Why am I such a coward when it comes to sharing my faith?
That question has been rolling around in my head for the past several days. A convergence of three events—my own time in the Word, reading a missionary biography, and a missions conference at my church—have all got me pondering this idea of boldly sharing Christ.
Perhaps you identify with the missionaries I listened to recently who eagerly look for and use even the smallest opening to share the gospel in a conversation. Then again, maybe you’re like me, the cowardly lion of gospel-sharers. Yes, we know that we have the most important message in the world to share with our acquaintances, yet when it’s time to do so, cue the crickets. Can you relate? If you understand that butterflies-in-your-stomach, sweaty-palms, heart-pounding-out-of-your-chest feeling when it comes to sharing the gospel, come along with me on a quest for confidence.
It Doesn’t Start with Me
As I studied what the Bible has to say about boldness and confidence, I started to notice a divide in the references. The Greek word parresia, often translated as either “boldness” or “confidence,” literally means “freedom or frankness in speaking”1 and pops up a couple dozen times throughout the New Testament. Sometimes it refers to a person speaking plainly rather than confusingly (John 11:14). Other times it refers to boldness in sharing the gospel. We’ll get to that idea later on. But first, let’s consider a third category of references, which teach that confidence comes through Christ.
If I want to speak boldly about my faith for the sake of the kingdom, I must begin with confidence rooted in the gospel. The writer of Hebrews and the apostle John both emphasize this point in their respective epistles. The confidence of which these writers speak bears no resemblance to what you might find in the self-help section of your local bookstore. These guys aren’t looking to boost your self-confidence, your self-esteem, or your self-worth. They want their readers to understand that because of the once-for-all sacrifice of Jesus upon the cross, we can confidently come before the Almighty God.
A Lesson from Uzziah
Maybe that strikes you more as fake news than good news. To help put in perspective the fearful dread of entering the presence of God, let’s revisit the story of King Uzziah. You can read the full account in 2 Chronicles 26, but here are the highlights.
King Uzziah was at the top of his game. He had a strong military, the dread of all his enemies; he improved the infrastructure of Israel; and basically had the prosperous kingdom that every monarch dreams of. But, as you might imagine, all this power and prosperity led to arrogance. We learn in 2 Chronicles 26:16 that the arrogance of his heart reached such great heights that he decided to enter the altar of incense to burn incense and take over a job reserved for priests. After all, he was the king. And kings get to do whatever they want.
No fewer than eighty priests—all of whom the Bible describes as “valiant men”—tried to stop Uzziah from committing this act of effrontery to God, but he would not be deterred. Instead, he became enraged. As he began to unleash his fury on the mob of priests, the Lord unleashed His own wrath on the prideful king. Leprosy broke out on Uzziah’s forehead, and he would remain a leper, cut off completely from the house of God, until his death.
Coming into the presence of God is a very big deal.
Our True Source of Confidence
With that perspective in mind, now consider these two passages from Hebrews:
Therefore, let us approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in time of need. (Heb. 4:16 CSB, emphasis added)
Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have boldness to enter the sanctuary through the blood of Jesus—he has inaugurated for us a new and living way through the curtain (that is, through his flesh). (Heb. 10:19–20 CSB, emphasis added)
Because of the finished work of Christ, I can have boldness—not hubris, but boldness—to enter the presence of God. No longer do I need to come by way of a human mediator or to cower in fear of His wrath. That wrath was nailed to the cross and poured out on the Lamb of God, our perfect Substitute and Great High Priest.
This leads to confidence in our prayers, confidence in the face of our own hearts’ condemnation, and, most astoundingly, confidence when we face our Judge in the last day (1 John 2:28; 3:21; 5:14).
My friends, if like me you want to grow in confidence, don’t look within yourself. Remember the gospel.
Confidence in the Real World
At this point you might be wondering how this applies to that wave of nausea that hits when you know you should share the gospel with a neighbor. The bad news is that I don’t have the magic pill to make that feeling of panic vanish. The good news is that we do have the power to overcome it.
We tend to think of the apostle Paul as the King of Confidence. After all, he was thrown in prison; beaten more times than he could count; stoned not once, but three times; shipwrecked; and generally in peril most of the time (2 Cor. 11:23–26). However, even Paul asked for prayer for boldness. Writing to the Ephesians, he said,
Pray also for me, that the message may be given to me when I open my mouth to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel. For this I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I might be bold enough to speak about it as I should. (Eph. 6:19–20 CSB, emphasis added)
If Paul needed prayer for boldness, that must mean that he didn’t always feel bold. However, as we read of his gospel exploits in the book of Acts, we never see him back down. While I do believe some Christians are particularly gifted in the area of sharing their faith (Eph. 4:11), I don’t believe they are always without sweaty palms when doing it.
Confidence in sharing the gospel does not equal the absence of the feelings of inadequacy, nerves, panic, or fear. If I’m waiting until God takes those things away, I will never share the gospel with anyone. That would be putting confidence in confidence itself. If I have confidence to share Christ because I feel confident, my confidence is in the wrong thing entirely!
Boldness to share the message of salvation with a lost soul doesn’t look like nerves of steel; it might just look like a stuttering, stammering mess willing to be used as a tool in God’s hand to bring a lost soul to salvation. The power is not in the messenger; the power is in the message! We can come boldly to the throne of grace, and we can leave the throne just as boldly—and it’s all always because of Christ.
I don’t have a silver bullet to take away the nerves, but I do have these words from the opening chapter of Romans:
For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, first to the Jew, and also to the Greek. (Rom. 1:16 CSB, emphasis added)
The power of God. Now that’s something I can have confidence in!
1Zodhiates, Spiros. The Complete Word Study Dictionary. AMG Publishers: Chattanooga, 1993, 1124.