How can I live above average? Part 3

“Oh, … that Your hand would be with me.” I Chronicles 4:10ac

We are learning how to live about average by looking at four principles found in the simple, yet profound prayer of a man named Jabez. The first principle we learned was to seek God’s blessing in our lives (I Chronicles 4:9-10a). As God gives us His blessings, He wants us to share those blessings with others. So we are to ask God to increase our territory or influence for Him (I Chronicles 4:10b) so we can pass His blessings on to other people.

But as God increases our territory or influence for Him, we may start to feel overwhelmed with all the opportunities He gives us to impact others for His glory. Perhaps the expansion of your business opportunities starts to deplete your energy and resources. Maybe the ministry opportunities God gives you seem to be more than one person can handle. If you prayed for your family to impact more people, you may start to see more teenagers gathering in your dining room than you thought possible. And you notice their negative influence seems to be greater than your positive influence. When this starts to happen, Christians can start to feel misled, inadequate, scared, frustrated, or even angry with the situation.

When this happens, we need to pray like Jabez prayed: “Oh, … that Your hand would be with me.” (I Chronicles 4:10c).As God gives us more opportunities to influence others for Him, we start to realize, “This is more than I can handle. This is beyond my abilities and resources.” This is a good place to be because it shows us our dependence upon God.

Hence, the third principle for living above average is to ASK GOD FOR POWER TO ACCOMPLISH HIS DREAM FOR YOUR LIFE (I Chronicles 4:10c). God loves to use ordinary people who trust Him. Jabez’ faith caused him to believe that God would help him with his goals and dreams. There is something more important than being talented or educated – it is faith. It is believing that God will work in and through you.

Even though Jabez’ mother named him “Painful,” his faith kept him going. He may have had some kind of handicap or disability to be given this name. But he did not let his painful past keep him from looking ahead in faith and being used by God. What is your handicap? Is it physical? Spiritual? Emotional? Is it a traumatic childhood? A frustrating job or problem in your marriage? Is it a health limitation? An illness? Whatever it may be, Jesus says, “If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes.” (Mark 9:23).

When we pray, “Oh, that Your hand would be with me,” “we release God’s power to accomplish His will and bring Him glory through all those seeming impossibilities… Notice that Jabez did not begin his prayer by asking for God’s hand to be with him. At that point, he didn’t sense the need. Things were still manageable. His risks, and the fears that go with them, were minimal. But when his boundaries got moved out, and the kingdom-sized tasks of God’s agenda started coming at him, Jabez knew he needed a divine hand—and fast. He could have turned back, or he could have tried to keep going in his own strength. Instead, he prayed.” 1

In Acts 11:21 the Bible describes what happens when the hand of the Lord is with His people: “And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number believed and turned to the Lord.” As we surrender to God and rely on His Holy Spirit, we can receive “a fresh spiritual in-filling of God’s power” 2 that enables us to accomplish His will for His glory. God’s presence is manifested in supernatural ways as we look to Him to supply the strength that is needed to fulfill His plan for our lives.

Jesus promised in Matthew 28:19-20, “19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations… 20 and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” No doubt Jesus’ followers felt overwhelmed when He commanded them to “make disciples of all the nations.” That was a “God-sized” task for these first century disciples and it still is for us today. But Christ guaranteed them (and us) His presence (“and lo, I am with you always”) to provide all that they needed as they made disciples of the nations.

Even today, if we need more people, Christ’s presence can provide more people. If we need courage or protection, His presence can provide them. If we need wisdom in making decisions, Jesus’ presence can give us that wisdom. If we need more resources, the presence of our risen Lord Jesus can supply them. Whatever we need to fulfill His dream for our lives, His presence is more than adequate to provide.

Can you picture God doing this where you live? Can you see His hand causing people to believe or trust in Christ alone for His gift of salvation and begin to experience a new life as His disciples? It all begins when we seek God’s blessings, we ask for more influence, and we rely on His presence to give us the power to accomplish His will all for His glory.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, we admit we have a great need for Your presence in our lives as You pour out Your blessings to us and give us opportunities to share them with others. Without You, Lord, we can do nothing of eternal value. We cannot do what You have called us to do in our own strength. We desperately need You to supply what we lack. Thank You so much for God the Holy Spirit Who dwells in us the moment we believe in Jesus. This same Spirit Who brought Jesus back to life can give us resurrection power. Through Him we pray You will enable us to continue to share Your blessings with those You bring into our lives. Thank You for being with us, Lord God. Thank You for wanting to use us for Your glory. In the matchless name of the Lord Jesus Christ, we pray. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. Bruce Wilkinson, The Prayer of Jabez: Breaking Through to the Blessed Life (Breakthrough Series Book 1, The Crown Publishing Group, 2010 Kindle Edition), pp. 48-49.

2. Ibid., pp. 55-56.

How do I defeat my worst fears? Part 4

11 So the Lord said to him, ‘Who has made man’s mouth? Or who makes the mute, the deaf, the seeing, or the blind? Have not I, the Lord? 12 Now therefore, go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall say.’ ” Exodus 4:11-12

In Exodus 3-4, we are learning from Moses’ interaction with God how to defeat our worst fears. The Lord told Moses to go back to Egypt to lead His people to freedom. But Moses had many fears that impeded him from doing God’s will. Those fears included the fear of inadequacy (Exodus 3:11), embarrassment (Exodus 3:13), and rejection (Exodus 4:1). God diffused these fears with His responses (Exodus 3:12a, 14-15; 4:2-3).

But this still wasn’t enough for Moses. “Then Moses said to the Lord, ‘O my Lord, I am not eloquent, neither before nor since You have spoken to Your servant; but I am slow of speech and slow of tongue.’ ” (Exodus 4:10). Moses was also struggling with THE FEAR OF COMPARISON (Exodus 4:10). Moses is saying, “I am not a good speaker.” Compared to whom? His only audience is sheep. How does he know he is not a good speaker? It is not like he has other shepherds to listen to on the TV channel. How does he know? He is comparing himself to others.

Or perhaps he is comparing himself to when he was living in the palace of the king of Egypt for forty years and received the best education in the world (Acts 7:20-23). But after listening to sheep the last forty years “baaaaing” in the wilderness (Acts 7:23, 30), he had lost his eloquence and confidence.

All of us have a lot of abilities and talents to serve God with, but we don’t know that yet because we have not tried to use them. People have said to me in America, “Jeff, I can’t talk about the Lord in America. Why in the world should I go overseas to do it?”

How does God respond to this fear of comparison? 11 So the Lord said to him, “Who has made man’s mouth? Or who makes the mute, the deaf, the seeing, or the blind? Have not I, the Lord?” (Exodus 4:11).

“When God commanded Moses to speak to Pharaoh on his behalf, God was not unaware of Moses’s weaknesses. Similarly, when he calls you to kingdom service, he knows about your fears and your shortcomings. This, in fact, is a reminder that God didn’t choose you to serve him because he desperately needed your qualities on his team. He chose you so that you could reflect his glory to the world. Paul told the Corinthians, ‘Consider your calling: Not many were wise from a human perspective, not many powerful. . .. Instead, God has chosen what is foolish in the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen what is weak in the world to shame the strong . . . so that no one may boast in his presence” (1 Cor 1:26-29).’ ” 1

God wasn’t concerned about Moses’ eloquence or lack thereof. Moses was God’s man regardless of how Moses felt about it. Therefore, God said to him, “Now therefore, go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall say.” (Exodus 4:12). The deliverance of God’s people from Egypt did not ultimately depend upon Moses, but on God.

But you may say, “That is great, but that is Moses. What about me?” Did you know that God has made the same promise to you and me? Jesus said, “Don’t worry about what you’ll say or how you’ll say it. The right words will be there; the Spirit of your Father will supply the words.” (Matthew 10:19-20 MSG). That is a promise to you and me if we are doing what God calls us to do. By God’s grace, I have experienced this promise repeatedly, and you can too if you do what God calls you to do.

Prayer:  Almighty God, thank You for reminding us that Your presence in our lives will provide all that is needed to accomplish Your will. As our Creator, You not only know all our fears and weaknesses, but You also have the power to overcome them and display Your glory through them. We are humbled that You would even choose us to be a part of Your redemptive plan for the world. Thank You Almighty God. In the matchless name of the Lord Jesus Christ, we pray. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman. The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 198.

How do I defeat my worst fears? Part 3

2 So the Lord said to him, ‘What is that in your hand?’ He said, ‘A rod.’ 3 And He said, ‘Cast it on the ground.’ So, he cast it on the ground, and it became a serpent; and Moses fled from it.” Exodus 4:2-3

Fear can keep us from doing the will of God. Just ask Moses. When God called him to leave the desert wilderness where he was shepherding sheep to go back and deliver His people from bondage in Egypt, Moses expressed several fear-based excuses as to why he was not God’s man (Exodus 3-4). His first two fears had to do with inadequacy (Exodus 3:11) and embarrassment (Exodus 3:13). God quieted those fears with the assurance of His presence (Exodus 3:12a) and His name (Exodus 3:14-15).

But Moses had other fears for God to calm. The next one was a Biggy – his FEAR OF REJECTION (Exodus 4:1). “Then Moses answered and said, ‘But suppose they will not believe me or listen to my voice; suppose they say, ‘The Lord has not appeared to you.’ ” (Exodus 4:1). Fear that the Israelites might not believe God had appeared to him is reasonable” because “God had apparently not appeared to the Israelites for 430 years, the length of the sojourn in Egypt.” 1

Moses’ fear of rejection expressed itself by saying, God, what if they do not accept me. Suppose they call me a liar and insist that You never appeared to me?”

The Bible tells us, The fear of man brings a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord shall be safe.” (Proverbs 29:25). Whatever we fear we give control to. If we live our lives always worried about pleasing people – afraid of being criticized – then we are going to be too afraid of rejection to do what God wants us to do. The Bible says we are already a slave. We are giving control to the people we fear will reject us.

What is God’s answer to the fear of rejection… criticism… and disapproval? “So, the Lord said to him, ‘What is that in your hand?’ He said, ‘A rod.’ ” (Exodus 4:2). Whenever God asks us a question it is never for His benefit. He already knows the answer. He wants us to recognize something in our lives. 

What does a rod or staff represent? A rod is a symbol for a shepherd as much as a stethoscope around a neck is for a doctor or a tool belt is for a carpenter.

1. It is a symbol of IDENTITY. Moses is a shepherd. His rod or staff was a symbol of who he is.

2. It is a symbol of INCOME. In those days there were no stocks or bonds, there were flocks. The more sheep and goats you had, the wealthier you were. So, this is a symbol of his income. All his wealth is in his sheep.

3. It is a symbol of INFLUENCE.  What do you use a shepherd’s staff to do? You use it to move sheep from Point A to Point B. You either pull them or you poke them. You use it to influence. He moves them along.

God is saying, “Moses, I want you to take what you have – your identity, your influence and your income (what’s in your hand) and I want you to give it to Me.” This is going to overcome the fear of rejection if you understand this.

Next God told Moses, And He said, ‘Cast it on the ground.’ So, he cast it on the ground, and it became a serpent; and Moses fled from it.” (Exodus 4:3). God is saying, “Moses if you will give Me what is in your hand – your identity, your influence and your income – who you are, what you own, what you do – I will make it come alive! I will miraculously do things with your identity, income, and influence that you have never imagined. What I do may even scare you because I am in control, not you. But every time you pick it up, it is just going to be a dead stick again. When it is yours, it is lifeless. When it is Mine, it comes alive!” 

Here is my question: What is in your hand? What is your identity, your influence, your income?  If you give that to God and say, “God, it is Yours. You can use my income… my influence…and my identity any way You want to, for the mission You put me on earth to do.” God says, “I will make it come alive. I will do things you never imagined. This may be scary for you because I am in control when you release your staff to Me. Simply trust Me to use what you give to Me in a way that will magnify My name.”

Brothers and sisters, when we have that kind of power in our lives, we are not going to be afraid of what the critics are saying. We are not going to be afraid of rejection because we know we are being used by God. 

Prayer: Almighty God, thank You so much for speaking to us through Your word!We are living in a world filled with bullies who try to intimidate us into being silent about our Christian faith. Christianity is being politicized and Christians are being persecuted in various ways! Satan wants to use fear in our lives to keep us quiet about the living Lord Jesus Christ. Right now, Lord Jesus, we want to give You our staff which represents our identity, income, and influence, so You can make it come alive and use it to do things we could never do on our own! Like Moses, we may be afraid at first, as You bring it to life. Please help us continue to trust You, and not our feelings, as You move in our lives. Lord, we give You everything and everyone to use as You please for Your glory. We are eager to watch You work with what we give to You! In the name of the living Lord Jesus Christ, we pray. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. John D. Hannah, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Law, Editors John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck, (David C Cook, 2018 Kindle Edition), pg. 213.

How do I climb out of the pit of discouragement? Part 9

15 Then the Lord said to him: ‘Go, return on your way to the Wilderness of Damascus… 18 Yet I have reserved seven thousand in Israel, all whose knees have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him.’ “ I Kings 19:15a, 18

Remember how Elijah felt in verse 14? “Lord, Your people don’t care about You and I’m the only one left who does. I’m the only one left standing for what is right! I’m the only one left trying to serve You and that’s very discouraging.” Do you ever feel like that? Alone, afraid, and angry?

Then God has to tell us what He told Elijah –15 Then the Lord said to him: ‘Go, return on your way to the Wilderness of Damascus… 18 Yet I have reserved seven thousand in Israel, all whose knees have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him.’ “ (I Kings 19:15a, 18). Circle the word “Go.” God is saying, “Get moving. Don’t sit in the cave of life feeling sorry for yourself. There is more to be done and I am doing things you don’t even know about that will encourage you and help you.”

This leads to our final step out of the pit of discouragement: GET MOVING, KNOWING WE DON’T HAVE THE WHOLE PICTURE (I Kings 19:15a, 18). We don’t have to have the whole picture to move out for God. God has a journey for us to take…a course for us to follow. He is inviting us to step out in faith, believing He is already at work behind the scenes to prepare the way for us.

Jesus Christ wants to lift us out of our pit of discouragement. He can help us; He can change us; He can heal us of discouragement. We don’t have to go through life being controlled by our emotions. Our emotions are controlled by our thoughts, and even though we cannot directly control our feelings, we can control what we think about with God’s help. We can choose to change our thoughts.

This is what Jesus is saying in John 8:31-32: “31 Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him,  ‘ If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. 32 And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.’”The opposite of truth is falsehood or lies. The Lord Jesus wants to change our false beliefs that can keep us enslaved to harmful habits, hurts, and hang-ups, including discouragement.

I’d like to share some lies that have contributed to discouragement in my life along with the truth that is setting me free from them:

Lie: I am alone and unloved.

Truth: I am not alone or unloved. I am loved and cherished by the Creator of the Universe.

Scripture: “When my father and mother forsake me, then the Lord will take care of me.” Psalm 27:10

Lie: If somebody criticizes me, it means I’m worthless.

Truth: If somebody criticizes me, it is an opportunity for me to grow.

Scripture: “Princes also sit and speak against me, but Your servant meditates on Your statutes.Your testimonies also are my delight and my counselors.” Psalm 119:23-24

Lie: I  must be loved and accepted by everybody to be fulfilled in life.

Truth: It does not matter what other people say or think about me, what matters is that God always loves and accepts me.

Scripture:  “The Lord has appeared of old to me, saying: ‘Yes, I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore with lovingkindness I have drawn you.’ ” Jeremiah 31:3

Lie: I cannot admit any area of weakness; I have to be perfect or else I’m a failure.

Truth: It is good enough to do my best for Jesus, and not be perfect.

Scripture: “And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men.” Colossians 3:23

Lie: God is against me.

Truth: God is for me and not against me.

Scripture: “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?” Romans 8:31

Lie: I could never be forgiven.

Truth: I am totally forgiven in Christ.

Scripture: 13 And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses, 14 having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.” Colossians 2:13-14

Lie: I am an unacceptable person.

Truth: I am totally accepted in Christ.

Scripture: “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus.” Romans 8:1a

“To the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved.” Ephesians 1:6

Lie: I do not have what it takes.

Truth: Through Christ who strengthens me I do have what it takes.

Scripture: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:13

These are the kinds of lies that cause discouragement. Jesus knew the importance of correct thinking when He said, “31 Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him,  ‘ If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. 32 And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.’ ” (John 8:31-32). The more we “abide” or remain in Christ’s word, the more we will know the truth which can deliver us from the lies that can enslave us to discouragement.

You can change. How do you start? By beginning a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. This doesn’t automatically cure all of your discouragement, but without Christ in your life you have no lasting power to change. He wants to be a part of your life, and if you will receive Him by faith, He will come into your life to help you start climbing out of the pit of discouragement.

To help us understand our need for Christ, we need to understand that the Bible makes it clear that all of us have sinned against God. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23). Our sin separates us from God Who alone is perfect and righteous. “For the wages of sin is death.” (Romans 6:23a). By sinning with our thoughts, words, and actions, we have earned death. The word “death” in the Bible means separation. This means we all deserve to die and be separated from God forever in the lake of fire (Revelation 20:15). I think you will agree that is bad news.

“But the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23b). Notice that eternal life is not through our religion, our good life, or prayers. Eternal life is “through Jesus our Lord.” God sent His Son Jesus to take our punishment on the cross and rise again so we could receive everlasting life as a free gift by believing or trusting in Jesus alone (John 3:16; I Corinthians 15:1-6). Jesus said, “He who believes in Me has everlasting life.” (John 6:47). The word “believe” in the New Testament means to be convinced that something is true and then trust or depend upon.

Jesus is inviting you to believe or trust in Him alone for His gift of forgiveness and everlasting life, not your good life or religion or prayers. If you are ready to believe or trust in Christ alone for His free gift of eternal life, you can tell God this through prayer. Praying this prayer does not get you to heaven. Only trusting in Christ gets us to heaven. Praying this prayer is a way of telling God you are now trusting in His Son, Jesus Christ, to get you to heaven now.

Prayer:  Dear God, I come to you as a sinner. I cannot save myself. I believe You died on the cross for all my sins and rose from the dead. I am now trusting You alone, Jesus (not my good life, my religion, or my prayers), to forgive all my sins and give me the gift of eternal life. Thank You for the forgiveness and everlasting life that I now have. Thank You for coming to live inside me through the Holy Spirit. And thank You for the assurance I now have a future home in heaven with You. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

When you trusted in Christ for everlasting life, the Bible says Jesus gave you everlasting life (John 3:16; 10:28). How long does eternal life last? 5 minutes? 5 years? 5 million years? Or forever? Eternal life is forever! It never ends. And it begins the moment you believe in Jesus. Christ now lives inside you through His Holy Spirit and He wants to give you the power to live for Him now (John 7:37-39; Romans 8:9, 11; Galatians 2:20). Jesus in you can enable you to say “No” to Satan’s lies and “Yes” to God’s truth as you learn to trust and obey His Word. He can empower you to climb out of the pit of discouragement and help others to do the same.

To help you grow in your new relationship with Jesus, I recommend downloading our free digital Pressing On discipleship materials to go through with those you care about. This will help you grow in your relationship with Jesus and with those you love.

How can I overcome my fears? Part 4

“And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.’ ” John 20:22

We are learning from Jesus’ appearance to His ten disciples the evening of His resurrection day how to overcome our fears. We have discovered we must…

– Rely on Jesus to calm our fear with His peace-giving presence (John 20:19).

– Redirect our focus to the evidence of Jesus’ resurrection to convince our doubting hearts (John 20:20).

– Renew our sense of purpose (John 20:21).

The ten disciples of Jesus had been calmed, convinced, and commissioned, but they were still paralyzed by fear. They were still  sitting in the locked room for fear of the Jews. They lacked power to overcome their fear, so Jesus prepares them physically and visibly for what would come to them spiritually at Pentecost, fifty days later (Acts 2:1-21). 1  “And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.’ ” (John 20:22).

Some see this verse as a temporary filling of the Holy Spirit to give the disciples the knowledge, understanding, and enablement they would need to continue Christ’s work until Pentecost when they would receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit.2  But the weaknesses of this interpretation include the following:

“Two bestowals of the Spirit seem unusual, in view of Jesus’ earlier promises to send (not impart) the Spirit (7:39; chs. 14—16), and the importance in Acts of the Spirit’s coming at Pentecost (Acts 1:5; 2:4; 11:15). Also, opponents of this view claim that there is no indication that this temporary infusion with the ‘Spirit’ had any effect on the disciples.” 3 The disciples do not go out and share their faith. Rather, they hide, and on occasion go fishing (21:1-11).” 4  “Furthermore, there is no evidence that when Thomas returned to the scene, Jesus gave him the Spirit—as one would expect if the Spirit’s presence was essential for the disciples then (v. 26-29).” 5

It is better to see John 20:22 as a physical and visual preparation for the coming of the Holy Spirit fifty days later on the Day of Pentecost in Jerusalem (Acts 2:1-21; 11:15-16). This “was a demonstration of what Jesus would do after He returned to the Father, and which He did do on Pentecost. He was not imparting the Spirit to them in any sense here. This interpretation accounts for Thomas not receiving the Spirit before Pentecost. It also explains why this event may have had no permanently changing effect on the disciples comparable to that of Pentecost. Evidently there was only one coming of the Spirit on these disciples, and that happened on Pentecost.” 6

Also in favor of this view is that an aorist imperative, which is used in John 20:22 (Labete – “Receive”), is used by Jesus in this way elsewhere. For example in John 2:19, Jesus said, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up” (John 2:19). It was three years before that imperative was fulfilled. 7  Likewise, the coming of the Holy Spirit to indwell Jesus’ disciples would take place fifty days later. Keep in mind that the time of Acts 1:5 is forty days after John 20:22, and the baptism of the Holy Spirit was still future. In Acts 11:15-16, the apostle Peter explains that the Gentiles in Acts 10 had received the baptism of the Holy Spirit “as upon us at the beginning.” That means that the beginning of the baptism of the Holy Spirit was on the day of Pentecost as recorded in Acts 2. Therefore, John 20:22 is not referring to the baptism of the Holy Spirit, but to the preparation for it.

The word “breathed” (emphusáō) in John 20:22 is also used in the Greek Old Testament in Genesis 2:7 where God “breathed” into Adam the breath of life. John seems to be connecting the disciples’ experience with Adam’s to show that Jesus is the Giver of both physical and spiritual life.

After the early stages in Acts when some received the Spirit after being born again by believing in Jesus (cf. Acts 2:38; 8:14-17; 19:6), reception of the Holy Spirit always occurred at the very moment a person believed in Christ for everlasting life (e.g., Acts 10:43-48; 15:7-8; 19:2; cf. Mark 1:8; I Corinthians 12:13; Galatians 3:2, 26-27; Ephesians 1:13-14).

Overcoming our fear, especially in carrying on the work of Jesus Christ, is not something we do in our own strength. The Holy Spirit must empower us. So the fourth way to overcome our fears is to RELATE TO THE PERSON OF THE HOLY SPIRIT (John 20:22). The power for overcoming our fear is not found in our personality or our performance. It is found in the Person of God the Holy Spirit. Get to know the Holy Spirit.

The Bible tells us that the Holy Spirit is God, since lying to the Holy Spirit is equal to lying to God (Acts 5:3-4). But the Holy Spirit is not only God, He is a Person. He is not an impersonal force or influence. Like God the Father and God the Son, He possesses the same characteristics of a Person that they have:

1. He has knowledge or intellect. The Bible tells us, 10 But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God. 11 For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God.” (I Corinthians 2:10-11).  The Holy Spirit “searches” (ereunaō) all things which means He has the ability “to examine or investigate.” 10 This implies He has personality. He searches “the deep things of God” and reveals them to believers in Jesus. He “knows” (eídō) the things of God. This means he has the capacity “to grasp the meaning of something or to understand.” 11  The Holy Spirit has the ability to think and know things which are attributes of personality.

2. He has emotions or the ability to feel. The Holy Spirit not only thinks like a person, He feels like a person.The Bible says, “And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.” (Ephesians 4:30). Christians can “grieve” (lupéō) or cause severe emotional distress 12 to the Holy Spirit with our hurtful communication to one another (Ephesians 4:29). The fact that He can be “grieved” or offended reveals personality since one cannot hurt an influence or an impersonal force. The Bible also instructs us that the Holy Spirit has the ability to give and receive love (Romans 5:5; 15:30). The fact that the Holy Spirit responds emotionally the way that a person responds, demonstrates that He is a Person.

3. The Holy Spirit possesses a will or the ability to choose. After referring to various spiritual gifts of the Holy Spirit, the apostle Paul says, “ But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills.” (I Corinthians 12:11). The Holy Spirit not only empowers these gifts, He also distributes them “to each one individually as He wills.” The Holy Spirit has the ability to choose which is also a mark of personhood. Just as God the Father and God the Son have a will, so does the Holy Spirit.

We also see in the Bible that the Holy Spirit acts like a Person. He teaches (John 14:26; 15:26-27; I Corinthians 2:13), gives guidance (Romans 8:14; Acts 16:6-7; 20:22-23), helps or comforts (John 16:7), convicts (John 16:8-11), gives commands (Acts 8:29; 10:19-20), He appoints believers to leadership (Acts 20:28), gives understanding (John 16:13), speaks (Acts 13:2), He intercedes or speaks on behalf of people (Romans 8:26), performs miracles (Acts 2:4; Romans 15:19), gives spiritual gifts (I Corinthians 12:8-11), raises the dead (Romans 8:11), creates (Genesis 1:2), provides companionship (John 14:16-18), testifies and bears witness to Jesus (John 15:26-27), and glorifies Jesus (John 16:14). All of these actions demonstrate that the Holy Spirit is a Person. He does things that only a Person can do. But keep in mind that He is Spirit, which means He does not have a physical body like we do. He is a Person without a physical body which enables Him to indwell believers in Jesus (John 14:16-17; Romans 8:11; I Corinthians 6:19).

In conclusion, I want to share an illustration our pastor shared with us at church a few weeks ago. 13  It involves a woman who just graduated from Harvard University. She went to the Amazon River area of South America and was given a choice. She could either have a perfect map to navigate this area unknown to her or she could choose a guide to enable her to reach her destination. She said, “I just graduated and I’m pretty smart, so I will choose the map.”

The map was perfect and she was smart. So the first couple of days went fairly well using the map to navigate the area. But after three days or so, things got rough. It began to rain extremely hard. She tried using the map, but she didn’t know what to do. She was extremely confused about which way to go. Suddenly, she hears the voice of the guide. He says, “Hey, come this way. Follow me.” So he helps her navigate her way through that mess and confusion. He asks her, “Do you want me to stay with you?” She says, “No, I’ve got my perfect map.”

Using only a map to guide her, she starts going again. Three days later, she ends up in another confusing situation in a bog and gets lost. Finally the guide comes again and asks her, “Do you need help?” Ashamed, she says, “Yes, I need help.” As they are walking, the guide asks her, “Do you want me to help you?” She says, “Yeah, that’s fine. You can help me and guide me.” Then she says, “Do you need the map?” He replies, “No, I don’t need the map. I wrote the map.”

The Holy Spirit wrote our map, the Bible (2 Timothy 3:16; 2 Peter 1:20-21). He enabled holy men to record God’s Word without error in all of the Bible (2 Timothy 3:16; 2 Peter 1:19-20), so that every word in the Bible is from the mouth of God. As “the Spirit of truth” (John 14:17; 15:26; 16:13), the Holy Spirit guides us with the Bible. We must have the Holy Spirit to understand the Bible (I Corinthians 2:10-16).

The way we receive the Holy Spirit, is to believe in Jesus for His gift of everlasting life (John 7:37-39; Acts 10:43-48; 15:7-8; 19:2; I Corinthians 12:13; Galatians 3:2, 26-27; Ephesians 1:13-14). Every believer in Jesus has God the Holy Spirit indwelling him or her (John 14:16-17; Romans 8:11; I Corinthians 6:19) to guide them into all truth (John 16:13; Romans 8:14; Acts 16:6-7; 20:22-23) and empower them to live a life that glorifies Jesus Christ (John 16:13-14; Galatians 5:22-23). Learn to listen to the Spirit’s guidance through the Scriptures. Rely on His powerful presence to overcome your fears and become more like Jesus Christ (Romans 8:26-29; 2 Corinthians 3:16-18).

Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank You so much for sending Your Holy Spirit to indwell us and empower us to become more like You. We could never overcome our fears in our own strength. But You have given us the Person of the Holy Spirit to enable us to not only overcome our fears, but to replace our fears with Your courage and boldness. Holy Spirit, teach me to hear Your voice through the holy Bible so I can know You more intimately and experience the joy that You, the Father, and Jesus created me to have. Forgive me for neglecting my relationship with You. Please renew my love relationship with You so I can not only overcome my fears, but become more like my Savior, Jesus Christ. In the matchless name of Jesus Christ I pray. Amen.  

ENDNOTES:

1. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman. The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 1829. 

2. Edwin A. Blum, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Gospels, Editors John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck, (David C Cook, 2018 Kindle Edition), pg. 699; J. Carl Laney, Moody Gospel John Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1992), pg. 366; Leon Morris, The Gospel According to John: Revised Edition (New International Commentary on the New Testament series. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1995), pp. 747-48.

3. Tom Constable, Notes on John, 2017 Edition, pg. 379.

4. Robert Wilkin; J. Bond; Gary Derickson; Brad Doskocil; Zane Hodges; Dwight Hunt; Shawn Leach. The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition (Grace Evangelical Society, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 565.

5. Constable, pg. 379.

6. Ibid.

7. Wilkin, pg. 565.

8. Ibid.

9. Ibid.

10.  Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature: Third Edition (BDAG) revised and edited by Frederick William Danker (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000 Kindle Edition), pg. 389.

11. Ibid., pg. 694.

12. Ibid., pg. 604.

13. Adapted from Pastor Tim Agrimson’s April 25, 2021 sermon entitled, “The Spirit of Peace” at https://www.newlifedsm.com/episode/the-spirit-the-spirit-of-peace/ .

How can we overcome fear in evangelism? Part 1

“Nevertheless I tell you the truth. It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you.” John 16:7

Evangelist Larry Moyer writes, “If most of us were honest, we would admit we enjoy evangelism the most when:

• The person we plan to talk to is not home.

• God allows us to do the praying and someone else to do the talking.

• The individual we are approaching has laryngitis and therefore, it would be impolite to ask him about his relationship with Christ.

• The waitress explains to our friend that she has a phone call just as we are preparing to approach her about spiritual things.

• We unintentionally oversleep the morning of our breakfast appointment with a non-Christian.

• As soon as we approach an individual about spiritual things, he tells us he is a Christian and we of course do not want to insult him by telling him what he probably already knows.” 1

The reason for these responses is one four-letter word – FEAR. Fear does more to hinder our witness for Jesus Christ than any other single thing. As Christians, it’s not that we don’t want to share Christ with others. I believe most believers would love to lead someone to the Lord. Think about this for a moment: What would happen if each of us led someone to Jesus Christ this Christmas season? Wouldn’t that be exciting?! To see the church grow exponentially as the gospel goes out from here and changes peoples’ lives. Nothing would bless your church more than to see new believers sitting next to you because you had the courage to share Christ with them.

But it is not going to happen until we overcome this fear of sharing our faith with others. Before we talk about how to do that, let me address two things. First, if you are afraid to evangelize, raise your right hand above your head. (Pause). Now put your hand behind your head. Now pat yourself on the back. You are normal. It is normal to be afraid in evangelism. After all the apostle Paul was afraid to evangelize. When entering the city of Corinth to evangelize, Paul admits, “I was with you in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling” (I Corinthians 2:3).  I’ve been sharing Christ with others for over thirty-five years and I still get butterflies in my stomach before I approach a non-Christian about spiritual things. So it is normal to be afraid in evangelism.

Second, the issue is overcoming fear, not removing it. I believe this side of heaven, there will always be times of fear. In Ephesians 6:19, Paul asked, “Pray for me, that the power to speak may be given to me, that I may open my mouth boldly to make known the mystery of the gospel” (MEV). Why did Paul ask for prayer for boldness? Because he still struggled with fear. When Paul wrote this prayer request for boldness, he was a prisoner in Rome. He already had many years of evangelistic experiences planting churches. Yet he understood, that moments of fear will always be there. Yet he shared Christ constantly not because he was never afraid, but because he learned to overcome his fear with boldness.

How can we overcome fear in evangelism? For the next few days, Lord willing, we will look atJohn 16:5-15 where we will discover some principles for overcoming fear in evangelism. The last time in the gospel of John, we saw Jesus forewarn His disciples of the world’s coming hostility and persecution of them (15:18-16:4). The disciples were now preoccupied with their own problems in the future and none of them were concerned about Jesus’ future. Christ wanted them to bear witness of Him to an increasingly hostile world. How eager would you be to speak up for Christ if your audience was likely to mistreat you, imprison you, or even kill you? Being stricken with fear is understandable with that kind of a warning from Christ (John 15:18-16:4).

If we want to overcome fear in evangelism GRASP THAT YOU ARE NOT ALONE WHEN YOU WITNESS (John 16:5-7), because God the Holy Spirit is with you and in you always. Jesus told His disciples, “But now I go away to Him who sent Me, and none of you asks Me, ‘Where are You going?’” (John 16:5).Peter had asked this question earlier (John 13:36), but then he was only concerned about how Jesus’ departure would affect him. Peter and the other disciples did not understand the significance of Jesus’ departure at this time. They did not realize Christ would have to suffer and die and be resurrected before ascending to heaven to be with His Father. Like the disciples, we tend to think only of ourselves instead of others when we are facing trouble. 2

Next Christ said, “But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart.” (John 16:6). Understandably, “sorrow” filled the disciples’ hearts at the news of Jesus’ departure and their coming persecution and there was room for nothing else in their hearts. 3 To the disciples, Jesus’ departure and their upcoming persecution, was an awful disaster in the making and they were deeply distressed by this. Parting is painful especially when you are very dependent on the person leaving. The disciples depended on Jesus for guidance, instruction, protection and provisions, and now He was leaving them, and they would be hated by the world. We would have felt the same way.

Perhaps we would try to hide our sadness, but we would still feel the sense of loss. We can hide our grief and pain from each other, but not from the Lord Jesus. He knows our hurts and He wants to offer comfort to us.

Jesus then offers hope to His hurting disciples, “Nevertheless I tell you the truth. It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you.” (John 16:7).This is a reality check – “I tell you the truth…” Jesus says. It may feel bad, but let’s do a reality check. In reality, Jesus’ departure (His death, resurrection, and ascension) would be profitable and beneficial to the disciples and to all of us! What “advantage” would Jesus’ departure give to the disciples?

First, Jesus’ return to the Father meant He would send  “the Helper,” the Holy Spirit, to indwell all believers everywhere forever (cf. John 14:16-17, 26; 15:26). Evans observes, “The Father sent the Son into the world (see 3:17), and the Son would send the Spirit into the world (16:7). Thus, the Trinitarian God is at work, each Person carrying out the next phase of His kingdom program. The coming of the Holy Spirit would benefit the disciples because his presence would not be physically limited (as Jesus’s was). He would dwell within each of them (14:17) and go with them wherever they traveled (see Eph. 1:22, 23).” 4

Jesus’ stay with them was temporary, but the Holy Spirit’s stay would be permanent. They would never be alone again! And nor shall we if we have believed in Christ for everlasting life and received the Holy Spirit at that moment of faith (John 7:37-39; Romans 8:9, 11, 13; Galatians 3:2, 26-27; Ephesians 1:13-14).

Second, as long as Jesus was with them in Person, His work would be localized, and it would be impossible for Him to communicate with them equally at all times and in all places. But the coming “Helper” would equip them for a wider and more powerful ministry! There is no place they could go where the Holy Spirit would not be with and in them.

For example, in Matthew 10, when the disciples were sent out to minister, it was necessary for them to be separated from Christ. Jesus could not physically accompany them in their ministry everywhere they went. If Jesus had remained on earth with them, He would not be able to accompany them to all the places God would lead them. But the Holy Spirit could. He would indwell them and empower them to reveal Jesus to a much greater extent than Christ would have done if He had remained with them.

This is why Jesus could promise His followers who go out into the world to make disciples, “And lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20b). There is no place we can go on earth where Jesus is not with us through the indwelling Holy Spirit. His presence can overcome our fears.

Third, while Jesus was on earth, the disciples were sometimes afraid (cf. Mark 14:50; John 6:20), but after the coming of the Holy Spirit they testified of Jesus with great confidence and boldness (cf. Acts 2:14-47; 3:11-26; 4:5-31; 5:1-11, 28-32, 40-42; et al.).  If the disciples got their way, there would be no gospel because Jesus would not have died and rose from the dead. There would be no payment for our sins. If Jesus had not departed, there would have been no glorified Lord to send the Holy Spirit to apply Jesus’ death and resurrection to peoples’ hearts. The Holy Spirit’s coming depended on Jesus’ petition to the Father to send the Spirit. Christ could not ask the Father to send the Spirit until He had returned to the Father. Without the Holy Spirit, it would be like Old Testament days when the Spirit’s indwelling presence was temporary. With all things considered, believers today are more privileged spiritually than those who lived and walked with Jesus in the first century. 5

Knowing we are not alone when we share the gospel with unbelievers can replace our fear with boldness. Through the Holy Spirit, we have a power that is not our own. God’s power is manifested as we begin to share the truth of Jesus’ death and resurrection!

Many times, before I share the gospel with people, I have fears streaming through my mind: “What will they think? How will they respond? Will they reject the message and me? Will I be able to answer their questions or objections?” Knowing the Holy Spirit is with me and in me to give me the words to speak, calms my fears. After warning His disciples of severe persecution, Jesus told them,  19 But when they deliver you up, do not worry about how or what you should speak. For it will be given to you in that hour what you should speak; 20 for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father who speaks in you.” (Matthew 10:19-20). Believing Christ’s promise can dissolve our fears in evangelism.

A few years ago when we were speaking at a church in the USA, I was very nervous about sharing the gospel with the congregation because I knew that the beliefs of this particular denomination were much different than ours. Hence, I spent additional time in prayer beforehand asking the Lord to guide me and empower me. That morning, God the Holy Spirit directed me to share from Acts 16:25-31 about what the Bibles says to do to get to heaven if we only have 60 seconds to live.

At the end of the message, I gave a gospel invitation, and about 10-12 adult leaders raised their hands indicating that they were now trusting in Christ alone as their only hope of heaven. After the service, three or four people came up to me, thanking me for sharing this message with them. They told me they used to think that going to heaven was based on their works, but now they were resting in the finished work of Christ. Others said no one had ever told them God cared about their eternal destiny, but now they know He does, and they were trusting Christ to get them to heaven. After talking with these people, I bowed my heart before the Lord, thanking Him and His Spirit for His guidance and power to share this message. All the glory goes to Him!

Prayer: Lord Jesus, Your words offer such hope and empowerment as we go out into a hostile world to share Your life-giving gospel message. Thank You for not leaving us alone when You ascended to the Father in heaven. Thank You for God the Holy Spirit Who indwells us permanently the moment we believe in You for Your gift of everlasting life. I appreciate being reminded that it is normal to feel afraid in evangelism. The goal is not to remove the fear, but to overcome fear with Holy Spirit-driven boldness as we yield to Him. Thank You for giving us everything we need to be effective in sharing Your gospel message with a broken and hostile world. Knowing that there is nowhere we can go without Your Spirit accompanying us gives us great peace and power to share Your death and resurrection without shame or fear to a world that is perishing! Please open the door for us to boldly and compassionately share Your life-giving gospel message with as many people as possible while there is still time. In Your mighty name I pray, Lord Jesus. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. R. Larry Moyer, Larry Moyer’s How-To Book On Personal Evangelism (Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 1998), pg. 53.

2. J. Carl Laney, Moody Gospel John Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1992), pg. 287.

3. The word for “filled,” peplērōken, is a perfect indicative active verb and conveys the idea that there was room for nothing else in the disciples’ hearts – Ibid.

4.  Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman. The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (B&H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 1809.

5. Laney, pg. 288.