Tuesday, September 1, 2015

In Season and out of Season

Did you ever put up Christmas decorations in late November or early December when it was still unseasonably warm outside? Do you find it hard to even think about decorating for Christmas in early September? I only bring this up because earlier this summer I was writing the Advent/Christmas devotions for Lutheran Hour Ministries, and it was pretty tough getting into the Christmas spirit when the thermostat's in the high 90s.

It did help to remember I'm not the only one working out of season though. Casts from our favorite TV programs are months out of season shooting Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas episodes.

This all made me think about Paul's words to Timothy -- and to us, "Preach the Word; be ready in season and out of season" (2 Timothy 4:2a). Like wiping sweat from your brow while you're writing about baby Jesus in the manger, there are certainly times and situations where it seems odd to bring up the subject of Jesus Christ with a friend, neighbor, family member, or co-worker. Maybe it just doesn't seem natural to the flow of the conversation, or maybe you've only recently patched together a friendship with someone you value. Or it could be you're afraid the mere mention of your relationship with Christ will cause you to lose the ground you've gained, and you'll be left in an awkward silence, wishing you hadn't said anything at all.

Probably the best thing to do is to take our lead from Jesus and the way He talked to the Samaritan woman at the well in John 4. He didn't jump in with the spiritual question: "What if you died tonight?" He started by asking her for a drink of water. But once they started talking He didn't sit back and let the conversation ramble along whatever course it would take. He was intentional. He looked for connections that could easily transition over to spiritual matters. It wasn't a huge stretch to shift their conversation from bodily thirst to spiritual thirst.

I think we can learn a lesson here. Good, faithful witnessing requires us to be attentive listeners. We have to really care about the people we are talking to, really want to get to know them. When we show genuine concern for them, a door quickly opens. And we don't have to spend the whole time listening for those connections. We just ask God to open our minds to hear and notice them when they arise.

Practice is always helpful. And where better to practice than at home with our families? Or how about when we're with a group at church? During our conversations we can hone our skills at making reasonable connections between worldly matters and spiritual things.

When talking to a Christian it might seem out of season to speak about spiritual things, even more so when we're talking to a person who does not yet know Jesus Christ. After all, there never seems to be a good time, does there?

God knows our reluctance to speak to others about Him. We should remember, however, that He has empowered us to be His mouthpieces in any and every circumstance -- no matter how tall the order might appear at the time.

Knowing that doesn't make it any easier, but it does encourage us to press on, sharing the Good News, whenever we can, wherever we can.

Do you have a witness tip or two to offer?

If so, you can do this by clicking here and sharing your thoughts.

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