As I have matured in my faith, I’ve learned that God wants us to be bold, to take risks through His leading us out of our comfort zones. We, of course, prefer our comfort.
Most of the time we want to play it safe, to remain comfortable and pursue what is convenient for our busy schedules. But God is bold by His very nature, and as we follow Him and are led by His Spirit living within us, we find the strength and courage to take actions that we’d never take on our own.
We see this illustrated through the vivid descriptions of the struggles and triumphs of the very first group of Christians in the book of Acts. This account was written by Luke, a medical doctor by profession, who captured some of the highlights of the first community of people who believed in Jesus. One of the dominant themes of the Book of Acts is the boldness of believers. When you look at the story of the early church, you see miracle after miracle. Relying on nothing but the power of God’s Spirit made them undeniably bold in everything they did.
Now, whenever I read these accounts in Acts, I usually ask myself, “Why don’t we see these types of miracles in our world today? Or at least in our churches?” Perhaps I’m wrong, but I suspect the answer is because we don’t have the same bold faith to act in bold ways to bring about bold results like the early believers did.
Before we go any further, allow me to define what I mean by boldness. It’s not crazy, irrational, odd, illogical, subjective behaviour. No, boldness is simply behaviour born of belief. Because what you believe – about who you are in Christ and who God really is – determines how you behave. If you believe everyone is going to criticize you, you’ll behave cautiously. If you believe you’re probably going to fail, you’re going to venture out tentatively. If, however, you believe that the one true Lord God is calling you, empowering you, leading you, and equipping you,, then you will live boldly. Why? Because boldness is behaviour born of belief.
The Greek word from Acts that’s translated as boldness is the word parrhesia, and this word means more than just skillful speaking. The original Greek word conveys the idea of outspokenness; it means “assurance, courage, and confidence to act without fear.” So often fear keeps “us” front and center and in need of reassurance from other people or from our possessions or titles. And thus we fear stepping our boldly in faith, trusting God. But when we have ‘died with Christ’ we find liberty and can then boldly live by faith and not by fear.
Perhaps the boldness spotlight doesn’t shine more brightly anywhere in Acts than it does on a guy called Peter. One of Jesus’ original twelve disciples, Peter is someone most of us can relate to easily. He’s the one who’s often characterized by bold intentions followed by timid actions. One of the most glaring examples of his bold intentions came right before Jesus was arrested. Peter boldly declared, “If all of these other losers turn their backs on you, I’ll still be here. I would never leave you. I’m your guy. I’ve got your back. I’ll never deny you. I’ll boldly stand by you.”
Before the day ended, not just once but three different times Peter denied knowing Christ. His bold intentions folded under the pressure of having to act in faith. But Peter’s story didn’t end there; something happened in Peter, and I pray that same something will happen in us. When Jesus died and then rose three days later, Peter encountered his Master with unbounded joy. And Jesus basically said to him, “Hey, you’re forgiven; it’s all good. Let it go. Shake it off. Be bold. Take care of My sheep. You’re my rock.” (my impressions of their conversation found in John 21).
A switch flipped inside of Peter after that encounter, and suddenly the guy who used to fold his bold under pressure could not be contained. Not long after, he stood before this huge group of people and preached one of the boldest messages in history (read: Acts 2). He didn’t hold back and spoke the whole truth boldly regardless of the consequences.
This was to become the norm in the early Christian Church as recorded in the Book of Acts and the letters (epistles) to the early Church.
More next time…