Soon after I became a believer in 1987, I called a good friend of mine, Greg, who was a powerful witness in my journey to faith. I told him I’d become a Christian, and he said, “Great. You’ve got to tell your family.”
In near disbelief at what my ears were hearing, I responded– “What?” He then said, “You must tell your family.”
I confess I was a “closet Christian” for eighteen months. It took that long for me to “come out.” Over those eighteen agonizing months, I went from one family member to another, sharing my new found faith in Jesus. Being Jewish and the first believer in my family, I had no idea what the response would be. One’s imagination can paralyze a person.
But you know what? Despite the various responses of acceptance, peaceful resignation, confusion, misunderstandings, and threats to not tell other family members, it turned out okay.
I have learned in my Christian life, as in many other things, that thinking about doing certain things can create much more angst than the reality of doing it—like going to the doctor, or dentist. Similarly, I believe the thought of doing personal evangelism produces much more anxiety than actually doing it.
If you think I’m immune to fear, think again.
I’ve experienced fear in sharing my faith with my family, sharing the gospel on the street and over the phone, and even during personal visits in cafés, apartments, and homes. I’ve even experienced fear in asking an unbeliever to hang out and get a cup of coffee with the purpose of simply getting to know them.
The issue isn’t whether we will experience the emotion of fear. Rather, will we allow fear to paralyze us and keep us from doing what God wants, or will fear simply be an obstacle to overcome?
We typically don’t cast the Apostle Paul into the “scaredy cat” category, but in his ministry and witness, even he admitted to being fearful at times. Yet amidst his fear, we learn from his example of faith overcoming fear.
As the Apostle addressed the church in Corinth, he admitted his trepidation:
“And I, brethren, when I came to you, did not come with excellence of speech or of wisdom declaring to you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. I was with you in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling. And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.” 1 Corinthians 2:1-5
First of all, Paul’s admitted fear when he was speaking with fellow Christians—as he addresses them as “brethren” in verse 1! He wasn’t even witnessing to unbelievers! He will later acknowledge “inner fears” as he experienced conflict and troubles in his Macedonian outreach (2 Corinthians 7:5).
It seems to me one of the greatest fears Christians have in witnessing is the fear of not knowing what to say. Notice in this 1 Corinthians passage the two bookends of speaking that sandwich Paul’s admission of fear and trembling.
His affirms he did not minister to them with “excellence of speech or of wisdom” (verse 1), nor “with persuasive words of human wisdom” (verse 2).
How then was Paul able to declare the testimony of God?
Jesus provided the disciples instruction regarding speech that declares the testimony of God amidst circumstances that naturally would evoke fear:
“You will be brought before governors and kings for My sake, as a testimony to them and to the Gentiles. But when they deliver you up, do not worry about how or what you should speak. For it will be given to you in that hour what you should speak; for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father who speaks in you.” Matthew 10:18-20
Jesus’ instruction to the disciples parallels Paul’s declaration to the church in Corinth, testifying as a witness of the Lord is a demonstration of God’s power and His Spirit. In 1 Corinthians 1:4 Paul notes that his testimony was in “demonstration of the [Holy] Spirit and of power”, while Jesus says in Matthew 10:20, that the disciples’ speech amidst the challenge would be the “Spirit of your Father,” a reference to the Holy Spirit.
We may worry about and be fearful of witnessing in word to others. But the Lord was clear in teaching the disciples: don’t worry about what you will say because “it will be given to you in that hour [of need] what you should speak” (Matthew 10:19). If the Lord promised to meet them at their hour of need, shall He not also meet you and me in our own hour of need?
The Lord would meet the disciples in that hour. He provided for Paul even amidst his fear! And our “on-time” God will meet you and I at just the right time—in our hour of need.
And how will this happen?
Faith! Paul’s testimony to the Corinthian church—not with persuasive speech of human wisdom, but in God’s power—was to encourage believers so that their faith should be in the “power of God” (1 Corinthians 2:5).
As we have opportunities to open our mouths and witness for the Lord, may we acknowledge our complete dependence upon Him, that in the hour of our need, He will speak in and through us, in demonstration of His power and His Spirit.
Father, please grant us the faith to speak, not in absence of fear, but in spite of any fears. Give us overcoming faith. As You open up doors of opportunity for us to witness in words, declaring You to others, please open our mouths to declare Your truth, in Your time, for Your glory, in demonstration of Your power and Spirit. Amen.