James E. Woods

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Use What Influence You Have!


Use What Influence You Have!

But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear.
— 1 Peter 3:15

Several years ago my heart was stirred to pray for a method to reach the elderly population in the city of Moscow. The majority of them grew up under Communism and therefore lived a life devoid of God. Although the rule of Communism is gone, that ideological system still pervades much of the thinking of the older generation. This makes them one of the most difficult groups to reach with the Gospel.

My heart has been burdened for this older segment of Russian society for several reasons, but the most important reason is that multitudes of these senior citizens will soon leave this world and pass into eternity without Christ unless we first reach them with the Good News of Jesus Christ. As I prayed for these seniors, I wanted to know how to have influence with this group of people so I could make a positive impact on them.

Suddenly one day, an idea dropped into my heart about how to reach the elderly community in the city of Moscow. It was an idea right from the throne of Heaven — an idea so brilliant and different that I could have never come up with it on my own. It was an idea that came from the Spirit of God in answer to my prayers for a method to reach these precious people. Years have passed since that idea first came into my heart — and with God’s help, we have built what may possibly be the single largest outreach to senior citizens in the world. In all of our research, we’ve never been able to find anything to compare to this massive outreach to the elderly.

Awhile back during one of these monthly events, a member of our staff — one of our drivers — was sitting in the back of the auditorium, waiting to watch the program that had been designed specifically for this senior audience. One of the elderly people sitting next to him — an old, hard-hearted, dedicated Communist and atheist — skeptically commented, “I don’t understand why Rick Renner does all these things for us. No one else seems to care about us anymore. So why would he and his team spend all this time and money on us? There must be some hidden agenda. I just don’t get it. Why would they do so much for us? What is the real reason behind all of this?”

 

The elderly man didn’t realize he was speaking to a member of our team. But God had carefully orchestrated that moment, ensuring that one of our drivers — a very sensitive man who compassionately cares especially for hurting people — would sit next to the elderly man and hear his skeptical comment. In response, the driver reached over to put his arm around that old Communist and answered, “What kind of price tag can be put on a person’s soul? There’s nothing in the world more precious or eternal than your soul, my friend. That is why this kind of love and attention is shown to you every month. It’s all about your soul and your eternal destiny. That’s why this is done for you.”

With that answer, that old Communist’s skepticism melted away and he replied, “Thank you so much for your kindness to help me understand what this demonstration of love and attention is all about.” On that day, God used the influence of a driver from our ministry to soften the hardened heart of that lost soul for whom Jesus died.

People frequently make a wrong assumption that they must have a seminary degree or a Bible school diploma before they can be used by God. But in New Testament times, there were no seminaries or Bible schools to attend because the Church was new and was still being established. But because the Christian faith was still in its infancy and was so different from the pagan religions of the Roman Empire, people were skeptical of Christianity and didn’t understand its message.

In fact, many were even afraid of Christians! Pagans had many questions about what Christians really believed, and false rumors about followers of Christ abounded.

In the midst of this situation, the apostle Peter told the early believers, “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear…” (1 Peter 3:15). Remember, when Peter wrote this verse, he was not writing to a classroom filled with theologians; he was writing to believers — many of them new believers — to encourage them to use whatever influence they had to bring people to Jesus Christ.

Peter exhorted believers, “…Be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh a reason of the hope that is in you.…” The phrase “be ready always” is a translation of the Greek words etoimoi aei. The word etoimoi is a form of the word etoimos, which means to be ready or to be prepared. It is an attitude that is always set to go, eager, prompt, and raring to get started. It is a perpetual mindset of being ready to get started on a project, to take on a challenge, or to take initiative of some sort. To have such a readiness also implies preparation. Inherent in this command to be ready is the idea that one must do everything in his power to equip himself for that moment when he is to be called to action.

In fact, this perpetual mindset to “be ready always” is made abundantly clear in Greek by the use of the word aei, which can be translated always, at all times, constantly, or perpetually. In First Peter 3:15, the apostle Peter was urging his readers (and us as well), “…Be constantly and perpetually ready, set to go and prompt to act.…”

Then Paul went on to write what you must be “ready” to do! He said you must “…Be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh a reason of the hope that is in you.…”

The word “answer” is the Greek word apologia, a compound of the word apo and logos. In this case, the word apo means back, and the word logia, from logos, is the Greek word for words. But when they are compounded, the new word apologia means to answer back, to reply, to respond, to explain, or to defend. It is the same word that the apostle Paul used in Philippians 1:16 when he wrote that he had been “…set for the defense of the gospel.” In using this word, Paul acknowledged that part of his God-given task was to answer questions put to him by unbelievers about the Gospel.

There is no doubt about it. Because Peter used the word apologia, he unmistakably was telling you that, as a Christian, you must “…Be constantly and perpetually ready, be set to go, and be prompt to answer every man that asks a reason of the hope that is in you….”

Peter says we are be fully prepared to answer “every man” who inquires about what we believe — explaining the nature of the hope that resides in our hearts and why we believe it. The words “every man” in Greek is panti, which is an all-encompassing word that literally means every man, every individual, and every person — with no exceptions! This one statement affirms that the Gospel is for every man on the face of the earth, regardless of race, class, or color. Peter told us not to be surprised if people “ask” about our faith. In fact, we should anticipate that they will ask. This is the reason Peter urged us to be prepared and ready to answer!

When Peter says non-Christians will “ask” about the hope that is in us, the word “ask” is the Greek word aiteo. The word aiteo means to be adamant in requesting and demanding something. In other words, this is not a mere wish, but a demand for an answer to an insatiable longing either to have something or know something. In fact, the word aiteo is the very word used in Mark 15:43, where the Bible tells us that Joseph of Arimathea “craved” the body of Jesus after the crucifixion. The word “craved” is a great translation of the word aiteo, for that night an all-consuming desire drove Joseph of Arimathea to go to Pilate to strongly demand and adamantly insist that Jesus’ body be released to him. (For more on this word, see Sparkling Gems 1, April 10.)

Peter used this same strong word — aiteo — to alert us to the fact that when non-Christians finally work up the nerve to “ask” us questions or to inquire about the faith and hope they see in us, we need to be quick to answer, because they really want to know — or they wouldn’t be asking! It’s just like the old Communist who inquired why we were doing so much for the elderly population of Moscow. Although his question seemed skeptical, the truth was that this elderly man really wanted to know why we were doing what we did. He longed to know the answer; that’s why he asked. Thank God, there was a “regular ol’ believer” sitting next to him who was ready to give him the answer!

  • How ready were you to give an answer the last time someone asked you about your faith?
  • If you found yourself sitting next to a non-Christian who asked you about what you believe, why you believe it, and how your faith affects your life, how would you answer these questions?
  • How prepared are you today to give an answer to those who ask a reason for the hope that is in you?

Don’t make the mistake of thinking you aren’t adequate to answer such questions because you haven’t been to seminary or Bible school. I remind you again that when Peter wrote this verse, there were no seminary or Bible school graduates with diplomas. All that was there at that time were simple, everyday Christians — just like you. They went to work and conducted their normal affairs every day. And in the process of it all, they were constantly rubbing elbows with non-Christians from every walk of life, every class of society, and every ethnic group, who asked: “What is your faith all about?” “Why do you believe what you believe?” “Can you give me the reason for the hope that is in you?”

God uses people, and you may find that He orchestrates a meeting between you and a person who ends up sitting next to you. You don’t have to be a theologian to tell someone why you love Jesus and what He has done in your life. But it would be wise for you to ponder what you would say if someone asked you a reason for the hope that is in you. In doing so, you’re taking heed to Peter’s admonition to the early Christians when he wrote: “…Be constantly and perpetually ready, be set to go, and be prompt to answer every man that asks a reason of the hope that is in you.…”

Today God is calling out to you and me, urging us to be available and always ready to give an answer to those who crave to know more about Jesus and what He has done in our lives. We are spiritually obligated to answer to those who want to know. So let me ask you: Are you available to share your testimony or to use your influence to help someone come to a personal knowledge of Jesus Christ? Are you ready to give an answer to every person who asks a reason for the hope that is in you?

Restoration 2018 chick here

PRAYER FOR TODAY


Lo
rd, I am deeply convicted that I need to be more open about sharing my faith with non-Christians I see and talk to every day. I know they feel empty and are searching for the real reason for life. I remember how lost I felt before You came into my life and gave me a new purpose. I thank You for giving me Your compassion for those who are without Christ. Let me speak words so filled with wisdom and grace that they will minister grace and clearly explain the hope I have in Christ — a hope that they, too, can share. Thank You for causing a burning passion to grow within me to see people saved. I don’t ever want to be so busy in my own affairs that I forget people need to be saved. I don’t want to be hardhearted or uncaring about people’s eternal status. So I stir up a strong desire deep inside me to see people saved and delivered by Your power!

I pray this in Jesus’ name!

MY CONFESSION FOR TODAY


I confess that I am deeply concerned for unsaved people — especially those that I rub elbows with every day. I accept my God-given responsibility to share Jesus with those who are lost — especially to those who appeal to me for answers regarding the reason for the hope that is in me. When people ask me, I am not ashamed of the Gospel, for it is the power of God that leads to salvation; rather, I am bold, eager to answer, and ready to tell them the Good News about Jesus Christ. He has changed my life! Therefore, I am prepared at any moment to introduce others to the same saving and life-changing message that has revolutionized my life and given me a relationship with God Almighty.

I declare this by faith in Jesus’ name!

QUESTIONS FOR YOU TO CONSIDER

  1. Can you think of one person you are acquainted with who needs to know Jesus Christ? Who is that person?
  2. Be honest — what steps have you taken to help that one person personally know Jesus Christ? Can you truthfully tell God that you have done your part to share the truth about Jesus and of His power to save him or her?
  3. If First Peter 3:15 commands us to be ready to answer every man that asks a question about the hope that is in us, what are you doing to prepare yourself so that you can answer questions about your faith, why you believe what you believe, what your faith does for you, or what the Bible teaches about Jesus Christ? What are you doing to get yourself ready to answer the questions any non-Christian may ask?

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