by Mike Ratliff
7 for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control. (2 Timothy 1:7 ESV)
When I was a teenager back in the mid-1960’s we had a preacher who filled in for our’s once for some reason. I was about 15 or so at the time. He was an older gentleman with a big booming voice and a head full of white hair. He was so different from our preacher that I actually listened to what he said. I believe that the person from the Bible he was talking about was Isaac. I remember him commenting on the fact that he was timid or shy or fearful. In my mind I thought of that person as shy or bashful by the way he described him. Then he said something I will never forget. He said, “Folks, timidity is not of God.” He then preached a sermon on how God calls His people to be bold and to fear not. Those who are fearful are those of little faith who make decisions that reflect their fear instead of reflecting a trust of God through their faith. He said that those who walk in fear and timidity are actually not in obedience to God and are therefore operating from pride. Their fear was the product of their pride as it did all it could do to protect self. However, those who walk in boldness are the truly humble believers because they lay aside self-protection while obeying God for His glory.
I remember hearing that and being dumbfounded. It was exactly the opposite of how we think; at least it was for me. Our natural minds conceive of timid people as the humble and the bold as the proud. However, if a believer is bold in the power of the Holy Spirit they are that way because they see their true position before the Lord by faith then they act accordingly. However, the timid believer is one who is not trusting God, but believes that if they obey Him they are taking a greater risk than they want to take. They are not being humble and obedient, but are being prideful and disobedient. Also, the boldness I am writing about here is boldness by the Spirit-led, not boldness that is presumption. The former is a product of genuine humility while the latter comes from pride. On the other hand, genuine believers are wise if they do fear God. That is good fear, but God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control. This fear is the fear of men or the fear of failure or the fear of circumstances all based on self-focus that produces disobedience instead of boldly obeying God as He commands.
1 After the death of Moses the servant of the Lord, the Lord said to Joshua the son of Nun, Moses ‘ assistant, 2 “Moses my servant is dead. Now therefore arise, go over this Jordan, you and all this people, into the land that I am giving to them, to the people of Israel. 3 Every place that the sole of your foot will tread upon I have given to you, just as I promised to Moses. 4 From the wilderness and this Lebanon as far as the great river, the river Euphrates, all the land of the Hittites to the Great Sea toward the going down of the sun shall be your territory. 5 No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life. Just as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you or forsake you. 6 Be strong and courageous, for you shall cause this people to inherit the land that I swore to their fathers to give them. 7 Only be strong and very courageous, being careful to do according to all the law that Moses my servant commanded you. Do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may have good success wherever you go. 8 This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. 9 Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”
(Joshua 1:1-9 ESV)
God commanded Joshua to be strong and courageous three times in this passage. (v6, v7, and v9) God told him that He would be with Him always and that no one could stand before Him. Just as He had been with Moses, so would He be with him. Also, he told him that he must know the law and do it. He must meditate on it day and night and observe to do all that is written in it. Joshua would naturally be strong and courageous (not timid or fearful) because of knowing the law and obeying it. In His obedience to God to do this he would find that he could obey Him without fear or dismay. Why? The Lord his God would be with him wherever he went.
Timidity is paralyzing and is the fruit of pride. Boldness is the fruit of humility that bows the knee to God’s will and obeys Him no matter how fearful things look. Again, we are not talking about presumption here. This boldness is stepping out on faith in the face of long odds by the reckoning of a fleshly viewpoint. However, the odds aren’t long at all if God is with us.
13 Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus. 14 But seeing the man who was healed standing beside them, they had nothing to say in opposition. 15 But when they had commanded them to leave the council, they conferred with one another, 16 saying, “What shall we do with these men? For that a notable sign has been performed through them is evident to all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and we cannot deny it. 17 But in order that it may spread no further among the people, let us warn them to speak no more to anyone in this name.” 18 So they called them and charged them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. 19 But Peter and John answered them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge, 20 for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard.” 21 And when they had further threatened them, they let them go, finding no way to punish them, because of the people, for all were praising God for what had happened. 22 For the man on whom this sign of healing was performed was more than forty years old. 23 When they were released, they went to their friends and reported what the chief priests and the elders had said to them. 24 And when they heard it, they lifted their voices together to God and said, “Sovereign Lord, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and everything in them, 25 who through the mouth of our father David, your servant, said by the Holy Spirit, “‘Why did the Gentiles rage, and the peoples plot in vain? 26 The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers were gathered together, against the Lord and against his Anointed’ —
27 for truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, 28 to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place. 29 And now, Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness, 30 while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus.” 31 And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness. (Acts 4:18-31 ESV)
I pray that you carefully read the passage above from Acts 4. Peter and John were threatened with harm if they did not stop preaching in the name of Jesus. What did they say back to the Sanhedrin? They said, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge, for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard.” After their release they told the brethren what happened. What did they do then? Then were filled with the spirit in prayer, praise, and worship. Look in v31. As they were filled with the Holy Spirit they spoke the word of God with boldness. This is the calling of the church. God commands us to not be fearful, but be bold and courageous because He is with us.
Now, there is more to this than simply wanting this. Our lives must reflect on the inside what is going on outside. We cannot be strong in the Spirit (Spirit-led) if we are mired in sin. If we are not walking in repentance then how can we be bold in the Lord? If we are seeking our own in secret, how can we be obedient with great boldness and courage in public? The cost of obedience can be high in the temporal. Those who are fleshly are not going to risk it are they? However, those who walk in obedience and repentance are the ones who see the eternal as vital and more important than the temporal. They see their lives as well spent for their Lord even if they end up in prison or dead or tortured or looked down on by nearly everyone. These are the bold. The timid would never risk it.
33 When they heard this, they were enraged and wanted to kill them. 34 But a Pharisee in the council named Gamaliel, a teacher of the law held in honor by all the people, stood up and gave orders to put the men outside for a little while. 35 And he said to them, “Men of Israel, take care what you are about to do with these men. 36 For before these days Theudas rose up, claiming to be somebody, and a number of men, about four hundred, joined him. He was killed, and all who followed him were dispersed and came to nothing. 37 After him Judas the Galilean rose up in the days of the census and drew away some of the people after him. He too perished, and all who followed him were scattered. 38 So in the present case I tell you, keep away from these men and let them alone, for if this plan or this undertaking is of man, it will fail; 39 but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them. You might even be found opposing God!” So they took his advice, 40 and when they had called in the apostles, they beat them and charged them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. 41 Then they left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name. 42 And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they did not cease teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ. (Acts 5:33-42 ESV)
What is the key to boldness? Gamaliel tells us that if God is with someone they cannot be overthrown. Therefore, the obedient servant of God is bold and does a thing the world hates that always brings conviction into the hearts of the people God is reaching through their service. Again Peter and John are hauled before the Sanhedrin. Again, they refuse to stop speaking in the name of Jesus. This time, however, they are beaten before their release. This was probably a flogging with 39 lashes. What was their response? They left the presence of the council rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name. Did they stop teaching and preaching? No! They continued boldly teaching everyday in the temple and from house to house. They did not cease teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ.
Timidity is not of God. Boldness is of God.
Soli Deo Gloria!