Let’s be honest: we all know what it is to experience fear when it comes to telling people about Jesus. That fear can cause us to be timid and shakey in our witness, and worse, that fear can silence our witness for Christ. We want to tell people about the love of Christ, but we don’t. Fear can be a big hindrance when it comes to our mission as the church, but God’s word gives us encouragement and promises help for us to overcome fear. So starting with this passage in Acts chapter 1, we’re going to look at 3 things we need to overcome fear in our mission. Read Acts 1:6-8.
After seeing and talking with the risen Christ, the disciples ask Him about His Kingdom. They were thinking in terms of a physical, regional kingdom-that Jesus would overthrow the Romans and take back Israel. Jesus says no, not yet -but I am going to use you and those after you as My witnesses to bring about the increase of my Kingdom. But it won’t be isolated to one region or people; my Kingdom will fill the earth.
Ultimately our mission as Disciples of Christ is to tell people how to be saved from their sin (which is to be saved from the wrath of God) and then to train them as Disciples of Christ so that they can then repeat the process. As people come to Christ they are added to the church and the church grows. The result is the presence and influence of Jesus expanding on the earth until one day Jesus will return to rescue us and restore all things and His Kingdom. That’s God’s plan. It’s happening right now and it will succeed.
But in verse 8 we see the first thing we need to overcome fear in the mission:
I. We need the power of the Holy Spirit
Notice that Jesus says that when they receive the Holy Spirit they will receive power to be his witnesses. Remember that after Jesus was arrested the disciples were scattered and afraid. Peter denied even knowing Jesus. In Acts chapter 2 we see the disciples are changed men and one of the biggest ways they are changed is that they are fearless. Peter stands up boldly to proclaim the gospel to thousands of people. They can face persecution and even death without fear. What happened? What changed? They received power from the Holy Spirit. We need that same power today to overcome our fears and be the witnesses for Christ that He has called us to be.
Somehow when it comes to evangelism, we can begin to think that we are doing something “for” God – with kind of a “Mission Impossible” mentality: He sends us the mission, we choose to accept it but it’s up to us to make it happen and get it right. If we mess it up it’s on us. This is often where fear begins in evangelism; I fear that I won’t say something right, that if I mess it up I’ll turn them off to Christianity, that if I move too fast I’ll scare them away, that because of my fear I’ll clam up and look like an idiot. When we try to do His mission without Him fear is inevitable.
But God didn’t leave us to do this mission alone. God didn’t just leave His command on a tape recorder that self destructs 10 seconds after we listen to it. Remember what Jesus says to His disciples in Matthew 28-“Go…make disciples…and I will be with you always”. And here in vs. 8 Jesus says-“you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, [then] you will be my witnesses”. This power is the presence of the living God with us and his power dispels fear.
Now, all believers have received the Holy Spirit upon regeneration. But scripture also calls us to “be filled with the spirit” (Eph. 5:18) and to “walk in the Spirit” (Rom. 8:4). The idea of “being filled” and “walking” is that we would be controlled and directed by the Spirit. In other words we allow the spirit to be our influence.
So we need to believe that God hasn’t left us to do this mission alone! We are His servants being used by Him as He carries out His mission. The Holy Spirit empowers us, the Spirit gives us faith and keeps our gaze on Jesus and not ourselves, the Spirit directs and leads us and then gives us discernment and speaks through us, And the Spirit gives us boldness to speak confidently (not belligerently or rudely) about Christ and eternity and the plan of salvation. And then the Holy Spirit gives us the boldness to call people to respond in faith to this great salvation. It’s His Spirit in us that enables us to overcome fear and be bold witnesses for Christ.
And we need to be aware that as we are proclaiming the gospel in the power of the Holy Spirit, it’s also the Holy Spirit that’s at work in those we are evangelizing. The weight of our success is on God. We’re called to be faithful servants- we plant and sow but God brings forth the fruit. Living in the power of the Holy Spirit is the first essential element to overcoming fear in evangelism. Having an eternal perspective is the second.
II. We need an eternal perspective
Read 2 Cor. 5:10-11. The reality of the spiritual nature of our lives as Christian means that we must have an eternal perspective. That means living today with the last day in mind. Paul had an eternal perspective and it defined his life. Paul was dealing with something that would cause most of us to fear-not being liked and accepted. His gifting as an Apostle and as a minister of the gospel was being called into question because of flashy, charismatic, false teachers.
Rejection is one of the things that we fear most. We don’t want to be thought of as inept or naïve, we want to be thought well of; we don’t want to lose respect, we want to gain it; we don’t want to look like an idiot, we want people to think well of us. And when it comes to sharing our faith these fears motivate us (and paralyze us). We fear that someone will think less of us. But Paul didn’t. He made an important distinction between himself and these men-and we need to hear it. Paul feared God, not man.
Fear of the Lord
Vs. 11-“Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord we persuade others”. The fear of the Lord is not a frightful fear but a reverential fear. Think of fear in terms of approval; the approval you seek determines who you fear. What we fear motivates the way we live. Am I seeking the approval of man or of God? That’s going to determine how we live. Is our witness motivated by our knowledge that one day our lives and ministry will come under the scrutiny of God? Or is it motivated by our concern that we might be being scrutinized now by our peers? Being aware of our responsibility and accountability before God releases us from the fear of men (who we are not accountable to) so that we are free to boldly proclaim the name of Jesus Christ.
A different view of others
An eternal perspective also helps us to view others differently. Paul says it this way in verse 16: “From now on we regard no one according to the flesh”. We were all made to live forever. And we (Christians) are not the only ones who will stand before God and give account. We want to see people as eternal souls who need Christ as desperately as we did.
Those who are spiritually dead right now were made with the same purpose and need as us. But they’re blind-running around trying to fill that empty void with anything they can but they have no hope. Even the most successful people will never find lasting satisfaction in anything until they receive Christ. And without an eternal perspective we won’t be convinced of this because we won’t normally see it-people don’t just let down their guard and show their true colors. But occasionally we get a glimpse into the heart.
In 2005, 60-Minutes did an extensive interview with Tom Brady (3x Super Bowl champ). After going through his entire career and all his accomplishments, Steve Kroft asked this question:
KROFT: This whole experience -- this whole upward trajectory -- what have you learned about yourself? What kind of an effect does it have on you?
BRADY: Why do I have three Super Bowl rings, and still think there's something greater out there for me? I mean, maybe a lot of people would say, "Hey man, this is what is." I reached my goal, my dream, my life. Me, I think: God, it's gotta be more than this. I mean this can't be what it's all cracked up to be. I mean I've done it. I'm 27. And what else is there for me?
KROFT: What's the answer?
BRADY: I wish I knew. I wish I knew. I mean I think that's part of me trying to go out and experience other things. I love playing football, and I love being a quarterback for this team, but, at the same time, I think there's a lot of other parts about me that I'm trying to find.
This is the reality for every person who does not know Christ-whether they admit it or not. They need Christ. When we view others with an eternal perspective we will see them with the same eyes that Jesus does and that eternal perspective will help to dispense our fears. This leads to our last point:
III. We need the love of Christ
We need the love of Christ to overcome our fear in proclaiming the gospel. Look at verse 14: “For the love of Christ controls us”. We live with the reality of the love of Christ in our lives. It’s because of His great love that
He went to the cross willingly to give His life as a sacrifice for us. It’s because of His great love that He paid for our sins. It’s because of Jesus’ great love that we received mercy simply by believing in Him. And that great love of Jesus desires for those around us who don’t know Him as Lord and Savior to come to a saving faith in Him. His love toward us motivates us to call others to that love without fear.
Do you know the love of Christ in your life? Even as Christians we easily forget how rich and deep His love for us is. Are you experiencing the love of your Savior this morning? He wants you to. He wants us to run to Him and bask in the goodness and wonder of His love. And one of the effects will be a passionate, fearless and bold witness for the one who saved us from our sin. Knowing the love of Christ in our own lives motivates us to live for Him without fear.
Three things that help us overcome fear in the mission: the power of the Holy Spirit, an eternal perspective, and the love of Christ compelling us. But even with these things operating in our lives, we will face fear, we will be tempted to be timid, or even silent.
I want to close by reading a request for help from one of the greatest evangelists of all time. In Ephesians 6, Paul writes the following:
[Speaking of praying at all times in the Spirit]To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak.”
If you struggle to boldly declare the gospel, you’re not alone. As a matter of fact, you’re in good company. Paul asks for prayer for boldness 2x in one sentence. Let us follow Paul’s example in humbling ourselves before God and one another to ask for help. Let’s pray together and for one another for boldness, for the words to speak; that we would open our mouths and boldly proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ without fear.
And before we close, if you haven’t experienced the love of Christ I want to invite you to consider the life and claims of Jesus Christ. He isn’t a dead teacher, He is a risen Savior and He promises to save you if you will call on Him in faith.