Saturday, June 26, 2010

Your Worst Times May Be Your Best Testimony to the Gospel

The best chance you have to show the Gospel to people may be when you least feel like you have anything to give. When you are in the midst of distress and suffering, there will usually be people who are aware of your situation who don't believe in Christ. It is one thing for them to hear you talk about the hope of the Gospel and the freedom of trusting in Christ when things seem to be going well for you. Any person might be content with his or her beliefs and way of life when all is well. But when your world seems to be falling apart and you are clearly under stress, the way you react shows much more truth about what you believe. If you praise God and affirm that he is faithful and wonderful even in the midst of your own suffering, you show that the Gospel really is a consolation to you and that knowing God really does bring comfort.

People will often expect you to be miserable when circumstances are difficult or painful. Most people won't even criticize or judge you for it - they know they would react the same way. It's usually accepted that we will be unhappy and discouraged when life is hard. But at the same time, if you do react that way, then people see you're no different from them and your comforts are no different. But when you react to suffering with hope and encouragement instead, and when you maintain your trust in God and your enjoyment of Him, people take notice. This is something they have a hard time explaining away. You can testify to a person for years that you believe in Christ and that He is the Way to life, but when that person sees that you really do take your own comfort from trusting in this - and that the hope you have in the Gospel is so strong that it brings you encouragement and peace even in painful suffering - you have just proven your sincerity in a way that can't easily be questioned or doubted.

On one occasion where Paul and Silas were thrown into prison, Acts 16:25 says: "About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them... ." No doubt! You would be paying attention too if you saw men in a first-century prison singing while sitting in the stocks. Paul and Silas were soon released from prison, but the point is that they were singing before they received relief. Praising God and seeking Him in the midst of suffering shows that you trust Him to deliver you from it. And that captures people's attention. As David said in Psalm 40 about God having delivered him from trouble: "Many will see and fear, and put their trust in the Lord." (Psalm 40:3).

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