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If you are a praying person, you have undoubtedly taken on various prayer "burdens" through the years. But have you ever considered interceding specifically for people at your job, such as your colleagues, supervisors and employers?
Those in the workplace need you. Your prayers can be a tremendous asset to them. And whether or not you are employed at the company you are praying for, your prayers will make a significant difference.
God is looking for intercessors who will stand in the gap and pray for those in the workplace (see Ezek. 22:30). He is looking for Aarons and Hurs who will lift up the arms of business leaders so they can carry out their assignments with remarkable success (see Ex. 17:12). When you volunteer, God will place you strategically in the right place at the right time to pray so His kingdom comes and His will is done in that environment.
He has done this for me numerous times, even though I don't work in a typical office. Here's one example.
In 2000 I was leading intercession for meetings in Argentina. A visiting pastor from Singapore, whom I had met in Texas years before, was attending the event. He shared his concern about a couple in his church who were in the oil and gas business. They desperately needed prayer, and he was trying to recruit me to pray for them.
Somehow I knew I was to pray for this couple, even though I had never met them or spoken with them. Eight months later when I was ministering in Texas, I arranged to meet the couple for the first time. During lunch I shared the different points I had been praying about and the ways I had prayed for them.
Jim and Jane* were quite surprised—I guess because I am an intercessor—that I "looked normal, acted normal and spoke normal." They decided it would "work" to have me continue to pray for them.
As time passed, our relationship grew and trust developed. One day Jim called and asked me to pray for his company and partners. Operations had not been going well in the company for about 18 months. The head partner was operating unethically, cheating and working the books.
Jim and two other partners, who are all very strong Christians, were extremely concerned about the situation. They asked me to pray that they would know what to do.
I prayed that they would take a stand for righteousness and truth, do what was morally right, refuse to compromise, and be obedient when God told them what to do. The three men got together and decided that they were going to resign, start their own company founded on Christian principles and operate under those principles.
Intercession helped these three men make a difficult but correct business decision. It gave them the courage to make the change immediately. They left the company and broke through into a new place.
The three now have their own successful oil and gas company that is founded and operates on godly principles. They even wrote a vision and mission statement for their company based on the Lord's guidance.
This story is a good example not only of how God uses us to pray but also of why it is important to pray for those in the workplace. God is moving mightily in this arena, but Christian employees and business owners are constantly under attack from demonic powers. There is a steady influx of demonic influence in the workplace—partly because Satan is aware that if finances are released to advance the kingdom of God, multitudes will come to Christ and nations will be changed.
So how do you begin? Once you have made yourself available to God, the next step is to pray. Pray fervently, pray with passion, pray with understanding as the Lord gives you insight, pray in the Spirit and pray with authority. Be sure to incorporate all you know about prayer and intercession when you pray for those in the workplace. This means praying prayers of praise, thanksgiving, confession, forgiveness and petition, as well as making declarations and decrees.
Remember to put on your spiritual armor to protect yourself before you enter the spiritual arena: the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the shoes of peace, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit (see Eph. 6:14-18). And don't stop there.
Use the appropriate weapon of warfare the Lord has made available to you for the situation you are praying about. These include praying in the name of Jesus, appropriating the blood of Jesus, praying a prayer of agreement, fasting, praising, binding and loosing, and praying the Word.
In order to be as effective as you can possibly be, seek God for a prayer strategy that will empower those in the workplace. Ask Him for words of encouragement, Scriptures and prophetic words that will build up those you are praying for.
Declare God's Word over the people, business and situations. Say what the Lord says, not what you think. When you do this, heaven moves and hell trembles. God is bound by His Word to honor His Word, His purposes and His plans. Isaiah 55:11 says, "So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; it shall not return to Me void, but it shall accomplish what I please, and it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it." (NKJV). We often see incredible breakthroughs as the result of declarations and proclamations.
One thing to be aware of regarding praying for those in the workplace is that you will have to earn their trust. If you ask a businessperson, "How can I pray for you and your business?" he or she will probably respond with a comment such as, "However the Lord directs you."
Unless they know they can trust you, business people are not going to open their hearts to you. They need to have a relationship with you first. They won't share intimate details with you right away.
But once they know who you are, affirm that you are a person of integrity and know you hear from God, then they may share a simple request with you—and over time more and more significant ones. When they do share a prayer need, whether personal or business-related, be sure to keep the information confidential. People will be much more likely to share their concerns, hurts, hopes and dreams with you if you are trustworthy.
The way you act will help determine the level of confidence those in business place in you and in what you tell them. It's important for you to look "normal," act normal and speak like a normal person.
Learn the language of the business and avoid using religious jargon. Don't be flaky or so spiritually minded that you are no earthly good. Demonstrate integrity and walk in humility.
When you begin to pray for your own workplace or any other business, you may have to do some spiritual warfare to push back the darkness so others in the workplace can pray effectively too. Help establish a godly environment for your sphere of influence by walking and praying through your work area and the rest of the building, knowing that wherever you tread, God will give you the land (see Gen 13:17).
Ask God for a time to do this type of prayer so you do not distract or offend others. You may need to do it after hours. The principles Chuck Pierce recommends for spiritually cleansing your home in his book Protecting Your Home From Spiritual Darkness can be applied very successfully in your work area.
As you grow in your understanding of the power of prayer for those in the workplace, you will be assured of just how important such prayer is and will be encouraged to continue in it. Be prepared to see results!
When you pray, the perspective of workers will shift from serving people to serving God. This mind-set will add spiritual significance and meaning to their work. It will also create a spiritual climate in which they are inspired and motivated to make wise decisions.
Your prayers will help them focus on their priorities. They will be able to sort out how their relationship with God fits into all aspects of their daily lives—their work, their families, their churches and their extracurricular activities. Your prayers will release peace and put an end to worry and anxiety, which rob them of their time and energy.
And your prayers will release God's divine power to push back evil forces that can keep doors closed. They will help release favor with key people and open doors of opportunity for those for whom you pray.
If your prayers can do all that, what are you waiting for? Here are some specific prayers you can pray for those in the workplace. Declare that:
- They will know and walk in their callings with confidence and assurance.
- They will hear God's voice and receive His plan and vision for their work.
- They will respond to the word of the Lord and put into action all He reveals.
- They will obey God's Word.
- They will walk in clarity. Rebuke any cloud of darkness that is over them. Declare that they will see situations and people as God sees them.
- They will receive godly strategies for negotiating and breaking through closed doors.
- They will be ethical, fair and just and do what is morally right.
- They will walk in integrity.
- They will be conscientious about finances and make cost-effective choices but will not compromise their values.
- They will not justify bankrupting another company they are doing business with in order to make money for their own company.
- They will not take money "under the table."
- They will be concerned not only about the bottom line (finances) but also about the people who work for them.
- They will not yield to temptations.
- They will walk in peace.
- They will use their careers to promote Christ and not Christ to promote their careers.
- They will have a sense of mission and ministry in their workplace.
- The gifts of the Spirit will operate through them.
- They will be prosperous and have the finances to do the work.
- They will be successful.
- They will raise up other leaders and empower them.
To assist you in your times of prayer, picture three concentric circles. The inner circle represents the personal lives of those you are praying for—their families and all that deals with them personally. The middle circle represents their businesses—organizations, employees, contracts, vendors, investors, customers and so on. And the outer circle represents their broader sphere of influence. You will cover all the bases if you pray for these three areas.
God is invading the workplace with His presence, His power, His authority and His majesty. He is releasing signs, wonders and miracles. But He chooses to partner with us to fulfill His purposes, so He needs us to be catalysts in prayer to advance His kingdom in the workplace.
Do your part—pray! Then trust God to do His part. The results will be amazing: God will be exalted and businesses will be transformed.
Tommi Femrite is the founder of GateKeepers International, a worldwide ministry dedicated to training and equipping intercessors. She is also the author of Praying With Purpose and a contributing author of Intercessors: Discover Your Prayer Power as well as other books. read more
Short, simple prayers can be mighty beyond description, but this does not take away from the fact that prayer is also a grand mystery. Watchman Nee, a Chinese Christian who wrote many profound books while imprisoned for his faith, wrote: "Prayer is the most wonderful act in the spiritual realm, as well as a most mysterious affair."
I believe the greatest mystery of prayer is that it joins the hearts of people on Earth with the heart of God in heaven.
Prayer goes into the spiritual realm. It brings things out of that unseen realm and into the world around us, right where we live. It ushers spiritual blessings into our natural, everyday lives and brings spiritual power to bear on our earthly circumstances.
We human beings are the only creatures in our known universe who can stand in the natural realm and touch the spiritual realm. When we pray, we connect with God, and He affects our daily lives beyond our comprehension.
I believe prayer is one of the greatest powers available in the entire universe. That's a bold statement, given the other kinds of power that are available today, but I am convinced beyond the slightest doubt that it is true.
When we think of atomic power, we think of forces greater than we can imagine. When we think of something as basic as fuel power in a motorcycle on the highway, we think of something extremely noisy, intense and potentially dangerous.
But every kind of power we encounter on Earth means nothing in heaven. Atomic power could wipe out an entire city of people, but it cannot give them eternal life. This power once commanded the attention of every nation, but it never healed a broken heart. Fuel power takes us where we want to go in the world, but it does not help us make any spiritual progress in our lives or move forward in God.
Prayer opens the door for God to work. It is the activity that you and I can engage in on Earth when we need the power of heaven to come into our lives and bring wisdom, direction, encouragement or a miraculous breakthrough. Prayer connects us to the power of God—and that is why it is a greater force than anything else we can ever imagine.
Only the power of prayer can move the hand of God. And only the power of God can change an individual heart, free a person from bondage and torment, overturn disappointments and devastations, break an addiction, or heal a person's emotions. Only God's power can bring peace, instill joy, grant wisdom, impart a sense of value and purpose to a person who doesn't know what to do in life, and work every kind of miracle.
The awesome, tremendous power of God—the greatest in the universe—is released in our lives through simple, faith-filled prayer. And because we can pray, we have extraordinary power. We can overcome problems we thought we could never overcome; we can do things people did not believe we could do; we can make brilliant decisions. We can walk in victory through all the challenges in our lives.
I have learned that God has not made prayer complicated. Sometimes our religious mind-sets and "systems" present prayer in such a way that it seems out of reach for many of us. But God wants our communication with Him to be unencumbered by rules, regulations, legalism and obligation. He intends for prayer to be an integral part of our everyday lives.
If you want power in your life—power over anything—I encourage you to simply pray!
Joyce Meyer is a New York Times best-selling author and one of the world's leading practical Bible teachers. She has written more than 70 books, including the popular Beauty for Ashes and Battlefield of the Mind and her first novel, The Penny (all FaithWords). She is also the founder of Joyce Meyer Ministries Inc. and the host of Enjoying Everyday Life radio and TV programs, which air on hundreds of stations worldwide. read more
Answer: You may like to think of yourself as the Energizer bunny when it comes to sex. You just keep going and going ... . But the truth is, several factors affect your sex drive. read more
You may struggle with feelings of inadequacy regarding your fathering abilities, but you have a God-given role to protect and provide for your family. And you have great impact on developing character in your sons.
Fathering is at the heart of masculinity, of what it means to be a man. Godly fathers put others' needs before their own. If you're like me, you spend the majority of your conscious thought and effort on satisfying your own wants and needs. It's almost an unconscious response to life. But if we are to be authentic men and fathers, we need to rethink that attitude and consciously make sacrifices so others can benefit and prosper.
When fathers neglect this duty or are absent from the home, predators attack families. Young men, such as gang members, who are raised without the influence of older men often become marauding wolves themselves–predators preying on women and children for their own self-gratification. read more
Ordinary believers should see God's power demonstrated regularly in their lives. Here's how to make sure you do.
Once when my children, Daniel and Madison, were small, our family visited Los Angeles. Both the kids were acting their age, poking each other in the back seat of our rental car and making accusations such as “Mom, he looked at me!” and “Mom, she breathed on me!”
I pulled into a service station to fill the car with gas before returning it to the car rental agency. As I did, a young man approached—he was wearing a bandana, had a bucket in his hand and started washing my front window. My first reaction was not very spiritual. I was about to tell him to go away when the Holy Spirit intervened. read more
Jesus commands us to forgive, yet most of us treat His words as suggestions. We must learn to release all offense.
All of us have been wounded at some time in our lives, many of us deeply. And it's not something to take lightly. People experience real pain when they or those they love are hurt by another person. Yet we know that the Bible commands us to forgive--and that extending total forgiveness to our offenders is the only way we will ever find true freedom and release.
Certainly if our offenders would put on sackcloth and ashes as a show of repentance, it would be much easier to forgive them. But remember, at the foot of Jesus' cross no one seemed very sorry. There was no justice at His "trial"--if you could even call it that. A perverse glee filled the faces of the people who demanded His death: "'Crucify him!'" they shouted (Mark 15:13, NKJV). Furthermore, "those who passed by blasphemed Him, wagging their heads and saying, 'Aha! You who destroy the temple and build it in three days, save Yourself, and come down from the cross!'" (vv. 29-30).
What was Jesus' response? "'Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do'" (Luke 23:34).
This must be our response as well.
Jesus could have said, "I forgive you." But such words might have been misinterpreted and wasted, like casting His pearls before swine (see Matt. 7:6). Instead Jesus asked the Father to forgive them, a far more grand gesture.
Asking the Father to forgive them showed not only that Jesus Himself had forgiven them and released them from their guilt but also that He wanted His Father to refrain from punishing them. It was not a perfunctory prayer; Jesus meant it. And it was gloriously answered! These offenders were among those who were converted after Peter's address on the day of Pentecost (see Acts 2:14-41).
God has given us a mandate in His Word regarding forgiveness: "Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you" (Eph. 4:32). "Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you" (Col. 3:13, NIV).
It's not a suggestion. We must totally forgive those who hurt us.
Totally forgiving someone doesn't necessarily mean you will want to spend your vacation with him or her, but it does mean that you release the bitterness in your heart about what the person has done. We can take our example from the way God treats us.
How does He forgive? Unequivocally and unconditionally. He never holds our sins, which are many, against us or tells others what we did. In practical terms, total forgiveness encompasses all of the following aspects:
1. Being aware of what someone has done, and still forgiving. Total forgiveness is not being oblivious to what an offender did; it is not covering up, excusing or refusing to acknowledge what happened. Total forgiveness is achieved only when we acknowledge what was done without any denial or covering up--and still refuse to make the offender pay for his crime.
Total forgiveness is painful. It hurts when we kiss revenge goodbye. It hurts to think that the person is getting away with what he did and nobody else will ever find out. But when we are able to fully acknowledge what he did and still desire in our hearts that God bless him in spite of his wrong, we cross over into a supernatural realm. We begin to be a little more like Jesus; we begin to change into the image of Christ.
2. Choosing to keep no records of wrong. The Bible says that love "keeps no record of wrongs" (1 Cor. 13:5). Love is a choice. Total forgiveness is a choice. It is not a feeling--at least at first--but an act of the will. It is the choice to tear up the record of wrongs we have been keeping.
We clearly see and acknowledge the evil that was done to us, but we erase it--or destroy the record--before it becomes lodged in our hearts. This way resentment does not have a chance to grow.
We must learn to erase the wrong rather than file it away in our mental computer. When we do this all the time--as a lifestyle--we not only avoid bitterness, but we also eventually experience total forgiveness as a feeling--and it is a good feeling.
3. Refusing to punish. Refusing to punish those who deserve it--giving up the natural desire to see them "get what's coming to them"--is the essence of total forgiveness.
Our human nature cannot bear the thought that someone who hurt us would get away with what he has done. It seems so unfair! We want vengeance. But vindication is God's prerogative alone. In Deuteronomy 32:35 He tells us clearly, "Vengeance is Mine, and recompense" (NKJV).
4. Not telling what they did. There is often a need to talk with someone about how you have been hurt, and this can be therapeutic if it is done with the right heart attitude. But if sharing is necessary, choose the person you tell very carefully, making sure that person is trustworthy and will never repeat your situation to those it does not concern.
Anyone who truly forgives, however, does not gossip about his offender. Talking about how you have been wounded with the purpose of hurting your enemy's reputation or credibility is a form of punishing him. We divulge what that person did so others will think less of him.
When I recall that total forgiveness is forgiving others as I have been forgiven, I remember:
* I won't be punished for my sins.
**Nobody will know about my sins, for no sins that are under the blood of Christ will be exposed or held against me.
5. Being merciful. When it comes to being merciful, this is our Lord's command: "Be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful" (Luke 6:36). In the Greek language, mercy is the opposite of wrath or justice. One difference between grace and mercy is that grace is getting what we don't deserve (favor), and mercy is not getting what we do deserve (justice). So when we show mercy we are withholding justice from those who have injured us, and that is one aspect of godliness.
There is a fringe benefit for those of us who show mercy: We will also be shown mercy (see Matt. 5:7). This shows that total forgiveness is not devoid of self-interest. "The merciful man does good for his own soul" (Prov. 11:17).
6. Showing graciousness. True forgiveness shows grace and mercy at the same time. There is an interesting Greek word, epieikes, that means "forbearance" or "tolerance." In Philippians 4:5 this word is translated "gentleness."
It comes down to our English word "graciousness." It implies an exceedingly rare act of grace. It cuts right across a legalistic spirit, which is what comes naturally to most of us. This concept is quite threatening to those of us who think that being inflexible for the truth is the ultimate virtue.
Graciousness is withholding certain facts you know to be true in order to leave your enemy's reputation unscathed. Graciousness is shown by what you don't say, even if what you could say would be true.
Self-righteous people find it almost impossible to be gracious; they claim always to be after "the truth," no matter the cost. Total forgiveness sometimes means overlooking what you perceive to be the truth and not letting on about anything that could damage another person.
7. Letting it start in your heart. Total forgiveness must take place in the heart or it is worthless, for "out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks" (Matt. 12:34). If we have not truly forgiven those who hurt us, it will come out--sooner or later. But if it has indeed taken place in the heart, our words will show it. When there is bitterness, it will eventually manifest itself; when there is love, there is "no cause for stumbling" (1 John 2:10).
Because forgiveness takes place in the heart, reconciliation is not a necessary prerequisite. Those who believe they are not required to forgive until their offender has first repented and been reconciled to them are not following Jesus' example on the cross. If He had waited until His enemies felt some guilt or shame for their words and actions, He never would have forgiven them.
8. Relinquishing bitterness. Bitterness is an excessive desire for vengeance that comes from deep resentment. It heads the list of things that grieve the Spirit of God (see Eph. 4:30-32). And it is one of the most frequent causes of our missing the grace of God. "[Look] carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled" (Heb. 12:15).
We must, therefore, begin to get rid of a bitter and unforgiving spirit; otherwise, the attempt to forgive will fail. Relinquishing bitterness is an open invitation for the Holy Spirit to give you His peace, His joy and the knowledge of His will.
This is extremely important when it comes to the matter of reconciliation. If I have totally forgiven a person who has hurt me, I will have no bitterness, and I should not feel the slightest bit of guilt or shame for not wanting a complete restoration of that relationship.
Even if there never had been a friendship in the first place, if someone has greatly wronged me, I can forgive him and yet see it as totally reasonable not to invite him to lunch every Sunday.
How can we be sure that there is no bitterness left in our hearts? Bitterness is gone when there is no desire to get even or punish the offender, when I do or say nothing that would hurt his reputation or future, and when I truly wish him well in all he seeks to do.
9. Forgiving God. Although we often do not see it at first, all of our bitterness is ultimately traceable to a resentment of God. Why? Because deep in our hearts we believe He is the one who allowed bad things to happen.
Only a fool would claim to know the full answer to the question, "Why does God allow evil and suffering to continue when He has the power to stop it?"
But there is a partial answer: He does so in order that we may believe. There would be no need for faith if we knew the answer about the origin of evil and the reason for suffering. I know only that it is what makes faith possible.
God can turn evil into blessing. He causes things to work together for good. God did not send His Son into the world to explain evil but rather to save us from it and to exemplify a life of suffering. Jesus suffered as no one else has or ever will.
One day God will clear His own name from the charge of being unjust, but in the meantime, we need to trust Him and take Him at His Word that He is just and merciful.
If we will patiently wait for God's purposes to be fulfilled, in the end--this is a guarantee--we will say that He has done all things well, even in what He permitted. He was never guilty in the first place, but because He sometimes appears to us to have been unfair, we must relinquish our bitterness and wholly forgive Him.
10. Forgiving ourselves. There is no lasting joy in forgiveness if it doesn't include forgiving ourselves. It is as wrong as not forgiving others because God loves us just as much as He loves His other children, and He is just as unhappy when we don't forgive ourselves as He is when we hold a grudge against others.
Put simply, we matter to God. He wants our lives to be filled with joy. That's why He commands us to forgive even ourselves.
Total forgiveness brings such joy and satisfaction that I am almost tempted to call it a selfish enterprise. In fact, studies show that the first person to experience delight when forgiveness takes place is the one who forgives.
So, for your own sake, obey God. Let go of your hurts by forgiving--totally--those who have wounded you.
Of his more than 3,500 sermons, R.T. Kendall says the message in his book Total Forgiveness is the most vital.
A noted Bible teacher and former pastor of Westminster Chapel in London, England, R.T. Kendall has given his share of sermons. But he says the message in his book Total Forgiveness (Charisma House) has garnered an overwhelming response. He spoke with us about what it means to release offense.
What prompted you to write this book?
It was born in the greatest trial of my life at the time. An old friend, Josif Tson, said to me: "R.T., you must totally forgive [those who hurt you]. Until you totally forgive them you will be in chains. Release them, and you will be released." Nobody had ever talked to me like that before. But it was the greatest single word anybody ever said to me.
How can someone know whether he or she has totally forgiven?
We do not tell people what "they" did to us; we will not let them be afraid of us; we will not let them feel guilty for what they did; we let them save face, as God lets us save face; we assure them that their secret is safe with us forever; we do not do it once--total forgiveness is what we do every single day as long as we live; and finally, we pray for them--as Jesus did, that they will be forgiven, let off the hook.
What are the consequences of not forgiving totally?
Spiritually, we grieve the Holy Spirit. Physically, holding a grudge can cause high blood pressure, arthritis, kidney disease and other ailments. Emotionally or psychologically, it will shape your personality so that you become unpopular with people; they avoid you because you are a constant complainer.
What would you say to someone who feels they have been hurt so deeply they cannot forgive?
I would assure them I do understand their hurt. But not forgiving is always counter- productive. They are hurting themselves more than they realize.
How has this message changed you personally?
Totally forgiving those who have hurt me is the greatest thing I ever did in my life. I cannot exaggerate this. It has shaped my personality, my marriage and my preaching.
Is it possible to forgive and forget?
Total forgiveness is not forgetting. We do not play games with ourselves. We never forget what they did, nor are we required to. In fact, it is not true forgiveness unless we know what they did but still forgive.
What would you say to those who struggle with forgiving themselves?
Not forgiving ourselves is a combination of self-pity and self-righteousness, and we must come to terms with the fact that God wants us to forgive ourselves.Those who are hardest on themselves are usually hardest on others. And the closer we come to forgiving others, the easier it will be to forgive ourselves.
How have others responded to this message?
Of all my sermons on record (about 3,500, if you can believe that), my message on total forgiveness brings the greatest response of all I have ever preached.
How has unforgiveness hindered the body of Christ?
Immeasurably. Forgiveness is almost certainly the greatest need in the church today. Unforgiveness divides members, marriages, pastor and deacons, pastor and pastor, friends. It destroys unity, grieves the Holy Spirit and delays revival.
What are the benefits of forgiveness?
It can in some cases hasten the baptism of the Spirit. It will save homes. It will bring mental health quicker than 1,000 hours of psychiatric counseling (and I am not against this). The sooner a person forgives, the sooner they can live with themselves, like people, be liked and enjoy God's presence.
R.T. Kendall pastored Westminster Chapel in London for 25 years. He is the author of more than 30 books, including The Word and the Spirit, The Sensitivity of the Spirit and Total Forgiveness, all from Charisma House. read more
All of us who follow Christ are called to the task of evangelism. Sadly, witnessing to unbelievers about the Christian faith is a scary prospect for many churchgoers.
I often hear their worries expressed like this: "But what if I get into a discussion and don't know the answer?" or "What if they get angry with me?" or "What if I end up looking stupid?"We all struggle with the fear of being rejected. We also are afraid we will "lose" the argument. But we must understand that evangelism is not arguing.
First Peter 3:15 says: "Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect" (NIV).
In Philemon we are encouraged to "be active in sharing [our] faith, so that [we] will have a full understanding of every good thing we have in Christ" (v.6). Note that both of these verses are intended to be applied within the context of active evangelism--not passive religious discussion or arguing.
Jesus never argued with anybody. He certainly had His differences of opinion with the Pharisees, but He didn't fight with them.
The Bible says we are called to be witnesses--not debators. To be effective in evangelism we must simply learn to rely on the Holy Spirit's power--and be prepared to respond to the questions others have about our faith.
In my many witnessing experiences on college campuses, I've learned to lean on the Holy Spirit for guidance in my conversations. I've also learned that most people have the same common excuses.
But rest assured, God is not looking for expert witnesses who have doctorates in theology. He is looking for faithful witnesses who are willing to share their faith with others. Here are five of the most common objections people will express when you share the gospel with them:
1. Don't all religions teach basically the same things but just use different names for God?
Because of my father's job with the Canadian Embassy, I have traveled to and lived in more than 40 nations. I encountered a number of world religions, philosophies and ideologies in my own search for truth.
Looking beneath the surface similarities, the world's religions are significantly different. One major difference is the contradictory view of the nature of God.
For example, some forms of Buddhism do not teach about God at all. Hinduism teaches that multiple gods exist and that even rocks, trees and animals are part of these gods. Christianity teaches that God exists but that He is separate from all creation.
Because various world religions offer mutually exclusive definitions, they cannot possibly be descriptions of the same God.
Most religions see Jesus as a prophet from God but not as who He claimed to be--the incarnation of God Himself. The Bible describes Jesus in an unprecedented fashion found in no other sacred text--as "the Word became flesh" (John 1:14).
Other religions also deny that Jesus' mission was to give His life on the cross as a payment for our sins. Jesus is unique in that He not only claimed to be God but also proved it through His resurrection.
People who think all religions are the same usually ask, "As long as you are sincere, what difference does it make what you believe?" Consider Adolf Hitler, Charles Manson and Osama bin Laden. Were these men not sincere? Sincerity is never a measure of truth.
And sincerely believing something doesn't make it true. You can be sincere and wrong at the same time.
2. Isn't it narrow-minded for Christians to think they're the only ones who are right?
I hear the "Christians are narrow-minded" argument all the time. Modern pluralists say they want a "tolerant" society that embraces all religions and lifestyles. They want a world where anything goes.
Yet Jesus never talked about tolerance but rather commanded His followers to demonstrate a far higher objective--to show love to all people. Though it is possible to tolerate someone without loving him, the reverse is impossible.
Jesus was not a model of tolerance. He was so intolerant of our lost condition, in fact, that He came to Earth to do something about it! He was intolerant of a number of things, including sin, hypocrisy and selfishness.
The issue is not really with us. It was Jesus Himself who said: "'I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me'" (John 14:6, NKJV).
Jesus claimed to be the unique pathway to God and to eternal life. The important question is whether or not we have good reason to accept His position over all the other options.
I say this to people who think Christianity is narrow-minded: "Do you believe that 1+1=2? Do you believe that water boils at 212 F at sea level? If so, should you be considered narrow-minded, or do you have good reason for believing these are the only acceptable answers?"
3. I don't believe the Bible. It is a book of myths and legends put together by pre-scientific men marked by superstitions and fears.
When people bring up this objection, I usually ask them, "Have you ever read the Bible?" Unfortunately, most haven't. If they respond positively, I ask them, "How much of the Bible have you read?" Typically they have read very little.
If they claim to have read the entire Bible I ask them, "What do you believe the central message of the Bible is?" At this point most get it wrong. The vast majority of people who have a negative opinion of the Bible have formulated it before reading the text.
We must remember, however, to be gentle when reminding people of their inconsistencies so that we don't discourage them from further dialogue as we direct them toward the cross.
The Bible stands head and shoulders above any work of antiquity for both trustworthiness and bibliographical accuracy. The New Testament, in particular, offers a greater number of surviving manuscript copies (about 24,000) and a shorter time span between copies (about 50 years) than any other bibliographical work in the world!
Norman L. Geisler and William E. Nix comment in A General Introduction to the Bible, "For all practical purposes the modern critical editions of the Hebrew and Greek texts of the Bible represent, with their footnotes, exactly what the autographs (original documents) contained--line for line, word for word, and even letter for letter."
The Bible tells us that "above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet's own interpretation. For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit" (2 Pet. 1:20-21, NIV). Like most other sacred texts, Scripture claims to be divinely inspired.
The uniqueness of the Bible is that it is the only holy book in the world having substitutionary atonement as its core belief. Jesus satisfied the demands of justice from a holy God, enabling the guilty parties (you and me) to be forgiven and experience true freedom through His death and resurrection.
No other religion in the world can offer you that. As you read the Bible, the Holy Spirit makes the text come alive, giving new understanding and revelation in a personally applicable way.
Because it is divinely inspired it consequently is authoritative to all areas of life. It speaks beyond the intellect to the depths of the heart, empowering us to make positive inner choices (repentance and faith) that produce beneficial lifestyle changes (regeneration and sanctification).
4. If a loving and all-powerful God really exists, why doesn't He do something about the evil in the world?
This is a difficult question. We must come to the realization that evil is not just some vague force that hovers around somewhere; instead it is personal and lives within each of us. If God wanted to get rid of evil, He would have to get rid of us as well!
God created us with a free will because He loves us. We can each choose to love and follow Him or to reject and turn away from Him. Without free will there would be no love.
We all have chosen at various times in our lives to rebel against Him and follow our own inclinations. Realizing we are part of the "evil" that people say God "should do something about" gives us a new and humble perspective.
With free will comes consequences for the things we choose. We live in a culture that cries out for freedom of choice but hates the responsibilities that come with it.
Consider the many lawsuits that have been initiated against fast food restaurants because people chose to eat there but then got fat. This "passing the buck" mentality is symptomatic of our fallen nature (see Gen. 3).
If God were to limit the consequences of evil, our free will would disappear, and moral consequences would become a mere game. Suffering often teaches us life's greatest lessons. In fact, the Bible says that even Jesus learned through what He suffered (see Heb. 5:8).
The Bible does tell us that God is both "just" and "merciful." In His mercy, He is patiently giving us time to turn to Him and receive the forgiveness and life He offers. God also promises that He will put an end to all evil and one day will execute final judgment.
Ironically, the existence of evil should lead us toward belief in God, not away from it. Without God there would be no standard of right and wrong.
The concepts of both "good" and "evil" are moral values or judgments that denote the existence of a moral governor (God). Without God, we would have come into existence by chance, and whatever we do would have no meaning or moral value, positive or negative.
Some people claim to believe this is the case, but their responses to life often reveal inconsistencies in their own convictions. As soon as they complain about some "injustice" or "unfair" situation or claim that someone has "wronged" them, they are making moral judgments about what is "right" and "wrong."
These judgments betray their belief in standards that are ultimately above us all--standards that come not from us but from God.
5. I don't believe in God. What kind of proof can you offer me that He exists?
Science points to the highly complex order in the universe. We also see complexity and order in the human body. Elementary logic tells us that any type of design demands a designer.
At this point another question often arises: Where did God Himself come from?
According to the Bible, God is the uncaused cause of all things. He has always existed.
In the Bible, His existence is considered an axiom (a self-evident truth). Because of the abundant evidence of Him in nature, He in no way attempts to justify that He exists.
But evidence is found in written history. Jewish, Roman, Greek and other sources all support the miraculous events of Jesus' life. Examples include His fulfilling more than 330 specific prophecies recorded hundreds of years earlier and performing numerous miracles.
The single biggest reason I know that God exists is that 23 years ago He changed my life in a way that was humanly impossible. I found that in spite of doing well both academically and athletically, there remained a distinct lack of overall purpose and direction to my life.
The ultimate fulfillment I sought was finally realized when I accepted Christ. His forgiveness and love has completely altered the course of my life. His peace and joy are now a daily reality.
Like me, most Christians have a testimony about the ways in which Jesus has changed their lives. If you learn to share your story effectively and to answer the objections unbelievers may pose, you will find evangelism easy and will bring many souls to faith in Jesus.
Darwin Dewar is associate pastor of Church on 99 in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. He is also a chaplain at the University of Alberta. read more
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