Manage Your Time Wisely

The following is an adaptation of the sermon ‘Manage Your Time Wisely’ preached by Pastor Mike White on Sunday, 11/8/2015, at CityLight Church. To listen to the full podcast please click here: http://bit.ly/1MZa1ZE

This is the second Sunday in our series, ‘Real People, Real Problems.’ Last week, we talked about sharing Jesus with skeptics: having a real Gospel conversation with those “difficult” people in your life who just won’t hear what you have to say. This week, we’ll be talking about supernatural time management: allowing God to manage your schedule, so that other people don’t walk into your life and take over your time commitments. Next week, we’ll be talking about being equally yoked: the wonderful world that is opened up when you date someone who is a believer.

Time Is Money

You’ve heard the phrase “time is money.” The truth is, time is much more than money. I would argue that time, not money, is our most valuable resource. Even if you spend all the money you have, you can always make more. You can always budget wisely, and find new ways to save.

Time, on the other hand, is the one thing that continuously slips away. No matter what we do, we can’t go back in time. Our lives are finite. Moses begged God, “So teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom” (Ps 90:12). James described life as, “…a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away” (Jas 4:14). We are here today, and gone tomorrow. Our time is infinitely important.

So why don’t we guard our time the same way we protect our money? There are whole industries built around money management: how to become wealthy, how to grow wealth, and how to maintain the wealth you already have. We spend so much time thinking about money, but not much at all thinking about time!

We would be outraged if someone stole our wallet, yet we barely get upset when someone takes our time. If someone gives us money as a gift, we love it! Yet we place only a fraction of the value on a gift of someone’s time.

This discussion on time management might be the most important discussion your ever have. If you’re like me, you constantly have way too much stuff to do, and you don’t have time to get anywhere close to finishing all of it. I believe that if we honor God if our time, He will simplify our lives. When we ask Him to manage our time for us, we will be relaxed, refreshed, and full of life! When we ask God to come in and take over, He will give us wisdom to manage our time better than we ever thought possible.

If we don’t manage our time wisely, we will find ourselves on the fast path to burnout. If we continue to take on responsibilities without stopping to plan how to fit them into our days, we will drive ourselves crazy. It’s time to ask for God to give us discernment and help us manage our time.

Let’s Be Honest

The first key to time management is being blunt and honest about how long something is actually going to take. Did you know that when we estimate how long something will take, we are usually way off? We add endless stress to our lives because refuse to be realistic about how long things take, and what we have time to do.

Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky discovered a phenomenon called “planning fallacy.”[1] They found that when we estimate how long it will personally take us to do something, we have an optimism bias: we drastically underestimate how long something will take. On other other hand, when we estimate how long it will take for someone else to do something, we have a pessimism bias: we drastically overestimate how long something will take.

How many times have you seen this play out in your own life? This week, I had to fix the shower in our apartment. I knew exactly what I needed to do: switch out a set of springs in the shower dial to fix a dripping shower head, and then re-seal all the edges of the shower with caulk. Before I tackled the project, I turned to my wife and said: “This shouldn’t take more than ten minutes.” I would learn to eat my words.

What was happening here? I was overly optimistic. I thought I was so proficient, and so smart, that I could finish the job in a fraction of the time I knew it would really take. The repairs ended up taking four hours, stretched over multiple nights this week. I had fixed the shower before, and I knew how long it would take. But I refused to accept reality.

We see this principle playing out on a larger scale all the time. Have you ever heard of the Sydney Opera House? It was originally scheduled to be completed in 1963. After many rounds of planning and multiple revisions, a scaled-down version was finally completed over a decade behind schedule, in 1973. The final cost? $102 million dollars, versus original estimates of only $7 million![2]

If you’re a New Yorker, you know about planning fallacy because you’ve heard the MTA talk about the 2nd Avenue subway line. When I moved to New York, I remember real estate brokers trying to convince me that I should consider living in the Upper East Side because property values were going to explode when the 2nd Ave subway was completed.

Guess what? That was almost eight years ago, and the darn thing still isn’t done. I know people who moved to the Upper East Side in the 80’s, and guess what? Realtors told them exactly the same thing. With a little research, you can find out that the 2nd Ave subway line was originally proposed in 1919! In other words, it has taken almost a century to complete the project! This is planning fallacy at its finest.

What’s the point? I’m willing to bet that being too busy is a significant source of stress in your life. Your schedule fills up, yet people keep asking for more. Instead of learning to say “NO,” we keep adding to our schedules until they’re over-packed, and we convince ourselves that we will somehow have enough time to get everything done.

I know that being too busy is the number one source of stress in my life. If we’re just honest about how long things will take, we will save so much unnecessary headache. What’s more, we will start to be on time!

Don’t unnecessarily complicate your life. When your schedule’s full, it’s full! Learn to gently say no to people when they ask you to do more than you have time to do. At the end of the day, God is the only One who really has the right to come in and adjust your schedule; no one else does!

Let God Dictate Your Schedule

God should be the only One who can come in and upend your schedule any day of the week. If He says it’s time to drop everything and take care of His to-do list, we had better listen. I believe that when we allow God to set our schedule for us, it becomes much easier to manage our time wisely!

I am a man of routine. Every morning, I start my days the same way: in prayer. I get a blank sheet of paper and a pen, and I put them down on a table in front of me. Then, I sit, kneel, or stand, and ask God to fill up that paper with His plans.

It never takes long: by the end of my prayer session, I have a full list of people to call, people to text, and people to e-mail. I have a strong sense of what my priorities should be every day. I honor God by allowing Him to set my schedule for me.

This doesn’t mean that I don’t follow routine. I have to be in the office by a certain time. I have more meetings, agendas, and appointments to keep than you could ever count. But I give God room to move. I invite His Holy Spirit into my day, and I clearly announce for all of Heaven and all of Hell to hear, that if God needs me to rearrange my schedule to take care of Kingdom business, then that’s what I’m going to do!

There is power in praying in advance. We see Jesus rise up early to pray throughout Scripture. He made time at the beginning of the day to let God set His schedule. That way, when someone came and asked Him for healing, He wasn’t surprised. When a demon-possessed person approached Him for deliverance, He was available. Jesus allowed God to show him exactly what was going to happen, well in advance:

Then Jesus answered and said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do; for whatever He does, the Son also does in like manner. “ – Jn 5:19

You’ll never be taken by surprise if God shows you what’s coming in advance. You’ll never be pressed for time if God sets your schedule. My personal prayer every single day is, “Lord, extend my time. Give me the time to do everything I need to do with excellence. On top of that, give me the grace to be busy, yet completely unaffected by the busyness.”

Jesus had way too much to do, in way too little time. Can you imagine if God came to you and said, “Go and save the world. You have thirty-three years to do it, and you can only show them who you are for the last three.” How unfair is that!

Jesus had grace to be busy, yet remain stress-free. His schedule was always full, yet He always experienced the anointing of God over His life. No matter how busy He got, He always made time to stop for the one. No matter who needed help, when they asked Him, He was there.

Now when Jesus had entered Capernaum, a centurion came to Him, pleading with Him, saying, “Lord, my servant is lying at home paralyzed, dreadfully tormented.” And Jesus said to him, “I will come and heal him.” The centurion answered and said, “Lord, I am not worthy that You should come under my roof. But only speak a word, and my servant will be healed. For I also am a man under authority, having soldiers under me. And I say to this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes; and to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.” When Jesus heard it, He marveled, and said to those who followed, “Assuredly, I say to you, I have not found such great faith, not even in Israel! Then Jesus said to the centurion, “Go your way; and as you have believed, so let it be done for you.” And his servant was healed that same hour. – Matt 8:5-10,13

How would you have responded if the centurion came and asked you for prayer? I know my first response would probably be, “I just don’t have time. I have way too much to do; but if you leave your name and your prayer request, I’ll pass it along to the intercessory team at my church!”

Jesus made time. I would argue that nobody caught Him by surprise. He knew what was coming, well in advance, and He made time to do the things that would leave the most significant and lasting proof that He Is the Son of God!

It’s also important to notice that Jesus didn’t have to go and physically pray for the centurion’s servant. The pattern we often exhibit is this: 1) we say no, and 2) we feel bad and over-compensate.

If the centurion had asked you for prayer, we might have said “No, I don’t have time. I’ve got work.” But then, hours later, we would start to feel bad. We would call up that person who asked for help, and we would over-compensate. We would offer to move heaven and earth to help that person however we could. We endlessly complicate our schedule because we offer more than we have to give.

The centurion told Jesus that He didn’t have to make the trip Himself. He told Jesus that he understood authority: if Jesus simply said the word, his servant would be healed. Jesus listened! He didn’t insist on making the trip, simply because He had offered. He refused to add unnecessary items to His schedule. The servant was still healed, and Jesus was free to move forward and accomplish His mission.

This week, God spoke to me about something that was going to happen in advance. He told me to leave a huge chunk of extra time in my schedule on Wednesday. I didn’t understand why! I had a line of people waiting to meet with me, and I could have really benefited from packing everything I possibly could into my schedule. But I listened, and I left the whole day free.

Wouldn’t you know that something came up, and I had to spend the entire afternoon dealing with an unexpected issue? God warned me in advance, and I listened. As a result, a day that could have been jam-packed to the brim was calm and relaxed.

Who’s In Charge of Your Schedule?

If God sets our schedule, it means nobody else gets to. There will be plenty of people in your life who try and monopolize your time. It is your responsibility to know God’s agenda for you, and to stick to it.

Jesus had people stopping Him for help all the time. If you want to get a feel for how busy Jesus was on a constant basis, just take a look at Mark 5. The chapter starts with Jesus delivering a man from demonic oppression. As soon as He was finished, a religious ruler named Jairus came up and asked Him to come heal his daughter. Jesus said sure! No problem! Then, while He was on His way to heal Jairus’ daughter, the woman with the issue of blood stopped Him for healing!

Jesus was so busy, yet He always made time to stop for the one. However, even He knew His limits. Even Jesus knew when someone was trying to sidetrack Him from God’s agenda.

At evening, when the sun had set, they brought to Him all who were sick and those who were demon-possessed. And the whole city was gathered together at the door. Then He healed many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons; and He did not allow the demons to speak, because they knew Him. Now in the morning, having risen a long while before daylight, He went out and departed to a solitary place; and there He prayed. And Simon and those who were with Him searched for Him. When they found Him, they said to Him, “Everyone is looking for You.” But He said to them, “Let us go into the next towns, that I may preach there also, because for this purpose I have come forth.” And He was preaching in their synagogues throughout all Galilee, and casting out demons. – Mark 1:32-39

Simon interrupted Jesus while he was praying. “Everyone is looking for You!” There were more people who needed healing and deliverance. There were more people who needed prayer. There were people who undoubtedly wanted to sit and talk with Jesus, taking as much time as He would give them.

But Jesus knew His mission. His role was to preach the Gospel. He refused to be detained, and insisted on moving forward. He commanded the disciples to come with Him into the next town so that He could fulfill the mission that mattered most: the mission to preach the Gospel and save souls.

God knows you’re busy. He will send you people – friends, family, and co-workers – who need help. God will put people in your path so you can help them by meeting needs that would otherwise go unmet, and sharing the Gospel with them.

But Satan knows you are busy too. The enemy will send people into your life to serve as time-consuming distractors. Satan will send people to detain you from what God really wants you to be doing with your time.

Wisdom and discernment means knowing the difference. Think about the people in your life who monopolize your time. Are you being nice in allowing them to do it, or are you being irresponsible? There will always be more people to help. Our responsibility is to know our calling, and our destiny, so that we know if we should stop, or keep it moving. We should never allow someone else to set our schedule, and detain us from what God would have us do.

So, what has God called you to do? Are you ready to go out and do it by using your time wisely, with no apologies? Be realistic about how long things are going to take. Let God dictate your schedule; and remember that if God does, other people don’t

– by Pastor Mike White

© Michael D. White, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Michael D. White with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Planning_fallacy

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Planning_fallacy#cite_note-:0-11

Day 316: By Faith

CityLight Church’s One Year Bible Reading Plan
Thursday, November 12th, 2015
Ezekiel 24:1-26:21
Hebrews 11:1-16
Psalm 110:1-7
Proverbs 27:14
For full text click here: http://bit.ly/1v1mwu3

Commentary from Pastor Michael White:

But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. – Heb 11:6

We please God by our faith! We enter into Heaven by our faith! We obtain an excellent testimony and leave a lasting legacy by our faith! We are righteous by faith!

Everything worth doing, is done by faith. God promised Noah that a flood would come. He must have looked ridiculous building an ark big enough to be a cruise ship, while everyone else laughed and failed to heed God’s warning. But when the rain came, Noah didn’t look so ridiculous!

What has God called you to do, by faith? The opinion of God is far more important than the opinion of other people. What promises has He spoken over your life that seem a little to good to believe? Seizure them, by faith, and watch them come to pass!

Prayer:

Father, help me to step out in faith! I know You have called me to great things, and I am excited to take You at Your word. I trust You, and I believe in You with all my heart.

© Michael D. White, 2015. All rights reserved.

Day 315: A New Way of Living

CityLight Church’s One Year Bible Reading Plan
Wednesday, November 11th, 2015
Ezekiel 23:1-49
Hebrews 10:18-39
Psalm 109:1-31
Proverbs 27:13
For full text click here: http://bit.ly/1sunisL

Commentary from Pastor Michael White:

Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He consecrated for us … – Heb 10:19-20

Jesus consecrates a new and living way for us! The Law is old and dead, but the Spirit is new and alive!

When we try and earn our righteousness for ourselves, we are using a method that is old and dead. Something that is dead can no longer bear fruit! It rots, turns bitter, and starts to stink.

But when we have full assurance in our faith (v 22) and approach God with boldness (v 19) we participate in the new and living way! Because we are alive, we will bear new fruit.

Choose the new, living way. Choose Jesus Christ, and find new life.

Prayer:

Father, thank You for Your perpetual promise of newness of life. You have made me a new creation. You make all things new!

© Michael D. White, 2015. All rights reserved.

Day 314: Once For All

CityLight Church’s One Year Bible Reading Plan
Tuesday, November 10th, 2015
Ezekiel 21:1-22:31
Hebrews 10:1-17
Psalm 108:1-13
Proverbs 27:12
For full text click here: http://bit.ly/1xcDI0x

Commentary from Pastor Michael White:

By that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. – Heb 10:10

Jesus died once for all. When we put our faith in Jesus Christ and believe in Him for salvation, there is nothing that can contaminate our sanctification.

You will have days when you don’t feel holy. You will say things you will wish you could take back. You will do things out of anger and frustration that don’t honor God. But the Cross is big enough to blot out all sin. Jesus already died once, and He doesn’t have to die again! Put your eyes on Jesus, and let everything else fade from your vision.

Whatever you are going through, just remember that Jesus died for you. He suffered so that you could be saved. He gave His life – once for all – so that you could find yours.

Prayer:

Father, transform me into the image of Your Son Jesus Christ! I cannot change myself; but You can change me. Mold me as You see fit, in Jesus’ name!

© Michael D. White, 2015. All rights reserved.

Day 313: Power of the Blood

CityLight Church’s One Year Bible Reading Plan
Monday, November 9th, 2015
Ezekiel 20:1-49
Hebrews 9:11-28
Psalm 107:1-43
Proverbs 27:11
For full text click here: http://bit.ly/1twpuzY

Commentary from Pastor Michael White:

…and without shedding of blood there is no remission.” – Heb 9:22

Shedding of blood is required for a covenant to be ratified. When Moses received the law from God, he ratified Israel’s new covenant with, “…the blood of calves and goats, with water, scarlet wool, and hyssop” (Heb 9:19). When Jesus Christ established the New Covenant on the Cross, He offered up His own blood to ratify the covenant.

Without blood there is no remission of sin. Jesus Christ freely spilled His blood for the remission of all our sins: past, present and future. You are purified, and made spotless, by the blood of Jesus Christ!

Prayer:

Father, thank You for the blood of Your Son Jesus Christ! I know His blood makes me clean. His blood washes over me and permits forgiveness of all my sins. Thank You for the Cross!

© Michael D. White, 2015. All rights reserved.

Day 312: In The Secret Place

CityLight Church’s One Year Bible Reading Plan
Sunday, November 8th, 2015
Ezekiel 18:1-19:14
Hebrews 9:1-10
Psalm 106:32-48
Proverbs 27:10
For full text click here: http://bit.ly/10Dt708

Commentary from Pastor Michael White:

But into the second part the high priest went alone once a year, not without blood, which he offered for himself and for the people’s sins committed in ignorance; the Holy Spirit indicating this, that the way into the Holiest of All was not yet made manifest while the first tabernacle was still standing, – Heb 9:7-8

Under the Old Covenant, the only person allowed into the Most Holy Place – God’s manifest presence – was the High Priest. The High Priest was allowed access into the Most Holy Place once per hear. He would have to offer a sacrifice to atone for his sins, and the sins of the people of Israel. He would wear bells, and the other priests would tie a rope around him. If he did anything wrong in God’s presence, God would strike him dead on the spot. The other priests would know he had messed up because the bells would stop ringing, and the priests would pull his body back out of God’s presence.

Under the New Covenant, all restrictions to God’s presence have been removed! If you have given your life to Jesus Christ, you have an all access pass to God’s manifest presence! You don’t have to worry about saying the wrong thing! You don’t have to worry about being punished for messing up! Whatever you need, just ask! We are now free to, “…come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Heb 9:16)!

You and I could never earn the right to be in God’s presence. Thank God Jesus Christ made a way, so we can enjoy His presence for all time.

Prayer:

Father, You made a way where there was no way. Thank You for uninhibited access to the throne of grace. I am not worthy, but You have welcomed me into Your presence all the same.

© Michael D. White, 2015. All rights reserved.

Day 311: Following Instructions

CityLight Church’s One Year Bible Reading Plan
Saturday, November 7th, 2015
Ezekiel 16:42-17:24
Hebrews 8:1-13
Psalm 106:13-31
Proverbs 27:7-9
For full text click here: http://bit.ly/1sl8ygu

Commentary from Pastor Michael White:

…who serve the copy and shadow of the heavenly things, as Moses was divinely instructed when he was about to make the tabernacle. For He said, “See that you make all things according to the pattern shown you on the mountain.” – Heb 8:5

All Christians are ministers of the Gospel. Our goal is to make the earth look like a copy of Heaven: to pray the word of God over the whole earth, with faith that supernatural change will take place. As we pray, all creation conforms to the Word of God!

God will give us divine instruction when we ask. When Moses spent time in God’s presence, God showed him exactly how the tabernacle should be constructed. All Moses had to do was 1) write down God’s plans, and 2) share the vision with God’s people. God provided all the resources and increase so that His will could be constructed.

Life is so much easier when we receive and follow instructions. Pray that Heaven would come to earth. Pray that God would show you exactly what His vision is for your life and your circumstance. Write it down, and share it with faithful believers who will pray with you for the fulfillment of God’s promise. Trust that God will give you every resource you could possibly need to make His will come to pass!

Prayer:

Father, I trust You for the divine action plan for my life. As I receive it, make me faithful to write it down, and act it out!

© Michael D. White, 2015. All rights reserved.

Day 310: No Matter What

CityLight Church’s One Year Bible Reading Plan
Friday, November 6th, 2015
Ezekiel 14:12-16:41
Hebrews 7:18-28
Psalm 106:1-12
Proverbs 27:4-6
For full text click here: http://bit.ly/13P2bN7

Commentary from Pastor Michael White:

Therefore He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them. – Heb 7:25

Jesus will always be praying for you. He always lives to make intercession on your behalf. He will be your Mediator until the day you die: contending with God for your benefit.

Your friends will forget to pray from time to time. Your family members might just get too busy to remember you in their prayers every day. Every human being you know will come up short when it comes to praying you through. But Jesus never fails to remember you in His prayers. You are His most prized possession!

Aren’t you blessed today to know the King of Heaven is on your side?

Prayer:

Father, thank You for Your faithfulness. No matter what happens, I know that Jesus makes intercession for me!

© Michael D. White, 2015. All rights reserved.

Sharing Jesus with Skeptics

The following is an adaptation of the sermon ‘Sharing Jesus with Skeptics’ preached by Pastor Mike White on Sunday, 11/1/2015, at CityLight Church. To listen to the full podcast please click here: http://bit.ly/1l9eQ66

Your Life’s Purpose

The primary goals in the life of every Christian should be the same: 1) to experience genuine relationship with God through Jesus Christ, and 2) to co-labor with God to expand His Kingdom by sharing the Gospel everywhere possible. Your life might look a little different from mine: you might have a few more kids, and I might have a different calling. But our primary purpose is the same.

Before Jesus ascended to Heaven, He left His disciples with final instructions:

And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen. – Matt 28:18-20

We know this passage as the Great Commission. Now that Jesus is seated at the right hand of the Father in Heaven, it is our responsibility to be His hands and feet. Now that He is no longer physically walking the earth to preach the Gospel, it is our job to raise our hands and say, “I’ll do it! Send me.”

Sharing the Gospel shouldn’t feel like being in a pressure cooker. The weight of the world isn’t on your shoulders as you co-labor to share the Gospel. Jesus already took the weight of the world on His shoulders and brought it to the Cross, so that our responsibilities in life could be stress-free.

It isn’t your job to save everyone in the world. Jesus already died for that. However, it is your job to talk to the people God has put into your sphere of influence. Your family, friends, and co-workers are all in your life for a reason. You have a specific skill set that makes you different from everyone else around you. You have been through experiences in life that make you perfectly and uniquely qualified to share the Gospel in a way no one else can. It is simply your job to open your mouth, and let God speak through you. If you plant the seed, He will water it. When you step out in faith, God will cause the people you know to start asking questions about Jesus.

To be clear, whenever I talk about sharing the Gospel, I mean speaking. There is a quote often attributed to St. Francis of Assisi that goes something like, “Preach the Gospel, and if necessary use words.” I don’t agree with that approach. Sharing the Gospel requires that you open your mouth. So let’ s not hide behind that quote, and use it as an excuse to be luke-warm witnessers. We need to get serious about opening our mouths and sharing the Good News; because if we don’t do it, nobody else will!

Last year, my uncle lay dying in his hospital bed in Wisconsin. He had been a smoker his entire adult life, and it had finally caught up with him: cancer was creeping over his lungs. We prayed for perfect healing. He was my mom’s little brother, and he wasn’t supposed to die this young. More important than healing, we prayed for his salvation.

I had never talked with my uncle about God. He lived in Wisconsin, and we lived in New York. Whenever we saw him, we talked about his passions in life: hunting, the Green Bay Packers, and Wisconsin cheese. As his health deteriorated, my brother and I scheduled a trip to go and visit him. We knew we had to talk to him about Jesus: he had reached out to us for a reason, and this was our chance. It was going to be super awkward, and incredibly uncomfortable. But he was in our lives for exactly this purpose.

We showed up to visit him, and the usual conversations started. The Packers were off to a 2-2 start, which was much worse than usual. Uncle Jon hadn’t even been hunting this year because of his health, and he couldn’t really keep down cheese because he was in a hospital bed. But then we drew a hard line. I pulled out my Bible, and we read to him. We asked if he knew Jesus, and if he had ever prayed to be saved. We prayed with him, and left the Bible on his nightstand, with almost a dozen key verses outlined.

After he died, I got the Bible back. He had used it. He had written in it, and left me notes in the margins. The Bible was a bitter-sweet gift to receive after he passed away, but it revealed that he had taken our conversation to heart. Our conversations about the Packers were over, for now; but we knew they would pick back up again in Heaven.

Even if the entire purpose of my life was to introduce my Uncle Jon to Jesus, so that he might be saved, that would be enough. I believe God is looking for us to take responsibility to spiritually steward the people in our lives: to introduce them to Jesus Christ, and teach them how to stand on their own two feet and learn Biblical truth.

Responding to Your Call

When God called Isaiah to be a prophet, Isaiah responded enthusiastically:

Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a live coal which he had taken with the tongs from the altar. And he touched my mouth with it, and said: “Behold, this has touched your lips; Your iniquity is taken away, and your sin purged.” Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying: “Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?” Then I said, “Here am I! Send me.” And He said, “Go, and tell this people… – Is 6:6-9

We love to read that passage, and think of adventure. “If God asks me to go to China,” we say, “I’ll go!” “If He asks me to quit my job and start a business, I’ll do it!” But look at what Isaiah was really responding to. God put an entire nation on Isaiah’s heart. “I have equipped you,” God was saying. “Now you go and talk to them.”

God was encouraging Isaiah to take responsibility for people. Isaiah knew that as long as he made the introduction, God would take care of the rest. Some people would say yes to God, and others would say no. But Isaiah had to do his part. So do you and I!

Witnessing – sharing the Gospel – can be hard. It can be scary because we all have a fear of rejection. We think, if someone says no, it reflects poorly on us. Witnessing can be awkward. What if your best friend doesn’t like you any more because you always talk about Jesus?

Witnessing can be time consuming. We love to think like evangelists. When we think of sharing the Gospel, we assume God is calling us to talk with people on the subway, share the Good News on the street by preaching out in the open, or stopp random people in the grocery store to tell them about Jesus. If we only have the courage to start a random conversation, then BAM – that person will be won to the Lord.

But it isn’t always that simple. Sharing the Gospel requires patience. It requires delicately repeating the same conversation many times, and in many different ways. There are some people with whom I have been sharing the Gospel for years. Witnessing can take time; but it’s worth it in the end.

This morning, I want to talk about winning those “difficult” people to the Lord. Think about the most skeptical person in your life. Maybe you’ve invited them to church a dozen times. You’ve been super smooth, had them over for Christmas dinner, and thrown in a quick explanation of the crèche and the Christmas Story over egg nog. But no matter what you do, they won’t say yes. What can you do?

Keys to Soul-Winning

There are three simple keys to effectively sharing the Gospel: 1) refusing to lecture, 2) living your life as an example, and 3) prayer. A solid foundation in all three areas can make the most potentially awkward conversations about Jesus simple (dare I say fun?).

1) Refusing to lecture.

God has been playing a fun game with me lately. Whenever I am feeling really good about myself, and my pride starts to rise, He reminds me where I came from. A memory will pop into my head about something stupid I did in my drinking days (i.e. college), someone I offended, or a relationship I abused and mishandled. It’s been quite a humbling exercise. The point is this: remembering what God has saved us from helps us keep perspective.

Whenever you witness to someone, try and remember that you were once in their shoes. Paul reminded Titus of this reality:

Remind them to be subject to rulers and authorities, to obey, to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to be peaceable, gentle, showing all humility to all men. For we ourselves were also once foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving various lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful and hating one another. But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior, that having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. – Titus 3:1-7

We were once just like them; but the kindness and the love of God appeared.

Romans 2:4 says that the, “…goodness of God leads [us] to repentance.” Souls are not won for Christ with clever speech, or illustrations. When we showcase God’s goodness, people cannot help but run to Him. Judgment will get us nowhere: that is why it is so valuable to keep our life in perspective, and remember just what God has saved us from. You and I were destined for eternity in Hell: but God rescued us from our sin!

Fear does not win people to the Lord. Several years ago there was a conservative Christian group that used to set up camp in the subway station at Union Square.[1] They drew posters with pictures of hellfire and the devil’s face. They would scream at people as they walked by. “Repent or go to Hell!” “Change your life NOW or you will not be saved!”

Theologically, their stance was correct. Practically, however, their approach was equally incorrect. The content of the message was true; but the process they used to deliver that message was severely misguided.

This group had forgotten Paul’s words to Titus: “For we ourselves were also once foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving various lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful and hating one another” (Titus 3:3, above). If, as we witness, we forget that we were once in need of a Savior too, all is lost.

A lecturer tells people what is right. A counselor, on the other hand, allows people to draw their own conclusions. Our most effective approach in witnessing is always refusing to lecture, and allowing (and encouraging) people to find Truth in Scripture themselves.

If you’re a parent, you know that telling your kids exactly what to do will only result in one thing: rebellion! My wife and I have a 16-month-old son. When he started walking a few months ago, the first thing he wanted to do was poke his finger in the light socket. We pointed at the outlet, and told him firmly, “Don’t touch this.” You know what he did, as soon as we pulled our fingers away? He touched the outlet.

Our son, relatively speaking, is emotionally immature. He doesn’t know how to resist his urges to do certain things. Your friends and family members who don’t know Jesus are spiritually immature in exactly the same way. The more you tell them what not to do, the less they’ll understand. But if you take the time to step back and allow them to realize how and why they should live their lives differently, change will happen quickly.

When you counsel someone – allowing them to discover the Gospel without having it jammed down their throat, the change is permanent. You have to make accepting Jesus seem like their idea. If they’re just accepting Jesus because you tell them to, the change will be short-lived. If, on the other hand, they’re accepting Jesus because they want to, the change will be life-long!

The Gospel is effective when we share from a place of relationship. Building relationship with our loved ones is so much more important than giving advice. Our most common mistake is that we intervene too soon, or too often. An intervention that is too early, or too frequent, will do more harm than good.

2) Living Your Life As an Example.

When you are a Christian, people examine you with a magnifying glass. They want to see if knowing Jesus really make a difference in the way you live your daily life! After all, why should they accept the investment you’re trying to sell them if it doesn’t really pay dividends?

I remember hearing about a couple in pastoral counseling several years ago. The husband was a Christian: he had accepted Jesus as outlined in Romans 10:9. His wife was not. They came to counseling because he “couldn’t” continue to be married to someone who wasn’t a Christian, and she had no desire to accept Jesus.

They quickly discovered that the husband preached Jesus without apology, but his life wasn’t a reflection of that relationship. The husband preached forgiveness; but he was quick to judge, and slow to forgive. He preached kindness, but he was anything but gentle. He preached understanding, but he frequently lashed out at his wife without apology.

What was happening here? The husband wasn’t living his life as an example. He wanted his wife to accept Jesus, but she didn’t see the point. His life didn’t bear Gospel fruit, so she wouldn’t accept the seed.

For some people in your life, you are the only Jesus they will ever see. They won’t accept an invitation to church until they see a demonstration of why they should as they watch you live your life. The husband needed to apologize. Then, he needed to make a decision to lead by example.

3) Prayer.

This might seem obvious, but if we are going to win people to the Lord, we have to pray! We should pray for lost people in our lives daily. I can’t tell you how many conversations I’ve had with frustrated Christians whose family members won’t accept Jesus, only to find out that they have never prayed for those very same people.

First, we should pray for our friends and family members whom we want to accept Jesus. Jesus clearly stated that, ultimately, the impetus for joining the Kingdom of Heaven comes from the King:

No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him… – John 6:44

No one can accept Jesus unless the Father draws him. We can say and do all the right things; but if the Holy Spirit is not tugging on someone’s heart, they will not come to know God. We should pray every day for our loved ones to be pulled by the Holy Spirit into a desire to know God: that they would be drawn into the Kingdom by our Father of Heaven.

Then, we can pray to be ready. God will fill your friends and family members with a desire to know Him as you pray for them. Then, He will fill your mouth with exactly the right words to speak at the moment they open their hearts to Jesus.

God’s desire is that we would put ourselves in uncomfortable situations, and trust that He will tell us exactly what to do. Here is what Jesus told His disciples:

And the gospel must first be preached to all the nations. But when they arrest you and deliver you up, do not worry beforehand, or premeditate what you will speak. But whatever is given you in that hour, speak that; for it is not you who speak, but the Holy Spirit. – Mk 13:10-11

We can have confidence to inject ourselves into any situation or conversation, knowing that God’s Holy Spirit will fill us with the words to speak. It is up to God to prepare hearts. It is up to us to plant a seed by sharing the Gospel with words. Then, it is up to His Holy Spirit to cultivate the seed that has been planted: to transform our friends and family members into radical followers of Jesus Christ.

God has surrounded you with friends and family so that you can preach the Gospel to them. At some point, even though they feel Him tugging at their heart, a conversation will be required. We must trust God’s Holy Spirit to make us ready for those conversations; and when the moment arrives, we must take the plunge and preach the Gospel without apology, and without compromise.

When I first moved to New York City, I was anything but saved. I had grown up in the church, but I had fallen away from God when I went off to college. I spent my college years drinking, partying, and basically doing whatever I wanted. Deep down, I knew my lifestyle wouldn’t make me happy. But I didn’t care, because I was immature.

As year after year passed, I became desperate. I knew I was missing a relationship with God. I longed for purpose and meaning in my life, but I was scared to come back to church. Would God accept me? Would He have the patience required to help me make changes in my life?

As I struggled to come back to church, my brother was praying for me. We talked every week, and I saw how Jesus had changed his life. He used to drink and party, just like me; but he gave up that lifestyle to become a disciple of Jesus. I wanted what he had, but I didn’t know how to ask.

I talked with him on the phone one Sunday. I was hung over: waking up slowly after a long night out. He was on his way home from church. Then he said something so simple that would change my life forever. “Stop messing around. You keep saying you want to go to church, so just do it. Stop making excuses. Find a church you like, and get involved.”

This was tough, brotherly live; and it was exactly what I needed to hear. I gave my life to Jesus soon after, and I’ve been walking with Him ever since. God has used me to have simple conversations with many people that have resulted in transformed lives. He gets all the glory; and I get the reward of eternal life in Heaven with my friends and family.

Pray. Refuse to lecture. Live your life as an example. Trust that when God brings someone to you who needs Jesus, He has already prepared you to show them the way.

– by Pastor Mike White

© Michael D. White, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Michael D. White with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


[1] For non-New Yorkers, this is one of the busiest transportation hubs in New York City, and the 4th busiest subway stop according to the MTA. The MTA estimates that 110,000 people pass through the Union Square station every single day (http://web.mta.info/nyct/facts/ridership/ridership_sub.htm).

Day 309: Blessed to Be a Blessing

CityLight Church’s One Year Bible Reading Plan
Thursday, November 5th, 2015
Ezekiel 12:1-14:11
Hebrews 7:1-17
Psalm 105:37-45
Proverbs 27:3
For full text click here: http://bit.ly/1tYKtAo

Commentary from Pastor Michael White:

Now beyond all contradiction the lesser is blessed by the better. Here mortal men receive tithes, but there he receives them, of whom it is witnessed that he lives.– Heb 7:7-8

Melchizedek received the tithe, but Abraham received the blessing. Even though Abraham was the giver of money, he was the party that benefited most from this transaction.

When we honor God with our tithes, we are not just donating to charity. When we give to the church, Jesus – the Most High Priest of the order of Melchizedek (Heb 7:17) – receives our offering in Heaven. When we give money, we gain a blessing.

The tithe is for our benefit. The tithe is the pathway to financial blessing. When we tithe, we prove that we are willing to give freely of everything we have revived: to honor God with what is rightfully His in the first place! When we give freely, we will be blessed.

Bring all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be food in My house, and try Me now in this,” Says the Lord of hosts, “If I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you such blessing that there will not be room enough to receive it. – Mal 3:10

Prayer:

Father, thank You that You are faithful! I know I cannot out-give You, no matter how hard I try. Help me to give generously. As I honor You with my tithe, I know I will be blessed!

© Michael D. White, 2015. All rights reserved.

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