Talking about addiction and personal issues like anxiety can be difficult, particularly in your home church. Yet, I faced just such an opportunity last Thursday morning during our weekly men’s ministry fellowship. I’m an experienced speaker who has spoken in front of large audiences. I’ve shared God’s word and my personal testimony numerous times before. In sharing my personal testimony, it’s impossible to avoid the topic of addiction and, more importantly, recovery. Doing so would diminish the work that God has and continues to do in my life and that He does through me to help others. Besides, it is a story I’ve shared numerous times. Yet this morning, something felt different. I stood, under the spotlight, sweating bullets, staving off a bout of anxiety.
While I’m no stranger to this scenario, being authentic, transparent, and vulnerable can be excruciatingly difficult in church. And the difficulty is not all on the churchgoers. In part, it has a lot to do with what we bring to the table individually. After all, most of us like to be liked and few of us are comfortable airing out our dirty laundry in such a public setting in front of people we love and care about. It would be easier if I didn’t like them or love them or care about how they felt about me or perceived me. It’s not unlike the first time I shared my addiction problem with my mom and other family members.
Discussing addiction and anxiety is hard but necessary. I fumbled for my notes on my smartphone. The room felt like it was filled with the hottest sun. Sweat beaded on my brow. My mouth felt parched and my hands were clammy. I prayed, “Be still,” silently to myself as I spoke to the room full of men. I recalled the Lord’s words to Joshua: “Have I not command you: Be strong and courageous? Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”
In recent weeks, I’ve been battling more frequent, more severe bouts of anxiety. I’m not surprised by it, really. I view it as spiritual battles raging to discourage me from pursuing God’s will. They increased in frequency once I began going out ministering to people in the workplace as a chaplain. In addition, a friend of mine and I have been working on writing a song that we hope someday will be played in praise to God’s faithfulness in our lives and in the life of our home church. As I discussed in a recent post on the Psalms, we will encounter opposition along our spiritual journey. We must avoid giving people the idea that following Christ is an experience that is free from problems or difficulties. It’s not. When faced with challenges, we must keep our eyes on Jesus.
I had the opportunity to share a little bit of my personal testimony as part of exploring what sharing our faith looks like in our workplace…or wherever we find ourselves. I think five key elements of doing that successfully are 1) authenticity, 2) transparency, 3) vulnerability, 4) listening, and 5) presence.
Authenticity: Do your actions and words align with your beliefs and values? Do you do what you say and say what you mean?
Transparency: Are you willing and able to reveal the personal challenges that you have faced and that you grapple within your daily life? It’s easy to boast of our perfections. Can we readily share our shortcomings?
Vulnerability: Are you willing to take temporal risks in exchange for an eternal reward—especially reward that is not for your own benefit but for someone else?
I think the first three of these are no better exemplified than by the brother of Botham John, Brandt, who, faced with a big spotlight shining on him, stood tall and believed in a God greater than the challenges of his present circumstance.
Listening: Actively listening builds trust and relationship. When we remember people’s names and what is weighing heavy on their hearts, we demonstrate that we are engaged in the conversations we have with them. We’re not simply listening while waiting to reply.
Presence: I think nothing helps make God known more than being there both in the good times and the bad. The stormiest seas are often where the strongest bonds are formed. In the past two years, I have seen this proven true in the life of my home church. As a body, and individually, we have faced, endured, and persevered an unbelievable onslaught of challenges and difficulties. Yet, in the darkest of times, we sought the Lord, keeping our eyes firmly planted on Jesus. Corporately, we were there for each other.
I believe these five key elements help us cultivate the soil for a fruitful harvest as we strive to make God known. Being a witness isn’t always easy. It’s not supposed to be. Sharing our past struggles and shortcomings can be difficult and painful. But God’s grace deserves our praise and our faithful testimony. If we keep our God stories to ourselves we rob others of the opportunity to come to know Him like we do.
How are you making God known where you are? Do you find it difficult to share your personal testimony with others? Do you suffer from anxiety? How has God delivered you from your personal demons?
To God be the Glory. Amen.
The Devotional Guy™
ABOUT: The Devotional Guy™ is a writing ministry of Chaplain Rainer Bantau, a Swiss-born, German kid who grew up in East Texas and today ministers throughout the Dallas-Fort Worth area.
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“For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.”
Matthew 18:20 (ESV)