When I first turned my life over to the Lord, some of my friends and associates cautioned me-“for my own good”-not to try to convert the world. They suggested I had a good thing going and that I would upset others and offend a lot of people if I mentioned Jesus Christ in my talks. Interesting, isn’t it? One man can tell a dirty joke and use profanity, often without censure, and another is urged not to talk about Jesus Christ.
I shall never forget one program chairman who had asked me to speak along with three other speakers. Just before I was scheduled to be introduced, he told me that the audience had come to hear me speak on sales training and didn’t want to hear my views on religion. He pointed out that the audience was mixed and had some Jews, some atheists, Hindus, etc. present, and he didn’t want to “offend” anyone. I responded that I knew what he was saying, but asked if it would be all right if I told a few dirty jokes. Somewhat shocked, he told me he thought a man should use good judgment in what he did. Then I pointed out that my Christian brothers and I were offended by profanity and off-color stories and asked if he had cautioned the other three speakers not to offend us. He told me he had urged them to use “good judgment,” so I promised him I, too, would use good judgment-and I did.
It was exciting and funny. When I got my “commercial” in for the Lord, I was interrupted with a round of applause. At that point it was all I could do to refrain from turning to the chairman and saying, “You see, Friend, the world is hungry for the Good News and-given a choice-they prefer to hear a speaker mention a perfect Savior than to tell a dirty joke laced with profanity!”
I Can Be Hired-Not Bought
My feelings on what I say in a speech are quite clear. When anyone buys my services as a speaker, they buy me at my very best for that occasion. My best effort comes when I turn the talk over to the Lord. It would be unthinkable for me not to make reference in some way to Jesus Christ because I would not be at my best. In addition, my Christian brothers are encouraged and there is always the chance that my witness will be used by God to bring one or more people into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
The total time I spend witnessing seldom exceeds one or two minutes, but since I speak at about 280 words per minute-with gusts up to about 550-I can cover a lot of territory in a matter of seconds.
Christ very clearly said that if we do not acknowledge Him here, He will not acknowledge us there (Matthew 10:32-33). As I see it, I’ve got a great deal at stake. As I witness I inject humor into the message because I believe people respond positively to a “happy” Christian. Dr. Gene Allen, a dedicated Christian dentist in Dallas, showed me a card that asked a provocative question: If it were against the law to be a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you? Since that day I have daily sought to build the evidence against me so if I am ever brought to trial for being a Christian (if you think that possibility is far-fetched, you’d better get your Bible and do some more studying), it would be impossible to select the necessary 12 men or women for the jury who were not already completely convinced I was “guilty as charged.”
I’ll never forget, after one seminar, when one man came to me and said he had gotten the “feeling” I was a Christian. If all he got was a feeling, I responded, then I definitely had to “clean up my act,” because I never wanted to leave anybody in doubt as to where I stand on the matter.
Lord, What Are We Going to Do?
I was on a program with a particularly gifted speaker who had a great deal to say and who said it extremely well. The audience was “with him all the way.” About two-thirds of the way into his talk he skillfully introduced his views on transcendental meditation, and then he asked the audience if anybody was familiar with it. A number of hands went up.
“What do you think about it?” he asked.
One lady shouted from the audience that it had changed her life and received a round of applause. I sat there in disbelief and wondered what to do to combat this effective presentation of an Eastern religion.
“Lord, what are we going to do?” I prayed. “I cannot let this go unanswered when I speak. And yet if I’m not careful, I will offend some people. This man is a charmer and the crowd is with him.”
The speaker was making some promises of better health, longer life, and relieving tension, with peace of mind as the prime objective. So I prayed for words to use. Almost immediately-as a matter of fact, before the speaker finished-the Lord had instructed me what to say. My talk that day was on sales training. One segment dealt with teaching sales people how to ask questions. A salesman’s questions should uncover the prospect’s need for the goods or services being offered, leading to a decision. I gave several examples of how to ask questions. Then I said to the audience, “Many of you undoubtedly wonder where you can get further instructions on how to ask questions, and I’m delighted to tell you there is now a manual available that gives you a very solid foundation for learning how to ask questions. It is called the Holy Bible.
“I would like to stress this has nothing to do with your religious beliefs, whether you have them or do not have them. The best manual ever written on how to ask questions is the Bible. Any fair-minded individual will agree that its author Jesus Christ was the greatest salesman who ever lived. He was also the greatest sales trainer who ever lived. He took twelve men-and one of them was a loser-and spread the Gospel in short order throughout the civilized world.
“If you will secure a red-letter edition of the Bible, meaning the words of Christ are in red, you will discover whenever Christ was asked a question He always answered it with a question or a parable. So, if you want to know how to ask questions, read your Bible.” Then I paused and smiled at the audience as I said, “And as long as you’re reading the question, you might as well go ahead and read the answer because one of these days He is going to ask you a question. And if you get it right, you get to stay!” As the audience laughed, I looked straight at the other speaker and said, “Not only will it give you peace of mind now, but to tell you the truth, it will keep the heat off you later!” The audience roared, and I silently thanked the Lord.
>From Confessions of a Happy Christian by Zig Ziglar, copyright © 1978. Used
by permission of the licenser, Pelican Publishing Company, Inc. Zig Ziglar is one of America’s leading motivational speakers. This week Zig is Luis Palau’s guest on his radio program “Reaching Your World.” Listen at http://www.reachingyourworld.org.
Published originally in First Priority, Issue 8, Autumn 2001.