Witness-The Final Piece of the Puzzle
by Rev. Randy Brown
We come to the end of our Stewardship series for another year. A month ago we started talking about prayer and there was a prayer commitment card that you were given and if you need another one or you didn’t get one there is some on the back underneath the stained glass window. Then three weeks ago we talked about the presence and being present in Worship and all of the church functions and how that is a part of our witness. Two weeks ago we talked about our giving and there are commitment forms, estimate of giving forms, that are also there at the back if you’ve not already turned that in. Last Sunday we talked about service and the different ways we can serve in the life of the church and there was a volunteer commitment form, that too is there for you to take if you haven’t already gotten that.
Today we are going to give you something at the end of the service that will help you and help all of us to be a better witness in the community and we’ll be talking about that in a few moments. Part of that you’ve already seen as an insert in your bulletin, don’t go there, don’t read it right now. Wait a few moments, it’ll be good reading this afternoon after you eat lunch. We’re going to talk about witness and being a witness for Christ and for His church. Now of all the five pieces of the puzzle. I want to suggest to you that this is the one piece of the puzzle that you really don’t have a choice about. You don’t have a choice about being a witness. You have a choice about coming to church or not, you have a choice about praying for the church or not, you have a choice about giving and supporting the church or not financially and with your service, but we don’t have a choice when it comes to being a witness.
Jesus never said you could be my witnesses or you should be my witnesses, He says you are witnesses of these things, so we don’t have a choice. Now the choice that we do have is, what kind of witness are we going to be. Are we going to be a good witness or are we going to be a bad witness? People are watching us as we’ve already learned from the Children’s time, but are we going to be a good witness or a bad witness and if we’re honest with ourselves at times we’ve done better being a witness for Christ and His church. Sometimes we get it right and sometimes we mess it up. That’s just part of the journey that we’re on as human beings. Sometimes we do better than others, but I would suggest that we should strive each day to be a good witness for Christ and for His church.
Now the word witness comes from the Greek word, Martures. M-A-R-T-U-R-E-S. Which is where we get the word martyr, someone who is loyal to the end. That’s what it means to be a witness. That’s what it means to be a martyr. Someone who is loyal to the very end. A witness is someone who cooperates with the Holy Spirit by telling about Jesus’ love, in thought, word, and deed to other people. You say, “Well preacher that won’t work.” Well it worked for you because you’re here this morning, because somebody showed you, shared with you, told you, prayed for you, the love of God in your life. You may not realize who it was, it may have been a Grand-mama who prayed for you every day. It may be a school teacher, it may have been a spouse or a child who knew how to just say something that you needed to hear at the right time. All kinds of ways to witness, but it’s just telling the love of God. That’s what being a witness is all about.
The only way that we can be a powerful witness is to allow the Holy Spirit to rule our lives. Political power can change leadership, but it cannot change lives. Political power can have the election outcome, but it can never save lives. Witnessing is more than just standing on the street corner, handing out tracts or as you saw this morning in the video, tackling somebody and telling them about Jesus. Witness is a whole lot more than that. It’s simply sharing out of our experience what God has done for us, that’s what being a witness is all about.
Heard the story a while back about a young girl and she got on an airplane, she was going to travel some and she got on an airplane, just a young girl, eight or nine years old, and this young girl had down syndrome and sat in the middle seat, there were three seats, an aisle and three seats and set on the middle seat ... I’m sorry she sat on the aisle seat. On the middle seat sat a preacher, and by the window seat, nobody was there yet. This little girl and this preacher sitting in the middle seat, they begin to have a conversation. The little girl looked up as only she could and she said, “Mister, did you brush your teeth this morning?” He said, “Well, honey as a matter of fact I did.” She said, “Well that’s good because my mamma says everybody oughta brush their teeth every day. It’s a good thing.”
She went on for a moment, and she said, “Mister, did you take a bath this morning?” “Well, yes honey, as a matter of fact I did.” “Good my mamma says every body oughta take a bath every day.” A few minutes she said, “Mister, do you know and love Jesus?” He said to her, “Honey, yes I do.” She said, “I’m glad. My mamma says everybody oughta know and love Jesus so they can go to heaven.” Well about that time the third person that was going to sit in those three seats got there and sat by the window seat. They got ready to take off, and as they were just taking off and leveling out that little girl looked in the guy in the middle and said, “Ask him. Ask him.” “Ask him what honey?” “Ask him if he brushed his teeth this morning.” “Well, honey that’s kind of a personal thing, I don’t know...” “Ask him.”
The man in the middle, the preacher said, “My young friend here wants to know something, did you brush your teeth this morning?” “Yeah, I did.” She said, “That’s good, my mamma says everybody oughta brush their teeth every day.” Then she asked him about taking a shower, and got the same response. Then she said, “Ask him.” “That’s a personal question.” “Ask him.” “Sir, my young friend is not going to give either one of us any rest until I ask you, do you know and do you love Jesus?” Tears began to flow down his cheeks, and he said, “No, I don’t but I’ve always wanted to, maybe this would be the time,” for the next two hours on that flight, that preacher sitting in the middle seat shared with that man by the window seat about the love and grace and forgiveness of Jesus Christ. As they touched down at their destination, they were praying together the prayer that the man received Christ into his heart and into his life.
Do you know what I want? I want to be in that little girls’ number when the Saints go marching in. She’s a witness, and we’re all witnesses. If a little girl with Downs Syndrome can be used, what can God do with you? You’re a witness, witnessing comes out of our relationship with Christ. Witnessing comes because of our relationship with others. Sometimes it’s a difficult spot to be in to witness. Sometimes we have to witness when we really don’t want to. Sometimes our witness is tough.
I remember years ago, there was a pastor in the North ... not North Shores but the Alabama/West Florida Conference and he was diagnosed with Cancer and he wrote to his Church members and he said to them all the time I’ve been with you, I’ve tried to lead you to Christ by my living but now I’m going to try to lead you to Christ by my dying. Sometimes it’s a difficult thing to witness.
There are two ways to witness; one is to blow off and the other is to glow off, and of the two the glowing off is the most important. It was March the 11th, 1991, George Bush, number 41 was in office, he went to visit a fifth grade school class. He was going to read to the children. There was a young man in that class that he sat beside as he read to the children, the young man’s name was Anthony Anderson ... Henderson and Anthony looked at President Bush, 41 and said, “Are you really the President?” He said, “Well, yes I am,” he said, “Prove it.” He said, “Well, I’ve got all these secret service people around.” He said, “Prove it.” He took out his wallet and showed him his driver’s license. B-U-S-H, that’s me. He even took out his American Express card. That little boy said, “I don’t believe you.” You know the world we live in today there are a lot of doubters out there. A lot of doubters, but it’s up to us to tell them about Christ.
What does it say? Christ in you is the hope of Glory. Christ in you, the hope of Glory. Sometimes it’s hard to be a good witness. Sometimes we want to ... we have to live out our witness by forgiving instead of holding onto a grudge. Sometimes we have to live out our witness by loving rather than being vindictive. Sometimes we have to live out our witness by letting go of a grudge and holding our tongue instead of giving them a piece of our mind. Now some of you may want to call the Bishop when I get through with this sermon, and that’s okay I’ll give you his phone number.
But sometimes in witnessing it’s kind of like playing poker. Now I’m not promoting that, I’m just telling you what it’s like, because we’ve got a winning hand, and we know the cards that are going to be played, and we’ve got the best hand, and we can take care of any card that’s laid on the table, we have the element of surprise, the wild card, and the wild card is the resurrection of Jesus Christ. That’s the wild card, the resurrection. You and I can literally blow the world away for Jesus if we play our cards right, and if we’ll be authentic in the way we live our lives, authentic.
Her name was Katherine Laws, her husband was the Warden in Sing Sing Prison in 1921. They had three children. She was told by all the people ahead of the corrections department, don’t get involved at the Prison. Don’t go to the prison, stay away, keep your three daughters away. Well, she didn’t listen very well. When they started intramural sports her and the three daughters went. They were at every game. They were trying to be nice to every inmate in Sing Sing Prison. There was a prisoner that came in who was blind. She taught him how to read braille, and told him about the love of Jesus. There was a prisoner that came in that was deaf, she developed a class in sign language, told him about the love of Jesus, he gave his heart and life to Christ. One day the warden didn’t show up for work and they realized something was wrong, what they found out was that the Warden’s wife had been killed in a tragic accident. The next morning when the assistant warden got there he saw an amazing sight. All of the prisoners were out in the yard, they were standing over next to the fence, closest to the Warden’s residence wanting to go and express their condolences to the Warden’s family, of this great lady who had loved them and showed Christ with them.
The assistant warden did a rather unique thing. He just went and opened the gate and he said, “I’m not going to check you out, I’m not going to send guards with you, just be back in an hour.” Every one of them came back because of the love of a witness for Christ.
You know, I read this week a story about a Pastor and his family who were vacationing in Estes Park, Colorado. They walked in early one morning to a greasy spoon diner and there was the locals were in there and they were sitting around a table talking. They began to talk rather loud, Frank, and what they were saying was how much they did not believe anything about Christianity. They went on to say that being a Christian and believing in the resurrection was the dumbest thing they’d ever heard of, it just didn’t make sense. This preacher kind of got his dander up and he got angry. He went over and he stood beside them and shaking visibly confronted them and had an argument with them. You know what happens when you have an argument? You leave thinking you won, they leave thinking they won, and nobody won.
He got to thinking after that was over, “What could I have done different?” You know what I think he could have done different? How much different would it have been if he could have kept his cool and just walked over and said, “You know, I been listening to what you all say and I understand what you may be feeling, but I want you to know the difference that the resurrection of Christ has made in my life and how much He loves me and how much He loves you, and by the way, give me your ticket, I want to buy you breakfast.” What kind of impact do you think that would have made? Just showing a little bit of kindness to somebody that you may not even agree with. Think what would happen in our political system in this country if we practiced that? Showing kindness, that’s what being a witness is because of the kindness that Christ has shown us.
Sometimes we never know who it is, that we have an opportunity to witness to. We never know what happens, sometimes to folk. Let me share with you one story and I’m closing.
There is a guy named Ray and Ray was discharged from the military. He landed in Chicago or on his way to Chicago, and he was hitch hiking on his way to Chicago and as he did that a guy pulled over on the side of the road and picked him up. He said, “Where are you headed soldier?” He said, “Well I just got discharged, and I’m going to Chicago to see family.” “That’s where I’m going, hop in, we’ll go.” They drove several hours to Chicago. Ray knew he ought to witness to the driver of this nice Cadillac car, but he put it off, and he put it off, finally he realized he’s about 30 minutes out of Chicago and if he was going to do what God was telling him to do he better hurry up.
He said to the man, “Sir, I just want to ask you a question.” He said, “Are you a Christian?” He said, “No, I’m not but I want to talk about that because I know I need to be.” They talked a few moments, the driver of the car pulled over on the side of the road and he said, “I want to make that commitment and I want to do it right now. I’m not moving this car until we pray and you lead me in a prayer that makes me a Christian and that I can receive Christ and inviting Him into my life.”
They did that, and the man prayed the prayer after the soldier, and he invited and received Christ into his heart, into his life. They drove on into the city of Chicago. He let him out, didn’t hear from him for five years. Five years later, well as he let him out he gave him his card, he said my last name is Hanover, this is my business, if you’re ever in Chicago look me up. Five years later Ray is going to Chicago, he gets his suitcase out and there is Mr. Hanover’s business card. When he got to Chicago he went by and looked him up, walked into the business and said, “I’m here to see Mr. Hanover,” and the receptionist says, “Well he’s not here, but his wife is here.” “Okay, can I see her?” She came out and she said, “Sir, did you know my husband?” He said, “Yes I did.” “So tell me about it.”
“Well, I was discharged from the service and he picked me up and gave me a ride to Chicago and on that night we pulled over on the side of the road and he gave his life to Jesus in the car. He gave me his card and he said if I’m ever in Chicago, look him up.” The woman began to shake uncontrollably. She said, “What day was that?” He told her the date, that’s the date he was discharged from the service, so he remembered it well. She said, “Sir, right after my husband let you out of the car, he was involved in a wreck where a train hit him, and it killed him. For five years, I’ve been mad at God because God told me a while back that God would bring salvation to my husband, and I thought that God had let me down. I walked away from God too, but now you’re telling me that God kept His promise.” He said, “Yes ma’am, I am telling you that God kept His promise, because he did receive Christ as Lord and Savior.”
Five years later he found out what he had done and his wife found out what had happened, and it turned her life around too. What a witness. What a witness, but you know what I believe? If God can use a girl with Down Syndrome, and God can use a soldier just discharged from the military, and God can use the wife of a prison warden, guess who else God can use? Us. God can use us, and God wants to use us.