A mate from church was at a family wedding over the weekend with his wife. It was a fair few hours away so they didn’t risk driving back late Saturday night. He wasn’t at church, so we had a chat on the phone later.
After telling me how strange it felt to be at a wedding in which he and his wife were the only Christians, he said that the bright spot was when his wife had a great chat with his auntie sitting around a table. His wife had simply shared what had happened in her life since becoming a Christian two years ago. And then my mate said this:
“She was a bit unsure if she was well enough prepared for a gospel conversation with somebody, but it worked out well.”
My gold-coated, on-the-spot, all-net, killer of a reply?
Being prepared TO is more important than being prepared FOR.
(Still gives me goosebumps when I replay it!). But do you get the distinction? I think that when we read 1 Peter 3:15 “always being prepared to make a defence for the hope that is in you” we think “prepared for”, rather than “prepared to”. And that is a mistake.
And that mistake means that we get busy. Busy thinking and reading up. Busy getting ready to counter our friends and family with every possible apologetic. Busy postulating about how to work Tim Keller’s idea of “the sin behind the sin” into our arguments about modern day idolatry. Busy memorising the intricacies of John Lennox’s material for dealing with the new atheism. Busy preparing for an opportunity.
Then how come so often we keep our powder dry? How come so often we walk away from a person not having said all that much, if anything at all? Why? Because “being prepared for” is no substitute for “being prepared to”.
My friend’s wife was prepared to open her mouth and speak. She hadn’t prepared for it, other than live with Jesus as her hope for the past two years. The difference he has made in her life is so palpable that she is her own apologetic. All she had to do around that wedding table was talk about it.
Now, doubtless, there are other occasions in our lives when we need to know the intricacies of arguments against the gospel, but may I suggest these “being prepared for” moments are less frequent than the “being prepared to” ones. Perhaps the reason for this is that “prepared for” provides us with the comfort of possibly winning an intellectual argument, whilst “prepared to” runs the risk of us being viewed with possible scorn, or worse still, slight pity.
Which one best describes you? Prepared for, or prepared to? It’s worth thinking about when you are next given the opportunity to share with someone the story of how Jesus has worked in your life.