Living the Truth (3)
Now the Philistines had stopped up all the wells which his father’s servants had dug in the days of Abraham his father, and they had filled them with earth. And Abimelech said to Isaac, “Go away from us, for you are much mightier than we.” Then Isaac departed from there… Genesis 26:15-17
The fear of Isaac
We might speculate concerning Abimelech’s motives here. He had been a friend of Isaac’s father, Abraham, and seems to have worked out his disagreement with Isaac as well. Why would he suddenly ask him to move on?
The answer is in his own explanation: he feared the growing power of Isaac. Not that Isaac was one to throw his weight around or threaten local leaders. He was a peaceable man, concerned only to take care of what God had entrusted to him, to work his Personal Mission Field faithfully and well.
But Abimelech saw his growing wealth and influence, which included the addition of many servants on Isaac’s payroll. These men depended on Isaac for their wellbeing. The threat to Abimelech was that his own subjects, finding work and wealth within the community of Isaac’s prosperity, might not be as loyal to their king as the king would prefer. If push ever came to shove between them, Abimelech might find himself on the short end of the stick.
The easiest way to secure his place of power in that part of Gerar was to tell Isaac to move on.
Which Isaac did, without resisting or complaining.
Wearing out our welcome?
I recall an occasion in which I had been invited into the home of an older gentleman for the purpose of talking about spiritual matters. There at his invitation and his pleasure, I began asking him about his own spiritual life – which was virtually non-existent – and then proceeded to share from my own experience the wonderful things the Lord had done for me. I began to explain the Gospel and the Kingdom of God, using the words of Scripture and my own experience to help this man and his wife understand the Good News and how they could receive the Lord Jesus Christ.
The man’s wife seemed more interested in the conversation than he was. She asked questions; he barely responded to the ones I asked him. As I answered her questions, I kept moving the conversation from my own experience of the Lord to the Gospel and how one can come into a right relationship with the Lord.
Suddenly the man got up and left the room. I heard him in the powder room a few feet away, fumbling with something in the medicine chest. He returned shortly, and he was visibly upset. I’d stopped talking when he got up, and when he sat back down he simply said, “I think you’d better leave now.”
At that point I had a choice: stay past my welcome in the belief that I needed to get the whole Gospel out and secure some sort of response before I left, or acquiesce in his discomfort and his request, and leave him in the care of the Lord. I chose the latter course. I thanked him and his wife for their time and let myself out.
Give them space
Unbelievers can sometimes become uncomfortable with our testimonies and witness, or even with the way we comport ourselves in the righteousness, peace, and joy of the Spirit, which are the hallmarks of our Kingdom citizenship (Rom. 14.17, 18). In their discomfort they may, for whatever reason, want us to back off, let it go for now, or simply leave them alone about spiritual matters.
If we want to keep good relations with our unbelieving friends and neighbors, we must give them space, and let the Lord take it from there.
This, after all, is only what we would like for ourselves when others are beginning to make us uncomfortable or even a little irritated. Doing unto others as we would have them do unto us is part of how we live out the truth of Christ in love. We’re not here to bully, bluster, or bother people into the Kingdom, or to chalk up “victories” for the Lord. The Lord knows how to bring others to Himself in His way and time. Our calling is simply to be faithful, and sometimes being faithful means giving others space.
Living the truth means respecting others and treating them as we would want to be treated. People frequently come to faith in Jesus not in sudden bursts of illumination but by a gradual process of hearing, reflecting, hearing some more, and then receiving the grace of God. And part of that process may involve our giving them space or moving on to something else in our conversation.
Be yourself. Be the best you can be. But be sensitive to others, and when they ask you to “back off” in your witness, don’t make a fuss. Just move on.
1. Evangelism is a process, not an event. Explain.
2. Salvation is an event, and only God can save someone. We are witnesses, not saviors. Why is it important to keep this in mind?
3. Moving on doesn’t mean bailing out on someone altogether. It might just mean a change of subject. What would suggest to you that someone was becoming uncomfortable with your talking about Jesus?
Next steps – Conversation: Today, speak to people in your Personal Mission Field – all the people you encounter today, non-Christians and Christians alike. Use their names. Ask how they’re doing. Use every opportunity with them to establish a gracious, living presence of truth in ways you have not before. Continue praying for them and looking for ways to show them the love of Jesus.
T. M. Moore
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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.