to us on the green. To the amazement of the villagers, the Lord saw fit to nicely fill the church by the end of the weekend. A future Sunday School teacher found Christ, and later her sister also came to the Savior. Soon, the doors were no longer locked and a little Sunday School and weekly church services recommenced.

Paul charged Timothy: Preach the word; be diligent in season, out of season… (2 Timothy 4:2 KJV). If Paul were ministering today, he would probably have spoken to Timothy in words something like these: “If there is an opportunity to share God’s Word, take it; if there isn’t an opportunity, make it! There never is a season when it is inopportune to preach the Word!” I am sure Paul would look unfavorably on any kind of formal Bible study in which the acquired knowledge of the student did not later extend, in loving and courageous ways, to people who would never darken the door of a church.

When you have learned the secret of getting the Word of God from your head to your heart, you will discover that it will not take long for God’s Word to become, in the words of Jeremiah, fire in your bones.

Sadly, if the Bible only remains in your head, it is tragically possible for you to be a man of the Word yet not a man of the Spirit. There will be no fire in your bones! But as you meet God regularly in your Together Time, you will realize more and more that it is impossible for you to be a man of the Spirit without at the same time being a man of the Word!

Yes, God does speak to us when we read His Word, and what He says He expects us to share with others. God said to Ezekiel: Therefore you shall hear a word from My mouth and warn them for Me (Ezekiel 33:7 NKJV). But there is no use speaking to others unless we have first heard, and then personally responded to, the words from His mouth.

There are many ‘advocates’ of Christianity, but, unfortunately, there are too few who are able to bear genuine witness of their personal relationship with the Living God.

Later, from his own experience, the Apostle John was able to joyfully testify of the reality of his living fellowship with Christ. Therefore, as we would expect, he then invited others to join him in this intimate fellowship:… that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ (1 John 1:3 NKJV).

Spiritual Check-up

  1. Do I recognize both the place where I work and the place where I live as my personal mission field?
  2. Do I see people merely as candidates for conversion, or do I prayerfully seek to love them to new-life in Christ?
  3. When did I last earn the right to witness for Christ by helping somebody in a practical way?
    • My life is compromised?
    • My career might be in jeopardy?
    • My pride is unwilling to line up with the despised and rejected Jesus of Nazareth?
  4. Are my lips sealed from talking boldly of Jesus because:
Chapter 5 The Faith Factor ← Prior Section
Chapter 7 Fruit or Fire Next Section →

The Blue Letter Bible ministry and the BLB Institute hold to the historical, conservative Christian faith, which includes a firm belief in the inerrancy of Scripture. Since the text and audio content provided by BLB represent a range of evangelical traditions, all of the ideas and principles conveyed in the resource materials are not necessarily affirmed, in total, by this ministry.


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