There was a time when getting in front of a crowd of peers to do a talk like I do most Sundays at Genesis was really hard for me. I was not confident in front of people older than teenagers and I would get crazy nervous. Case in point: When I was in graduate school for three years back in the mid to late 1990s, we attended a large church in Grand Rapids. The pastor of that church, I will just use his first name, Ed, was someone I really admired albeit from afar. He was a very good Bible communicator and I believed him to be a courageous leader. On a few occasions, I thought to myself that it would be fantastic to be mentored by and learn from Ed.
One Saturday, late in the afternoon, my wife, Brenda, my in-laws and I stopped by a bookstore and it just so happened there was a book signing going on for a recent book — by Pastor Ed. As we walked in, I whispered to my father-in-law who the guy was and how much I respected him and he replied, "Well, go over and meet him." No question, it was the right place and right time, but my anxiety meter was rising. Ed was just sitting at a table finishing off the last half hour of his obligation with no one around. As I walked toward him and he looked up at me, fear took over and I ducked down an isle of books, never to officially meet him. It might have been the right place and the right time, but I was not in the right frame of mind.
I am sure many of us could think of a situation when it was the right place and the right time, but we lacked self-assurance to proceed. Maybe you know what it is like to miss out on an opportunity because of fear or a lack of self-confidence. Maybe you had an offer to move away from home for a special educational opportunity, but for whatever reason, you decided to stay home. It may have been a work promotion with more responsibility and salary, something you had hoped for but you declined because of self-doubt.
Self-doubt is one obstacle; another can be "God-doubt." Have you ever been in the right place and the right time, yet you shrunk away from an opportunity to acknowledge Jesus before others? I know that may sound kind of strange to some and maybe too forward to you, but Jesus Christ puts a high premium on being open about him. "Whoever acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge him before my Father in heaven. But whoever disowns me before men, I will also disown him before my Father in heaven" (Matthew 10:32). Jesus invites us to go deeper in our relationship with him as we admit that he is our forgiver from sins and the leader of our lives. Jesus gives us the incredible opportunity to invite others to enjoy the good news we are experiencing.
Clearly, it takes a lot of faith — trust in the Lord — to in any way publicly make known our followership of Jesus. And deeper trust is exactly what God desires to develop in us for the sole purpose of our relationship with him.
What does an opportunity to acknowledge Jesus before others look like? When you get a chance, please read Acts 8:26-40. Here we are introduced to two individuals whom, in a healthy and appropriate way, confessed their allegiance to Christ. These two individuals, Philip, one of the 12 disciples, and a eunuch from Ethiopia, were from completely different spiritual starting points, as well as different backgrounds and vocations. Both however, at their own points in their journey with God, cashed in on opportunities to trust the Lord and saw their faith grow.
First of all, Philip is prompted by the spirit to engage the Ethiopian eunuch in a spiritual conversation. Philip yields to this leading and begins the interaction with a fitting question. Then the Ethiopian eunuch, because of the friendly engagement, opens up and they begin an earnest discussion about the "suffering servant" from Isaiah 53. Later, the Ethiopian eunuch is convinced and receives the message of the good news. He then makes his faith public by believer's baptism.
If you are a follower of Christ, are you ready to look for opportunities to share what the Lord has done for you? I am not talking about being weird, but being natural and honest about the peace and deliverance you have in your life from God. Perhaps a starting point for you is acknowledging Jesus before men through the waters of baptism. I encourage you not to miss the opportunities to point others to Jesus. Imagine your trust of the Lord growing as you get in the right frame of mind.
Norm Byers is the lead pastor of Genesis Church, with two locations meeting Sundays at 9:30 a.m. at Petoskey High School's auditorium and 11 a.m. at Boyne City Elementary. More information is available at www.genesiswired.com online.