Physicist Stephen Hawking is one of the more widely respected voices in the scientific community. While his work is not without its detractors, few argue the fact that he is both intelligent and insightful on a number of issues. In a recent interview with Larry King, Hawking attempted to apply that intelligence and insight to what he sees as the chief problems facing humanity. He rather bluntly stated that those problems are greed and stupidity, which manifest in a continually growing population and our inability to halt climate change.
While many are likely to hear Hawking’s assertions and tell him to stick to space, others will listen and take those beliefs seriously. Because that latter group so respects his genius in theoretical physics, they are more willing to give credence to his thoughts on other subjects as well. That willingness to extend credibility beyond the field in which it was earned can teach us an important lesson about what is required to effectively share our faith with the unbelieving world around us.
The first principle we must remember is that credibility often comes from excellence. If we want to be taken seriously, then we must do our best in whatever field God has called us to pursue. Before people will be willing to follow us, they must first trust us, and that trust is often generated by success. As one of the most successful physicists we have seen in some time, Stephen Hawking is respected and trusted by most in his field. Likewise, our ability to excel—or at least succeed to the best of our God-given abilities—is vital to gaining a similar credibility in the areas to which we are called.
Next, we must remember that earned credibility is also necessary if we want to be taken seriously on topics outside our field of expertise. People listen when Hawking addresses problems like greed and climate change because he has built up the necessary credibility within the field of physics. In the same way, people will be more inclined to listen when we speak on issues outside our primary calling if they first respect what we have accomplished within that field.
That truth is of greatest importance when it comes to sharing the gospel. Those who do not respect our faith may be more likely to listen if they see our abilities in a field they do respect. Success in business, medicine, or any other profession can earn us the right to share the gospel in situations where that might not otherwise be possible.
That principle is part of why Paul told the Colossians “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men” (Colossians 4:23). The apostle understood that sharing our faith with those who have little regard for our Lord is not a right, but rather something that must be earned. Paul argues that one of the primary ways in which we earn that opportunity is by constantly doing our best to honor God with the way we approach the life to which he has called us, regardless of whether or not it is easy to do so.
If we want our faith to be taken seriously, then non-believers first have to take us seriously, and that will often happen when they respect our abilities and successes in whatever context God has placed us. So never doubt that your occupation, whatever it may be, plays an integral role in your purpose for God’s kingdom, and work in such a way that you earn the right to share your faith with those around you. Your work will impact your witness today. It’s up to you to decide how.