Four Ounces

witnessing

Let us say that you have stumbled upon the discovery of a miracle pill that would safely take care of all heart disease and strokes. Yep. It has the amazing ability to clean out all arteries and veins, and renew damaged heart and brain tissue, completely reversing a person’s cardio system, top to bottom, back into the heart and brain health of a strong 20 year old athlete. It will do this for a person no matter his or her age (40 or 80), or condition. This pill would take care of it, with no side effects, no matter the advancement of the disease. Heart and stroke patients would have to go find something else to die of.

In my made-up, but wonderful fantasy, you come across this miracle drug in a little makeshift lab that you run in your basement, in your spare time. Its ingredients are not expensive. All it takes is a special combination of some very available compounds that have never before been arranged in that particular order.

Question: Would you tell anyone else about it?

Answer: Them and their cousin’s cousin’s friend’s nephew. And everyone in between.

You couldn’t keep such a sublime thing a secret if you tried. It would become virtually impossible. It would be too important for the welfare of so many. Hundreds of millions. Soon you would be on every talk show in the world. Three hospitals would be renamed in your honor. The next Nobel Peace prize would be a cinch. You would be instantly rich and famous, rightfully so. You would be receiving “thank you” cards in the mail for the next 50 years. Your name would be added to the list of the most recognizable names in history. Every magazine which does so would name you as Person of the Year. Maybe Man or Woman of the Century. The thought that you ever contemplated, even for one whimsical second, keeping it a secret would be ludicrous.

Yet the 21st century church has managed precisely that with something far more wonderful than this – the gospel of Jesus Christ. Most never tell another soul about it.

What can the gospel do for a person? What are its healing properties? Here is the short list, not at all exhaustive, and with only a single dose: It erases all sin. It renews any soul, no matter how dark. It transitions one into a right relationship with the living God. All enmity is ended with the same. It wins heaven forever, and submits one to a total reversal on the curse of Eden, which is the root cause of every disease known to man.

By the way, as to the cost to the user? Zero dollars. As free as the air we breathe today. Yet again, 90% of Christ’s church would never tell a soul about it, as if the supply was limited and they wanted to horde it all for themselves. All the time knowing right well that the supply is inexhaustible. There is more than enough to go around to every man, woman, and child in the world. All 8 billion.

Yet what treatment does the gospel get from us? “Ssssh.” Not a peep.

It’s true. This is going on. Answering “why?” would be a most interesting. I don’t know if I am up for it. Why does the church not talk about the gospel to friends, co-workers, and family members? Let me try suggesting a few reasons.

First, could it possibly be that some, when you come right down to it, do not really care for other people? This would hardly ever be admitted, yet for many, this could actually be case. They know the Lord. Maybe their wife and kids know the Lord too. That’s all they care about.

“That’s not true. Maybe I don’t witness very much (or at all), but I care about people, plenty.”

I know that no one would ever say such a silly thing aloud, so selfish sounding, but listen again: “I care, I just refuse to lift a finger to tell anyone how they can avoid the torments of an eternal hell and live in paradise, for free, forever and a day, and for one more day, and another, and again, and one more, and another day on top of that day still . . . but that doesn’t mean I don’t love them.”

In this example, there might be, lying low, another reason for our silence: “I don’t like talking about hell. It turns people off.”

One guy told this to me once, in a sense. We were talking about spiritual things. When I asked him if he thought that he was going to heaven when he died, he said that he felt confident that he was. When I asked him why he was sure of this, he quickly became very short on details. He had almost nothing to say as to how he planned to achieve this pretty nifty feat.

So I offered, “Can I show you what the Bible says?”

“Sure.”

“First,” I said, “you need to believe in the unfortunate news about sin. That we all have ‘sinned and come short of the glory of God.'” (Romans 3:23). Then you need to understand that “the wages” of those sins “is death,” which is hell forever. (Romans 6:23). This is not how I said it. I took more time than just rambling it off in three seconds, but that was the gist of how I opened.

Then I read those two verses out loud to show that it was indeed a biblical truth. Here the guy interrupted me. He was a 20 something years old. A young guy.

“Wow. You’re spreading a lot of negative energy there, man.” That is almost word for word what he said.

I begged to differ. If a doctor, an expert in his field, walked into the counseling room with a most fatal lab report in his one hand, and a beaker of some bland tasting cure in the other, and he told you, “If nothing else happens, you’re gonna die (holding up his left hand to show you), but I have here the 100% cure (holding up his right hand to show you that too).”

Further, let’s say that all of that could be substantiated by 30 other reliable medical experts from all the great universities and hospitals. Would you say that this doctor was a “bummer,” or would you say he was a “savior?” Was he filled with “negative energy” or was he the most wonderful, brilliant, God-blessed doctor who has ever put on scrubs. Oh, and by the way, let’s also add that on top of all that, he told you that the remedy had already been paid for.

“You will live and there will be no hospital bill coming in the mail afterwards.”

Don’t sit there and tell me that you would hem and haw and say that the guy was filled with bundles of “negative energy.” You would be doing handstands one minute and be downing the contents of that beaker the next. You might even hug the guy.

The problem in my true life situation of witnessing was not with the “doctor,” but the “patient.” My guy didn’t believe the bad news I gave him. He didn’t buy the illness. He didn’t trust what I held in my left hand. I must have been lying to him. If such was the case, then I would be everything that he thought I was. Maybe even worse. A huckster. A snake oil salesman.

But the fact is, I was none of those things. Both my left and right hands were filled with the unadulterated truth. The diagnosis WAS that bad, and the cure IS that good.

Could it be that part of the problem with today’s Christian who doesn’t tell others about the Lord is that they don’t grasp the gravity of the very disease they were once cured of? Are they not convinced fully of its certain outcomes?

Still others are filled with fear and pride, opposite ends of the same stick. These usually say that they would rather go the friendship route. “Build tidy friendships with the person before any witnessing. I don’t offend them with the ‘bad news’ side of the equation.” So they cut it right out. The problem with that is, no one will ever drink the medicine. Why should they? There is no illness, according to the friendship evangelist.

But when the Bible says to not have a timid spirit, but one of “power, love, and a sound mind,” (1 Timothy 1:7) surely something more than this soft approach is being commanded. Let me illustrate it this way. Did you ever play Tic-Tac-Toe? It is that simple game that nobody wins (unless your opponent is three years old). In one sense, that is what this witnessing approach is like, the one that makes them “friends first.” Let me give you a made-up example.

Let us say that it is Christmas time, a great time of year to bring up Christ. We say His name enough. Every time we announce the season. Perfect! You are sitting outside a store in the mall. A man sits down next to you. Watch. If the friendship approach is used, it will go something like that Tic-Tac-Toe game.

You: “How’s it going?” (O)

Him: “Hi.” (X)

You: “Merry Christmas.” (O)

Him: “You too.” (X)

You: “Let me guess, waiting for your wife?” (O)

Him: “You got it.” (X)

You: “Same here. It could be worse. It could be us in there, and them out here drinking Starbucks.” (O)

Him: “You got that right.” (X)

And after about eight more minutes of the same, what do you have? In the end, gospel-wise, nothing. Nobody wins. In fact, that friendship approach doesn’t even produce for you a friend. Odds are, he is going to leave that mall and never think about you again the rest of his life. Oh well.

Don’t be fooled. If you put on your Kingdom glasses you’d know that what really just happened. You blew a ripe opportunity for the Lord.

Now, let’s look at a more direct approach. It is not friendliness’s opposite. It’s not unfriendly. Not at all. I am very friendly when I witness. Often both I and the person I am talking to are both laughing, but I get to the point, sooner rather than later. Here it is, that same situation being used wisely.

You: “How’s it going?” (O)

Him: “Hi.” (X)

You: “Merry Christmas.” (O)

Him: “You too.” (X)

You: “Let me guess, waiting for your wife?” (O)

Him: “You got it.” (X)

You: “Same here. It could be worse. It could be us in there, and them out here drinking Starbucks.” (O)

Him: “You got that right.” (X)

You: “Say, can I ask you a very important question? (O)

Him: “Shoot.” (BINGO, you’re in.)

Yep, the same thing. Sure. Have a little fun, but then, way before the sun sets and the cows slowly start heading home, get to the subject at hand. Do it and do it right early. As far as us and the world, the gospel is nearly always the subject at hand. I’m not saying we never talk turkey to doctors, mechanics, and the guy who hands you your rented shoes at the bowling alley. What I am saying is, the gospel should always be a faint breath away. Not much at all needed to get us to it. Not a smack to the head, not a nudge to the ribs. We want to. We are prone to.

With only about 4 ounces of courage being applied to the recipe, whatever happens next, if you make that “important question” a faith question, what happens next is going to be revelatory, useful, bold, informative, whatever. Most importantly, it will be gospel.

It doesn’t even matter much what question you finally ask? Here is a brief assortment, off the top of my head.

Choice 1: “We say ‘Christ’mas, but who do you think Jesus Christ was when He walked the earth?”

Choice #2: “You seem like a friendly guy. Do you think that you are a good person?”

Choice #3: “We’re almost at the end of the year. If this was near the end of your life and you died, do you think that you would be going to heaven?”

Choice #4: “This may sound like heady stuff, but it’s important. What do you think happens to us after we die?”

Seriously, I could see myself using any one of those approaches. I have found that it does not much matter what approach you use at that point, just get there. If you didn’t like any of the ones that I offered, (you might even think them worthless), and you used another, that is perfectly fine. It does not matter. If you keep doing this, consistently, you’ll see the same thing. I’m telling you, once you say, “Can I ask you a question?” and the person says “Sure,” whatever comes next will be wonderfully, delightfully gospel.

It’s not hard. Witnessing is the easiest thing in the world. It is merely the regular application of those eight words, “Can I ask you a very important question?” When you go beyond them, you might get chopped off at the knees. You might get ridiculed. You might get passive resistance only. You might gain a listening ear. You might even witness the newest conversion on earth to the Lord, but whatever you get, it will be gospel. Love of it, indifference to it, or hatred of it . . . it all makes no mind to the gospel. God will use any, and all, of those responses in the heart of the listener. Gospel giving, even in a failed attempt to move things much forward because of resistance, is ALWAYS useful. Never doubt that.

What is required to get this done? Only that one simple question being asked with exactly four ounces of courage added to it. Not one drop more or less. By the way, in this scenario, “courage” also goes by another name: “faith.”

How much time are you going to spend building a friendship with a guy whose hair is on fire, before you tell him what’s happening just above his eyebrows? None at all. You might even scream it. “Hey, bud, you’re lit.” Why? Because, well, his hair IS on fire and you know what damage fire can do, but quick. So, you spring into action.

One time recently, I rubbed the back of a total stranger. It was a man. No. It wasn’t an accident. I did so very purposefully. I believe that it is true when I tell you that, to the best of my ability to remember, I have never rubbed the back of a total stranger before, and I will probably never do it again. It wasn’t any sort of prank. I wasn’t following up on a dare. It was all my own idea. I didn’t care that he was a stranger; neither did I care whether he was a man or a woman. I did what I did instinctively. The real question is, “Why did I do it?”

We were at this restaurant. The guy was sitting down to the table behind ours. I had scooted my chair over just a bit to let him in. It was very cramped seating. It was then that I noticed that the man had a spider on his back. A good sized one. I was going to just tell him, but then, when he was down in his chair, the spider moved up his back very quickly. He was a slick and speedy bugger, going for the guy’s collar. With no time for thinking, and no time for propriety, not even enough time to think of my own safety, I gave that spider a quick and decisive brush. Not against his back with a slap, but to the side, and off his back. Then I stood up to find the spider that I had just set sail. That was when I first started talking to the guy.

“Sorry. You had a spider on your back.”

He watched with great interest (to see if he had to slug me or not) as I looked for the spider on the floor.

“Is this some sort of nut? Who is this guy rubbing my back?”

Then someone spotted it, moving across the tile. I promptly stepped on it, as it started speeding away again. It was really the Richard Petty of the spider world. When the guy saw the size of the eight legged monster, he immediately thanked me.

“Hey, thanks, buddy. I appreciate that.”

“You’re welcome.”

My actions were bold, and fairly impolite, but the situation called for it. In the end, what I did was by all means appropriate. Why? Because we all know what honking spiders can do.

Well, in the course of time, I have also come to know what sin can do. What it does every day to people. Sometimes very quickly. So I go about with my measly four ounce jar of courage, and that is enough for me to ask people one simple question.

About William Cole

I am an all-the-time pastor, a part-time hospice chaplain, and a sometimes author. The church is eight miles out in the country from Marshall, MI. The hospice work is with Oaklawn Hospice, where I am Spiritual Care Coordinator. It's right in the town of Marshall. The writing I do to relax. I am elatedly married to my wife, April, and am a proud father to two fine young ladies, Ashley and Maty, not to mention my delightful exchange student daughter, Jessica.
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