You are standing in a supermarket line. You have a tract ready for the lady at the checkout. You’ve given out tracts at checkouts before. You have it down. You simply say, “I have something for you that you may like to read when you have a minute.” Then you check out. You get away fast. You have learned to conquer your fears.
But as you wait this time, you hear “Price check!” and your heart sinks. You know that you will now be waiting in line for a few extra minutes. You shake off any thoughts of impatience because you know that you shouldn’t have them.
As you stand in line, you hear a muffled male voice behind you. He isn’t so patient. Your heart skips a beat because there are now three or four others standing in the line behind him. Oh dear. You feel a tinge of fear grip you as you prepare to turn around and offer a Million Dollar Bill tract to the man. That’s when the “what ifs” kick in.
This isn’t an ideal tract situation. You are not walking away from the checkout. You are stuck in line. What if you give him a tract and he reads it out loud? It’s happened before as you walked away from a checkout, and it made you smile as you heard “The million dollar question: Will you go to Heaven?” You smiled because you were leaving. But what if this man reads it while you are stuck in line? What if other people hear him? Imagine the whole line of people looking at the back of your head as you stood there, thinking, “Religious fanatic!”
Or what if he asks what it is that you gave him? Then what are you going to say? Even if you are able to find the courage to mumble that it’s a Gospel tract, what if you have to speak loudly and the people behind him hear you?
What ifs are lies from the father of lies. They rarely materialize, but they are the fertile soil in which paralyzing fear thrives.
The call to live as a sacrifice
Kirk Cameron and I were once conducting a conference in a church in Louisiana. As we walked into the lobby, we saw a painting of the Colosseum in Rome. In the painting a huge crowd had packed into the massive stadium. Huddled in the middle of the arena were about 60 people.
A closer examination revealed that they were made up of a few elderly men, and the rest were women and children. Around them stood wooden crosses upon which a dozen or so men were cruelly impaled. At the base of each cross, fires had been set to slowly burn those who were already enduring the agony of crucifixion.
Their pain-filled deaths were no doubt slow enough to make sure that these witnesses of Jesus of Nazareth were witnesses of a terrible horror. At the edge of the arena stood a massive lion, and directly behind the hungry beast, a ferocious tiger was entering the scene. The dying men were about to observe the grizzly sight of their precious loved ones being torn limb from limb, no doubt to the roar of a bloodthirsty and delighted mass of spectators.
These men, women, and children were martyrs who chose death above deliverance because they refused to renounce their faith in Jesus. They were unashamed to bare His reproach. These precious brothers and sisters in Christ make me feel ashamed of my shame. Their torn limbs, spilled blood, and burned bodies stand as a stark testimony to my cowardice.
The word “martyr” and the word “witness” come from the same Greek word. I am called to be a martyr for Christ as I stand there in that supermarket line. But I am not called to die for Him. Not yet. I am simply called to live for Him. I am to be a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is my reasonable service (Romans 12:1).
If fear begins to torment me in the supermarket line, I have to deal with it. And I deal with it by thinking of the courageous martyrs in that arena. I deal with it in the shadow of their agony. I deal with it by considering my wretched fear of looking foolish in my comfortable life and considering their incredible courage in their terrible death. I deal with it by thinking of the liberty that I have to walk out of that supermarket and go home to my loved ones. I deal with it by thinking of how pathetic I must look to God as He considers their honorable humility and my horrible pride.
And I deal with it by looking to Jesus, the author and the finisher of my faith, who for the joy that was before Him endured the agony of the cross, for me.
Ray Comfort is the Founder and CEO of Living Waters and the bestselling author of more than 80 books, including God Has a Wonderful Plan for Your Life, How to Know God Exists, and The Evidence Bible. He cohosts the award-winning television program "Way of the Master," seen in almost 200 countries, and is the Executive Producer of "180," "Evolution vs. God," "Audacity," and other films. He is married to Sue and has three grown children, and hasn't left the house without gospel tracts for decades. You can learn more about his ministry at LivingWaters.com.