I know what you are afraid of. I’ve been there myself. I understand what it means to have spiritual fear. Maybe you’e never heard it put that way before, but you know what those fears are. They range from simply sharing Jesus with a person you’ve just met to suffering for your faith. Living in the modern world, in a culture dominated by so-called modern sensibilities we sometimes define what is appropriate or prudent in our spiritual life by the circumstances around us and how we feel. If we feel nervous, or intimidated, or unsure of ourselves we shrink back from doing that which the Bible encourages us to do. Here, let me give you an example.
Sharing your faith with your family. Have you ever talked about Jesus with your parents or siblings? Who are you to tell your parents about their sin and need for Jesus? Has that ever run across your mind? Sure it has. What if it causes a tear or break in your relationship? I know you’ve thought of that too. Just how far do you have to go with your Christianity in order to be a real Christian anyway?
One passage of scripture has given me great encouragement when facing spiritual fears. It’s not a passage you may have ever thought of, so I’d like to unpack it for you to help you discover that the Gospel of Jesus is not something that you ever need to feel fear to express or defend—no matter who or what you are faced with. So let me do three things. First I want to share a fear I had to face down. Then I want to share with you 12 spiritual fears (trust me, you’re in the list). Then I want to show you from the book of Acts how you can wipe those fears away.
I had been accused of a crime. In Mongolia, where I lived at the time, it was a serious accusation that carried penalties of up to 10 years in prison depending upon how the law was used. I was called in to the police office for interrogation and then to the prosecutor’s office. It was serious. Certain foreign friends were encouraging me to flee the country. I was on foreign territory. The police were corrupt and we wondered if they were bought or harassed into going after me. My accuser was a former employee, disgruntled, with a no compromise attitude. She falsely accused me. But it wouldn’t be the first time a false accusation in Mongolia resulted in a prison sentence. I was afraid of what might happen.
I was faced with a choice. I could avoid the whole situation by leaving the country before things got too hot (there are no extradition treaties between Mongolia and the U.S., so if I left it was doubtful I’d be sent back). Or I could take the risk and face the charges, making my case for my innocence. Needless to say, I was afraid of what might happen. There was a choice to make. Then one day it hit me, if one of my Mongolian employees had been falsely accused of a crime they wouldn’t be able to just up and leave and escape the whole situation. They would have to face it down. Was I any better or any different? Certainly not. By looking at what my Mongolian friends would have to go through I gained the courage to stay and make my case. I would take the risk, not knowing what false charges and corruption might lead to. So I made my case, using true and rational words, compared to the lies that someone wanted to imprison me with. Thankfully, the authorities recognized that the charges were demonstrably false and dismissed the charges and nothing more than the lies they were.
True and rational words.
What does this have to do with spiritual fears? Fear is fear, no matter what it is about. Fear is paralyzing. Fear is poison. Fear robs us of the truth and keeps us imprisoned in a false state of mind and even false expressions of life. To live in fear is to live in a lie. I was not going to live in someone else’s lie. I would face my fear and speak the truth. Thankfully, in that situation, truth won the day.
I’ve made a list of 12 things that Christians fear. You are in that list. Everyone is. These are things concerning our belief in Jesus and expressions of our faith that many Christians, especially modern-day Christians, fear to take part in. When we refuse to overcome these things (and refusing to overcome them is the right expression), we live in the midst of a lie. We let Satan rule the day with his false accusations. We even accuse ourselves and the lies perpetuate and continue, trapping us even further.
Find yourself in this list.
• Fear of sharing your faith
• Fear of sharing your faith with your family
• Fear of sharing your testimony
• Fear of acknowledging you are a Christian
• Fear of standing by moral values
• Fear of admitting you believe in the Bible’s stories, like the flood, Joshua’s long day, the virgin birth, etc.
• Fear of teaching
• Fear of ministering to the homeless, prisoners, or less fortunate
• Fear of going into ministry
• Fear of meeting new people
• Fear of a specific ministry, to women, to children, to men, etc.
• Fear of suffering or enduring hardship for your faith
You are in that list. I am in that list. There are things that I still fear from time to time that I struggle to overcome. But my overcoming of those fears is made a bit easier by a little passage of scripture from the book of Acts. Chances are, it’s a passage you’ve never considered memorizing. You’ve probably read past it a dozen times or more and it’s never stuck out to you. But it is a powerful truth that can help set you free from the fear of expressing your Christianity openly in virtually any situation.
In Acts 26 as the Apostle Paul was offering his defense to Festus and King Agrippa about the false charges laid against him, Paul tells the king about a vision he had from Heaven where Jesus spoke to him, converting him, making him a Christian. Stop there. Have you ever had a vision? Have you ever seen Jesus or an angel in a dream? Chances are you might feel a little nervous about sharing it with others as you might be considered a loon, yes? But look at the scripture. Paul shares his wild story. It’s so wild to Festus that he interrupts Paul and says these words, “Paul, you are out of your mind; your great learning is driving you out of your mind” (Acts 26:24). Modern vernacular: “Dude, you’re crazy. You’re a loon.” But Paul answers Festus with words so right on target and so profound they should help us wipe away any fears we may have of expressing our faith and serving God.
“I am not out of my mind, most excellent Festus, but I am speaking true and rational words” (Acts 26:25).
Zoom in on that. “True and rational words.” Paul’s vision. Paul’s experience with Christ. Declaring that eternal life only comes through Jesus. Proclaiming the Gospel to men and women during his defense that can ruin his life. The resurrection from the dead. True and rational words.
Isn’t that the problem with our fears? When we get right down to it, to the very core of our fears, we sometimes think that what we have to say will not appear true or rational. We worry about what people will think of us. In fact, that’s the center of most fears we face: what will others think? Paul blows that away with true and rational words.
The testimony of Jesus is not some crazy story. Elsewhere Paul, speaking to the authorities said, “Why is it thought incredible by any of you that God raises the dead?” (Acts 26:8). For Paul the Gospel was simple common sense. Telling people about Jesus was common sense. It wasn’t radical from his perspective. It was real. It was reality. It was just the way things are. It was normal life. Why should Paul be afraid to talk about normal life?
Look again at your list of fears. What do you want to share with your neighbor or your family? True and rational words. When you are persecuted for standing up for your moral convictions what are you standing up for? True and rational words. When you are ridiculed or considered a fanatic for believing in Joshua’s long day, Noah’s flood, or the virgin birth, what are you standing on? True and rational words. When you fear to witness or teach others what can help you overcome your fears? True and rational words.
The Gospel of Jesus really is foolishness to those who reject its true and rational message (I Corinthians 1:27-28). But Paul tells us the message of Christ is only foolish to those whose hearts and minds have not been enlightened by the Holy Spirit (I Corinthians 1:18). We live in a different reality, one of true and rational words about Jesus, the scriptures, and God’s plan and principles for man.
Think through your fears this way: What do I want to share with my friends? True and rational words. What do I want to teach to others? True and rational words. What do I want to reach out to the less fortunate with? True and rational words. Once you and I come to full grips with the nature of what the Gospel really is, how then can we fail to take our stand on the truth about Jesus, the scripture, and the testimony God has given us? Therefore, take your fears by the scruff of the neck and boot them out the door. Believing and standing your ground on true and rational words is your first step to overcoming your spiritual fears.