I’m running out of time. The closer I get to launch date for Faith Alone, the less ready I am. I’m about to drive my formatter crazy with the last-minute changes I’m making. Why am I just now noticing how often I use certain words and phrases in dialogue between characters? And doesn’t this need to be hyphenated? Oh, and this word needs to be italicized. And how did we miss that comma through all the rounds of editing? Sigh. For a “final” proofread, I sure am finding a lot of changes yet to be made. In some ways, I feel like the editing could go on forever.
This is hardly an unusual phenomenon. I was the same way with Grace Alone a few years ago. I was still suggesting changes and ways to improve the story when it was being sent off to the printer. And looking back, there are things I would have done differently had I published that book today. It’s a good thing I have deadlines. Otherwise, I’d be stuck in a phase of perpetual editing, constantly finding things to tweak. Indeed, there are authors who have been working on the same manuscript for ten years, editing and re-editing and getting critiques and going back to start almost completely from scratch. But here’s a dirty little secret: my manuscripts will never be perfect, and if I wait for a state of perfection, I’ll be waiting forever. At some point, an author has to just say, “This manuscript may not be perfect, but it’s where I am as a writer right now, and I’m happy with it. Enough excuses already. Let’s get this thing published.”
Writers aren’t the only ones who make excuses. Perhaps you make excuses when it comes to sharing your faith, arguing that you aren’t ready yet. I can’t talk to the Jehovah’s Witness at my door because I don’t know the Bible well enough to back up my beliefs, you might think. I want to establish a better friendship with my neighbor before inviting her to church. I don’t want to scare her away or get all preachy on her, you may reason. Or maybe you’ve convinced yourself that praying for a person’s change of heart is enough rather than taking the bold step to witness to them with words. Perhaps you think it’s the pastor’s job to deal with conflicts amongst church members, and so turn a blind eye to fighting rather than urge the parties to reconciliation. All of these reasons sound entirely logical. But in the end they’re just excuses.
The truth is that none of us will reach a point where we feel completely ready and prepared to share the Gospel. Moses wasn’t ready either, yet God used him to lead the Israelites out of Egypt. Jonah sure wasn’t ready, and even tried to run away from God, but God used his message to bring the cruel Assyrians to repentance. Peter was an uneducated fisherman, not a smooth-talking theologian, but God worked through him to spread the Good News of Jesus to countless people, and even to write two books of the Bible.
You may not think you have anything to offer. You may think you aren’t ready. But if you wait until you are ready, you’ll run out of time. Besides, whatever objections you may raise, God begs to differ. He has equipped you with saving faith and has promised to give you the words to say. Mark 13:11 assures us, “Whenever you are arrested and brought to trial, do not worry beforehand about what to say. Just say whatever is given you at the time, for it is not you speaking, but the Holy Spirit.” I hope you never find yourself being arrested and brought to trial for your faith, but the promise stands: the Holy Spirit will speak through you. That’s the best possible preparation of all. One might even say it’s perfect.