And front yards.
And vehicles, and storefronts, and billboards, and t-shirts, and newspaper ads . . .
. . . and every available vacant lot, field, and abandoned house in which the ownership is indeterminate.
The local philosophy is to stick a sign wherever possible and make your political viewpoint known. Local elections are a serious matter. The signs start popping up in early spring, and by summer, things really start heating up. Your mailbox, windshield, and front door get bombarded with pamphlets. Your jacket isn’t safe from at least a dozen different stickers when you pass through the gates of a football game.
Your neighbor puts up a few large signs announcing their favorite candidate, and you feel strongly compelled to erect something similar for your opposing party (I’m not entirely innocent on this one, actually).
People are passionate about politics!
Boldly placing a campaign sign in your yard is expected, even encouraged, especially by your candidate of choice or like-minded neighbors.
It’s a common thing to do—the duty of a good citizen, some would say. But what would happen if you put up a sign about your faith? Imagine that instead of putting up a “Tammy for Clerk” poster with her smiling face and patriotic colors, you set out a sign that said
“Jesus is my Savior.”
Rather than “Randy for Treasurer,” your sign said,
“God forgives my sins.”
What if you put up a half dozen of these along your driveway instead of the typical political ads? If you wore the t-shirts, displayed the bumper stickers, handed out flyers and pamphlets at every community event?
Your neighbors might not be so supportive then. In fact, they’d probably start thinking you were kind of wacko.
Hypocrites, they might think, remembering the time you yelled at their annoying dog two years ago (also not innocent here, either). The people you encounter might be a little perplexed, maybe even offended.
Religious nuts. Why can’t they keep Jesus to themselves?
They don’t have to push their beliefs on everyone else. They don’t need a sign to show they’re Christians. Even though I live in the Bible Belt, there are still some who would vehemently oppose such a public display of faith.
And that is the fear that keeps us quiet. I’m not saying to be obnoxious about your faith, but I am discouraging the silence that seems to plague us Christians.
There is something about proclaiming God’s truth that paralyzes us with the fear of rejection.
In my life, I’ve been extremely hesitant to talk about God for many reasons: I’ll say the wrong thing, someone will argue my logic, I’m weak in apologetics, the person doesn’t want to listen to me or accept their sinfulness or have any interest in matters of faith.
I don’t mind to risk offending someone by proclaiming and debating my political opinion, but if I have to do the same with my beliefs, I quickly shy away, make excuses, and reason that I’m just not prepared or qualified enough to hold a discussion.
So many times God has urged me to speak to others about him, but I’ve simply ignored the call. My own human reasoning has made me afraid to be bold and speak what I know to be the truth.
Lately, though, God has been calling me out of my comfort zone and asking me to witness pretty often, and I’ve noticed that the more I do it, the less frightening it is.
If boldly reaching out to others and speaking up for your faith is difficult, and if you’d feel more secure debating Donald Trump’s economic policy than telling an atheist about Jesus’s sacrifice (been there), here are my tips:
Know when God is urging you to speak about him.
To find out what God says about spreading his word, you have to get into the word! This is first and foremost. For a long time I would pray about God’s purpose for my life, but I wouldn’t read my Bible.
This is how God speaks to us, so it’s essential!
When I did begin to look for direction within his word, he answered my prayer, and gave me some very clear verses about what he wants me to do.
“He said, “Human, I am sending you to the people of Israel. That nation has turned against me and broken away from me. They and their ancestors have sinned against me until this very day. I am sending you to people who are stubborn and who do not obey. You will say to them,
‘This is what the Lord God says.’ They may listen, or they may not, since they are a people who have turned against me. But they will know that a prophet has been among them. You, human, don’t be afraid of the people or their words. Even though they may be like thorny branches and stickers all around you, and though you may feel like you live with poisonous insects, don’t be afraid.
Don’t be afraid of their words or their looks, because they are a people who turn against me. But speak my words to them. They may listen, or they may not, because they turn against me.” (Ezekiel 2:3-7)
God makes it very clear that believers have a responsibility to speak on his behalf, even in spite of adversity or inconvenience.
(Some other verses to read are Matthew 10:32, Mark 8:38, Luke 9:26, Romans 10:9, and Psalm 105:1)
But since you don’t spend every waking moment in your Bible, how can you know in which situations God wants you to speak about him?
When the words seem to come from nowhere, when you have a sudden stab of sympathy or compassion, when you just have a “strange urge” deep in the center of your heart that compels you to say something, or if you feel like you’ll just burst if you don’t speak, that is God moving in you.
Ask God to give you the right words so his will and purpose for that situation is accomplished.
Speak when God urges you.
So you’ve got that funny feeling that someone just needs to hear a little hope and comfort, and you trust God to give you the words he wants you to say.
But this is when the doubt creeps in—
“Do they really want to hear this?”
“Is it appropriate?”
“What if I just make them angry?”
And then you start an inner debate where you try to reason your way out of speaking.
But doubt is just a trick of Satan designed to keep us in our quiet little comfort zones where our faith will never reach out and affect anyone else.
When we believe the lies doubt puts into our brains, we will never have the courage or boldness to speak about God, offer hope and comfort, or encourage others with our faith.
It is so important to not reason against speaking when God urges us.
He knows exactly what people need to hear, and if he gives you a word to tell others, you know it’s urgently important for them to hear it. Act when God urges you.
Our outreach is not limited to just words—in fact, if we only speak about our faith but never live out its principles, we just make ourselves to look like foolish hypocrites.
James 2:14-17 says it like this:
“My brothers and sisters, if people say they have faith, but do nothing, their faith is worth nothing.
Can faith like that save them?
A brother or sister in Christ might need clothes or food. If you say to that person, ‘God be with you! I hope you stay warm and get plenty to eat,’ but you do not give what that person needs, your words are worth nothing.
In the same way, faith by itself—that does nothing—is dead.”
There are times when God won’t call you to just speak about hope, but to give it. You might feel an urge to show compassion rather than just tell someone about your faith, and that’s okay—do it!
Whether you feel compelled to buy a sandwich for the man who always sits at the bus stop, or to give away a thousand dollars to a friend in need, always listen to God and obey what he asks you to do.
Don’t reason your way out of it by thinking they won’t accept your gift or they don’t really need your help—if God urges you to act, then act, and give him all the glory for it.
Even just the slightest act of kindness is a testament of your faith.
Don’t be afraid to do what he calls you to do!
Now I have to admit that I have spent my whole life hiding in a shell of shyness, so being bold with my faith is definitely a challenge I face.
I’ve wasted plenty of great opportunities to show my faith by ignoring the urges to speak God’s word or to do work for him, and I’m still not perfect—though I mostly try to obey his calling, I do sometimes reason around it or get scared.
But the awesome thing about God is that he never gives up on us and he is continually perfecting us. By trusting in him, we keep growing in faith and fearlessness.
This is my encouragement for the week—go be bold in your faith, and let other know Jesus by knowing you!
Emilee Hackney is a recent high school graduate living in the
mountains in Tazewell, VA. She is attending a local college
this fall where she hopes to discover God’s plan for her career. She
loves her grandma’s house, her boyfriend of three and a half years,
and anything with an unhealthy amount of sugar.