our goodness can hurt our witness

23 05 2007

I’ve heard someone tell me they didn’t witness to people because their good works would testify to God.  I don’t think that’s a valid excuse.  Sometimes good works do point to God — don’t get me wrong — but it takes more than that.  Here’s a quote I have that explains this further :

That God loves us in spite of our sin is the Gospel truth; but this truth can only be shared by words, since good deeds are easily taken to show the opposite — that we love God.  Faith is not understood when it is only demonstrated by life.  The more sanctified a life without the verbal witness, the greater the danger of the Christian’s goodness getting in the way.  Should a person by the grace of God become easier to live with, he doesn’t need to call attention to it: it will speak for itself.  He can instead seek to balance the reverse effect of the good image by occasionally speaking of the unfavorable realities within, those parts that are still changing.  In this way, his external behavior by contrast can point to the power of God, rather than to the effort of man.  When we decrease, He can increase, but not until. ~ Paul G. Johnson, Buried Alive

It is possible that our “goodness” gets in the way of our witness.  I’ve had this be a problem in my early ministry, when I was first leading a small group.  It wasn’t that I was so “good”, but that I used to not share my struggles with people, because I thought it revealed my weaknesses too much.  But then God showed me that I should share my struggles, that it would help my testimony and witness.  Once I started opening up, this was confirmed when one of my close friends said to me, “Really, you should never be ashamed of going through struggles.  I’m glad you shared because sometimes it seems like you’re perfect:) (and that’s really annoying:)”  That was from someone who was normally critical of me (in fun).  Was I anywhere close to perfect?  No, not at all!  But because I put up a “front” and hid my struggles, people couldn’t see the “real” me.

If you present a perfect image, people know it’s not real, because no one is perfect.  It can also make you look like a hypocrite.  People don’t respect people who aren’t “real”.  Sadly, a lot of Christians put up their “religious” front in public, where it looks like everything in their life is great.  I’m not suggesting we should “air our dirty laundry” everywhere, but we don’t need to pretend like we have no problems when it’s obvious that we do.  (Realize that other people can usually see your character flaws better than you do.)

I had (at least some) good intentions for not sharing my struggles, but then I learned it was doing more harm than good.  Once I opened up, it really helped my ministry.  By sharing what I struggle with, people could relate to me, and I could testify of how God is helping me through those struggles.  This has encouraged people to open up to me about their struggles, too.

Of course, it can be difficult to share your struggles with people.  We all have to fight against pride, and we naturally don’t want people knowing about our “dark side”.  But we must remember that the important thing is not my image or reputation, but Jesus’.  If it helps people get closer to Jesus, then it’s worth it, even if it’s difficult and/or painful for me.  That said, we still must be careful, for there are certain times you shouldn’t share your struggles and certain people you shouldn’t share them with.  And we don’t want to glorify sin or brag about how we used to be.  But the Holy Spirit will guide you in what to say and when to say it, if you listen for His voice.

I encourage you to really think about how this applies to your life, because it made a huge difference in my life and my ministry.  Not only has it helped other people, but it has helped me, too.

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One response

24 05 2007
Kri'

Amen – this is very truthful. Folks won’t get why we have the faith we do in Christ if we don’t verbally share it. And that most certainly includes how He forgives us when we do in fact make mistakes.

We strive towards righteousness, but give thanks to God for forgiving us when we don’t quite measure up.

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