How Do You Share Your Faith?

Scriptures: Daniel 2:24-27; Acts 16:25-35

Guest Speaker: Richard Hoisington

When I got the call to come here again, I didn’t have a sermon in my pocket or in my files, and I thought, “I’m going to have to come up with a new sermon,” because this is my third time here. We’re struggling with something that maybe you struggle with here in this church. In Burlington we have a lot of ministries, a lot of missions, local missions as well as international missions. I’m involved in some of those, and it’s been bothering me that we feed the hungry physically, but we don’t tell them about God. We don’t open the gospel to them, as Paul and Silas did. At least not necessarily. Someone might.

The first one I was thinking of is where we take food to an elementary school, and we don’t even meet the children that get these bags of food. They just take them home, because they’re children that need food on the weekends. The second ministry I was thinking of was the sandwich ministry, where we pack about 36 bag lunches every Sunday. We take them out to a project home area in Burlington, and we just pass them out to anyone who comes.

Both of those ministries don’t have much emphasis on sharing our faith to the people. So I thought, “Let me just do some research in the Scripture, and see what we should be doing.”

Some of you might remember my prior visit, where we learned a little bit about Esther, and how she had obeyed the call of the Holy Spirit, how she helped her people avoid a 5th century BC Holocaust. She risked her life to take a plea to King Xerxes, and she was able to help Mordecai, who was the uncle that had raised her, and all the Jews in the area organized a defense against a plan that an evil man named Haman had had, and had had approved by the king, to kill all the Jews.

I’m going to go back a couple of years now, to my visit in 2016. We learned a little bit about the book of Jonah, and how God gave Jonah a second chance to obey. Jonah, you may remember, went to Tarshish (he headed for Tarshish anyway, but he never quite made it) instead of going to Nineveh as God had commanded him to go and preach to the Ninevites.

On the second try, he went, and he said five words in Hebrew, which translate to eight words in English. Those eight words are “Forty more days, and Nineveh will be overturned.” That got the attention of the Ninevites, and they actually repented, and God stopped His plan to destroy the city at that time.

The emphasis in both those sermons was to give some historical figures who had obeyed the call of God on their lives. One or both of those times I was here, I might have also shared that I did not obey, when I had a pastor come to me, when I was a young man in the process of joining the church in Grinnell, Iowa – the Presbyterian church there – and he asked me if I was interested in becoming a pastor.

That idea scared me. I don’t know if I even answered the pastor. But I spent the next several years of my life drifting away from God, very similar to what Jonah did when he was drifting away, headed to Tarshish.

Now to bring this up to today, I was looking through Scripture, and did you know that Scripture tells us God looks for people to advance His kingdom? He looks for people. I’m going to quote some other Scriptures that we didn’t read today, and after I read each little blurb, I’ll tell you the reference of the Scripture, so you can go look at it later to understand the context of each of these, if you wish.

“For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth, to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him.” (2 Chronicles 16:9)

“Truth is nowhere to be found, and whoever shuns evil becomes a prey. The Lord looked and was displeased that there was no justice. He saw that there was no one. He was appalled that there was no one to intervene, so his own arm worked salvation for him, and his own righteousness sustained him.” (Isaiah 59:15-16)

“Go up and down the streets of Jerusalem. Look around and consider. Search through her squares. If you can find but one person who deals honestly and seeks the truth, I will forgive this city.” (Jeremiah 5:1)

“I looked for a man among them, who would build up the wall and stand before me in the gap, on behalf of the land, so I would not have to destroy it, but I found none.” (Ezekiel 22:30)

Now I’d like you to listen to a personal testimony from a king, who was strongly influenced by a godly man. This is directly from Scripture as well, but I’m not going to tell you where in the Scripture just yet. There are two passages, from the same king, from the same book.

“It is my pleasure to tell you about the miraculous signs and wonders that the most high God has performed for me, how great are his signs, how mighty his wonders. His kingdom is an eternal kingdom. His dominion endures from generation to generation”

“The decision is announced by messengers. The holy ones declare the verdict, so that the living may know that the Most High is sovereign over the kingdoms of men and gives them to anyone he wishes, and sets over them the lowliest of men.”

Can anyone tell us which king uttered these words? I’m not going to ask you to raise your hands. I’m just going to ask you to think about it. Which king do you think might have uttered those words, praising God?

Your first line of thought might have been like mine – except that I knew what book of the Bible I was in. You might have thought of one of the prominent kings of Israel. For example, Saul or David or Solomon.

But these testimonies to the most high God were made by King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon. That’s why we read from the book of Daniel this morning. It’s interesting that passage is in Daniel – and this is a little aside from my notes, so I’m going into dangerous territory here.

I had thought to read another passage from Daniel, but then I thought, “No, that gives away the surprise factor here.” This king is praising God, and yet there’s no evidence that he ever asked Daniel about his faith. There’s no evidence that he ever even converted to believing in God, other than he made some statements about God.

What we heard in Scripture this morning was the very first time the king had the dream, and his people couldn’t answer what the dream was. In other words, how would you like it if I came to you and said, “Tell me what I dreamed last night, and then tell me the interpretation of it. That’s what that passage says, that the liturgist read.

When I read that, I thought, how in the world can that happen? How would somebody be able to tell the dream. Daniel went on to say, “I will go and fast and pray, and see what God tells me. And God revealed the dream to Daniel, in a vision to Daniel. Daniel was then able to not only tell the king what his dream was, but interpret it.

While that one sinks in, I would like to share another verse with you. It comes from 1 Peter 3:15. It says, “But in your hearts, set apart Christ as Lord. Always be ready to give an answer to anyone who asks you about the faith that you have. But do so with gentleness and respect.

So here we have clear Biblical direction to share our faith with anyone who asks. But what about those who don’t ask? Like King Nebuchadnezzar? I have to tell you, it’s somewhat uncommon, in my life, that someone will come up and ask me to share about my faith.

How about you? Does that happen to you? Do you get people that come up and ask about your faith? Many of us have been ready, at times in the past, to give an answer to anyone who asks us. But in my life, those opportunities seem to come few and far between.

So what should we do, when someone does not ask? Should we do anything? Should we just go about business as normal, and pretend that we aren’t Christians, in view of the business at hand? Or should we do something different? I’ll ask the question: what if God has created a divine appointment for us to talk to someone that doesn’t know how to ask, doesn’t know what to ask? Like King Nebuchadnezzar.

In my experience also, during the day-to-day life, and also during some of those outreach opportunities that I mentioned, I have begun to think that there are three categories of people. There might be more, and maybe there are combinations of these categories, but I’ll mention three. And you can add others in your own mind, if you wish.

For example, you can meet someone like the jailer in Philippi. He wants to know. He has heard about the way. Remember the passage in Acts was shortly after the young girl had been following Paul and Silas around, saying continuously, “These people are telling the way to salvation.”

Finally, after several days, Paul lost with that, and he told the demon to come out of her, because that demon was the one who recognized who they were, and some people had exploited this young lady, to be able to tell the future. Now, when the demon came out, they were no longer able to exploit this young lady, and that’s what landed Paul and Silas in prison, because the people that “owned” this young lady felt that their livelihood had been removed.

So some people express an interest in hearing, like the jailer. Some people are indifferent to hearing the gospel message, and other people might be hostile, or have a preconceived notion of the gospel, so they don’t really know what to ask, or how to ask.

To learn more about your church, I visited your website. You have a great website, by the way. I did a web search for the food pantry in Wapello, and your church came up with a five-star rating. That’s the highest you can get on the web, in case you don’t know about going to online sources.

As many of you may know, there are several other examples on your website of your ministries. For example, your Clothes Depot, and several others that seem to serve the community. I also read two sermons on your website, that were given in this church back in March of this year, about the difference between outreach and evangelism.

Some of you may remember it. I hope you all remember it, but I know I struggle sometimes, after six or seven or eight months, to remember sermons. It was exciting for me to read those sermons, because I mentioned that our church in Burlington is struggling a little bit with how do we present the gospel to people who ask, or don’t ask, in some of our ministries that we have.

We are calling them ministries or missions, for the fact that we’re giving them food, for example. But we don’t talk about how we share our faith. We talk about how can we become missional, missional rather than just missions-oriented.

Now that you’ve had about six months to think and act on those thoughts that came out in the March sermons, I want to ask you a question. I would like to know, how do you share your faith? I’m sincerely interested in knowing. I’m interested enough to suggest that the office manager or whoever else might have my address, my mailing address or my email addresses, either one of them, that you send me what you say, that you tell me what you say.

That’s really how this sermon started. I wanted to know, what are people saying. Because we need to be able to say something to people. There’s more than just choosing the right words. But I still want to know what you say, if you say anything, if you’ve come up with something to say.

We heard something from Paul and Silas this morning. What did they say? Remember the jailer asked, “What must I do to be saved?” He had heard people going around saying that these men knew the way to salvation. “What must I do to be saved?”

What did Paul and Silas say? “Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved, you and all your household.” That’s all he said. Kind of almost as simple as what Jonah said to the Ninevites. “Repent or you will be destroyed” is one way to paraphrase what Jonah said.

I’m going to give you a little bit more background about Paul and Silas being in prison. Remember, the chains were let loose at the same time as the prison doors were let loose. These men were likely in the stocks, both on their legs and their arms. I don’t know if you’re familiar with stocks, but the stocks were two pieces of wood holding the arms and legs.

There’s one piece of wood with a little cut-out under each arm, and another piece goes on top of it, and then there’s something, apparently chains or brackets that hold chains, that hold those two pieces of wood together. So you can’t move your hands. The same thing with your legs. Or maybe your ankles, I don’t know which it was. Legs or ankles, a piece of wood goes under, with cut-outs for your legs. A piece of wood goes over, and they’re chained together.

Now I’m asking myself, you can kind of understand how an earthquake might loosen doors of the prison. It might shake the walls so whatever is latching the door comes loose, comes disconnected from the wall. But I just can’t figure out how the stocks that they were in could come loose by an earthquake. It’s obviously something very supernatural going on here.

The jailer had fallen asleep. I believe he was lulled to sleep by Paul and Silas. What was the first verse that the liturgist read? Do you remember? Where did we come into the scene with Paul and Silas? How many of you have been singing at midnight in a prison? Or even at home? Singing and praying at midnight? I know I get up in the middle of the night and I need to go do something, and I go do it. But it’s not usually to sing and pray.

And who was listening? I believe the jailer had been listening, until he went to sleep. But Scripture tells us who else was listening. All of those prisoners were listening. And none of them ran away. When the jailer woke up, he realized that all the doors were open, and he thought all the prisoners had escaped. But none of them had left.

So my quest to find the right words turned into more of an understanding of what was going on before they said the right words. I want to tell another little story as an aside or maybe to illustrate the point. I spent all my career in manufacturing, and part of my career in learning how to paint things or coat things.

One of my positions was with Master Lock, and I was what was called the finish factory manager. Master Lock, unbeknownst to many of you probably, used to have a door hardware division. It was in Auburn, Alabama, where we lived. That door hardware division made all sorts of door hardware, like the door hardware that is on your door over there and on your front door.

It was not necessarily commercial-type, but more residential-type door hardware. We began to take a lot of business away from Schlage, the big guy in the industry, and they eventually bought us out. That’s why I’m no longer with Master Lock. But one of the innovations that we did at Master Lock was we were trying to figure out how to make it so that door hardware doesn’t tarnish from the sun.

You all have tarnished door hardware on your house? Well, the painting or the coating process for that is very important, and it comes from the proper preparation of the metals, so that you remove all of the dirt, all of the films, all of any leftover debris that is on that door hardware, before you coat it.

Probably many of you have done something like this yourself. You’ve painted the house, or painted a room in your house, or painted a door or anything. I’m doing that right now – that’s why this analogy came to mind. By the way, all analogies fail at some point, but I’ll offer this analogy.

The prep work that I’m doing on my house is probably the most important work, before painting. Remember on the label of your paint can, you probably saw that you need to make sure that it’s clean and free of dust, no oils, no films, make sure that it’s properly prepared. Then the paint will adhere properly. It’s a big job.

But I believe that’s what Paul and Silas were doing, in prison. They weren’t preparing to paint. They were preparing theirs hearts and minds to tell people about Jesus Christ. At the same time, they were preparing the hearts and minds of the prisoners in that jail to hear about the Lord Jesus Christ.

I’m going to digress for just a moment. I also wanted to mention the things that they didn’t talk about. Think about it. They had just gone through an earthquake. They had just had all the stocks and chains come off. The jailer nearly killed himself. He was ready to take his own life. They didn’t want to talk about how late it was at night and how they needed to get some sleep, or how good it felt to be free from the chains or free from prison.

No, the first thing they wanted to talk about was the word of the Lord. They spoke that word to all the people in that prison. And they spoke specific words that we’ve already heard. “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved.

So back to the basic question. How do you share your faith? I remember back in the time when I was a young man, in the process of becoming initiated into the church, we were required to memorize the Apostles Creed. I know we’re going to say that in a few minutes, so this is a kind of a segue into that Apostles Creed.

I want to encourage each of you, in your ministries here in the church, if you haven’t already figured out what you’re going to say, to think about what Paul and Silas said, to think about how do you tell somebody, whether they ask or not, to believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved. And more importantly, how do you prepare your heart and mind, and their heart and mind, for you to speak, and for them to listen.

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