Be ready to give an answer for the hope that you have.
The restaurant was packed and busy, but we didn’t notice. We were deeply engaged in conversation. “But how can I believe that the Bible is true?” he asked. “I think it is just a bunch of good sayings and thoughts, but not without error, and I’m sure it has been changed over the years.” I had been inviting this person to church for months, and we had struck up a solid friendship. He knew where I stood with Jesus, and I knew where he stood. Often he would say things for the shock effect, but I never reacted. He liked that. On this day, we were tackling the questions he had about God, the Bible and eternity.
Many people have questions. The days when people just accept the fact of God’s existence or the reliability of the Scriptures are all but gone. Due to our pluralistic culture and the ability to travel and access information, the world is filled with many and various thoughts about God. Therefore, most people you share the Gospel with will have questions.
Now for many Christians, this scares them to death. Most of us feel woefully unprepared to lay out detailed arguments and intellectual support for the simple Gospel message. That kind of stuff is left to the scholars and experts. But you don’t need to be afraid of questions. In fact, questions are our friends. The more questions asked, the more we are talking about Jesus. The more we talk about Jesus, the more opportunity there is for God to work on people’s hearts.
In my experience, most questions that spiritually exploring people ask are either smokescreens or roadblocks. Just as a magician may throw smoke to cover up what he is doing on the stage, some people ask questions just to divert the conversation to something other than the simple Gospel message. These are stall tactics. Other people pose questions simply because they love to debate. They love the back-and-forth dialogue. They love to hear and make arguments. Some have a desire for learning, but they have no intention of actually placing their faith in Jesus. In each case, the person is using his or her questions as a smokescreen, but internally, there is no real desire to find truth.
There are also people who ask questions that are roadblocks keeping them from taking their next step toward Christ. They just can’t get past these questions, and therefore, they are stuck in their pursuit of Jesus. I truly believe my friend was hitting roadblocks the day we had lunch. He really had some issues he had to work through before he could legitimately pursue Jesus.
As you talk to your lost friends, it is important to pray God will give you discernment to know if their questions are smokescreens or roadblocks. For those who are throwing up smoke but have no real interest in investigating Jesus, you may not want to spend much time with them (Matthew 10:14 ESV). There are many people out there who are eager to hear the Gospel. Jesus said the field is “ripe for harvest,” (John 4.35 NIV). When those who are truly seeking get stuck on an issue, you want to help them explore the claims of Christ and find answers to their spiritual questions.
The Apostle Peter gives us some good counsel on this subject. “But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect,” (1 Peter 3.15 NIV). Peter was encouraging a church that was in the middle of intense persecution. They lived in a hostile environment. Peter’s message was, “Be sure you are putting Christ first in your life.”
The strongest evidence for Jesus is your changed life. As people see how you live and how you love Jesus, it will help them deal with the questions they are facing. Peter goes on to say, “Be ready to give an answer.” Other versions say, “Be ready to explain it;” “Make a defense;” “Give the reason for the hope that you have.” We need to be ready and prepared to answer key questions of the faith.
Remember, if you are asked a question to which you don’t know the answer, it is perfectly appropriate to simply say, “I don’t know. That’s a good question. Let’s look into this together.” Then you can do some research, find sources and unearth answers that address this particular problem. You do not have to have every answer ready all the time. You just need to be prepared to share the Gospel clearly and be available to help your friend work through these vexing questions.
Don’t ever forget that you have the truth, and you have the Holy Spirit. You don’t need more than that.
Written by Craig Etheredge