The word “witness” in our N.T. comes from the Greek word “martus,” the meaning of which is “to testify to what one has seen or knows.” The English, “martyr,” comes from this word also, with the added meaning of “one who bears such testimony at the cost of his life.”
The salvation message has been transmitted down the ages by both these means. For these whose faithfulness has demanded the ultimate price, there is a special reward at the Judgment Seat of Christ.
Many illustrations and examples for witnessing could be sited from our Bibles, but there are three which have been foremost in my mind. First, we see the idea of a question, or an interrogation. Peter writes, “Be ready always to give to him that asketh you, a reason of the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear” (1 Peter 3:15). The second is in John 4 and relates to a conversation, the outcome of circumstances, where the Lord Jesus used a common event in a woman’s life, drawing a bucket of water from a well, to bring to her the message of the living water— salvation. Thirdly, Jesus told the man whom He had healed to return home and “tell what great things the Lord hath done for thee and hath had compassion on thee” (Mark 5:19). This bears the thought of an unsolicited declaration.
For sure, this writer is no martyr and could not speak of great loss because of witnessing for the Lord Jesus. However, from both an appreciation for grace received and a sense of obligation to fellow travelers to eternity, he has sought to rise to opportunities that have presented themselves, and wishes to relate methods that have best suited him.
My experience relates to my professional life as a Chiropractor in downtown Toronto for nearly forty years. My practice consisted of a significant cross-section of humanity. Patients came from the upper classes with influence and wealth, from the lower levels with very little of either, and all strata in between, but they had a common ground. They were souls that would live forever, and were in desperate need of the Savior. My daily prayer has been that God would bring across my path someone with whom He was dealing and with whom I could share the gospel. I have then looked for such souls and the opportunity to witness based on principles seen in the passages to which I have referred.
To live in the enjoyment of salvation, with the Christian hope, activity and friends it brings, ought to bring a genuine brightness, warmth, and kindness into our lives and countenance. People read us far more than we think. This leads to an inquiry of “the hope that lies within you.” Patients would often ask, “What’s different about you, Doc?” or, “How come you never seem down?” This could be paraphrased in a number of ways. My response was: “I’m not sure what you mean, but I am a Christian, and Jesus Christ is a real person in my life; when we know Him, life has a whole new meaning.”
The response was most often, “Yes, I thought you were religious” and the conversation went no further. But there were many times when people asked what that meant, and this led to further witnessing about the need of Christ, how I found Him, and what He could do for them. I never placed tracts around my office, as every cult and religion would then leave theirs, but I always had a supply in my desk for such occasions.
The other approach relates to the John 4 passage, taking people up where they are in life. Patients come to the office with disabilities and related pain, but often also have emotional or mental distress which may be the underlying reason for their problem, and long for someone to show interest. Sometimes the health problem was resistant to intervention, or slow to respond, and I would tell them how I had been praying for them and for their recovery. Their surprise at such an interest led to an explanation of the reality of God in the life, and the story of the gospel. With others, I explained that God often allowed these drastic circumstances in one’s life to bring them to recognize their need of Him. As long as things are going well in life, people forget God. But when there is a reversal of circumstances, when danger and disappointment come, then they are afraid, and are caused to turn to Him.
Visits to hospitalized patients where prayer was welcomed, and to funeral homes where words of comfort were appreciated, also led to later opportunities to tell of the love and power of our wonderful Savior.
Occasions like this may not occur every day, but we have to be living in the enjoyment of the Lord’s presence and the blessings of salvation, if we are to be prepared for such opportunities to tell what great things the Lord has done for us.
But there has been another avenue of witnessing for the Lord Jesus that has given me great joy through the years; it is “open air gospel preaching.” Before these years of sophistication, it was the healthy norm for most assemblies. With other young men and older ones too, we would visit some of the towns in Southern Ontario on Saturday nights, give out tracts, sing a few hymns, then preach the gospel for of an hour—that is, the whole of the preaching took up that time!! (A message longer than five minutes was frowned upon). Later on, we had open air meetings in the heart of the city every Monday night. They were happy times and we came home tired, but rejoicing in the privilege of serving our wondrous Savior. Over the years, there were a few saved. And they were great training experiences for us young brethren in delivering clear and simple sermons appropriate to the listening audience.
Most of us are timid, and fear the fall-out from witnessing. But even opponents of the gospel respect sincerity and reality. It is not formal tutorials and apprenticeships we need, but a personal desire to be life-long witnesses for Him, and encouragement to get at it now. I hope this simple message will help light a fire of desire and enthusiasm in young readers to witness for the Lord Jesus Christ as opportunity presents itself and in the sphere where God has placed you. It will honor Him, and give you great joy.