Republished with permission from Press Service International, for Christian Today Australia
How do we represent Christ in the secular world? In one respect, this is a non-question; the way we live should remain constant as it reveals what we hold true in our hearts. However, we each have different spheres of influence, and different opportunities to be the hands and feet of Christ to others.
Lately, I have been more observant of the different ways people wear their faith in society and the consequences this can have. We are all called as witnesses of Christ, though the specific situations we find ourselves in may differ. The Bible gives us some notable examples to learn from.
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The public arena
Our love for Christ cannot be kept hidden. Whether we have a preaching gift, or are a behind-the-scenes encourager, our faith will at some point require public declaration. Baptism is just one moment when we declare we live for Christ. Each one of us will have many more opportunities in life to make choices that reflect our devotion to Him or alternatively, to the things of this world.
How should we expect our declaration of faith to be received? When we see Biblical persons in the public arena, persecution seems to be a common outcome. Stephen was stoned, Paul whipped and imprisoned, John exiled, Daniel thrown into the lions’ den, and Esther’s life put at risk. These are just a few examples but in every case, whether they escaped physical harm or endured it, the Bible clearly describes how God was with them.
It is easy for us to speak “Christianese” and focus our attention on church or mission-based activities. Yet, we also have the examples of the apostle Paul who was a tentmaker and Lydia, a dealer of cloth, both of whom served Christ even as they worked secular jobs.
In my own life, I have seen God show me the value of serving Him in my job as a doctor. I often asked God about going into full time church or missions-based ministry. Year after year, He told me to persist in my university studies, even when some much desired ministry training opportunities popped up. During this time, God showed me the incredible ways He works through those in regular jobs, and the opportunities we have to bless people at work and through our work. The ministry opportunities I thought I missed, God returned in a way much greater that I could have imagined and here I am now, amazed at how God has directed my path in life.
Whatever we are doing and wherever we are, God has a plan and purpose for us. Let us stand up tall in the confidence that He is always with us, and be content to follow Him one step, and one word at a time.
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To speak or stay silent
I have been following the Bible in One Year devotional by Nicky Gumbel. One of the devotions noted that Jesus wasn’t afraid to stand up for truth (His anger at the temple marketplace), but also did not cause unnecessary offence (the coin in the fish’s mouth that paid for the taxes of Peter and Jesus).
Ecclesiastes chapter 3, verse 1 says:
“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens…”
Subsequent verses expound on this with verse 7 noting that there is a time to speak and a time to stay silent. Another Bible in One Year devotion explored how Jesus was both a lion (bold and unafraid to publicly expose things that were wrong) and a lamb (meek, and gentle with His words).
As I strive to be more like Christ, this is an area I find particularly hard. When do I dare to be bold, and when should I hold my tongue? What does a love that is both strong, true and gentle look like in practical situations? It is an ongoing journey of learning, but I know the Holy Spirit will continue to mould me and help me trust God in discerning these things.
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A simple testimony
2020 and the social distancing brought about by coronavirus made the power of personal testimony stand out to me. While restrictions were placed on in-person church gatherings, I found myself greatly encouraged by spoken and written testimonies that continued to be shared.
These reminded me that as we walk with God, the wonderful moments we experience with Him will resonate through our lives and words. In the same way we might speak about our families and the things we learn, experience and are grateful for, we testify of God and His goodness in our lives.
In the end, our witness from Christ comes down to our relationship with Him. There are things to discern, things to learn, things to communicate and people to love but at the end of the day, the first commandment is simply this:
“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” (Matthew chapter 22, verse 37)
Dare to step aside from the eyes of the world and treasure those moments alone with God. They are not wasted moments, but the core of a relationship that builds powerful testimony and our own unique witness of Christ on earth.