It was the early 1500’s. As the story has it, a Swiss monk named Martin of Basel had made an astonishing discovery. He had come upon something that could have made the difference between life and death for thousands of his countrymen. Unfortunately, as far as we know, he kept the information to himself. He carefully removed a stone from the wall of his monastery room and inserted the following message: “Most merciful Jesus, I know that I can be saved only by the merits of your blood. I acknowledge your sufferings for me. I love you.” Nearly one hundred years later, the tattered piece of parchment was found.
The question is, why would anyone who had discovered something so important keep it to himself? You may find the answer in your own life. Just ask yourself: “Have I ever missed an opportunity to share the gospel of Jesus Christ with others?”
And what were your reasons? It could be that you were afraid that others wouldn’t be interested in or wouldn’t believe what you had to tell them. From our perspective, witnessing opportunities usually come at inopportune times: wrong place, wrong people, wrong question–so we think. Peter felt that way when a golden opportunity arose in the high priest’s courtyard. What he ended up saying was worse than nothing, because his words forged a very serious denial.
We cringe whenever Peter’s story is read during Lent, not because we think we would have done better, but because we have the very same weakness ourselves. Who hasn’t felt the temptation to remain silent? Who hasn’t knuckled under the pressure of the situation and said nothing at all?
Maybe you felt that others already knew what you had to say. Ours is called a Christian nation, and therefore we may think that people already know the way of salvation. But do they?
Church membership is no guarantee that people understand God’s grace. Ingrained in everyone’s being is the belief that we must contribute something to our salvation, making us semi-responsible for what is clearly the work of our God. Most denominations fail to separate Law from Gospel because of their faulty theology. They use the right words, but what they mean by “grace” is not necessarily true grace.
Perhaps it was inadequacy that you felt when the opportunity to witness arrived. You are not alone. Even great men of the Bible, such as Jeremiah and Moses, expressed that sentiment. They learned, as do we all, that the message–and not the messenger–is the important thing. Consider the young slave girl who apparently had no qualms about sharing her faith with a mighty Syrian commander. Think of the Samaritan woman. With her shameful past fully absolved by her Savior, she shamelessly witnessed to her community. Uneducated fishermen addressed multitudes of common folk as well as schooled members of the Sanhedrin. One need not worry about human credentials when his heart has been changed by the gospel. Then, “we cannot but speak the things we have heard and seen.”
Perhaps you felt that you were simply not able to convince others anyway. Perhaps you thought that debating skills and rhetorical abilities are necessary for persuading others to your point of view. But you can’t persuade anyone to come to faith, nor can I. This is God’s work. Our role is simply to be what He has made us: lights, witnesses, and messengers.
God’s forgiveness certainly covers every opportunity we have allowed to slip by. In fact, His forgiveness covers every part of our sinful lives. Once you know that, of course, then you have a message that really needs to be shared.
–Pastor James Albrecht