Are You Prepared?

If someone attacked your faith in front of millions of people, how would you respond? Recently I watched someone respond to an attack on his faith in God in the most gracious way I've ever witnessed--and it's a lesson for us to always be prepared to give a defense of the hope that is within us. The occasion was the Today show. The guest was former President Jimmy Carter, who was promoting his new book Living Faith. President Carter was talking about his faith as a Christian, which is what the book discusses. The Today show host, Bryant Gumbel, said, "You write that you prayed more during your four years in office. I think it's fair to say . . . you are consistently viewed as one of the more ineffective presidents of modern times." And then Gumbel smugly asked: "What do you think, if anything, that says about the power of prayer?" The question was incredibly rude, and Jimmy Carter might have been justified in walking off the set. The scene reminded me of other explosive exchanges between politicians and the press. Remember the one between President Nixon and Dan Rather, when Nixon angrily replied, "your president is not a crook"? Or, remember that shouting match between Dan Rather and President Bush? But President Carter showed no emotion. Instead, he calmly answered: "Well, it depends on what you're praying for. If I was praying for the approval of NBC, then I wouldn't have been successful. But if I was praying to keep our country at peace; if I was praying for, for instance, all the hostages to return home safe and free; if I was praying for a nation whose integrity was never questioned; if I was praying for an administration within which there was never a breath of scandal; if I was praying for the ability to tell the American people the truth; if those were the things that were the center of my prayer, then I would say that the prayers were answered." What a marvelous answer. The former president took a question that was little more than poorly concealed venom spewed at his Christian faith and deftly turned it around. Of course, mocking attacks on our faith are nothing new. Remember the Bible story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who refused to bow down to King Nebuchadnezzar's golden idol, even on the threat of death. "And who," Nebuchadnezzar asked, "is this god that will deliver you out of my hands?" The three young men answered the king, "If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning . . . furnace; and He will deliver us out of your hand. But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not . . . worship the golden image which you have set up." In other words, whether God delivered them or not, they would continue to worship Him. They weren't put off by the king's mocking. Well, President Carter took the same approach. In effect, Bryant Gumbel was saying, If your God is so good, if God answers prayer, then why did you have such a lousy presidency? And Jimmy Carter's response was not to defend himself, as most people would have done, saying We passed this bill or that bill. Instead, he defended God. Now, I myself have been assaulted for my faith many times. Sometimes I'm successful in defending my beliefs; other times I'm less successful. But never have I done it as well as Jimmy Carter did this week. His answer was God-inspired. Scripture tells us to always be ready with an answer for the hope that is within us. President Carter gave us a wonderful example of how to do this. An example that honored God in front of millions of people.  


Chuck Colson


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