I once read that a company called Bell Data ran an ad in the Financial Times of Canada that said: "This is a full-blown, state-of-the-art, fully integrated, user-friendly, multifunctional, omni-lingual, multi-tasking word and data processing system with advanced graphic generation capabilities." Any idea what they were describing? Pencils. Why didn't they just say, "We sell pencils."
We do indeed waste a lot of words, don't we? We speak with our mouths, but our words are empty. Either it’s access verbiage, or just meaningless babble. We live in a cliche culture. Hi. How are you? Fine. Looks like rain. How about those Cardinals?
I think part of the problem with both cliche conversation and excess verbiage is that we live in a society where we feel like we have to say something. Silence scares us for some reason. Henry Nouwen wrote that for most people "silence creates itchiness and nervousness. As soon as a minister says during a worship service, Let us be silent for a few moments, people tend to become restless and preoccupied with only one thought: When will this be over?"
That fear of silence will get us into trouble, too. So often we feel we have to say something when we might be better off keeping quiet; and then we end up saying something that we wish we hadn't said. Admit it; it's happened to all of us. We need to remember this sage little piece of advice I once heard one man say, "I seldom feel sorry for the things I did not say."
As a pastor, I think I feel this need to say something very acutely. Any of you who have tried to help in ministry situations involving loss or grief or sickness or whatever may have felt that overwhelming feeling that we should say something. Many times we ought to just listen, but because of our fear of silence we just have to say something.
Also, in ministry there is the crisis of the never ending Sunday. Sunday just keeps following Sunday, and I have to have a sermon prepared for each one. Then there are Sunday nights and Wednesday nights and funerals and weddings. There is this real struggle in my life between having something to say, and having to say something. At least three times a week I have to say something; that doesn't mean I always have something to say, as readers of this blog may be well aware.
Oswald J. Smith wrote that "the world does not need sermons; it needs a message. You can go to seminary and learn how to preach sermons, but you will have to go to God to get messages." I really identify with that. Occasionally I give into the pressure of having to say something three times a week and I come up with sermons. Sometimes they come off OK, other times they don't. What I need to remember is that having to say something is not enough; sermons are not enough. I need to have a message; I need to actually have something to say.
And I think the average Christian goes through that as well. If you’ve been in church long enough I’m sure you’ve heard hundreds of times how important it is for each and every Christian to share our faith in Christ with others. Peter reminds us that we should “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have” (I Peter 3:15). We know it’s something we should do. But I think a lot of folks suffer from the same thing I do. When it comes to telling others about Christ, we know we should say something, but we don't always feel like we have something to say. I just want to offer you this simple reminder inspired by the words of Jeremiah 20:9
If I say, “I will not mention him, or speak any more in his name,” there is a fire shut up in my bones, and I am weary with holding it in, and I cannot.”
Jeremiah reminds us of two very simple things: we do have something to say, and we have to say it. A few verses later Jeremiah speaks of praising God for “he has delivered the life of the needy from the hand of the wicked.” It’s that simple. The main thrust of the Gospel message, what we have to say to a lost world is simply this: God rescues the life of the needy from the hand of the wicked. God rescues needy sinners from the hand of sin. Through Christ Jesus there is salvation and hope and victory. And folks, that's what our world needs to hear more than anything else.
Scripture says that Satan is the god of this world. You and I may never understand it, but God in His wisdom, for His purposes, has allowed the adversary to have nearly free reign. As a result, sin dominates, people are lost and confused, and the world seems to be going to hell in a hand-basket. There are people out there with real hurts and real needs; things that cliches just won't solve.
But guess what? We have the solution, don't we? The solution is Jesus Christ. In His grace and mercy He gives us a new heart, a new life, a new hope, and a new future. For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. Our friends and neighbors need to hear that; and we are the ones who have been called to tell them. God has set us aside for that purpose. Don't worry about just having to say something, because we definitely have something to say. Jesus Saves!
And if you are truly a disciple of Christ; if you have unquestionably been born again; if God's Spirit has genuinely taken up residence in you life, then I can guarantee you this one thing. There will come a time when you just can't hold it in any longer. We have to speak it.
It doesn't matter how frightened you are, how shy you are, how inarticulate you may be, eventually God's Spirit is just going to come bursting through your life out the words are going to come out of your mouth. God can't be contained. If He's in your heart, sooner or later you're not going to be able to hold Him in, and He's going to show through. Like Peter and John before the Sanhedrin, we’ll say, "we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard." (Acts 4:20)
The world is literally dying to hear the good news of Jesus Christ. They are dying to hear some words of hope. They don't need cliches, they don't need excess verbiage, they just need to hear the truth that God loves them and Jesus died for them. And we are the ones who have been commanded to tell them. We do have something to say. We can say it boldly because God is there to guide and support us. And we should be so full of the Spirit that we just can't help ourselves.
So get out there and share some good news with someone today.