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Courage and Witness

The one leads to the other leads to the other.

Brave Heart (6)

…praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints— and for me, that utterance may be given to me, that I may open my mouth boldly to make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains; that in it I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak. Ephesians 6.18-20 

Witnesses all
A well-kept heart is the key to a strong soul, and we need a strong soul to fulfill our calling as witnesses for Christ – just as did the apostle Paul.

Let’s note three things about this passage in which Paul requested prayer for courage to be a witness.

First, Paul understood that he was called to bear witness for Christ. Jesus had said that all those in whom the Holy Spirit came to dwell, all who believed in Him, would receive power to be His witnesses (Acts 1.8). Paul understood that to mean him. And if Paul was called to that mission, so are we, because he commands all who read his letters to imitate him as he imitates Jesus (1 Cor. 11.1).

So, like Paul, we’re called to bear witness to Jesus Christ. This means being always ready to give a reason for the hope that others observe in us, as we live in gratitude to God and love for our neighbors.

Second, notice that Paul understood that even this, even his bearing witness, was a work of God through him. God would have to give him the words he needed in any situation, words appropriate to the people and their situation, so that the reason he gave for his hope would make sense to them.

Paul didn’t memorize simplistic Gospel outlines or pat answers to straw-man objections. He understood that every witnessing situation is unique and requires different words for different people. And he knew that, as Jesus had promised (Lk. 12.8-12), God would supply the words he needed in each situation.

Certainly he had to prepare himself, through study and prayer, and daily walking with the Lord. But he understood that, like the courage to bear witness, the actual work of bearing witness is a work of God.

Finally, note that the prospect of bearing witness for Christ seems to have been a bit scary to Paul. After all, he was sitting in prison writing this letter because he had been faithful in his witness for Christ. It cost Paul dearly, on several occasions, to stand his ground and proclaim the Gospel when people were pressing near, shouting him down, and threatening harm.

Bearing witness for Christ can entail a certain amount of risk. Paul knew that he would need courage to continue bearing witness for Christ, and the courage to bear witness comes from God, because of our prayers.

Defeated witnesses
Many Christians are defeated when presented with opportunities for bearing witness, and that for one of three reasons.

First, they don’t recognize the situations as they arise. They don’t hear the longing in the heart of a co-worker for some relief from guilt or fear, or some measure of peace. They don’t think about Jesus and the promises of God when others are prattling on about their plans and dreams. They’re just not paying attention to the open doors of opportunity God presents to them. If they spent more time focusing on the promises of God and getting to know Him, they would be able to feel His nudges when doors of opportunity begin to crack open, and they would be ready with a timely word and an answer explaining the hope that is within them.

Second, some Christians don’t bear witness, even when they see the opportunity, because they’re afraid they won’t “get it right.” This is nothing less than presuming to do the Spirit’s work for Him. His job is to supply the words; ours is to open our mouths and start talking.

If you’re growing in your relationship with the Lord and always moving toward His promises, you won’t lack for things to say whenever a witnessing opportunity arises. But you must take the step of obedient faith and begin speaking about your hope. The Holy Spirit will meet you there, and give you the words to go forward. 

Finally, some Christians don’t witness because they’re afraid of what others will think or say. Or perhaps, what they might do. But that is simply to fear men rather than God, to love your comfort rather than to walk the risky path of obedience. It is to look the plain words of Scripture in the face and, rather than obey with a brave heart, to shrink back, talk yourself out of it, and give in to the fear of men.

If we’re going to overcome these and other obstacles to fulfilling our calling, we’re going to need courage. And courage comes through prayer, faith, and obedience.

Do the thing you fear!
The key to knowing courage in the face of witnessing opportunities is simple. As Jim Kennedy used to say, when given an opportunity to share the Gospel, “Do the thing you fear.” Striding into the fearful or risky moment will cause courage to rise in your heart, strengthening your soul to fulfill your calling.

Afraid to bear witness? Start a conversation with a view to bearing witness, and watch how the Lord shows up to provide the words, fill your heart with love and courage, and enable you to do something beyond what you’ve ever believed or done before. God promises we can bless and influence others, and He’s given us the Gospel to that end. He commands us to be witnesses and make disciples. All that’s remaining for Christian courage to flow in a witnessing situation is to seek the Lord in prayer and do the thing you fear.

Start the conversation, and you’ll be surprised at the courage, clarity, conviction, and persuasiveness you are able to show, as the Spirit of God, cued by your faith, gives you the power and courage to be a witness for Jesus Christ.

For reflection
1.  A co-worker asks you to explain your faith in Jesus Christ. What do you say?

2.  List the three reasons why Christians are not bolder in their witness. Can you think of others? Do any of these seem to characterize your own life? How can believers help one another to be bolder in their witness for the Lord?

3.  Meditate on Acts 1.8. Why did Jesus promise that we would “be” witnesses, rather than “go witnessing”? How does this relate to the matter of promises and commands, and the hope others see within us?

Next steps – Conveersation: This week, initiate a conversation with someone in your sphere of influence – your Personal Mission Field – for the express purpose of sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Will you do this? What can you do to prepare for this opportunity? How will you trust in the Lord to begin, and to keep going?

T. M. Moore

Focusing on Jesus
All the installments in this “Strong Souls” series are available in PDF by clicking here.

If you missed our ReVision series on encouragement, you can download all the installments of that study for free by clicking here.

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Thanks for your prayers and support
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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in the Champlain Valley of Vermont.
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