“And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. Opponents must be gently instructed, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will” (2 Timothy 2:24-26 NIV).
Have you ever shared the gospel with someone, only to be ignored, rejected, accused of being false, or receive a rude response? Even though you have good intentions to communicate the good news of Jesus Christ, bless, warn, encourage, and save a soul, knowing that the truth you are sharing will help that person overcome Satan’s schemes and obtain eternal life, you might still be ridiculed and mistreated. The prophets before us experienced the same persecutions and rejections. For example, the prophet Jeremiah was seized and falsely accused (Jeremiah 26:8-11) and later thrown into a dungeon in prison (Jeremiah 38). The Lord Jesus reminds us to “… rejoice and be glad because great is your reward in heaven…” (Matthew 5:11-12). Even Apostle Paul was not always readily accepted when he shared the good news about Jesus Christ (Acts 17:18); he was beaten, imprisoned, stoned, robbed, and persecuted in many other ways (2 Corinthians 11). So, we encourage you to continue to share the Good News because The Lord Jesus Christ uses willing believers, in His love and compassion, to warn others. From history, and as some of you might have already experienced, messengers of God have been mocked and the word of God despised by many (Romans 10:16; 2 Chronicles 36:15-16; Jeremiah 43:1-2). Knowing this, keep on preaching “the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching“(2 Timothy 4:2 NKJV).
Exuding Good Fruit While Sharing the Gospel
So, how should you respond to rejection? Love, gentleness, patience, and kindness are important fruit of the Holy Spirit which help us to deliver the gospel message more impactfully (Galatians 5:22; 1 Peter 3:15). The Bible warns not to engage in contentions, arguments, and fights about foolish controversies or quarrels, because such conflicts are useless and destroy the hearers (Titus 3:9; 2 Timothy 2:14). We should also avoid people who love debating and bringing up contentious and divisive topics (1 Timothy 6:4).
But what about you? Are you argumentative and combative in trying to get your truth understood and received by those you preach to? The Bible says quarreling is “worldly” (1 Corinthians 3:3). If we prayerfully examine ourselves, we might find that perhaps we are not as gentle and kind in sharing the truth as we ought to be. When you share argumentatively or with strife, this actually achieves the very opposite of what you are hoping for; instead of people coming to Christ, they are turned off. In the book of Ezekiel, we see that the shepherds were “shoving aside (hitting, striking, pushing) all the week sheep” with their horns until they drove them away (Ezekiel 34:21). Likewise, the Lord Jesus warned us not to be wicked and be found beating or forcing our will on our fellow servants, otherwise, we will be punished (Matthew 24:48-51; Galatians 5:20-21, 26). This beating means discouraging people from seeking the Lord or forcing them to accept the Lord or certain teachings against their will. It is not the same as rightly using the rod of correction to discipline children when necessary (Proverbs 20:30; 23:14) or the punishment meted out to criminals and offenders as prescribed in the Old Testament (Deuteronomy 25:2-3). Some pastors beat their flock by forcing their will upon believers, thus weakening their faith and discouraging them from seeking the Lord on their own. These beat-up followers no longer go by their own convictions and obey the written Word of God, but they only follow and obey the pastor’s dictates, including wrongs.
As born again Christians, we are the Lord’s witnesses. When we share the Good News and are rudely challenged or opposed, we are called to answer and instruct with gentleness, kindness, and respect (2 Timothy 2:24-26; 1 Peter 3:15). Even if we know we are right, we should neither force nor argue with people (beat them), nor be offended, because this only discourages them (2 Timothy 2:14).
We must not push or pressure people into believing our message, as this may bring doubt and harden their hearts. Pressuring people to make decisions or even give or receive good things such as the Gospel, food, or gifts is displeasing to the Lord (Genesis 19:9-11; 2 Corinthians 9:7). The devil and false religions pressure, force, and coerce people to submit to their lies and authority (Daniel 3:6). However, the Lord God operates on the principle of choices and consequences and gently allows people to exercise free will (Deuteronomy 30:15-19). Putting pressure on people does not allow them to take their time to pray and make the choice or decision on their own time. Our faith is strengthened when we choose to do right by learning at the right time and out of our own convictions (John 16:8). As an example, some time ago, my husband and I took our children swimming at the local aquatics center. We decided to leave gospel tracts on the cars at the parking lot, and my husband went and did what he could cheerfully and returned. However, upon noticing that he had not placed the tracts on as many vehicles as I had in mind, I questioned him why he did not leave tracts on all the cars. I could tell by his facial expression that my questioning discouraged him. Shortly after, the Holy Spirit convicted me that I must not put my husband under pressure, as people can only give as they are moved in their hearts (Exodus 35:21, 26).
There are also couples who force and pressure their spouses to pray more, go to church, get a new job, give something, or stop doing something unpleasant. In the flesh, many spouses will nag, complain, call names, and manipulate the other spouse in order to achieve the end result. This is by a no means loving, gentle, and respectful. It is better to have faith and pray for yourself regarding how to lovingly communicate and patiently pray for your spouse, then share gently (Proverbs 15:1; Matthew 21:22). In this way, the Lord will help you exude the fruit of the Spirit and work either to change your heart or your spouse’s heart. In due time, he or she will make the right decision on their own!
We once listened to a prophet who started rebuking his listeners for listening to him and not sending him financial contributions, and he actually seemed upset about that. We decided to send a small contribution and then stopped listening to him because he was demanding that we pay for the message he was sharing, instead of sharing freely like the apostles did and leaving it to people to give cheerfully as they were moved in their hearts (2 Corinthians 9:7). We later discovered that many his prophecies were not Biblically sound! We’ve also heard pastors who coerce the flock not only to give the 10% tithe but to give 20% or more, even to dig themselves deeper into debt. The truth is that while we should support our churches, we should not neglect to take care of our family members, the poor, and the needy outside our local church (Deuteronomy 15:11; Proverbs 21:13; 1 Timothy 5:8). Nowadays prosperity preachers even ask people to give beyond what they have, and they may say, “Get out debt by giving more; sow a seed to this ministry and the Lord will pay all your debts!”. Can anyone not see that these false prophets are asking you to become a slave to the lender in order for them to continue living lavishly while you dig yourself deeper into debt? (Proverbs 22:7). Brethren, don’t be pressured to give, but pray and give what you can cheerfully! Pastors and prophets who demand the flock to give and give and give should consider getting a job, like Paul did (2 Thessalonians 3:8), instead of putting trust in man. Trusting in man leads to disappointment and drought, but putting one’s hope and trust in God alone leads to blessings and fruitfulness (Jeremiah 17:5-8).
Sharing the Right Words at the Right Time
The Bible says, “A person finds joy in giving an apt reply– and how good is a timely word” (Proverbs 15:23 NIV). However, some people are in the habit of “casting pearls before swine” (Matthew 7:6) and sharing the right things but at the wrong time. This only leads to arguments, and you may even have your feelings hurt by undiscerning people (Genesis 37:5-8; Romans 8:7). If we daily submit ourselves to God and allow the Holy Spirit to lead us, we will share what is helpful and edifying at the right time. The Lord will bring people our way to share with, and He will allow situations that would give us the opportunity to be witnesses. For example, in the Bible, Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego had a lot of good news to share, including the word of God, visions, and testimonies. However, they were very wise and tactful in their sharing and timing (Daniel 2:14; 7:28):
- When King Nebuchadnezzar wanted to kill all the wise men since no one could tell him his dream and interpret it, Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were given an opportunity to seek the Lord who powerfully gave them a timely answer to bring to the King (Daniel 2:10-12, 14-45). This resulted in the King giving God the glory (Daniel 2:47).
- When King Nebuchadnezzar set up a statue for everyone to worship, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego refused to bow down to it while testifying against the sin of idolatry. When opposed, they respectfully answered, saying “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. If that is the case, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us from your hand, O king. But if not, let it be known to you, O king, that we do not serve your gods, nor will we worship the gold image which you have set up.” (Daniel 3:16-18 NKJV).The Lord then powerfully delivered them from the fiery furnace which resulted in God receiving the glory (Daniel 3:1-30).
- Daniel also gave timely words when he interpreted King Nebuchadnezzar’s dream of a tree (Daniel 4:18-27)and the writing on the wall for King Belshazzar (Daniel 5:16-29). This gave Daniel an opportunity to preach truth to the desperate kings and encourage them to repent and return to the Lord.
You may not have the gift of interpreting dreams but the Lord sends you to people who are hurting, discouraged, depressed, in need, in error, lost, or sick. These are opportune times to share timely words and also offer help (1 Thessalonians 5:14; Matthew 25:35-36). In these last days, we can expect to be witnesses in some difficult and challenging situations, but the Lord encourages us through His word not to worry about what we will say beforehand but “Just say whatever is given you at the time, for it is not you speaking, but the Holy Spirit ”(Mark 13:11 NIV).
In conclusion, as Christians, we are encouraged to witness to others and share the Good News of Christ’s return (Matthew 28:18-19). When we are opposed, let us pray to respond with gentleness and kindness, covered with humility, patience, and love, along with respect, wisdom, and tact. Let us not be found arguing and engaging in strife and discord, but full of joy and allowing the Holy Spirit to convict people as we share and give them timely words as He leads us.
Janet and Abes.