The Confidence to Speak - Jeremiah 1:4–10
Recently my wife and I visited the Yandina Ginger factory in QLD. While we were there, we took the opportunity to experience their bee presentation. From the moment the beekeeper arrived to collect us her enthusiasm for her topic was captivating. She was engaging, friendly, humorous, and passionate. As the presentation began her knowledge about bees was fascinating. She described bees, spoke about their life cycle, who does what in the hive, and made us away of the numerous Australian native bees and how to identify them. It was clear she loved the topic, the bees, and the work she did in keeping them. When she opened the hive, she was careful and meticulous so she wouldn’t harm any of the bees, despite them swarming around her. And as she got alongside people with a close look at the hives, her passion and enthusiasm drew you in. She obviously knew a lot about bees and share it with confidence to all present.
That’s the way it is for most people. If you can identify what they are passionate about, they will begin to talk in detail about what they know or have experienced. Whether it is an opportunity to share a travel experience, a hobby, their work, family, or other interest, people feel confident to talk about it with others. On the other hand, if you ask them about something, they are unfamiliar with, something they know of but have never looked at it in detail, the conversation is rather short. Often the person is embarrassed, as if they should know, or they’re frustrated because they have forgotten, or they are offended because they feel you have set them up to expose their ignorance. Sadly, too many Christians fall into the latter category when it comes to their faith. When asked why they’re a Christian, or whether they could share the Jesus story, or what the Bible says on a certain topic, most Christians feel embarrassed, awkward, or respond negatively. They lack the confidence and passion to respond in a positive and engaging way.
Jeremiah felt much the same when God called him to be his spokesperson to Israel. He couldn’t understand why God would call him. He was too young, and felt he either didn’t know enough to speak, or that his age would discredit him from speaking publicly. But God reminds Jeremiah that his entire life is in God’s hands. He knew him before he was conceived and called him before he was born. God wanted him to speak as His prophet to the nations. He wanted Jeremiah to be the person through whom His word would come to raise and dismantle nations, to destroy and overthrow them, and to plant and grow new socio-political constructs. The words Jeremiah were to speak, were not Jeremiah’s words, but God’s Word. As Jeremiah speaks this Word, God will not just protect him, He will give Jeremiah the words to say. Jeremiah’s life is one of highs and lows, it didn’t always go well for him, but in all his circumstances, God watched over him, protected him, and continued to guide his voice.
Christians often lack the confidence to speak about their faith for several reasons. Firstly, the lack the confidence of knowing that no matter what happens, God will watch over them, protect them, and treasure them that their present struggles are incomparable to the glorious place they have with Jesus for eternity. Secondly, their own faith is immature and not yet fully blossomed into a Christ-like maturity. They are like Jeremiah, asserting they are too young, or acting in ways that demonstrate immaturity, and so they attempt to disqualify themselves, or excuse themselves, from speaking about their faith. Thirdly, they simply don’t know the story of Jesus, and how they fit into that story. It is sad that we have such an immature and biblically illiterate church. He statistics are staggering when they suggest the overwhelming majority of Australian Christians don’t even know the books of the Bible, much less what’s contained in them. This lack of knowledge leads to a strong reticence to speak about the faith to anyone, even those sitting in church pews with them.
People in Australia don’t know the Christian faith, because Christians don’t know it themselves. They get caught up with all sorts of secondary matters but avoid the heart of the Gospel message. It doesn’t have to be that way. Familiarity, habit, persistence, and trust, all grow out of a deepening knowledge of the story of Jesus found in the Gospels themselves. We need to not just learn about Jesus, we need to immerse ourselves in that story just as we would any hobby, passion, or interest we pursue. The more we read it, the more we absorb it. My challenge to you is to take the month of February and read Mark’s Gospel all the way through as often as you can. The more you read it, the more you will know it, and the more confident you will be to share it. Find another Christian and do this together. Read it, meet and talk about what you read, then do it all over again. Our world needs to hear the real Gospel message, and only you can do that to the people around you for you too have been called to bear witness to the amazing love ad grace of Jesus, not just in your life, but in the hope of the lives around you.