Going down, I smiled at the only other person in the elevator. She was tiny; only about 5’ tall. Her uniform and cart of supplies told me that she cleaned for the hotel. She had thick, curly, dark brown hair. The colorful scarf that tied it back revealed her God-given streaks of gray, with a concentration at the front. She smiled back.
As we approached my floor I said, “Have a good day!” With just 10 seconds to respond, her dark eyes twinkled. “With God, every day is good.” Her very broken English was well-timed and her articulation laudable. We both smiled and I walked off.
In just six short words, she had witnessed to me.
As a writer I had been taught to have a “30-second pitch” ready for anyone who inquired as to the topic of my book. “Keep it short and simple” I had learned. “Always be ready” in case someone “important” inquired about my project at writers’ conferences and book sellers’ conventions. While I didn’t feel particularly important when I stepped into that elevator that morning, I stepped out feeling important enough for someone who struggled with my language to try to evangelize me.
I was challenged. Could I do that? If I could take the time to create a 30-second summary of a writing project, shouldn’t I learn to do the same with the hope of Christ?
Many times throughout our week we have tiny time slots of interpersonal interplay: 20 seconds at the checkout while exchanging money with the cashier; 10 seconds while stepping up into the bus; 10 seconds while shaking hands; 10 seconds to thank a store worker for his help. The opportunities are there if we just stop and take notice of them. The test was on!
I had seen the “steps” to salvation in a religious tract, on a little wooden cube, and had watched children make bracelets that helped them tell the story. Too long. With only seconds to shine the light of Christ, props wouldn’t do.
I needed help. I e-mailed about 50 of my friends and asked them what they would say if they had just 10 seconds to shine the light of Christ and show His hope to someone. The responses were varied. Some were way too long and others were extremely harsh. “Repent! For the Kingdom of God is at hand,” just seemed too militant. Some were excellent but required the perfect scenario.
Among my favorites were: If you see someone with a child: “Every time I see a baby, I see a miracle and know God is real. This gives me hope.” When someone tells you to have a blessed day, respond with: “Oh, so you know the BlessER, too?” How about in answer to “Have a good day”: I’m planning on one – with God’s help.” If they look troubled: “Whatever the need or problem, God is the answer.” From my friend at the Garden Club: “Just look around … the trees, clouds, flowers, birds, all living things GOD made for us to enjoy – and it’s free!” And for that intimacy we all crave: “Jesus loves you and if you give Him a chance, He will be your best friend!”
The one thing everyone agreed on was that actions speak louder than words. Smiles, kind gestures and opportunities to help, pave the way to showing God’s love to others. This is always good for ongoing relationships. But what about that chance encounter that lasts only 10 seconds?
One morning at 4 AM, while lying in bed, I thought and prayed about this question. The Holy Spirit gave me the answer. Later that day, a friend reiterated His reply. In response to my question she said, “That’s hard to pinpoint because I would hope that God would give me the specific words that specific person needed to hear . . . different for everyone.” That’s it! Just LISTEN!
In Luke 21:14-15, Jesus told us that when we are persecuted He will give us the words to say – when we need them. Verse 15 says, “For I will give you words and wisdom that none of your adversaries will be able to resist or contradict.” I believe the same is true when we are to speak to someone about God.
So we need not worry about what we will say during those brief encounters. The Holy Spirit will help us say just what the person needs to hear. Our job is to listen; to be always alert as stated in Ephesians 6:18: “And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.”
If we stay in constant communication with our Heavenly Father through prayer, and continue to grow in Him through Bible study, we will be less likely to miss His direction at the right time. We won’t miss the divine appointments with important people who cross our paths and need to hear a short and sweet message of God’s love.
Kelly J. Stigliano has been a speaker and writer for over 20 years. She and her husband Jerry enjoy life in Orange Park, FL. Visit her at www.kellystigliano.com.