Learn What it Means to be a Witness | 03
AUTHOR: Holy Scripture
As we continue to study the timeless words of the apostle Paul in Romans, the profound message of rescue, redemption, and restoration comes alive. Paul also embodied the last words of Jesus to the disciples “…and you will be my witnesses….”
Men and women of the Bible can serve as our mentors and guides as we learn to be effective witnesses.
Read or listen to Philippians 3:1-11.
In addition, my brothers and sisters, rejoice in the Lord. To write to you again about this is no trouble for me and is a safeguard for you.
Watch out for the dogs, watch out for the evil workers, watch out for those who mutilate the flesh. For we are the circumcision, the ones who worship by the Spirit of God, boast in Christ Jesus, and do not put confidence in the flesh—although I have reasons for confidence in the flesh. If anyone else thinks he has grounds for confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised the eighth day; of the nation of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew born of Hebrews; regarding the law, a Pharisee; regarding zeal, persecuting the church; regarding the righteousness that is in the law, blameless.
But everything that was a gain to me, I have considered to be a loss because of Christ. More than that, I also consider everything to be a loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. Because of him I have suffered the loss of all things and consider them as dung, so that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own from the law, but one that is through faith in Christ—the righteousness from God based on faith. My goal is to know him and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of his sufferings, being conformed to his death, assuming that I will somehow reach the resurrection from among the dead.
Why did Paul consider all his accomplishments as “dung?” How does what you learned from Paul in this passage change the way in which you live out the gospel?
The written Scripture is CSB, however, the audio Scripture is ESV.
Read the blog below. What does it teach about being a witness?
Witness Like a Child
By Brooks Nesse
When I was a child I loved to play any sport that I could. I didn’t care if it involved kicking something, swinging something, or tackling someone, I wanted to do it. I enjoyed the fun of the experience so much that I didn’t really care what people thought of my skill. The joy of the game motivated me more than my performance. As I grew older, I became a lot more self-conscious about what others thought about my performance on the field or court. Instead of counting down the hours till game time, I was now counting down the seconds until the clock hit 0 and I could go back into hiding.
Though I no longer find myself in competitive sports, I still find myself fearful of others’ opinions and expectations of me. I get tense when someone approaches me after a sermon, wondering if they approved of the message. I get anxious in a work meeting wondering if my co-workers are thinking “Man, Brooks sure isn’t adding to the conversation!” I find myself thinking it’s better not to try something at all then to try and maybe fail.
One of the biggest areas I see this fear crippling me is in my witness. When I am considering sharing the gospel with someone, I create a host of reasons to avoid sharing with them. One of my seminary professors used to say that like Jonah, there will always be a boat to Joppa that we will find for ourselves to run from what God has called us to. My “boat to Joppa” may be a busy schedule, a fear of rejection, or an assumption that I will be unclear and just confuse the individual I am sharing with.
In all of those excuses there is a forgetfulness of God. I don’t depend on him, I only ignore him in my independence. In my insecurities about witness, I must remind myself of Jesus’ words to his disciples “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” So what does becoming like a child have to do with our witness?
In II Kings 5 we find a young Jewish girl who had been taken captive by the Syrians. We know very little about this little girl (we don’t even know her name) except that she was in the service of the wife of the great Syrian general, Naamen. When she hears that Naamen has leprosy, she does not sit idly by hoping they figure something out on their own, nor does she wish for the demise of the general who had likely ordered the attack on her city and the probable death of her family. Instead, she remembered a prophet named Elisha whom she knew could help this man. Because of the faith of this young girl, we find this Syrian general on a path toward knowing the God of Israel.
In contrast to the faith, humility, and selflessness of this young slave girl, when Naaman finds out that he must wash seven times in the Jordan River, Scripture says “Naaman was angry and went away, saying ‘Behold, I thought that he would surely come out to me and stand and call upon the name of the LORD his God, and wave his hand over the place and cure the leper. Are not Abana and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? Could I not wash in them and be clean?”
Eventually, Naaman’s servants talk some sense into him, and after Naaman washes himself in the Jordan seven times it says that “his flesh was restored like the flesh of a little child, and he was clean.” I am blown away by the contrast of a child’s faith that seeks the good of her conqueror. And by the pride of a general who initially refused to stoop to the request of the conquered, but after humbling himself, becomes like a “little child” himself. This young, nameless girl demonstrates four characteristics in this story that I have seen many other young believers demonstrate that I believe can aid all of us in our witness::
- Courageous. This young girl likely put her life at risk by speaking up about an Israelite prophet to a Gentile general. What if Elisha didn’t heal him? What if he got worse? Imagine if that young girl let fear keep her from mentioning Elisha to her master. Imagine if she had been more concerned for her own comfort than the well being of another image bearer. Where might we be letting fear inhibit our witness?
- Confident. If that young girl was not confident that God could use Elisha to heal Naaman, I doubt she would have even mentioned it. She knew her God was capable of healing anyone. One of my favorite parts of being a youth pastor was accepting prayer requests from the students. Often these requests were for unsaved loved ones and friends at school. I remember foolishly thinking sometimes that there was no way that person was going to be saved. But this student was so confident that if God was willing, he could save this individual. Where has a lack of confidence in God’s ability inhibited our witness?
- Adaptable. This young girl was not a Syrian, She did not grow up worshiping their gods, speaking their language or eating their food. But here she is using her position in a foreign setting—a setting that she did not choose for herself—to be used for God’s good purposes. I see the younger generation in a constant state of change. They change schools at least every four years. Even in the church they go from children’s church, to middle school to high school to college group in the first 18 years of life. Imagine as an adult if you had to adapt to a different surrounding so often. Sometimes as we get older we can get so set in our ways and routines that we refuse to reach out to new people in an ever-changing world. Where might we be letting our pursuit of comfort inhibit our witness?
- Humble. In this society children were looked down upon almost as much (if not more) than slaves, and this girl claimed both statuses. Even so, she is used by God to humble a general. And it is not until the general humbles himself that he, too, is “restored” and his flesh is made “like the flesh of a little child.” Where might we be letting our pride inhibit our witness?
Perhaps there are areas that as adults we have become hardened and set in our ways. Perhaps like Naaman we have become more dependent on our own skills and experience. Let us learn from this young Jewish child and the other children the Lord has placed in our own lives to dependently live and witness with courage, confidence, adaptability, and humility.
God, open my eyes to see the surpassing value of Jesus so that I may wholly surrender my life to him, enjoy fellowship with him in his sufferings, and know him in the power of his resurrection.
Week 3 of 8 Witness
Click to read and listen to Scripture.
Click to read and listen to Scripture.
Click to read and listen to Scripture.