I’ve been a Christian for fifty-five years, but for the first forty-eight of those years, I just wasn’t paying attention.
I wasn’t truly engaged, and I learned little about Christianity. When I began to read the Bible, I realized that I may have been too aggressive, too selfish, too over-the-top in my previous behavior. I thought I had maybe offended some people. I thought I should have been meek, passive, and calm, and so I tried to be a nicer person.
But what has been on my heart lately is that Christians are not always called to be nice and calm; sometimes we need to be strong, prominent, and courageous. Nice just means pleasant and agreeable, and I don’t think that’s what the Lord told us to do. He told us to be bold and daring, to go out and spread the gospel, tell His Word.
In the Old Testament, it says exactly twelve times to be bold and courageous—three in Deuteronomy, five in Joshua, two in Samuel, and two in Psalms. “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9). Yet, somehow, that has gotten lost.
My challenge to all of us is to be strong and courageous. It’s great to do Bible study and meet with Christian guys and talk about Jesus; but don’t forget that other guy sitting just across the table from you who doesn’t know Jesus. If you don’t tell him about Jesus, you might as well tell him to go to Hell ‒ because that is what you’re doing. It’s as if you had the cure for cancer but refused to share it. How evil would that be?
We all know the message, so if we’re not sharing the gospel with someone and giving them the gift of the Lord, aren’t we basically stealing from him? When did we become so passive? When did we decide that our job was to be quiet Christians and not stand up for what is right or wrong? Our job is to tell people; our job is to be bold and courageous.
Find a Friend to Challenge You
I believe it’s vital to find people who will challenge you in this. As Proverbs 27:17 says, “Iron sharpens iron and one man sharpens another.” That means you can’t only hang around with butter-knife kind of people; you have to hang out with people who will sharpen you.
Matt Chandler, a pastor in Dallas, told a story about when he was a new Christian and went to lunch at a Subway restaurant. He ordered his sandwich and moved through the line, and the guy behind him said to the sandwich artist, “Hey, will that sub feed 5,000?”
The sandwich guy was a little confused by what he meant, and he said, “Uh, well, we’ve got a party sub that’ll serve twenty!”
The man said, “No, that six-inch sub, that sandwich right there, will it serve 5,000? Because my Lord and Savior can make it serve 5,000.”
The sandwich guy said, “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
And he said, “I’m talking about Jesus! Do you know Jesus?”
And the sandwich guy said, “Do you want lettuce on your sandwich or not?”
“Dude, it doesn’t matter whether I get lettuce or not. If you don’t have Jesus in your life, then what good is this conversation anyway? What good is that sandwich?”
Matt Chandler said he just kind of squeaked through the line and tried to kind of get away from that guy, but he later realized that every one of us needs that guy in our life. Everybody needs the guy who’s a little more “over-the-top” with Christianity, because that’s what challenges us.
I have a friend named Will Smith who’s another one of those bold characters. He owns a used-car lot. If you were to walk into his shop and ask for the price of the red truck out front, he’d ask you, “Do you know Jesus? A truck’s not gonna do you any good unless you have Jesus.”
I love it because he has sharpened me to help me become that guy too. I’m not nearly as good as Will, but he is teaching me how to be bold and creative and courageous.
But you also have to find some new guys and hang out with a different group of people to sharpen them. You have to constantly be in the recruiting business; that’s what we’re charged to do.
Suggestions on Ways to be Bold
I’m a member of an organization called the Gideons, which is a group of Christian businessmen whose primary objective is to make sure that everyone has a Bible. One thing they do is hand people a pocket-sized New Testament that includes Psalms and Proverbs. It’s called a Personal Witness Testament (PWT). As a Gideon, you are supposed to keep one in your pocket at all times, because you never know when you’re going to find someone who needs to know about Jesus. I was on vacation recently, and twice I found that I did not have a Bible in my pocket. So I had to have a whole conversation about the Bible without having one to give to the person I was talking to. But, for a dollar of my own money, I could have said to them, “Do you know Jesus? Let me give you this Bible.” You’d be amazed at how many people have never been given a Bible before and will just start reading it. It’s a wonderful thing.
The Gideons also meet once a week for Bible study, and before Covid they met in restaurants. So you’d walk into this public place, and there’d be twenty men praying out loud, usually paired off in groups of two or three. Sometimes they’d even be on their knees by the table with their hands in the air. That will get your attention! Naturally, you’d be asking, who are those guys? Why are they over there praying?
That’s what I think that we need to do—be more public, not less public. We need to be bolder to talk to people about Jesus. My job is to open my mouth, and the Holy Spirit will give me the words. We were supposed to go out two by two and tell people about Jesus, but somehow we’ve forgotten that.
Carry Bibles to Give Away
So I have a few suggestions on how we can be bolder. First, let’s carry Bibles so we can give them away to people. If that’s not possible, put a Bible on your neighbor’s porch or hand one to a cashier.
Pray with Others
Second, don’t just tell people you’ll pray for them; stop and pray for them right then and there. I had lunch with my friend Cameron the other day, and in the middle of our conversation, I guess he could sense that there was something on my heart. When I told him, he said, “Yeah, we should pray about it.” Then he leaned into me, closed his eyes, and we started praying right there. How come we don’t do that more often? Let’s be bold and pray with people wherever we are.
Include Jesus in Ordinary Conversation
Third, let’s find ways to talk about Jesus in ordinary conversation. I’m a physician. For the first fifteen years of my career, I didn’t feel like it was my job to pray with people or talk about the Lord. When I started doing so, I still felt that it was a little awkward; I constantly worried about whether I was offending people. But the reality is, if I don’t say something, how will I ever know if they know the Lord? I might be the last person to talk to them before they die, so isn’t that the chance for me to say, “Hey, do you know Jesus?”
I started in a really easy way by wearing a bracelet. People frequently ask, “What’s on your bracelet?”
And I say, “Oh, that’s a cross; I’m a Christian.” And that’s a way to start the conversation.
Another thing I always do is use this expression with my patients: “Well, God’s not done with you yet.”
Sometimes people who are already Christians will agree. But what more commonly happens is that people will ask, “How do you know? What does that mean?”
And I’ll say, “Well, you’re still here. You know you could’ve died, but instead you’re still here. So the Lord must have a reason for you to be here.”
Then they’ll say “Huh ‒ I never really thought about it that way. I wonder what that reason is.”
I’ll ask, “Well, have you ever been to church? Have you ever read a Bible?” And now we’re talking about Christianity, about what’s important. I try not to hit them over the head with a brick ‒ they already got hit by a brick; that’s why they’re in the hospital! Instead, I try to be gentle, calm, and gracious while I am being bold.
In Matthew 10, Jesus says to go to a person’s house and tell them about the Lord. If they slam the door in your face, you just get to the edge of town and brush your feet off. So you don’t have to be aggressive, but you do have to try.
Often, we Christians think, I don’t know the Bible that well. I’m not really that comfortable in Scripture. But that’s not how this works. The very first missionary was Andrew (see John 1:35-51). He spent a few hours with Jesus and then he went and got his brother Peter and said, “I have found the Messiah. Come with me.” Right after that, Philip was with the Messiah and then he went to find Nathaniel. Now, those guys hadn’t read the New Testament; it didn’t even exist! They had just met Jesus that day, and yet they already felt compelled to go out into the world and tell others about Him.
Isn’t that what we’re supposed to be doing? Somehow we’ve forgotten the part. We’re happy to read our Bibles and go to church. But when was the last time we asked someone, “Hey, do you know Jesus?” “Hey, could that sub feed 5,000? Because my Lord and Savior can make it feed 5,000.” 1 Corinthians 16:13 exhorts us: “Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong.” We weren’t meant to hide; we were meant to be courageous. Let’s get up on our feet, walk next door, and do it. Let’s be bold. We have the Holy Spirit dwelling in us. So what are we waiting for?