“Let the redeemed of the Lord tell their story.” (Psalm 107:2a NIV)
Many people react negatively to evangelism or proselytizing. They might see it as bullying, propaganda, or an attempt to convince them that they’re wrong. Yet those same people may well react favorably to a personal story. For example, one of my acquaintances from high school posted a deeply personal story of his conversion on Facebook, and I was surprised by how respectful and even thankful people were. They felt honored that he had shared something so personal and meaningful.
So what’s your story? Maybe you can think of it easily. Maybe you’re like me, and you can’t come up with anything that you think is interesting. Good news! There actually is a shortcut! Unfortunately it’s probably not one that you’ll want to use very often. Psalm 107 is full of people who cried out to God and were rescued – which, of course, means it’s full of people who got into serious trouble.
Unfortunately, trouble will probably find us all sooner or later. I noticed that in Psalm 107, it fell into four categories.
1. CIRCUMSTANTIAL – v. 4-9 • v. 4-5 NLT “Some wandered in the wilderness, lost and homeless. Hungry and thirsty, they nearly died.”
2. PRIDEFUL (thinking your way is better than God’s) – v. 10-16 • v. 10-11 NIV “Some sat in darkness, in utter darkness, prisoners suffering in iron chains, because they rebelled against God’s commands and despised the plans of the Most High.”
3. YOUR OWN FAULT (outright rebelling and suffering the consequences) – v. 17-22 • v. 17 NLT “Some were fools; they rebelled and suffered for their sins.”
4. EXTERNAL (natural disaster/sailors at sea) – v. 23-32 • v. 24-25 NIV “They saw the works of the Lord, his wonderful deeds in the deep. For he spoke and stirred up a tempest that lifted high the waves.”
That pretty well covers the gamut of possible trouble. The important point is that no matter the cause of our distress, God is ready and waiting to rescue us.
Your story is the most powerful evangelistic tool in your belt, and it’s probably the easiest one to employ – at least it is if you’re a member of Oversharers Not At All Anonymous like I am. Even if you’re an introvert and sharing isn’t that easy, you can look for ways to do it naturally. For example, what are the most common greetings you hear? “Hey, how are you? How’s it going? How was your weekend?” Most of the time people are just expecting a quick “Great,” but sometimes you can still use the opportunity. God promises that if you ask him for wisdom, he’ll give it to you (James 1:5). So ask him to know when to speak and for the courage to do it.
A word of caution. If you’re known for acting unloving and generally judgmental, it’s going to be a lot harder for people to respect your story. They’ll probably still listen politely, but they’re secretly thinking, “I don’t want to be like this guy.” Obviously none of us is a perfect representation of God. However, we’d do well to keep in mind that Jesus responded to people with almost uniform tenderness. He ate dinner with tax collectors and “sinners,” and I’ll bet he didn’t spend the whole evening telling them how awful they were. He challenged people to give up their sins, but if he’d done nothing but criticize, they probably wouldn’t have been as excited to see him as the Bible tells us they were. Likewise, we don’t have to compromise our moral standard, but we don’t have to be jerks, either. We earn people’s trust with our loving actions so that our words of truth make an impact.
Let me leave you with this uplifting passage. Jesus said in John 16:33, “In this world you will have trouble.” (Aren’t you uplifted?) “But take heart! I have overcome the world” (NIV). Don’t be afraid to cry out to God for help. And then tell everyone about how he rescued you.
If this sounds very familiar, Abigail hopes you enjoyed listening to her TED-type talk at the Lent Service.