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Can I Inspire Others to Follow Jesus?
By Col. Scott McChrystal, Prophecy Investigators Contributor
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Recently a couple approached Judy and me in a restaurant. We had our Bibles open and were discussing a passage until our food arrived. These folks thanked us for our Christian witness and commended us for the courage to read the Scriptures in a public place.
Of course, we appreciated the encouragement, but it triggered some thinking in both of us. Why do so many Christian folks struggle to share their faith outside of their homes or their church? For instance, why don’t more people pray before their meal when eating in a public place? Why are they so hesitant to let others know that they serve Jesus?
Over my 50 years as a Christian, I’ve attended many sermons, Sunday school classes, and conferences where the subject of witnessing was the front-and-center topic. The specific approaches ran the gamut, from handing out tracts on the street corner to door-to-door witnessing. All of them have some merit, but most have drawbacks as well.
The challenge with using some of these methods today relates to changes in American culture and society. For instance, with rising crime in so many places, most people don’t want a stranger knocking at the front door of their home. That’s understandable. Another obstacle is the pervasive use of cell phones to take video and use the footage in a way that distorts the true context of the situation. Think of the many hastily filmed scenes outside of abortion clinics. Other people of faith fear rejection if they talk about their beliefs. And, sadly, I’ve talked with hundreds of Christians over the years who simply don’t feel qualified to witness for Jesus.
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The hesitancy to witness for Christ is nothing new. Let’s take the case of Timothy, a friend of the Apostle Paul. Timothy was a young pastor at the time, and Paul knew that Timothy was struggling to carry out his responsibilities. For a starter, there was the issue of Timothy’s age. Older folks in his congregation may have looked down upon Timothy because of his youth. It’s also likely that Timothy had a personality temperament that contributed to a lack of confidence in his calling. To put it mildly, Timothy was not by nature a bold extravert behaving like an evangelist.
Sensing Timothy’s struggle, Paul shared some wisdom about being a witness for Christ: “Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity” (1 Timothy 4:12, NIV).
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If you have been a reluctant witness for Jesus, this verse is good news. Why? It presents a way of relating to people that follows a pattern many of us use in establishing relationships. See if you don’t agree as we unpack Paul’s advice to Timothy.
First off, don’t worry about your age. If you treat others with respect and dignity, most people will listen to you, especially if you’re sharing wisdom that God has given to you. In truth, children are often some of Jesus’ best witnesses because of their innocence and freedom from worry about what others might say.
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Paul moves into the topic of setting a good example for believers, but this also works well with those who are not yet believers.
In speech: Think about it. Don’t we often form opinions about someone else by the words they speak? Our words have more impact than we realize. If you speak kindly to a waitress in a restaurant or to an Uber driver, their first impression of you is likely to be positive. You set the stage for further relationship with that individual.
In conduct: Our speech can certainly set a good example, but so can our behavior. A few years ago, a woman who was a faithful member of our chapel came for counseling. She was feeling guilty due to her behavior at a recent high school basketball game. At first, I thought she might have been overreacting, but when she described what she had done, I understood why she came to see me. She not only yelled at the basketball referee over a disputed call. She jumped out of stands, ran onto the basketball court, and screamed right into the ref’s face. Not good. In truth, I had seen this woman behave in wonderful ways at places throughout our installation. This incident was a departure from her normal Christ-like behavior. But it shows that controlling our behavior is always so important.
In love: This advice is essential to all our interactions with people. We’ve all experienced someone else doing the “right” thing, but not doing so with love. Any one of us can fall into that trap. It helps me to remember a couple of things. First, God is the Creator of all mankind. He has made each of us in His image. The Fall has largely hidden that likeness, but it’s there none the less. Additionally, Jesus died for everyone on the planet—past, present, and future. If God so loved each of us, we need to see value in every human being. Regardless of who they are or how they act, we need to remember that everyone has value. Our treatment of people should always reflect our best attempt to do what is best for them.
In faith: Consider the order in which Paul has shared his advice with Timothy. When you set the example in speech, in behavior, and in love, you’re in a much better position to share your faith. Others are watching you. If they notice the way you talk, act, and treat others in love, there’s already a good chance they will want to hear about your faith. You have already gone a long way toward showing people that your faith enables you to live differently from much of society. Now, your personal testimony of how God has worked in your life will naturally carry more weight. A Bible verse or two can be helpful, but the real strength lies in your personal credibility.
In purity: Christians can come under fire among their friends when they choose not to participate in activities that they believe God prohibits. Perhaps this is your experience. You believe God wants you to refrain from things you used to do with friends or even family. The accusation of being “too good” or “too holy” to join them can hurt, but don’t allow your emotions to steer you away from the path you know the Lord wants you to walk.
Living in purity for the Lord simply means to honor the Lord with your life. You don’t have to be showy about your commitment. As you quietly obey the Lord’s commandments and refrain from behavior you know the Lord wants you to avoid, you will inspire others to follow Jesus. Simply set the right example—in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, and in purity.
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Chaplain (Col.) Scott McChrystal, Ret.
Chaplain (Col.) Scott McChrystal was commissioned in 1970 and served 31 years on active duty, 10 as an infantry officer and the remainder as a United States Army chaplain. His line officer experience included a tour in Vietnam as an Infantry Platoon Leader and three assignments with the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. His final assignment was as the senior chaplain at the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York. He retired from active duty in 2005 and served as the Military/VA Representative and Endorser within the Chaplaincy Department for the General Council of the Assemblies of God from 2005-2019. His decorations and awards include the Distinguished Service Award, the Bronze Star, the Combat Infantryman’s Badge, the Master Parachutist Badge, and the Army Ranger Tab. His education includes a Master of Business Administration Degree, a Master of Divinity Degree, a Doctor of Ministry Degree, and graduation from The United States Army War College. In recent years, he and his wife have written several Christian devotionals. In addition, Scott co-authored a Christian action-novel and served as the managing editor for the The Warrior’s Bible, an application Bible for the military community. He presently serves as the Executive Liaison for The Warrior’s Journey, a non-profit organization that supports the military community. He’s also a member of the Distinguished Advisory Board for Battle Ready Ministries. He and his wife, Judy, live in Springfield, Missouri, and have 4 children and 12 grandchildren.