Being Ready to Answer Every ManMarch 20, 2014
Note: Each month, Rick writes a letter that’s filled with in-depth teaching and insights from the original Greek language of the New Testament. This monthly teaching helps guide you into a deeper knowledge of the Bible. Each letter carries strong messages of encouragement, as well as compassionate instruction, to teach believers how to effectively face life’s challenges in the power of the Spirit. If you do not receive these monthly e-teaching letters through email, please subscribe to our monthly teaching letter here.
March 2014 Teaching Letter
Have you ever had a fearful attitude about doing something the Lord put in your heart to do or be? I want to encourage you: If you’ve ever experienced the kind of fear that says, “I can’t” — or if you’re dealing with this very challenge right now — God wants to change that! He wants to turn it around and help you live with the mindset that says, “I’m prepared, ready, and raring to go!”
First Peter 3:15 says, “…Sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear.” Of course that phrase “meekness and fear” isn’t talking about a cringing kind of fear that makes someone want to shrink back when God speaks instead of stepping out to obey Him. The point I want to make from this verse is that it’s possible for any one of us — me, you, or the person who just made Jesus Lord yesterday — to “be ready,” or to remain in a state of readiness, to share our faith at just the right time with someone in need.
Several years ago my heart was stirred to pray for a method to reach the elderly population in the city of Moscow. The majority of them grew up under Communism and therefore lived a life void of God. Although the rule of Communism is gone, that ideological system still rules much of the thinking of the older generation. This makes them one of the hardest groups in Russia to reach with the Gospel.
My heart is burdened for this older segment of society for several reasons, but the most important reason is that soon, multitudes of them will leave this world and pass into eternity without the Lord and without hope unless we first reach them with the Good News of Jesus Christ. I wanted to know how to have influence with that group of people so that I could make a positive impact on them with the truth of God’s Word.
Suddenly one day, an idea dropped into my heart about how to reach the elderly community in the city of Moscow. It was an idea right from the throne of Heaven — an idea so brilliant and different that I could never have come up with it on my own. It was an idea that came from the Spirit of God in answer to my prayers for a method to reach these precious people. Now years have passed since that idea first came into my heart — and with God’s help and the help of our partners, we’ve built what possibly may be the single largest Christian outreach to senior citizens in the world. In all of our research, we’ve never been able to find anything to compare to this massive outreach to senior citizens.
Not long ago during one of these Golden Age events for the elderly, one of our staff drivers was sitting in the back of the auditorium watching the program. One of the elderly people sitting next to him — an old, hard-hearted, dedicated communist and atheist — skeptically commented, “I don’t understand why Rick Renner does all these things for us. No one else seems to care about us anymore. Why would he and his team spend all this time and money on us? There must be some hidden agenda. What is the real reason behind all of this?”
That old communist didn’t realize he was speaking to a member of our team, but God had carefully orchestrated that meeting! It was no accident or coincidence that this driver — a very sensitive man who compassionately cares for people, especially the neglected and hurting — was sitting next to that elderly man to hear his skepticism and concern.
In response this man’s comment, our driver reached over to put his arm around him as he answered, “What kind of price tag can be put on a person’s soul? There’s nothing in the world more precious or eternal than your soul, my friend, and that is why this kind of love and attention is shown to you. It’s all about your eternal soul. That’s why all this is done for you.” With that answer, that old communist’s skepticism and hardness melted away, and he replied, “Thank you so much for your kindness to help me understand what this is all about.” On that day, God used the influence of a driver from our ministry to soften the hardened heart of a lost soul for whom Jesus died!
People frequently believe incorrectly that they must have a seminary degree or a Bible school diploma before they can be effectively used by God. But in early New Testament times, there were no seminaries and no Bible schools to attend, because the Church was new and was still being established. But due to the fact that the Christian faith was so new and so different from the pagan religions of the Roman Empire, many people were skeptical of Christianity and didn’t understand its message. In fact, they were even afraid of Christians. They had many questions about what Christians really believed, and rumors about them abounded.
In the midst of this situation, the apostle Peter told the early believers, “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear” (1 Peter 3:15). When Peter wrote this verse, he wasn’t writing to a classroom filled with theologians. He was writing to believers — many of them new believers — to encourage them to use whatever influence they had to bring people to Christ.
Peter says to “…be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh a reason of the hope that is in you….” The phrase “be ready always” is a translation from the Greek words etoimoi aei. The word etoimoi is a form of the word etoimos, which means to be ready or to be prepared. It portrays an attitude that’s always set to go, eager, prompt, and raring to get started. It depicts a perpetual mindset of being ready to get started on a project, take on a challenge, or take initiative of some sort. To have such a readiness also implies preparation. Inherent in this command is the idea that one must do everything in his power to equip himself for that inevitable moment when he will be called to action.
Furthermore, this perpetual mindset of being “ready always” is made even more abundantly clear by the use of the word aei, which can be translated as always, at all times, constantly, or perpetually. In First Peter 3:15, the apostle Peter is telling his readers, and that includes you and me: “Be constantly, perpetually ready to speak, set to go, and prompt to act….” Then he tells us what we must be “ready” to do! We must “be ready always to give an answer to every man who asks a reason for the hope that’s in us.”
The word “answer” in this verse is from the Greek word apologia, a compound of the words apo and logos. In this case, the word apo means back, and the word logia comes from the word logos, which is the Greek word for words. But when the two words are used as a compound, it means to answer back, to reply, to respond, to explain, or to defend.
This word apologia is the same word that the apostle Paul used in Philippians 1:17 when he wrote that he had been “…set for the defence of the gospel.” In using this word in Philippians, Paul acknowledged that part of his God-given task was to answer questions put to him by unbelievers about the Gospel. Therefore we can conclude without a doubt: Because Peter uses the word apologia, he unmistakably was telling us that as Christians, we must “be constantly and perpetually ready, be set to go, and be prompt to answer every man who asks a reason of the hope that is in us.…”
Peter says we are to answer “every man” who inquires about what we believe, why we believe it, and about the hope that resides in our hearts. The words “every man” in Greek is panti, which is an all-encompassing word that literally means every man, every individual, every person, with no exceptions. This one statement affirms that the Gospel is for every man on the face of the earth regardless of race, class, or color. Peter tells us not to be surprised if people “ask” about our faith. In fact, we should anticipate that they will ask, and this is the reason Peter urges us to be prepared and ready to answer!
When Peter says non-Christians will “ask” about the hope that is in us, the word “ask” doesn’t mean what you might think it means. It’s from the Greek word aiteo, and it actually means to be adamant in requesting, craving, or demanding something. In other words, this not a mere wish, but it is a demand for an answer to an insatiable longing either to have something or know something.
In fact, the word aiteo is the very word used in Mark 15:43 when the Bible tells us that Joseph of Arimathea “craved” the body of Jesus after the crucifixion. The word “craved” is a great translation of the word aiteo, because that night an all-consuming desire drove Josepth of Arimathea to go to Pilate to strongly demand and adamantly insist that Jesus’ body be released to him. (For more on this word aiteo, you can read the March 23 Gem from my book Sparkling Gems From the Greek.)
Peter uses this same strong word aiteo to alert us to the fact that when non-Christians finally work up the nerve to “ask” us questions about the faith and hope they see in us, we need to be quick to answer, because they really want to know or they wouldn’t be asking. It’s just like the old communist who inquired why we were doing so much for the elderly population of Moscow. Although his question seemed skeptical, the truth is, that old man really wanted to know why we were doing what we did! He longed to know the answer and that’s why he asked. Thank God, there was a “regular” believer sitting next to him who was prepared, ready, and prompt to give him the answer!
- How about you? Are you ready to give an answer to anyone who asks you about your faith? How prepared would you say you are to give an answer to every person who asks a reason for the hope that is in you?
- To be more specific, if you found yourself sitting next to a non-Christian who asked you about what you believe, why you believe it, and how your faith affects your life, could you answer those questions promptly?
Don’t make the mistake of thinking you aren’t adequate to answer such questions because you haven’t been to seminary or Bible school. I remind you again that when Peter wrote this verse, there were no seminaries or Bible schools or graduates with diplomas. All there was at that time were simple, everyday Christians who went to work every day, raised families every day, and conducted business every day. And in the process of it all, they were constantly rubbing elbows with non-Christians from every walk of life, every class of society, and every ethnic group, who would ask them: “What is your faith all about?” “Why do you believe what you believe?” “Give me a reason for the hope you have!”
God uses people, and you may find that He will orchestrate a meeting between you and a person who “just happens” to sit next to you somewhere in the course of your everyday life. You do not have to be a theologian to tell someone why you love Jesus and what He has done in your life. But it would be wise for you to ponder in advance what you would say if someone asked you about it. Peter’s admonition to the early Christians was to be “be constantly and perpetually ready, be set to go, and be prompt to answer every man that asks a reason of the hope that is in you.” And today God is calling out to you and me, urging us to be available and always ready to give an answer to those who crave to know more about Jesus and what He has done in our lives. We are spiritually obligated to answer those who want to know! So let me ask you:
- Can you think of one person you know who needs to know Jesus Christ? Who is that person?
- Be honest — what steps have you taken to help that one person personally know Jesus Christ? Can you truthfully tell God that you’ve done your part to share the truth about Jesus and His power to save him or her?
- Since First Peter 3:15 commands us to be ready to answer every man who asks a question about the hope that’s in us, what are you doing to prepare yourself so that you can answer questions about your faith: why you believe what you believe, what your faith does for you, or what the Bible teaches about Jesus Christ? What are you doing to get yourself ready so you can answer a similar question that a non-Christian might ask you?
Denise and I are praying for you that by God’s transforming grace and power, this new year will be different for you in every way that you need to see change come to your heart and life. Please don’t hesitate to contact us if you have a specific prayer request that you’d like us to agree with you about in faith. We are ready, eager, and prepared to connect our faith with yours and to petition our Heavenly Father, who desires to prosper you and give you all of His very best.
We love you and thank God for you!
We are your brother and sister, your friends, and your partners in Jesus Christ,
Rick and Denise Renner
along with Paul, Philip, and Joel and their families