When I read through the Book of Acts, two things about sharing the gospel strike me. First, God produced fruit through the early believers’ efforts. (This will be the topic of my next article.) Second, these believers repeatedly experienced intense opposition.
When Paul came to a town, both good and bad things happened. The gospel message he brought stirred people up. It had a major impact. Not only were there conversions but there were also antagonism and riots.
We too can expect both fruit and opposition in our gospel-sharing endeavors. An example of this happened to me on the Oregon coast. I met a boy who, like me, had experienced the death of his father when he was a boy. His late dad had been a Christian and his interest was peaked when he learned that I was a believer. My conversation with this boy made an impression on me and I began to pray for him. A few days after our encounter, I ran into him again. My heart was encouraged, believing that the Lord had arranged this. I was able not only to reconnect with him, but also to share the gospel with friends he was with.
Immediately after that, I got into a long conversation with four teens who showed interest in and asked questions about everything from sin to the resurrection. Near the end of that conversation they saw three friends coming down the street and invited them over to hear the gospel!
I was on an emotional high from this very fruitful afternoon when two Florence City Police officers pulled up. I assumed they would ask me if I had seen someone that they were looking for. Much to my surprise, I learned that they were actually there to interrogate me. Someone had seen me talking with young people and suspected that I was a pedophile!
It is hard to think of a more troubling accusation. Worse, at least one of the officers did not appear to be convinced of my innocence. I heard him say on his radio: “Of course, he’s denying it!”
While the police in this situation were simply doing their job, it is a vivid reminder of the fight that we can expect when we get serious about sharing the gospel. This incident shook me up for a few hours but ultimately served to strengthen my determination to spread the gospel.
It should not surprise us when we encounter opposition to our efforts to share our faith. Let’s be realistic: Not everyone is going to be happy when we talk to them about spiritual things. Certain biblical truths will not “fly” well in our culture. Truths such as Jesus is the only way to heaven, the need for repentance and that God shows grace to the unworthy are not popular and can sometimes lead to strong reactions.
I was in Gladstone with some free time and it was my desire to
share the gospel with young people. Without a local map or a GPS, I prayed for God’s direction. As I drove around, I “stumbled” upon a skate park and thanked the Lord for answering my prayer.
Immediately a slight boy “greeted” me, pointing his finger and proclaiming in his best macho voice, “There‘s the parking lot!” That was quite and introduction yet that same boy ended up listening, asking questions and following me around. I talked with different groups that day. As I approached one group three boys declared “We’re homosexual!” as they pretended to do sexual acts. One boy opened up his shirt and stuck his chest in my face as I was quoting John 3:16-18. As I left some of them threw my tracts down and stomped on them as they yelled obscenities at me. Talk about opposition! Yet I as I walked away I had a strong sense that God had sent me there for His purposes. Even in the midst of the resistance, I had sensed some openness to the Word and rejoiced.
Once at Linn-Benton Community College I approached a man sitting on a bench and asked if he would like to do my “Good Person” survey.
He began to curse at me. When I gently asked him why he was so upset with Christians, he threatened to call the police.
In another memorable incident, I was sharing with some boys at a skate park in Salem when an older high school student came over and asked them: “Didn’t you come here to ride? Go and ride.” He chased them away from me thinking he was doing them a favor. When I asked him what was going on he sneered, “You people are coming to our doors and now to our skate parks.” His anger was so strong that I thought it best to leave the area.
When we experience this kind of resistance or rejection because of the gospel, we can encourage ourselves with Jesus words: “
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you (Matthew 6:10-12).
I am also inspired by accounts of persecution I read in a monthly newsletter published by
of the Martyrs
It contains stories of believers in countries where Christianity and especially evangelizing, are not tolerated. These people pay a major penalty for sharing their faith. There are stories of women whose husbands have been killed for proselytizing. Others have lost body parts due to severe beatings. Many know they will be attacked, imprisoned, and, in some cases, killed for what they are doing. Yet they boldly go on proclaiming Him, fully knowing that becoming silent about their faith could end their suffering. These men and women inspire me to put up with the comparatively small amount of opposition I sometimes face.
How about you? When you face hardship because of your faith in Christ, will you consider it a privilege?
Next week: “Expect Fruit”
Copyright Ed Skipper 2013