Spike Milligan's tombstone reads, 'I told you I was ill!' Before he died in the Left Bank hotel, Oscar Wilde said, 'My wallpaper and I are fighting a duel to the death. One or the other of us has to go.' Before Dominic Willard was executed by firing squad, he was asked if he had any last requests. 'Why yes,' he said, 'A bulletproof vest.' And General John Sedgwick, Union Commander in the U.S. Civil War, said shortly before he died, 'They couldn't hit an elephant at this dist...'
Today we've just had read to us Jesus' last words to his disciples (Luke 24:44-53) before he ascended to heaven to be with his Father. And his final instruction to his disciples and to us, is to be his witnesses.
So what is a witness? A witness is someone who by explanation and demonstration gives audible and visible evidence of what he has seen and heard without being deterred by the consequences of his action. As Christian’s we are called to bear witness to Christ, and to our faith, to share with others what Jesus has done for us.
But when it comes to sharing their faith, many people are hesitant. Here are some of the common fears that people have:
· "I am afraid I might do more harm than good."
· "I don't know what to say."
· "I may not be able to give snappy answers to tricky questions."
· "I may seem bigoted."
· "I may invade someone's privacy."
· "I am afraid I might fail."
· "I am afraid I might be a hypocrite."
But perhaps the most common fear, however, is that of being rejected.
A survey was given to those attending training sessions for a Billy Graham crusade in Detroit. One question asked, "What is your greatest hindrance in witnessing?" 9% said they were too busy to remember to do it. 28% felt the lack of real information to share. 12% said their own lives were not speaking as they should. But by far the largest group were the 51% whose biggest problem was the fear of how the other person would react.
Think about your own journey of faith. Who were the people who witnessed to you? What would your journey of faith have been, had they not share their faith with you?
A good witness is like a signpost. It doesn't matter what it may look like, it has to point the right direction and be able to be understood. We are called to be witnesses to Christ, we are to point to him.
In 1949 John Currier was found guilty of murder and sentenced to life in prison. Later he was transferred and paroled to work on a farm near Nashville, Tennessee.
In 1968, Currier's sentence was terminated, and a letter bearing the good news was sent to him. But John never saw the letter, nor was he told anything about it. Life on that farm was hard and without promise for the future. Yet John kept doing what he was told even after the farmer for whom he worked had died.
Ten years went by. Then a state parole officer learned about Currier's plight, found him, and told him that his sentence had been terminated. He was a free man.
Now would it matter to you if someone sent you an important message -- the most important in your life -- and year after year the urgent message was never delivered?
We who have heard the good news and experienced freedom through Christ are responsible to proclaim it to others still enslaved by sin. Are we doing all we can to make sure that people get the message?