E. Stanley Jones was a famous Methodist missionary who ministered in India during the last century. He was so well-known there for his preaching and teaching that he gained the nickname “the Billy Graham of India.” His preaching was not, at first, very impressive. Here is a story he tells on himself about the first time he preached:
“I began on a rather high key. I had not gone a half dozen sentences when I used a word I had never used before (nor have I used it since!) – ‘indifferentism.’ I saw a college girl in the audience put down her head and smile. It so upset me that when I came back to the thread of my discourse, it was gone—absolutely…Finally I blurted out, ‘Friends, I am very sorry, but I have forgotten my sermon!’
“I started down the steps leading from the pulpit in shame and confusion. This was the beginning of my ministry, I thought—a total failure. As I was about to leave the pulpit a Voice seemed to say to me, ‘Haven’t I done anything for you?’
‘Yes,’ I replied, ‘You have done everything for me.’
‘Well,’ said the Voice, ‘couldn’t you tell them that?’
‘Yes, I suppose I could,’ I eagerly replied. So instead of going to my seat I came around in front of the pulpit and said: ‘Friends, I see I cannot preach, but I love Jesus. You know what my life was in this community—that of a wild, reckless young man—and you know what it now is. You know he has made life new for me, and though I cannot preach I am determined to love and serve him.’”**
Jones goes on to share what an outpouring of response he got from the congregation that day. Though he “could not” preach, he did something far more important: he witnessed. He stood there and bore witness to what Jesus had done for him.
We live in an Easter Sunday world. The tomb is empty and Christ is raised on any average Thursday; not just on one Sunday morning a year. We may not be able to preach. We may not feel we can teach. But, as Easter People, each of us can respond to the Voice’s question of “Haven’t I don’t anything for you?” Each of us can bear witness to the answer: “You have done everything for me.” People do not need fancy words or just the right theology. They do need to hear from you what Jesus can do with a life. And how will they know, unless you witness to it?
Prayer: Lord Jesus, help me to live in response to your great work in my life. Help me to share with others a witness of what power you have. Give me wisdom and courage and faithfulness. In your holy name I pray. Amen.
**Excerpted from his article “The Christ of Experience” in Bread and Wine: Readings for Lent and Easter.