Question: How did you come to know Jesus? Was there someone (or several people) who shared their faith with you that influenced you to take a step toward God?
In our Made to Run series, we’ve been spending time looking at what it means for followers of Jesus to live lives that are totally transformed by the gospel and the power of the Holy Spirit. We’ve looked at the book of Acts and the examples from early Christians and how they lived their lives like they were made to run. A huge part of being made to run is sharing our faith and sharing Jesus’ love and helping others discover a relationship with Him. It’s hard to feel like we’re truly running if we’re not pointing others to Jesus. A lot of times, this can seem like a really intimidating thing, but we can look at the story of Philip and the Ethiopian in Acts to see that, with the help of the Holy Spirit, sharing our faith isn’t nearly as intimidating as we might think it is.
Question: What is the most intimidating thing about sharing your faith with someone? What stops you (or has stopped you in the past) from having a spiritual conversation with a friend?
Read Acts 8.26–40.
This story of Philip and the Ethiopian man gives us quite a few principles that are essential to know if we’re going to make sharing our faith one of our regular habits.
1. Pay attention to—and obey—the nudging of the Holy Spirit.
We see the Holy Spirit “nudge” Philip three times during the course of this story: in verses 26, 29, and 39. The concept of being prompted by the Holy Spirit can be a little foreign or sound a little mysterious to us today. Instead of looking for some kind of grand sign, maybe it’s just learning to listen to that still, small voice that’s calling us to do something we wouldn’t normally do. Maybe it’s inviting a friend to church or Easter Sunday. Maybe it’s writing a note of encouragement for a friend you’re experiencing conflict with. Or maybe it’s starting a conversation about a friend’s spiritual life and experiences. Whatever it may be, paying attention to and obeying the promptings of the Holy Spirit is so important when it comes to sharing our faith with others.
2. Recognize that God’s working in someone’s life before we get there.
In the story, we see the Ethiopian man reading scripture and learn that he’s just come from worshipping in Jerusalem. Even though he’s not yet a follower of Jesus, it’s pretty clear that God’s been doing something in his heart long before Philip arrived on the scene. For us, this means that some of the pressure is off. Of course we’re called to be obedient and speak up when we feel the Holy Spirit prompting us, but ultimately, it’s God that’s going to change hearts and lives through us. This is one of the reasons that we can be empowered and bold—because God’s the one doing the life-changing, He can use you to reach anyone, no matter who you are or who they are.
3. Start where they are…then point them to Jesus.
When Philip first approaches the Ethiopian man, he doesn’t launch into teaching him about the Bible or about Jesus. Instead, he asks a question: “Do you understand what you’re reading?” For us, this can often mean something as simple as listening to their story before we launch into any kind of teaching.
Philip doesn’t stop with just understanding where the Ethiopian man is on his walk toward Jesus, he uses the specific story he’s reading in the Bible to explain who Jesus is. He didn’t just understand and move on, he understood and used it as a reference point. Maybe you’re talking with someone who’s depressed and you can talk to them about how Jesus has given you hope in the hardest parts of your life. Maybe you’re talking to someone who feels alone and you can speak to how Jesus is always with you. Wherever the person is and whatever they might be struggling with, Jesus is the answer that can speak directly into their struggles.
4. Help them understand what their next step looks like.
After Philip explains Jesus and the gospel to the Ethiopian man and he puts his trust in Jesus, he immediately asks to be baptized. While we don’t know how the man knew about baptism, many biblical scholars believe that Philip was able to explain it to him in their conversation when it became clear that the man wanted to put his trust in Jesus. Philip knew what the man’s next step was and provided support to him as he stepped into it. Maybe for the person you’re talking to, the next step is coming to church or beginning to read the Bible. In that case, supporting them could mean giving them a ride and sitting with them or offering to buy them a Bible and read through it with them. There’s so many different forms that this can take, but being willing and able to offer support to a friend as they explore their spiritual next steps can have incredible kingdom impact.
Question: Think of a time when you took a “step” in your spiritual life. Who was there supporting you? How did they support you? In what ways did their support affect your spiritual journey?
When we begin to implement these four practices as we think about sharing our faith with others, it suddenly becomes less of a daunting, imposing thing to do. We don’t need to be scared about speaking out or being unqualified because we know that we serve a God who can use anyone for any purpose.