By Alistair Begg
Has the prospect of sharing your faith ever intimidated or scared you? I think if we’re honest with ourselves, all who have tried to be faithful in the realm of evangelism would answer with a resounding “Yes!”
One of the reasons we may be fearful of engaging others in conversation about the Gospel is that we imagine we need to have all the answers to the questions people will raise. It is, of course, good to be well-prepared, but we should always remember that only God opens blind eyes and softens hard hearts (Ps. 146:8; Eph. 1:17–18). When men and women are born again, it is by the mysterious work of the Spirit of God (Ezek. 36:26–27; Rom. 8:1–11). Without that, all our arguments are quite useless.
However, as Gresham Machen observed, “Because argument is insufficient, it does not follow that it is unnecessary. What the Holy Spirit does in the new birth is not to make a make a man a Christian regardless of the evidence, but on the contrary to clear away the mists from his eyes and enable him to attend to the evidence.”1
As you prayerfully consider your own evangelistic efforts, I hope this quick list of practical—and, I believe, biblical—tips for dealing with objections and questions while sharing your faith will be a help. Perhaps it will prompt you to be bolder and more loving in your next conversation with a neighbor, a loved one, or even a stranger.
1) Be patient.
In seeking to deal with difficult questions, it is important that we avoid launching into somebody’s face, attempting to answer before they’ve even fully asked the question. If we’re going to be sensitive, loving, and understanding, we must have the patience and courtesy to allow someone to complete a thought or question (Prov. 14:29; 1 Cor. 13:4).
2) Don’t drown people in details.
It is more than possible to smother an inquirer with a vast array of information, drowning him or her with all we’ve managed to learn. What we know is probably good and important, but we can be too eager for the first chance to just descend upon someone with every detail we know. Don’t do that.
3) Watch your tone.
We must answer people’s questions prayerfully and humbly but not condescendingly. As soon as such a tone creeps in, you’ll find people creeping out. While you certainly should always be “prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you,” Peter quickly points out that it must be done “with gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:15).
4) Provide thoughtful answers.
Some of us, in our approach to answering difficult questions, don’t pay enough attention to context. Are we talking to a college student? A doctor? Someone who’s rich? Someone who’s suffering? If we don’t stop to consider the real life that’s being lived by the person in front of us, he or she will almost immediately think, “This feels like a pat, cookie-cutter answer. Did they just memorize this? I could’ve gotten a better answer from a quick Google search.”
5) Shine the light on paths, not in faces.
If you’ve ever come to a traffic stop or been pulled over by the police in the evening, perhaps you’ll have had a horribly bright light shone in your face. No one likes that! When we’re answering a difficult question, we have a responsibility to shine the light on the person’s path but not to shine it in his or her face (Matt. 5:16). We don’t shine a piercing light of personal judgment or condemnation; we shine the light of Scripture (Ps. 119:105) in such a way that it beckons them on rather than making them recoil.
6) Take questions seriously.
Answer as though the eternal destiny of the questioner hangs upon your answer. You may be the only person who has the chance to answer the question in this moment for this individual. A faithful answer to a genuine question may be the very key which God uses to open a man or a woman’s heart and mind to the truth of the Gospel (2 Tim. 2:25). For that reason, we need to be diligent in our understanding of the Scriptures.
7) Remember how people are saved.
Our responses matter, but only Jesus saves people. We all need to recall and rest in these familiar words from Proverbs 3:5: “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.” Love, prayerfulness, humility, and other Christlike traits matter infinitely more than appearing to know all the answers.
With all these tips in mind, we must remember that the Bible is not a compendium that answers unbelievers’ most-asked questions. God’s Word has a far greater purpose: to bear witness to God Himself. And that, alongside glorifying and enjoying Him, is our purpose as well. Countering objections to our faith is a good endeavor, but only as doing so points others to “the founder and perfecter of our faith” (Heb. 12:2).
Each and every one of us is limited in our ability to persuade others in our Christian faith. That’s okay, though, because God’s power to do what we cannot do is boundless. And when we rest in that reality, we’re ready to be useful instruments in our Redeemer’s hands.
This article was originally published at https://www.bsfblog.org/how-to-respond-when-your-faith-is-questioned/.
J. Gresham Machen, The Christian Faith in the Modern World (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1947), 63. ↩︎