This is an edited excerpt from Rico Tice’s new book Honest Evangelism: How to Talk About Jesus Even When It’s Tough (The Good Book Company, 2015). Make sure to visit Westminster Books for a special sale on this book.
Paul’s trip to Athens is a goldmine for giving us a biblical approach to witnessing. We’re used to looking at Acts 17 and considering his approach in the marketplace and the synagogue, and to analyzing how in his Areopagus speech he both connects with and confronts the lies of the Athenians’ culture and worldview.
But what transformed my evangelism was verses 24–27. Look at what the apostle says about God and about people:
The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands. And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else. From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth: and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. (Acts 17:24–26)
So there’s a God who made the world and everything in it—including my neighbors, my relatives, and my work colleagues. He made everything and everyone. And he doesn’t need us; we need him. Not only that, but he has marked out how long we will each live, and decided where we will each live.
God Put Them There
Now hold onto your seat as we think about what this means. Your neighbor lives down the street because God put him there. Your colleague sits at the desk next to you because God sat her there.
A family recently moved onto our street in London. They’re Muslims. Why have they moved? They think it’s for work, and because there’s a mosque nearby. In reality, however, their Maker has placed them there. Why? Look at the next verse:
God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us. (Acts 17:27)
What’s going on in history is that God is reaching out to people so that they’ll reach out for him. The reason your neighbor lives where she does is so that she’ll be reached with the gospel. Why did God want a Christian—you—to be in your particular workplace? So you can bless your boss and workers by working hard and honestly? Of course and amen. But first and foremost, he put you there so others might hear the good news.
It’s no accident you know the people you do. It’s no accident they’re in your path. They need Jesus. You know him. God wants them to hear the gospel.
And that transforms how I view my life. It makes it exhilarating. If I’m sitting on a plane and there’s someone next to me, God has put them there. He’s not far from them, because I know him and am sitting next to them. That transforms whether I’ll bother to try to start a conversation with them. It’ll transform what I aim to talk about. And it’ll transform how I pray for my days ahead; I’ll be praying for energy and love to make the most of every divine appointment God has already written into my schedule.
We need to believe God is in charge of which desk we sit at. We need to believe God has put particular persons around us because he wants them to hear about his Son.
We need to grasp God’s sovereignty—and align our days with his mission.