I'll always remember the last day of my first Greek class. Our professor ended the course by saying, "Congratulations - you now all know enough to be dangerous." (I'm paraphrasing.)
After one course we didn't know enough Greek to be useful. We only knew enough to be dangerous. We knew enough to convince others that we knew much more than we actually did. It is easy to lead people astray by sounding like an authority. Even when you don't really know what you're talking about.
Moving from dangerous to useful is important. While none of us will ever know everything we should strive to always be growing in the grace and knowledge of the Lord. We cannot wait until we know everything before we speak the gospel to others. But there are two basic themes to keep in mind to help us grow into maturity in the faith.
- Preparation through study.
- Preparation through prayer.
We don't want to be dangerous with the Word of God by speaking things that are not true but may sound true to others. Instead, we want to be powerful witnesses for Christ. I can't tell you how many people I meet while witnessing who make claims about what the Bible says that simply aren't true.
It's a lot of people. A lot. People throw around the phrase, "The Bible says," like it's nothing. Most people are simply ill equipped to judge the truth of whatever follows that statement.
We want to avoid being misled and misleading others. I want to suggest that simply studying your Bible isn't enough. You should really consider taking the time to memorize large sections of Scripture.
I know, I know... that sounds crazy to some people.
Consider this: when the Apostles stood up to speak they didn't have notes. They didn't have a Bible in their hands. They had the Word of God hidden in their hearts. As a result it flowed from their lips.
You won't be able to speak the Word of God boldly, faithfully, and powerfully if you don't know it. What may seem extreme is really just a prerequisite. Memorizing large sections instead of isolated verses will also help you to ensure that you are not abusing the Word of God by using it out of context. When we twist the Scriptures we claim to speak on God's authority while saying things He never said or in a way He never intended.
If memorization doesn't come easily to you - don't worry. You're not alone. I highly recommend Dr. Andrew Davis' method (free e-book available here). I am currently memorizing the book of Ephesians using this method and it is going much better than I anticipated. You can do it, too, if you make the commitment and stick to it.
The second thing is to be prepared through prayer. I freely admit that study comes more easily to me than prayer. It is easy for me to spend two hours studying the Bible. It is not so easy for me to spend two hours in devoted prayer.
However, when Jesus instructed His disciples that they would be witnesses to the things concerning Him in Moses, the Prophets, and the Psalms, look at what He told them to do next: "And behold, I am sending forth the promise of My Father upon you; but you are to stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high" (Luke 24:49, NASB).
Jesus didn't just want witnesses. He didn't even simply want knowledgeable witnesses. He wanted powerful witnesses. He told them to wait for the power to come through the Person of the Holy Spirit.
Their power did not come from themselves. Their power did not come from their eloquence. It didn't even come from their study. Their power came from waiting for the Holy Spirit to come in fulfillment of God's promise.
I am always humbled when I read about the prayer lives of powerful witnesses for Christ from the past. Men like Martin Luther, George Whitefield, John and Charles Wesley, and D.L. Moody all spent hours in prayer every day. They knew that their power was found on their knees spending time alone with the living God.
What may seem like a waste of time to a non-believing world is a worthwhile investment in eternity.
Are you willing to do what it takes to become a powerful witness for Christ? If so, you will need to be devoted to preparation through both study and prayer. We do not want to miss opportunities along the way. I am not suggesting that we shut ourselves off from the world forever. Quite the contrary!
Such devotion to study and prayer actually guarantees that our opportunities for powerful witness will greatly increase as we go about our lives in this fallen world. You will never have to miss opportunities because you left your Bible at home.
I pray that you will be available and willing to be a vessel yielded to our Lord. Pray for me, too, that I will do the same.