Witnessing with Everything We Don’t Have
WORDS BY SANDY MAYLE
The “W” word had been spoken. That word that shrinks so many of us, calls into question our dedication, cuts us off at the spiritual knees:
“How are you doing with witnessing?”
Around the study group, the women spoke up:
“My family and friends all believe – there’s no one in my world left to witness to.”
“My unbelieving relatives have already heard all from me they can stomach.”
“I become afraid; I freeze up; I just can’t find the words.”
I don’t know, I don’t have, I can’t…
Truthfully, I was right there with them on nearly every point. But as the discussion continued around me, my eyes fell on my study guide and Peter’s words to the lame beggar in Acts 3:6: “I have no silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!” Peter and John readily admitted they didn’t have what the beggar wanted – then went right ahead and gave what they did have through Jesus.
Then they asked the astonished bystanders, “Why do you wonder at this, or why do you stare at us, as though by our own power or piety we have made him walk?” (Acts 3:12). The apostles made it clear: this wasn’t their miracle. They were insufficient for such a thing; God had done it in order to glorify his Son Jesus.
God grabbed my attention with the responses of these two men. Peter and John’s total inability - and their unapologetic admission of it - opened the door to a God-glorifying miracle and to the powerful testimony, Peter later left with the crowd.
Peter and John owned their inadequacies, considering them avenues for God’s power and glory.
But they weren’t the first to witness in this way. When indignant Pharisees found and questioned the lowly blind man Jesus healed on the Sabbath (John 9), the newly-sighted man confessed his ignorance about just who Jesus was but presented irrefutable evidence of what he’d done. He owned what he didn’t know and affirmed what he did. And who could argue with 20/20 vision?
Through these three men, God was showing me how to witness with everything I don’t have:
“I don’t know that, but I do know this.”
John 9:25: “Whether he is a sinner I do not know. One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.” When asked to explain the often-inexplicable ways of God or the whys of life, rather than shrugging or stuttering, I can ask myself, What do I know God has done for me? Who do I know he’s been to me?
“I can’t give that, but I can give this.”
Acts 3:6 (MSG): “Peter said, ‘I don’t have a nickel to my name, but what I do have, I give you; In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk!’” When tapped for something I don’t have or can’t supply, I can ask myself, What does God want me to give in his name here?
“I didn’t do this, but God did it.”
Acts 3:12, 16 (NIV): [Peter said to the astonished people], “Why do you stare at us as if by our own power or godliness we had made this man walk?... By faith in the name of Jesus, this man whom you see and know was made strong.” When someone praises me for doing something remarkable, I can ask myself, Could the old me have done this? Who really accomplished it? Who will I give the glory to?
This is witnessing – prayerfully testifying, to believers and unbelievers alike, out of inadequacy and empty pockets and utter weakness: I don’t know, I don’t have; I can’t; I didn’t…
God knows. God did. God can.
With this kind of witnessing, I don’t have to know all that’s required to refute any argument (although theological study has its vital place). I just need to know what God has done for me.
With this kind of witnessing, I don’t need to have what people are asking for, whether answers, financial help, counsel, or anything else. I just give what I have - Jesus - trusting that although he may not be what they’re after, he is nevertheless exactly what they need.
With this kind of witnessing, I don’t have to accomplish anything great; I just keep turning the spotlight on God, asserting my inability, disclaiming any power or glory, and giving all the credit to him so that he can be seen and worshipped.
This type of witnessing isn’t a bottom-rung option for those of us who can’t share Christ at a higher level, out of a vast store of confidence, resourcefulness, and articulate knowledge. It’s actually advantageous to be weak, to not know the answer, to be impotent to effect change because God’s power shows best through weakness (2 Cor. 12:9), his wisdom through those who know little (1 Cor. 1:26-31), his glory out of those who claim none for themselves (2 Cor. 4:7). Inadequacy is a prerequisite!
“The Message paraphrases” Acts 3:6? [MM1]