Monday, 28 April 2014

Here I am: send someone else

It's about time I came clean, I think. 

Yesterday we had one of those sermons that reaches out and grabs you. It was about having the confidence to speak to people about our faith. About being brave enough, honest enough, sure enough to take an opportunity to tell someone about Jesus.

I am sure enough; I've never been surer of anything than I am of the truth that God loves us so much that He sent Jesus Christ to die in my place. That Jesus rose from the dead and is alive today. That because of Him my life is transformed; that I live with His Spirit in me, that I am never alone, that when this life is over I will go to be with Him for eternity and then I will know real joy.

That it will be alright in the end, and if it's not alright, it isn't the end. 

So it's not because I'm unsure. So why is it that I'm so reluctant to tell people what I believe? 

I'm afraid. I've had many a conversation with myself over the years on this subject and I have hidden behind many things.  I don't have a gift for evangelism. A friend of mine does; wherever he goes he seems to meet people who are curious about his faith and he always carries those little leaflets that explain the Christian faith. He has endless stories about introducing people to Jesus. I tell myself that this is his special gift, and not mine. 

I tell myself that I am far too shy and reserved to reach out to people like this. I am an introvert - when I did the Myers Briggs tests last year I was as far over to the Introvert side of the scale as it's possible to be without being a hermit (and that sounds remarkably attractive to me at times). So, because of my love of solitude and my preference for being quiet, I am not the person to be trying to share my faith.  Far better someone gregarious and sociable. 

I write, and that somehow excuses me from actually saying anything. This is my contribution towards spreading the gospel. I have a few readers (hello, both of you!) and maybe some anonymous person on the Internet might read and be inspired. So that's my thing; talking to the person at the bus stop? Not so much. 

I am more of an encourager than an evangelist. My gift is to encourage those who already know Jesus as they muddle through life, which I know can be difficult at times. I know this because I make heavy weather of everything, and I know that other people do too, and the 'Me Too' moments are an immense help. I am good at sharing, building up, encouraging... not telling people how it is. 

So, that's why I don't tend to tell people about Jesus. 

Or, in other words, I keep the Good News to myself. 

The sermon yesterday hit a raw place in me because earlier on in the week I played a song in the car and the words began to leap out at me for the first time. I say they only 'began' because as soon as I gathered what the song was about I flipped to the next track. I really did; the subject matter made me uncomfortable. It was about telling your friends about Jesus.

It's called 'Love you with the Truth' by Casting Crowns.

For the longest time, I believed the lie
That I'm not a strong enough believer
To be the friend that can take your hand 
And lead you straight to Jesus
I'm waiting on the preachers, singers and the teachers
To string the perfect words together*

...and that's pretty much it. It's not my job to tell people about Jesus; others are far better equipped than I am. I don't have all the answers. There are great gaping holes in my knowledge of the Bible and I know for a fact that my theology is a bit dodgy in places. 

I am not an up-front sort of person. I break out in a cold sweat at the idea of everyone looking at me. Other people are better than me at that sort of thing. Let them get on with it. I'll back them up... 

And then there's the fear aspect.  

I have an almost pathological fear of what people think. I struggle with being a people pleaser and regularly have to remind myself that the only person's opinion that matters is God's. I play for an audience of One. So I realise the irony of my position where I don't want to tell people about God, for fear of what they might think of me - when God's is the only opinion I should pay attention to, and He wants people to know about Him. 

Sigh.

If I tell people what I believe they might think I'm odd. They might make fun of me. They might be offended or annoyed if they think I'm trying to tell them they're wrong. They might be defensive, combative, argumentative. They might stop wanting to spend time with me. 

They might be interested. 

In the sermon yesterday it was pointed out that it's not my job to save people - it's God's. It's not my job to make it happen, that mysterious, powerful, life-changing heart thing; that's God's job. Their response is not down to me. My job is to say, 'I believe in Jesus. He has changed my life, and He can do that for you, too, if you want.'  My job is to share what I know, and leave the rest to Him.

God prepares the ground and He provides air, water and sunshine for it to grow into a tree. The seed just needs to be planted.

So, a song and a sermon. And a message. I sit here trying to fill myself with resolve and determination and courage and I don't feel brave or determined or resolute. I feel weak and inadequate and intimidated, but I know also that when I am weak, then He is strong. 

'I believe in Jesus. I'm pretty pathetic, but He's amazing.'

How hard can that be?  Really, really hard. 

I find myself convicted and past the point of admitting that I am not good at this, that I've been ducking the issue for years and justifying my avoidance in increasingly creative ways. I find myself wanting to change, to be open to what God would have me do in this area of my life as I have in others. I know that prayer changes things, and so I'm hesitant to pray. I'm afraid of offering myself in this way for fear that He might take me up on it.
Isaiah 6:8
'...I heard the voice of the Lord, saying: 'Whom shall I send? And who will go for Us?'
Then I said, 'Oh, Lord, send someone else. Other people would do a better job than I would. I've got other gifts, but not this one (and I don't really want it, thank you all the same). If you need suggestions I could give you the names of some people who'd be really good at this kind of thing but not me. Please, not me.'
I have some Good News, and there are people who don't know it. People that I care about, who don't know what they're missing; who don't know what they will miss if they finish up without Jesus. This should be motivation enough, shouldn't it? My reason to be is Jesus and I know that what happens after I've taken my last breath here will be far, far better than the best, most fulfilling, exciting, wonderful things that have happened to me in this life. And yet I pussyfoot about hoping that people might miraculously see something in me, in the way I live, in what I do, without making it explicit and just getting on and telling them. 

I can see how important it is. There isn't anything more important; it's life or death, quite literally. One day it will be TOO LATE. 

I clearly need to get over myself. 

I pray and I pray that God would soften hearts, prepare people to hear His voice, bring them into the family. Maybe He's done all that and all that remains is for someone (surely not me?) to tell them about Jesus?  

Lord, help. You know that my heart's in the right place, but it keeps running and hiding. You told us to go and make disciples. To tell people the Good News. You told us we wouldn't be on our own; that you would always be with us. You told us not to care what the world thinks of us. 

You told us to love people, and as the song says, loving them means telling them the Truth. 

Let's try that again:

'...I heard the voice of the Lord, saying: 'Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?' 
Then I said, in a very small voice, 'Here am I. Me with my anxious expression and wobbly legs. Send me.'

And this is why:

I believe in Jesus
I believe He is the Son of God

I believe He died and rose again
I believe He paid for us all


And I believe He is here now

Standing in our midst
Here With the power to heal now
And the grace to forgive**

I do believe it. I am sure.  

And maybe that knowledge might make an eternity's worth of difference to someone. 





*Sony/ATV Tree Publishing, 2013 Words and Music Mark Hall & Bernie Herms

**Mercy/Vineyard Publishing, 1997 Words and Music Marc Nelson




28 comments:

  1. God gave us all different gifts, so presumably different ways to outreach is ok? Some people's talent lies in having a conversation with a stranger, others like you write beautifully, for me literally making a joyful noise sharing God's love with small children is where i'm most comfortable. I guess we need to remember God is so much bigger than our fear of stepping outside our comfort zone. Really challenged by this, in a positive way!

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    1. Thanks, Mandy. I'm sure you're right; in my rational moments I know that we're all different with different ways of relating to people. Why is it that I assume He'll ask me to do the very thing that I'm most scared of?!

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  2. Helen - you have a gift for putting troublesome feelings into coherent words (amongst others). I have struggled many times with this very issue. Evangelism is so much bigger than sweating buckets on a bus because you desperately want to tell the harassed mum next to you that Jesus loves her. This has never, ever worked for me either. Mostly people see his love when they are shown it. Being willing to be used is the main thing, and God is unlikely to use you in ways that transmit anxiety, or that you are not gifted at. And writing is a very valid way too - where would we be without the gospel writers? I think you'll find you evangelise much more than you think you do! Plus do not forget that the Lord told us to make disciples, not converts. Encouragement and building people up is therefore a big part of evangelism, as is teaching. But it's always good to mention him in a conversation. When people are ready they'll ask more about it, but not usually before they know you. xx

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    1. Thanks for your reassuring words, lovely. I think you're right; why on earth would He put me in the very position that would stress me the most? I don't know why I keep on thinking that He might...
      Thank you.

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  3. Some of us are just shyer than others! And yet the words we write have the potential of reaching far more people than we could in person.

    Also, I find that people who encourage others usually have many DIScouraged people around then - people who think they just want someone to listen but are apt to need prayer about their situation right then. When we're caught up in concerns for someone else and feel the Lord nudging us to pray, evangelism becomes personal, low-key, and healing for them - and us. :)

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    1. I think you're very wise, Mary. That's doubtless true but I hadn't considered it: I'm exactly where He wants me to be, among the people He wants me with. I find that very comforting. Thank you.

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  4. Eleanor Watkins28 April 2014 at 16:58

    Thank you Helen, once again you've hit the nail on the head as far as I'm concerned. It's a hard nut to crack when you're doing it cold - on a bus or a supermarket or at the shops - much easier when you're in your comfort zone of church or a book signing or working in a Christian bookshop, for example. But I've been struggling with this too. So many people tell us of their illnesses or family problems or crisis situations, and all we offer is interest and sympathy or practical help (all important), when we have the power that raised Jesus from the dead living in us by his Holy Spirit! I find when I do, very hesitantly, say that I'm a Christian and ask if I can pray with them, people are usually more than agreeable, and welcome it. I don't do it nearly often enough though!


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    1. Yes! The same power... and yet I'm one of those people who finds it incredibly hard to make small talk with a stranger I find myself next to, let alone a profound spiritual conversation. These things must come about naturally. Thanks, Eleanor. Makes me feel I'm not completely pathetic!

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    2. And, ooh, a book signing! There's a thing. I'd love to be in that position but I imagine it must be a nightmare! I'll get some advice from you when I write my bestseller.... :-)

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  5. As an enfp, and as me, i can tell you that your writings are far more likely to affect me than trying to tell at me. I read your emotive, vulnerable words and they mean something. I appreciate your journey, the things you are learning. Try and tell me the 'Truth' and you'll have lost me - and sadly, my desire to open up to you again. One opinion this, obviously - but I think this way of sharing the love - a way you are obviously gifted in - is MUCH preferable xx

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    1. Thanks, Jenny - that's incredibly reassuring and means a lot. It's so, so much easier for me to put it all down in words than it would be to say it if you were right here next to me, and strangely writing seems so intimate even though I know that I'm posting my meanderings on a virtual wall that anyone might walk past. Maybe this is my way to get on with it, then.
      Thanks so much for reading and being so encouraging. x

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  6. Just wrote big reply, and lost it! Pants! Anyway - as an enfp, and as me - your blog has promoted a couple thoughts. One - these vulnerable, emotive words you share affect me positively. Anyone trying to tell me 'the truth' in so many capitals would only turn me off. i think your writing is obviously a gift, as you acknowledge - don't call yourself pathetic! If God's there he's got a flipping fantastic tool in you. Two - forgive my cheek - your identity description struck me.. . I think, from afar, that you are rather amazing... Why not Helen - writer and infj, (As well as the other roles, which are undoubtedly awesome :) ) Stunning writing as ever, keep up the good work. X

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    1. It didn't disappear! And I kept them both, because they are a bit different. Hmm, using INFJ to identify myself...never thought of that. It might make a lot of sense, I suppose, because to people who know MBTI it would explain an awful lot about the way my mind works!
      Thank you a very lot for your lovely words. x

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    2. Yup I think the first one may have been a bit too 'spontaneous reaction' - apologies if so... Second a bit more measured maybe...?! Xx

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    3. Oh and the identity comment was just aiming at seeing 'you' in the paragraph before your defining roles. Though obviously they're a massive part of who you are. I'll shut up and go away now!!!

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    4. Not at all! I love to hear 'spontaneous reactions' - often it's what your heart says before your head edits it, and it means a lot to me when someone is touched or challenged or even provoked by something and takes the time to let me know.
      The identity thing is definitely in my head. Funny that I went looking for my 'About me' section for the first time since I set the blog up in 2011 and I realised that for someone who usually chooses their words with care, this section stayed the way I threw it down quickly in order to get it going. I will revisit very shortly. Thank you.

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  7. superb... again!

    i know God made us each to a unique design in order to uniquely engage with him, so i know that we have our strengths and weaknesses, but i LOVE it when someone talks about the pull to put HIM before ME at some greater cost.

    thanks for the reminder to let my love for him slip out of my mouth before the concern over how it might affect me slips into my mind!

    "it will be alright in the end, and if it's not alright, it isn't the end" - this is absolute genius! people should be quoting you on this one until we reach that perfect end!!

    it ISN'T alright, and you're right that it's because it isn't the end. and that's a good thing for the people who haven't even been able to make a beginning yet.

    i love the slogan (i've seen it on No Fear branded clothes): if you're not living on the edge you're taking up too much space. because like this it reminds me that if we're too comfortable before we reach the end, something is definitely wrong. the green pastures are precious and necessary, but they are periods of respite for those in need of rest. there is an unending need for more workers in the fields (and that can be really really hard)...

    '...I heard the voice of the Lord, saying: 'Whom shall I send? And who will go for Us?'
    Then I said, 'Oh, Lord, I notice that your call to share your life-changing love doesn't seem to line up with the innate strengths and preferences you designed into me, so I think you should send someone else for that job and give me something I'm more suited to.' (i can't help but think that stammering Moses might have good cause for such an angle!)

    God, make us bolder, so that we choose to live in your power and not our own, and thanks for giving us the wise and articulate beauty of Helen Murray! :)

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    1. Thank you so much for your enthusiasm and lovely encouraging words. I've been so touched by the response to this post. Thanks so much for reading and taking the trouble to write. Bless you. x

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  8. YOU are not alone- I'm Mary from New Zealand, a regular reader of your blog- and now soul-mate ! You described me to a "T". All I can think of is that God does not make mistakes, and He made us this way for a reason- for His plan and purpose- and I no longer get in a panic and think I must be as other Christians- as it is up to God to see that His plans and purposes for my life are fuliflled. My prayer is just simply that I always be in the Centre of His will, and from that place, I get lovely opportunities to share my faith quite naturally and totally unforced. Since I have relaxed into His loving arms and quit worrying that I am not doing my bit,. He has sent me all sorts of opportunities that have been a joy to be a part of.
    Like you, I love to encourage others- may my words to you today help you to be of good courage- God made you and me both, and He said, what He created is GOOD.

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    1. Hi Mary, and welcome! How lovely to meet you - and thank you for the 'Me too' moment. I think you sum it up very wisely by saying that your prayer is 'to be in the centre of His will' - exactly that. Then all the rest is as it will be and I need to remember that there's no need to be afraid if He is right next to me. Thank you.
      Bless you, on the other side of the world. Isn't the internet wonderful? :-)

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  9. Oh, I absolutely hear you. I'm married to a proper evangelist, a real I-sat-next-to-this-woman-on-the-bus-and-talked-about-Jesus evangelist. Mind you, these days he has an unfair advantage, as his dog collar gives him the perfect conversation starter. I like to think that, since we are biblically one flesh, it's OK that he does the knocking on doors and confronting strangers bit, while I do the gentler conversations at the Lent course and with the children in Sunday school. And writing, of course. I think writing counts.

    Don't forget, though, that not everyone in the Bible was an Isaiah. Moses really did say "Here I am, send someone else" and he was allowed to let Aaron do all the talking, wasn't he? It's one of my favourite stories to tell, Moses thinking up all those excuses. And Jonah had to become whale vomit before he would agree to talk to the Ninevites, though that was for slightly different reasons. Take heart! Plenty of room for trembly-kneed prophets here.

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    1. I love that you and your husband are 'one flesh' and therefore your quota of evangelism is accounted for!
      You are so comforting, Amy, with your Bible run-down of less than enthusiastic prophets. My knees tremble a little less. Thank you kindly, my friend.

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  10. Thank you, Helen - I can really identify with this. Like you, I'm at the far end of the MB introvert scale, so I struggle to find the balance between accepting how God has made me and finding ways to share my faith. I don't know what the answer is, but it's good to know that I'm not alone. F. xx

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    1. You're not alone! (which, if you're anything like me, is sometimes the problem!) but I know what you mean. Thanks for the 'Me too'. x

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  11. I am with you all the way on this one, Helen. As an INTJ I am introverted but not shy. I can talk to most people about a few things and have lots of opinions. But ask me to share my faith and I go cold and cringe. And yet- like you, I am a whole-souled believer. I also feel ashamed of myself for my inexplicable failure, because, as you rightly say, someone may be waiting for us to speak. Yikes! I also tell myself that I write instead, and that I am not secretive in my lifestyle so if people want to know they can ask, and I am quite friendly normally! My friend said once that God uses your strengths, the things he has gifted you with. I hope she's right. As you have probably realised by now, you are not alone!

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    1. Thanks so much. It helps indeed to know I'm not on my own! I think you're quite right - we all have different strengths and gifts and I know that He's not going to put me in a position where I cannot cope. I'm not sure why I always expect that the one thing He asks me to do will be the thing I want to do least...
      Thanks so much for reading and commenting. x

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  12. I could have written this...though not as eloquently. As you can see, your lovely words and tender heart have struck the nerve of quite of few of us knock-kneed believers. The irony for me is that I could teach Bible study all day, but that person beside in the checkout line....I want to be so full of Christ that He just spills out of me.

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    1. Amen to that. Thanks, Ginger. From a knock-kneed believer on the other side of the ocean. x

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