1 Peter 3:15 “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.”
What our translation calls an “answer” is literally a “defense.” Peter was writing for people whose faith regularly came under attack in the form of persecution. When people asked them about their faith, it was often to challenge them, ridicule them, or condemn them. Peter wanted them to be ready with a defense of their beliefs when such times came.
We may not face the same kind of hostility when we share our faith today. People who ask us what we believe may not be looking to put us down or contradict our position. But every presentation of Bible truth still has a certain defensive characteristic, even if I’m simply telling someone the story about Jesus for the first time.
You see, every one of us, Christians included, is a skeptic at heart. By nature we can’t and don’t believe what God has to say about salvation. It seems unreasonable, foolish, impossible. Remember what Paul told the Corinthians? “The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned.”
Though you have the Spirit, don’t you find a voice inside of you still questioning much of what God has to say? “How can that be?” “That doesn’t make sense.” Or “Why should I care?” “What difference does it really make?” “That doesn’t seem very important.”
When I write my sermons and prepare my Bible classes, I write with the skeptic in mind. I need look no further than my own perverse heart to find the challenges to God’s commands and God’s promises that haunt every human heart. I need look no further than God’s word to find the answer to, the defense for, those challenges.
If you are a Christian, you are going to have opportunities to defend your beliefs. Be ready to answer the questions that come your way. I probably don’t have to tell you that. In my life I have had real opportunities to explain my beliefs on the swing set and in the sandbox in the backyard of the home in which I grew up, while assembling doors for electrical enclosures during my college years, talking with the person sitting next to me on the airplane, mingling with the customers at my wife’s garage sales, watching my children take swimming lessons, sitting in the waiting room while my son was undergoing surgery, riding in golf carts, attending wedding receptions. I’m sure you’ve had similar experiences.
How can you be ready to answer the challenge of witnessing in those situations? “Always be prepared,” Peter urges. Know your Scriptures. Study them. Think about what they mean to you. And don’t be afraid to say what you know.
Even more, live in the gospel. Read and think about God’s grace in Christ often. Know that you are forgiven. Meditate on it. Nothing so changes our hearts and fills them with fresh expressions of God’s powerful love than the words that claim us as his children, assure us of our salvation, and tell the story of Jesus and his love. Then, “out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks (Luke 6:45).”
I’m not a particularly quick wit. Snappy comebacks are not my strength. Sometimes I’ll think of a great comeback hours later, and all I can do is hope I’ll remember it if ever the chance to use it comes again.
Don’t rely on quick wits when it comes to the challenge of witnessing for Jesus. Give Jesus first place in your heart. Give his word first place in your mind and thoughts. Then you’ll be ready to tell others about your hope.