This story from today’s text shows Jesus’ power to overcome evil and change a life. Yet, as fascinated as I may be with the first part of it, I want to focus on the end. It contains a great teaching for Christian followers to consider and apply in their lives.
The man in this story was rescued by Jesus from his captivity and misery, his helplessness and hopelessness. He wanted to go with Jesus on His mission trip, so he asked to come along, but Jesus wouldn’t let him. Why is that, do you suppose?
Some would suggest he would have been a distraction and an impediment to Christ’s mission. He was a non-Jewish person, and they would be spending most of their time in Jewish territory. I think, though, that the text gives us a clue why Jesus said no. Listen to these words again:
“Go home to your friends, and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and what mercy he has shown you.”
Jesus needed that individual to stay right where he was, at home among those who knew him for what he was and could see what he had now become in Christ.
Max Lucado writes in one of his books, “There it is, the commissioning of the first missionary, one minute insane, the next in Christ. No training, no teaching. All he knew was, Jesus could scared the hell out of hell, and apparently that was enough!” So the man went to his home as Jesus told him and proclaimed how much Jesus had done for him.
I love the way the story ends. “And everyone was amazed.” Did you catch all that? Lord, I want to go with you!
No, you stay home and tell your story of what I did for you to your friends. So he told it, and everyone in that non-Jewish area was amazed by this man’s story! They began to think that perhaps there’s something to this Jesus. The man made an impact for the cause of Jesus Christ by staying home and telling his story.
So what do we learn from this story? Someone might comment, Well, you don’t have to go off to a foreign land to tell the gospel and have an impact for Jesus. That is true, although I do give thanks to God for those who are out in the mission field in far away lands doing their work for the sake of the gospel. But we can do it right here, too. Most important, Jesus wants you to tell the story of what He’s done in your life. You may not think it matters much, but this story can be used by God to positively impact someone else’s life for eternity.
We have been talking these last few weeks about how sometimes just a simple walk across the room in Christ’s name can have a powerful, eternal significance in someone else’s life. Last week we looked at the importance of knowing how to talk to people about Jesus and the cross, how His death on the cross and rising from the grave becomes the bridge across the great chasm between God and humanity. How, as we trust in Christ, we are reconciled to God. It is important to know how to tell that story.
We also talked about how important it is to develop friendships with people, become people-focused, and discover their stories as we build these friendships. What I’ve discovered is that, after you’ve listened to someone else’s story, typically they will eventually ask you about your story. Therefore, it is important to be ready to tell your story of what Jesus has done for you.
Peter picks up on that as he tells the early Christians, “Always be prepared to give an accounting of the hope that is within you” (I Peter 3:15). You may not believe your story is important, but God does. It is unique. It is so unique that God spent a lifetime training you to be the best person to tell it. You are an expert on yourself. Sharing what you have seen, heard, and experienced in your life has a remarkable power with other people as you point them to Jesus.
So you might be wondering how to put your story together so you can share it effectively, comfortably, and confidently with someone else. This is what I am going to help you with today.
1. First it is important to write it out. Writing your story will help you organize your thoughts and give you a coherent storyline that someone will be able to stay with and follow with you.
2. Keep it brief. It should be a hundred words or less. They can always ask you questions after you’ve shared your story, and then you can give more details.
3. Also, keep it simple and easy-to-understand with one clear theme. Your plot line might be, “Before Christ and After Christ.” What you were before you met Jesus and then what life has been like since you met Him.
George is a guy in my Bible study group who was raised in unchurched home. He shared his story. I had no belief in God. I went into the military as a young man and realized somewhere along the way that something was missing. So I had a conversation with the military chaplain who pointed me to a God who loves me in Jesus Christ, and trusting in Him makes a difference. I have been walking with Christ since. He’s made the difference.
Or listen to Bob. I was nothing more than a bored, rich guy. Then I met Christ. He’s moved me from success to significance. In my relationship with Jesus Christ, I am finally discovering a purpose for my life.
A person in my congregation sent this note to me. “Before I met Christ,” this person writes, “I was plagued with loneliness. I grew up in a broken, dysfunctional family. My days were spent alone, my nights isolated. But then I met Christ, and He actually adopted me into His family. Now I know what it means to be wanted, cared for, and to be loved.
Did you catch the pattern? Before Christ, meeting Christ, and the difference Christ has made since.
Some of you, though, say, Well, that’s not my story. I’ve been what you might call a “lifer” in the faith. I’ve always had Christ in my life, I knew Him as a child and have continued to walk with Him. Do I have a story to tell?
Of course, you do! You can tell of a time in your life when you were particularly glad you had Jesus Christ in your life. Maybe it was during an illness or a family crisis, a time of loss, or financial crisis, and Jesus got you through it! In some amazing way, Jesus walked you through it.
A lot of us have stories like that. David, in my Bible study group, tells of how he walked with Jesus all his life. But life is not without its bumps along the way, and he thanks God he has Jesus. David was recently diagnosed with cancer, and he doesn’t know where he would have been without Jesus Christ to turn to in this time of crisis.
Irv is another dear friend in my Bible study group. He’s always been a believer. He said, Recently, when my wife passed away. It has been hard. I am so glad I have Christ in my life. He has ministered to me during this difficult time of loss through my church family who have been there for me.
Some people have a prodigal son or daughter story to tell. They were raised in the faith, but got lost and messed up along the way. Then they came home, and they are glad they did.
I have a personal story like that. I had a shallow faith when I left home to go to college. I became distracted by all the fun things this world offered, and so I left Jesus behind. I was messed up and very empty inside. But then someone helped me and I came back to Christ. Jesus has kept me on track when it comes to living my life. He knows what makes my life work best, and I’m so glad to be home with Him.
These are stories, personal stories, faith stories. You can write one of your own.
As you are writing your faith story, keep it intelligible. Don’t use religion-ese, Christian clichs, or deep religious language. Use everyday talk that people can actually understand. Make it clear.
Finally, keep your story humble. Don’t reflect some sort of superiority like, I’ve got it together and you don’t. Remember. You are just one beggar telling another beggar where to find bread. The hero of your story is not you; It’s Jesus. Keep it humble.
And after you’ve written your story out, outline it. Practice telling it on someone, or, if you don’t have someone, tell it to a mirror. Get comfortable talking about it out loud. You want to practice hitting the high points, keeping it brief and understandable.
YOU CAN DO THIS! All of this might sound a little overwhelming and make you anxious. You may have never considered doing something like this before. But you can do this! And I’ll tell you why.
Remember when Jesus, in His last session with the disciples said, “Now go and make disciples. (Go tell people about me.)” He sent them into the world with this promise (His last words), “Lo, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matt. 28:18-20). As you tell your story, as you tell HIS story, as you minister to people by listening to their stories, remember Jesus’ promise, “Lo, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Jesus is with you as you walk across the room in His name to learn someone’s story, share a bit of your own story, and perhaps, eventually, get to the point where you can tell His story.
Be of good courage and confidence as you take that walk. Jesus really IS with you when you walk across the room toward someone in His name. I want you to believe this. Christ can use you to have an eternal impact on someone else’s life. It might just be a matter of walking across a room.