EFAC Australia

What will lead us to overcome the fears that keep us silent when people reallyWhat will lead us to overcome the fears that keep us silent when people reallyneed us to speak?

Jeff Hunt is Unichurch Minister at St Matthew’s Shenton Park W.A.

The group’s conversation takes a turn, suddenly you’re all discussing the evil of terrorism and religious extremism, your friend turns to you and says: “You’re a Christian, right?”

Below the various thoughts that rush into your mind, a situation like this will undoubtedly bring a stream of emotions too, chief among them: fear.

Fear that somehow this conversation will bring embarrassment or rejection. Fear that we will be exposed: not knowing how to articulate what we believe. Those anxieties might be real, and yet, it’s crucial that we work out how to overcome our fear if we’re to love God and our neighbours by sharing the good news of Jesus.

The problem with fear

The American philosopher, Martha Nussbaum calls fear "the emotion of narcissism" since it "is always relentlessly focused on the self and the safety of the self." This resonates with our experience of life: the presence of fear oft en drives us into ourselves, concerned primarily for self-preservation above all else. By necessity then, it prevents us loving God or others as we ought. Or as Nussbaum states: “Fear is a "dimming preoccupation": an intense focus on the self that casts others into darkness.”

This is especially true in conversations that involve Jesus. How can we break free of fear, so that we might be able to consider the needs of the person in front of us? How can we overcome our own worries, so we can see the profound difference the gospel will make for their lives? How can we stop fixating on what people will think of us, and start caring about what they will think of Christ?

The prayer for courage

The apostle Paul too, was someone who regularly faced fearful situations. From shipwrecks to imprisonment awaiting trial, Paul’s story is one of constant danger as he travelled around proclaiming the gospel. So it’s possible to imagine Paul as this gung-ho, alpha-male type, impervious to fear. But consider his prayer request to the Ephesians:

19Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, 20for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should. Ephesians 6:19-20

Paul realizes that fear will stop him proclaiming the gospel. And since he’s in prison right now he’s got good reason for fear! So, he asks his Christian brothers and sisters to pray - not that he might never feel fear, but that he might not be controlled by it. To pray he will keep declaring the gospel fearlessly–as if–he wasn’t afraid at all.

It’s a prayer I think we should continue to pray for each other: that God would give us courage to act over our fears, especially in our sharing of the gospel like Paul.

The power of security

In the face of fear, we’re to pray for courage to act, but the Christian’s basis for that is our security. We know we can cry out to God in prayer because our value and identity are secure. No matter how thoroughly we stuff up this conversation, or how much ridicule we face, the Christian can’t be dislodged from the eternal salvation that is theirs Christ.

That’s the logic of Paul’s triumphant summary in Romans 8. The assurance of the love of God is the basis for our courage and confidence in the face of every pain and pressure, threat and fear.

38For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Romans 8:38-39

So next time you’re graciously thrust into a wild, random, gospel-sharing opportunity, take a moment to register if you’re afraid, then cast it aside with the help and security given by King Jesus.