By nature, I am a fearful person and a “card carrying” people-pleaser often not saying the things that need to be said. On the flip side, I say things that shouldn’t be said. For example, I say things to make someone feel good about themselves when I shouldn’t. In the latter case, I circumvent God’s conviction in people’s lives making people feel good when God wants them to feel uncomfortable. Much like the sanguine Apostle Peter, I am talking when it would be best to keep my mouth shut.
One of the most convicting verses to me in the Bible is Revelations 21:8, “But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars—they will be consigned to the fiery lake of burning sulfur.” Look at the group of folks with which God places a coward. Let me assure you, it is not an association of folks that I want membership!
I find myself described in another verse found in Proverbs 18:1, “The wicked flee when no one is pursuing, but the righteous are bold as a lion.” I have a tendency to predetermine what people feel about me without knowing the truth, withdrawing when I should be pursuing.
Thankfully, God has done substantial work in my life over the last 20 years. I have allowed Him to change me even when it has been incredibly uncomfortable. For example, God compels me to “speak the truth with love” (Ephesus 5:18). A facet of this is to care enough about others to be assertive. Assertiveness does not mean to attack. Attacking statements usually start with “you” putting another person on the defense (i.e. “you never” or “you always”). Assertive statements start with “I” (i.e. “I feel”, “I want”, “I think”, “I need,” etc.) and point to the issue not the person. Assertiveness builds oneness and unity.
I have learned that the most frequent command of Jesus in the Gospels is “Fear not”. In anticipation of Israel’s entrance into the Promised Land, God challenged His people four times to “Be strong and courageous” (Joshua 1). As described in Acts 4:31, it is characteristic of the Spirit-filled life to be bold, “After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly” (Acts 4:31).
Look at how the tempestuous, cowardly Peter and melancholic John in the Gospels were transformed into mighty men of God in Acts. Their lives were as such to invoke the following reaction from the Sanhedrin (the ruling body of the Jews) in Acts 4:13, “When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus.”
My prayer is that others will react to my life as well as yours like the Jewish leaders did to Peter and John…“they took note that they had been with Jesus”…Lord, continue making us courageous and bold.