A number of years ago, a friend I was discipling posed a question to me after a church service. I love this guy. Most of his questions were about how to get out of doing the various spiritual practices that intentionally result in a believer’s growth. This was a similar question. “If the Holy Spirit is the One who speaks through me when I witness to someone,” he began, “then I don’t really have to study scripture or know too much, because He’ll bring the words to me, right?” It was a good thought. After all, scripture does say that we are not to worry about what to say when we are in front of others, for He will give us the words with which to speak.
I thought about it for a second. After a quick prayer, I answered, “Jesus says that we are fishers of men, right?” He’d memorized that one. “Yeah, sure,” he said. “Based on your question, you are right,” I encouraged,
“The Holy Spirit is the real fisherman… but the lures come from you.”
“When you are in moments of evangelism,” I continued, “the Holy Spirit delves into your spiritual tackle box and chooses one of the lures you have accumulated through all your study, meditation, life experiences, etc., and uses that lure to fish for men.”
We both got the revelation.
Whenever we are in front of someone else, unbeliever or even a believer, we are to be constantly listening to the nudge of the Holy Spirit to infuse our dialog. In part, the Holy Spirit makes Himself known and accomplishes His agenda through our dialog with others. But He often only uses in the present what we already have garnered and cultivated in the past. If all you have in your spiritual tackle box is John 3:16, how many people is the Holy Spirit, through your mouth, going to draw in? A limited number, right? But suppose we have accumulated a myriad of lures through countless hours of biblical study, meditation, humility-infused life lessons and failures, secular and religious books, wise relationships, even movies and television (think about the metaphorical power of The Matrix). Then, at any moment, in any circumstance, the Holy Spirit can delve into that tackle box, coat your words with spiritual authority and present them to the listener in language that is relevant, topical and winsome.
And often in those moments, those spiritually infused words produce greater insights about God and His ways than you yourself had prior to opening your mouth. I had never thought about the tackle box analogy until that moment standing in front of my friend. But I had been reading Proverbs every day for that year, and Proverbs is loaded with analogies. That metaphor became a clear picture for me from that day forward. And it placed a new significance and responsibility on everything I watched, studied, listened to and engaged in from that moment on.
It pays to be well rounded. It pays to be a good listener. And the dividends are revealed in the lives of those that are transformed because the Holy Spirit now has ample use of your prior spiritual disciplines.