Chapter 8 - Be flexible and let the Holy Spirit lead | Book | Sharing Your Faith
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Chapter 8

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Be flexible
Hearing the Holy Spirit
Some ways the Holy Spirit leads
Sometimes the Holy Spirit leads by not speaking
Some examples of the Holy Spirit leading
Your Assignment

Two things I encourage believers to do when they share their faith are to be flexible and let the Holy Spirit lead. This chapter will go over why being flexible is important, and will show you some of the ways the Holy Spirit leads believers when they share their faith. This should help you know when the Holy Spirit is leading you when you share your faith.

Be flexible
When you talk about almost anything you adjust the way you talk to people. The way you explain something to a doctor will probably be different than how you explain the same thing to a neighbor, co-worker, or children. Every time Jesus evangelized, it was different. He usually let the situation direct Him. At a funeral Jesus said, “I am the resurrection.” (John 11:25) When He talked to a Samarian woman at a well, Jesus asked for a drink and told her that He could give her “living water.” (John 4:7-10) When someone accused His disciples of not washing their hands, Jesus said, “Not that which goeth into the mouth defileth a man; but that which cometh out of the mouth, this defileth a man.” (Matthew 15:11)

Every time the disciples preached the gospel, it was also different. Sometimes they started with a testimony, other times they gave a recap of what God did throughout history, and sometimes they started by healing someone. Sometimes the Apostle Paul went into great detail and sometimes he was very brief. When Paul was in Thessalonica in the synagogue the Bible says, “And Paul, as his manner was, went in unto them, and three Sabbath days reasoned with them out of the scriptures.” (Acts 17:2) When Paul was in jail, he simply told a jailer, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house.” (Acts 16:31)

When Jesus told us to preach the gospel He didn’t give specific instructions about what to say, He just said, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.” (Mark 16:15) Jesus actually told His twelve disciples, as well as the seventy later, not to take a script. (Matthew 10:9, Luke 9:3, 10:4) Jesus also said, “But when they deliver you up, take not thought how or what ye shall speak, For it is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of your Father which speaketh in you.” (Matthew 19, 20)

What you emphasize when you talk to people will also be different. For example, some people need to hear more about God’s grace and compassion. Others need to hear more about God’s judgment. The Bible says, “And of some have compassion, making a difference: And others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire.” (Jude 22, 33) When you are flexible you can share the gospel in any order, or in as much detail, as you need to. You can share illustrations, testimonies, or answer questions they may have depending on what they need to hear. Another advantage of being flexible is if you forget something, you can share it later. It reminds me of a saying I once heard, “When in life you trip, make it part of the dance.”

Jesus never intended that the gospel be recited. Jesus wants us to share the gospel from our heart, and adjust the message depending on the situation and whom we are talking to. Most importantly, we need to let the Holy Spirit lead. If there is one thing that is always true in evangelism, it’s always let the Holy Spirit lead. Sharing the gospel is a little a football team that makes a play in the huddle. They have a plan, but they change the plan when they see the defense. If they make a touchdown, no one cares if they changed the play. The result is the only thing that matters. “A man’s heart deviseth his way, but the Lord directeth His steps.” (Proverbs 16:9)

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Many believers don’t think they have ever heard God speak to them. If you asked a large group of believers how many have heard God speak to them, most of them would probably not raise their hands or say they have. This is because they think God speaks audibly, or in an obvious way. When God speaks He bypasses our hearing and goes right to our thoughts. Just because we can’t communicate this way to each other doesn’t mean God can’t communicate like that to us or us to Him. Everyone who has received Christ as heard God. They had to in order to receive Christ. Jesus said, “Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: If any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.” (Revelation 3:20) Jesus also said, “...the sheep hear his voice: and he calleth his own sheep by name, and leadeth them out...and the sheep follow him: for they know his voice.” (John 10:3, 4) Christians hears God all the time, they often just don’t realize it.

God speaks to us when we read the Bible, when we pray, and at various times through people and circumstances. When you read the Bible and something stands out, God is speaking to you. It could be a single thought or a concept that could take hours to explain. When you’re sharing your faith, teaching a Bible study, or talking to other believers and a scripture, or a story from the Bible comes to mind, chances are, the Holy Spirit is speaking to you, and He wants you to share that. We are usually unaware when God does speak to us because we often think that we thought of it ourselves. When Jesus asked, “Whom do men say that I the Son of man am?” Peter said, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Peter knew the answer, but he didn’t that God has revealed it to him. Jesus had to tell him. Jesus made sure everyone knew this because He made a point of telling everyone, “...flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.” (Matthew 16:13, 16, 17)

God not only speaks to you, He speaks to those you are taking to, and there are often clues that show you that the Holy Spirit is speaking to them. For example, when people are receptive and humble there is a good chance God is speaking to them. When people are proud, rebellious, and argumentative, most likely they are not listening to the Holy Spirit. When people have been drinking or taking drugs, they are usually less receptive. Jesus said, “He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.” (Matthew 11:15) The question is not whether God speaks—the question is if people are listening, or have ears to hear.

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There are several basic ways the Holy Spirit can lead you as you share your faith. (1) He can reveal things to you that you don’t know, (2) He can direct your thoughts to things you know, or (3) He can give you added insight to help you understand people so you will know what or how to share with them. When nothing in particular comes to mind, just share the gospel the best you can. God knows what you know and He knows what you are going to share. If He wants you to add anything He will tell you by giving you the thought whether you realize it was from the Holy Spirit or not.

When the Holy Spirit tells you something you don’t know, it could be something specific or something general. As you are going out to witness, the Holy Spirit could tell you to share with a particular person or go to a particular place. After you start sharing, the Holy Spirit could give you an illustration you have never thought of. The Holy Spirit may show you how to explain something or He may tell you what you need to explain and let you explain it in your own way because God knows how you are going to explain it anyway. When I was sharing the gospel with my dad, and wondering what else I needed to tell him, the Holy Spirit told me, “He understands, ask him if he wants to receive Christ.” After you share the gospel the Holy Spirit could tell you to go over something again or He may tell you to leave and share with someone else.

The Holy Spirit can also direct your thoughts to something you already know. It could be a scripture, a testimony, or a story you once heard. It could be something recent or something you haven’t thought about for years. The Holy Spirit can also do a combination of both. He can reveal things to you that you don’t know, and remind you of other things that you do know. For example, He could remind you a scripture you’ve read, and then give you an illustration that you never thought of. When you’re sharing the gospel be aware of what comes to your mind. When it relates to what you are saying, it’s probably the Holy Spirit speaking to you.

The Holy Spirit knows everything about everyone and He knows what everyone needs to hear. One evangelist testified that when he was out witnessing with several believers, he noticed a man that seemed unresponsive to the gospel. The Holy Spirit told him to tell him that he was running from God. He told him, “I don’t know what your story is, but you are running from God.” He immediately dropped to his knees, started to weep, and repented. They later learned he was a pastor who had left his church out of frustration. He had gotten on a bus, was beat up and robbed. When they talked to him he had just got out of the hospital, and was wondering around with no money and nowhere to go. He knew the gospel. He needed to hear that God had not forgotten him, and still cared. This is why you need to rely on the Holy Spirit. No one could have possible known this. They thought he was just another homeless man in the area.

Another believer told me that when he was in line at the grocery store he shared the gospel with a checker. A woman in line who overheard him followed him out to his car objecting loudly to what he said. He was not sure what he should to say to her at first, but after a few minutes he got out his Bible, held it up and said, “You’re not mad at me, you’re mad at God.” She immediately got quiet, admitted that she was, which allowed him to share more with her. She had to be directly confronted with the truth, and the truth was that she was mad at God. Notice that the Holy Spirit did not lead him to yell, get mad, or argue. God will help you know what to say when you are obedient to share the gospel.

When I was in Russia sharing with a large group of believers, people would often join me to observe and learn how to share the gospel. After sharing the gospel with one man I asked him if he wanted to receive Christ. He kept hesitating and just could not seem to take that last step of faith and make a commitment to receive Christ. A woman was who was observing, and had not said a word to him, or anyone else I had talked to, stepped up about an inch from his face, tapped his chest, and said, “Listen to your heart. Don’t listen with your head.” He immediately said that he wanted to receive Christ. He apparently needed to know that God was speaking to his heart. This was a specific word from the Holy Spirit for a specific person. In Russia people are use to getting right up to your face when talking, but I would not recommend doing this in most situations, even in Russia, but this is what this man needed to hear. I believe the Holy Spirit spoke to her, not me, because He wanted her to start sharing, which she did.

Sometimes the problem is not a matter of hearing the Holy Spirit as much as it is obeying Him. The Holy Spirit may speak to your heart, like He did to this woman, and tell you to speak up and say something. If you feel that God wants you to share the gospel or a Biblical truth with someone, chances are, the Holy Spirit is speaking to you. One thing is certain; Satan isn’t telling you to do this. The next time you think you should share the gospel with someone, and you aren’t sure if it’s the Holy Spirit speaking to you, ask yourself, “What would it hurt if I talked to this person?” Even if the Holy Spirit is not speaking to you, wouldn’t it be better to speak up rather than wonder later if you should have. God will honor the fact that you were willing. God often uses unbelievers to show you that He was speaking to you when they say things like, “It was no accident that you talked to me.”

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Sometimes the Holy Spirit doesn’t say anything because He wants us to be discerning and figure it out so we will learn. Paul writes, “And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and all judgment.” (Philippians 1:9) Have you ever tuned in to the middle of a movie and you didn’t know who the good guys were and who the bad guys were, but after a while you start to figure it out. When you share your faith, there are some things you just need to figure out.

One of the first things you need to figure out is who has not received Christ. You can’t rely on what people tell you because some people think they’re Christians when they aren’t. You also need to figure out who’s interested and who’s not. Some people only listen because they want to argue or are being polite. When people are listening there’s a good chance they are receptive. When people acknowledge they have a sin problem, it’s a good indication they are receptive. When people listen to the entire gospel, there’s even a better chance they are receptive. Some people listen so intently they are locked onto every word your saying. This usually shows God is speaking to their heart.

When people are bored or they become more resistant, they probably aren’t interested. If they become increasingly more disinterested, this is your clue to wrap it up. If you continue sharing, they may become more resistance, and even argumentative. One woman who we shared with started to lean against her front door, then she started to file her fingernails, yawn, as she looked off in another direction. It couldn’t have been more obvious she wasn’t interested. When people are comfortable living in a sinful lifestyle, they probably have not received Christ, because if they had, God would be convicting them, and they wouldn’t be so comfortable. When people say they are Christians, but have no desire to go to church or talk about God, it’s questionable they have received Christ. People who have received Christ love to talk about God with other believers.

Sharing the gospel effectively is often a combination of using our own natural discernment, and the Holy Spirit showing us what to share. The more you share, the more aware, and the more discerning you will become, and the more you will hear the Holy Spirit when He speaks. It can often help to share with believers who have experience sharing the gospel. They will help you understand who the divine appointments are, who’s receptive, and they could give you many insights from sharing the gospel. The more you do anything, the wiser you become. There is no substitute for experience. Most of what you will learn about evangelism will be from evangelizing. Here are a few more practical things you will learn from experience:
  • When talking to someone waiting for a bus, or anyone who doesn’t have much time, share the gospel quickly and focus on covering the essentials.
  • If you’re sharing where there are a lot of people, it’s usually best to approach those who aren’t doing much. The Holy Spirit has probably led them to sit there and do nothing so you would share with them. This won’t always be the case however be flexible and let the Holy Spirit lead.
  • Be alert, watch people, and see who is interested after you start sharing. If you’re not sure people are interested after you start sharing, sometimes all you have to do is ask if they’re still interested and they want you to continue. The Holy Spirit could lead you to start sharing with someone, but they may not be the “divine appointment.” The “divine appointment” may join you later.
  • Think of examples people can relate to. If you were sharing the gospel with a child, the ‘ice cream’ illustration described in chapter three would be a good way to help them understand they can trust God. If you were talking to a couple that is engaged, the ‘wedding vow illustration’ would be a good way to help them understand about making a commitment to Christ.
  • Consider whom you are talking to. After you talk to some Catholics, you will know they understand they are sinners, because they go to confession, and they know that Jesus is the Son of God. They often need to realize that heaven is free, and they must receive Christ.
  • Watch for clues. When people are resistant, argumentative, prideful, or don’t want to give up a sinful lifestyle, they are seldom receptive. Pride and a lack of faith, which means they don’t want to trust God to give them something better, are the main reasons why people don’t receive Christ.
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There’s nothing like seeing how all this works in the real evangelical world. The rest of this chapter is devoted to examples of how the Holy Spirit has led in various situations, along with some insight about what was going on.

A girl at the mall

When several of us were sharing at a mall, two believers felt the Holy Spirit wanted them to share with a woman who was barely visible at the other end of the mall. They walked to her and asked if they could tell her about Jesus. Soon after they started sharing with her, her husband and daughter came out of a store and joined them. They explained what they were doing to her husband and daughter and they started over. When they finished, they asked each of them if they would like to receive Christ. The woman they originally approached did not want to receive Christ, and neither did her husband—but their daughter did, and she prayed right there in front of her parents to receive Christ.

Think about what happened.

The woman they were originally led to was not the ‘divine appointment.’ The divine appointment was inside a store with her dad. Had they got there a minute later, her husband and daughter would have come out of the store and they would have all left. If they got there any earlier, her mother might not have let them start again. When they approached the mother, they didn’t know any of this. They only knew that God told them to go and share with the woman at the other end of the mall. God tells us what we need to know and His timing is perfect! This shows that we need to be obedient and do what God tell us, when He tells us. This is an example of the Holy Spirit telling something that couldn’t have been known otherwise.

A man who did not want to receive Christ

When I asked one man if he wanted to receive Christ, he abruptly said, “No!” His answer was so strong, I did not intend to ask him again, but the Lord interceded and told me to share the gospel again. Although this made no sense, I shared the gospel again, and again, asked him if he wanted to receive Christ. This time he said, “I didn’t think so.” Well, at least that was closer. Since he seemed more open, and since he seemed to have no intention of leaving, I continued sharing several more times. After I shared each time I asked if he wanted to receive Christ. His responses went from ‘not sure,’ to ‘maybe,’ to “yes.”

Think about what happened.

This is another example of the Holy Spirit revealing something that couldn’t have been known otherwise. I had no idea that he was close to receiving Christ. The Holy Spirit had to tell me to share the gospel again. After I shared the second time, the Holy Spirit didn’t need to tell me again to keep sharing. I could see that he was warming up to the gospel. I normally don’t ask more than two times if people want to receive Christ, but there are exceptions, and this was one of them. This is why you need to be flexible and listen to the Holy Spirit.

A man who wasn’t interested in listening

One time when a group of us taught a church how to share the gospel, a believer from our group was in charge of showing two women how to evangelize. They went door to door and knocked on the door of an older man and he asked if he could share the gospel with him. When the man said, “No,” the two women wanted to see how an experienced evangelist would wrap it up and leave, but to their surprise, the evangelist started sharing the gospel. As he continued sharing, the two women started to get nervous, because they knew the area better than the believer training them, and they didn’t think people there would appreciate the gospel being pushed on them. The trainer continued to share, the man continued to listen, and the women continued to get nervous. The two women were even more surprised when the man wanted to receive Christ!

Think about what happened.

This one is impossible to figure out unless without an explanation. The two women did not know why he shared the gospel when the man clearly said he did not want to hear. They didn’t know if he was pushy, fearless, or clueless. He was none of these. He was hard of hearing. When the man said, “No,” this experienced evangelist thought he said, “I don’t know!” He later told us that he thought, “If this guy doesn’t know, I’ll just go ahead and share.” What seems like a mistake is often God’s perfect plan. This was a situation where less discernment was better. This shows that God is always in control even when it does not seem so.

A translator who didn’t know the Lord

After explaining the gospel all morning in Russia, with the same translator, it seemed unusual to me that I had to go over everything so thoroughly with everyone. I was wondering, ‘What was up with that?’ Later that day, this translator walked up to me with a big smile and told me that after hearing the gospel and seeing people’s lives change, she gave her life to Christ.

Think about what happened.

The Lord led us to people who needed a thorough explanation of the gospel because the translator needed to hear a thorough explanation of the gospel as much as the people we shared with. I knew that it was unusual to have to be so thorough with everyone, but I didn’t know why. This is another example that shows we don’t need to know everything, and, again, that God is always in control.

A class of six graders

When a Russian Bible student talked to my sixth grade class about Russia, at one point, he told them it gets 25 below zero at times. I didn’t think the students appreciated how cold that was, so I told him to give an example to help students understand. After a little thought, he said, “It gets so cold in Russia, that when you spit, your spit will freeze before it hits the ground, and when it hits the ground, it will roll like a ball.” He told them that he and his friends use to have ‘spitball contests’ to see who could get their frozen spit to roll the furthest. The class became completely silent, and in unison everyone said, “Wooooow, that’s cold.” The students understood, and he knew that he had their attention. This led to sharing about other hardships in Russia, because Russia was not founded on the Bible, which led to sharing about the Bible.

Think about what happened.

It’s hard to know for sure if he thought of this example on his own or God directed his thoughts. I believe God directed his thoughts, but I think the Holy Spirit made him think about it a while to challenge him to come up with examples that people can understand and relate to in the future. One thing was certain though—these students didn’t care about temperature readings as much as they cared about how far frozen spit rolls. This shows that we need to be flexible and adjust the message to those we’re sharing.

A former prisoner of war

I approached an older man in Germany, who was a former prisoner of war, but he wasn’t a former American prisoner of war, He was a former German prisoner of war held by Americans. I figured out very quickly that he did not like me, or my country, as though everything was my fault. He was not receptive and I didn’t know what to say to him. So I didn’t say anything. I couldn’t think of anything to say. I just stood there a few seconds feeling stupid and then left.

Think about what happened.

Nothing evangelical seemed to happen here, other than I learned that God sometimes does not want us to say anything. At the time, I didn’t realize this and I thought I was too tired to think of something to say, or I wasn’t hearing the Lord. After I left him I tried to think of what I could have told him. One of the things I thought I could have said was, “Hey, at least we didn’t shoot you, and you’re not in hell right now!” I don’t think that would have worked! I finally realized that God didn’t want me to say anything. There is, “...a time to keep silent and a time to speak.” (Ecclesiastes 3:7) This was a time to keep be quiet. There are some people God simply does not want us to share with. After I thought about what happened, I realized he was watching us and he was ready to pounce on the first evangelist to start talking to him, which happened to be me. Some people just aren’t receptive. There is nothing you can do when this happens, other than leave and share with those who are receptive.

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Your assignment
In Germany, a Jehovah’s Witness approached us with some questions. There weren’t any translators with us so we had to ask people on the street if they would be willing to translate for us. The only person we could find to translate was a Buddhist. We had the Buddhist read several scriptures to the Jehovah’s Witness in German in order to answer his questions. The Jehovah Witness kept denying that Jesus was God even though he read several scriptures that said this. The translator told us that the Jehovah Witness kept saying that Jesus is not God. We all became a little frustrated, but what was most surprising was that even the Buddhist translator became frustrated. At one point he turned to us and said, “It clearly says, in this Bible, that Jesus is God. I can see that, but he can’t see it.” We all kept trying to convince the Jehovah Witness that Jesus really is the Son of God but to no avail. This looked like a waste of time, until we realized what the Holy Spirit was doing. Do you know what the Holy Spirit was doing? Think about it before reading the next paragraph and see if you can figure it out.

The Jehovah Witness was not the divine appointment—the Buddhist translator was! God was using the Jehovah witness to ask questions and be closed-minded (which wasn’t hard) so the Buddhist could look closely at the scriptures. God led the Jehovah Witness to approach us and ask us questions, so the Buddhist could see from the Bible that Jesus is God. I didn’t understand what was happening at first and I felt like telling the Jehovah Witness, “You’re so close-minded even a Buddhist is frustrated by how you deny the obvious.” This shows that God is always in control.

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