“You make me brave.” - Amanda Cook
Early on in the wildfire spread of the Way, the early apostles were infamous for making forbidden, dangerous statements publicly about Jesus. As a result they were constantly being intimidated and threatened by the authorities to keep a lid on it about Jesus. Christian faithfulness at that time looked like spending time in and out of incarceration. Neither circumstance nor man’s applause dictate our success in the eyes of heaven – it is only ever faithfulness to God, working through love.
Following the noisy, controversial explosion of the church at Pentecost, In Acts 4 we find Peter holding forth under the public spotlight again: “Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated and untrained men, they marvelled. And they realized that they had been with Jesus.’ (vs 12,13)
The scripture reads that when they saw “the boldness” of simple men they were astonished. They realized these guys had spent time with God. In other words, evidence of our communion with God results in boldness. Fear is gone, love and faith overtake, and public announcement concerning salvation follows.
But is the fruit of intimacy that simple?
The apostle Paul writes this: “For if I preach the gospel, I have nothing to boast of, for necessity is laid upon me… the love of Christ compels me.” (1 Cor 9:16, 2 Cor 5:14) Intimacy with Jesus laid necessity on Paul, divine love compelled him to preach Christ crucified.
I can relate to the experience of Peter, Paul and Amanda Cook. I’m an ordinary, simple, relatively untrained lover of Jesus compelled by His love, zeal and jealousy to the streets - the perishing sea of humanity. I fear stuff. I fear rejection at times. I fear failure. One of my biggest fears is misrepresenting Him but I fear not representing Him the most. Someone said that courage isn't the absence of fear but the mastering of fear for a higher purpose. My intimacy with Jesus swallows me up in His higher purpose, His Holy Spirit makes me bold – necessity is laid upon me.
Whichever Spirit or spirits you hang out with, will overtake your ambition and govern your tongue (Luke 6:45). For those concerned about misrepresenting God, there is something so powerful that Jesus encourages us with in Luke 10:16 - "He who hears you hears Me, he who rejects you rejects Me, and he who rejects Me rejects Him who sent Me.”
Step back from that word for a second. Marvel at and be deeply encouraged by the ardent loyalty of our Saviour. Tim Keller comments: “If I have the smile of God, all other frowns are inconsequential.”
We stand up for Jesus with our little packed lunch of fish and bread and Jesus comes in over the top of us with the tidal wave of His Holy Spirit (John 16:8). Church, don't be afraid to stand up and preach the gospel in all your theological inadequacy, wounded heart and when your love isn't yet perfected. Whilst I want to encourage us all to grow in our knowledge of the scripture and get healed up in our hearts as much as we can, we are His ambassadors just as we are, we have the endorsement of heaven through our childlike obedience, not the quality of our execution.
Mark how Ravenhill comments on the great Baxter of Kidderminster:
"Baxter was opposed to the idea that in order to minister in the things of God a man must have the ordination of the bishops and pass through the schools of learning. He declared that he feared no man's displeasure nor hoped for any man's preferment. The latter phrase he proved by refusing a bishop's miter.
Let us now glimpse Baxter as a preacher, revivalist, and soul-winner. No gladiator ever watched the eye of a Caesar or yearned for the plaudits of men for his skill as much as this tireless Puritan looked into the face of his God in prayer and listened for the sweet voice of the Spirit. No miser ever loved his gold as Baxter loved souls. No man, trapped by human love, ever wooed a maid as this man pled with impenitent sinners. His couplet was true:
"I preached as never sure to preach again,
And as a dying man to dying men."
What would it look like if every day we ministered to the lost as though we would never get another chance before the judgement seat of Christ?
I like how Teddy Roosevelt puts it:
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
Today, millions of eternities are at stake saints. Dare greatly. Those who succeed most, fail most. In any case, love never fails. Be filled with the Holy Spirit and speak the truth even though your voice shakes. Heaven is roaring you on like a thousand Wembleys.