Feeling Spiritually Timid?
Reading: Acts 4:23-31
You’re not alone.
My freshman year of college I went on a Spring break mission trip with my church. We were there to evangelize to the students at the University of Central Florida. I only have one clear memory of
attempting evangelism, and it was not a shining moment.
I remember I walked into the on-campus cafeteria’s sitting area with my tray of food (that I was too nervous to be eating, really) and looked around for someone sitting alone. The group of people I was with had pretty much flooded that cafeteria, though, so there really wasn’t anyone. I set my sights on two people sitting at neighboring tables and talking to each other, a girl and a guy. “Here we go,” I thought, and took a deep breath and walked over.
I started asking them the usual questions: “Are you a student here?” “What do you like to do ?” “What organizations are you in?” By asking that last question, I discovered that they knew each other through leading Young Life.
“Awesome!” I thought to myself. “They’re good. They already know Jesus.”
So, I finished my food pretty quickly without conversing with them too much more, and then got up and left.
I find that whole situation pretty laughable now.
Maybe I was right. Maybe they were “good”–maybe they did already know Jesus. I hope they did. At the same time, I definitely missed out on the opportunity to have a spiritual conversation with them. I missed the opportunity to encourage them (From what I’ve heard, Young Life can be kind of a marathon sprint, if you know what I’m saying) and maybe pray for them. I missed all kinds of opportunities.
All because I was too timid to ask one more question.
The founders of the early church weren’t perfect in this area, either, although from their stories it can seem like they were. These people were standing in courts boldly speaking about Jesus even though it meant certain death. They were preaching in the streets, performing miracles, and speaking in tongues. They were spiritual superstars, it seems.
But, if this boldness came naturally, why did they feel the need to pray and ask for it?
That question stopped me this morning. I guess I’ve believed lately that some people just have a better knack for this kind of thing, but what if that very belief is what has stopped me from asking God for a greater measure?
The reading for today is one that consistently amazes me every time I read it.
The believers had just been told by the chief priests and elders (people of very high authority), in no uncertain terms, that they were to stop teaching about Jesus.
What is their response? They gather together and pray for God to take note of their threats, for boldness, for healing, and for signs and wonders performed through the name of Jesus.
Notice the way God answers.
He literally shakes the place where they are gathered and pours out the Holy Spirit. Through that outpour of His Spirit, the believers begin to speak the word of God with boldness. He responded to their prayers and gave them what they asked. How often do we ask God for things in faith that He will actually give them to us?
That word, “boldness,” comes from the Greek word παρρησία (parrésia). Look at its meaning:
I. Freedom in speaking, unreservedness in speech
II. Free and fearless confidence, cheerful courage, boldness, assurance
III. The deportment by which one becomes conspicuous or secures publicity
“Free.” That word is in two of the three meanings of the word. 2 Corinthians 3:17 says, “Where the spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” If the Holy Spirit is present, we experience freedom. It is as simple as that. 2+2=4.
That third meaning, I think, is what makes speaking this way intimidating. We need to be prepared to become conspicuous because of the message we are speaking, but it’s all too easy to be rendered ineffective by fear.
So how do we become more bold?
First, seek God and His presence.
Look for His goodness in your own life; ask your community for testimonies of how God is working in their lives. In Acts 4:20 Peter and John tell the chief priests and elders, “We cannot keep from speaking about what we have seen and heard.” Seeing God move gives us confidence in the message we proclaim.
How can we speak of a God we have no history with? If you don’t feel you’ve witnessed His power in ways that motivate you to speak about Him, tell Him! Ask Him to move in your life in powerful ways.
Second, pray for boldness!
That is what the believers do in verse 29, and God responds in a powerful way. He is always faithful to answer us. The God who shook the place where the apostles were gathered together and filled them with His Spirit is the same God of the 21st century. He can do the exact same thing when you pray, and more.
Third, ask for faith.
There’s no reason for us to speak boldly if we don’t believe anything is going to happen because of it. The kind of faith I’m talking about here is the faith that God will move mountains because we had the boldness to obey Him and open our mouths.
God values faithful prayers. I expand on this a lot more in my post on why we should be more excited about prayer.
In Luke 17:5 Jesus’ disciples ask Him to increase their faith. We can do the same, with incredible results. According to 1 Corinthians 12:9, faith is a spiritual gift. We receive spiritual gifts through the Holy Spirit, and God responds when we ask for a greater measure of them. So let’s do that with the gift of faith! Having greater faith will open your eyes to everything God could accomplish through even one burst of confidence in speaking about Jesus on your part, and it will make you excited to try it out! It has for me.
God sees the threats (Acts 4:29). He knows what you are up against.
He also knows that He is bigger.
He has His hand stretched out to heal; He is ready to perform signs and wonders through His name. He is ready, and He wants to partner with you. In His eyes, you are worthy of inheriting the “family business,” and He will give you everything you need to be effective.
So, the question is not “Can I?”
God gives the ability and the boldness.
The question becomes “Will I?”
I would invite you to pray and ask God what that means for your own life. Whatever–and whoever–He has called you to, He is by your side, and that is no light thing. You can rest knowing that the most powerful Being in existence is on your side, and nothing can touch you without going through Him first.
God is using the Gospel to save the world, and you and I are carriers of it.
What will we do with it?
Until next time,