Words Under Pressure
In Kenya, there’s simply no way you can prepare for teaching beforehand. An outburst of rain suddenly turns all the roads and paths into mud and not only the numbers but the entire make up of your audience changes. Or after you’ve already taught several sessions, one of the bishops in charge of the meetings looks carefully at the afternoon sky. “Dr. Dave, looks like we still have a couple hours more before the evening rains arrive. You’re here in western Kenya, let’s go for it and have another session.” My point is that the message can’t be only words, it has to be truth that’s been internalized in your life.
In homiletics at Dallas Seminary we made our students manuscript their sermons, but when it was time to deliver, we made them leave their manuscripts in their seats. They needed to learn to communicate biblically from their souls and from their lives, not just from words they had typed on a screen. Have you noticed how a speaker can be reading their prepared speech and the audience is obviously not listening, when suddenly the speaker drops their manuscript, is gripped by the message, and there is rapt attention?
Now there’s nothing like a courtroom where you’re the accused and your life is on the line to cause all of us to get serious about whether or not we’re connecting. Even before he was arrested and faced his trial, Jesus told those who would believe in him that they would be called in before the authorities. Check out what he had to say about worrying about what we would say.
“Watch out for yourselves! They will hand you over to the local councils and whip you in synagogues. On account of me you will stand before rulers and kings to bear witness to them. And the Good News must first be preached to all people groups. And whenever you are arrested and brought to trial, don’t be anxious beforehand about what to say. It will give given to you in that hour what you are to say. Now brother will betray brother to death, and a father, his child. Children will rebel against their parents and have them put to death. All men will hate you because of me, but he who stands firm till the end will be delivered.” Mark 13:9-13
Peter and John, two of Jesus’ disciples who first heard these words, did stand before Jewish councils and synagogues. Check out the early chapters of Acts. They were whipped because of their commitment to Jesus, and James is executed. But one of the terrible tragedies of history is that, when these first century persecuted followers of Jesus generated a people movement that took over the Empire, this accepted cultural Christendom turned against Jews. The persecuted became the persecutors. One of our great gifts of freedom in the U.S. is that there is no governmentally sanctioned religion.
As Jesus indicates in today’s Scripture, we must reach every people group in the world with his Good News about forgiveness and grace based on personal faith. But we must never use the force of government to force others to believe or persecute those who disagree with us. God gives each of us the greatest gift of freedom—the right to individually and personally decide freely for ourselves whether we will trust him and receive his gift of salvation.
LORD, protect us from confusing our ultimate commitment to Jesus and his Gospel with our patriotic commitments to our Nation. Help us be willing to even lose our lives for the sake of Jesus and his Gospel, but to never use the “sword” of political power to force individuals to comply with our beliefs. Give us strength to endure and love today.
For more from Dave Wyrtzen please visit TruthEncounter.com!