Here is a popular and appropriate acronym for the word FEAR:
Experiencing fear is part of what makes us human. Fear is an integral part of our ability to survive the world around us. The fight or flight instinct we are all blessed with has surely saved this old dog on numerous occasions! On the down side however fear can also seem to be a curse at times. In my case, I used to experience anxiety at times and I would worry when I really shouldn’t be worrying about anything. This would happen to me back before I was a follower of Jesus, back when I was still trying to fix everything myself.
Fear has many ways of manifesting itself in our lives. Some of the fears I have experienced over the years may be similar to fears you have experienced and some may be very different. It is important to keep in mind that the people we are witnessing to are also experiencing fear in their life. Some of their fears may actually help you connect with them when you are sharing your testimony, especially if they have been down a road similar to the one you have traveled. On the flip side, some of their fears might be what the devil is using to blind them to the truth of what you are trying to share with them. Either way, you will be confronting fear in their life.
So, There are two aspects of the “fear factor” when you are witnessing and sharing the gospel of Jesus. You have to deal with YOUR fears, but it is also important to be aware of THEIR fears…
Everyone struggles with fear in some way. Many of us don’t share the gospel because we are afraid. We are afraid of failure, afraid of rejection, afraid of saying the wrong thing, afraid of embarrassment, afraid of losing a friend, afraid of getting in trouble, etc. The devil plants these seeds of fear in our minds so that he can pull them out and use them against us whenever he wants to make us stumble and prevent us from obeying God and especially from sharing the gospel.
Most of these fears are worldly fears rooted in pride and self. If you fear failure, rejection and embarrassment, who are you trying to please? We can help combat these selfish fears by replacing the worldly concerns in our minds. We can start by filling our minds and hearts with God’s promises which will render the devil powerless to do anything against us. The fear of losing your friend can be a tough one to deal with. Our good relationships with family and friends are very important to us so we tend to avoid saying or doing anything that may cause disharmony. Ask yourself, do I care more about what other folks think of me or about my walk with God and how I honor Him with my life?
Another important thing to consider is whether you are inadvertently enabling your friends sinful behavior. Many well intentioned Christians think that love and acceptance will win the souls of the lost. They mistakenly believe that if they just show tolerance and love by hanging out with their unbelieving friends that are openly living a sinful life, their friends will eventually see the light and repent of their sin. While love and acceptance are wonderful things the sinner still needs to hear the gospel story about the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ and they need to acknowledge the sin in their own life. That is what you did when you were saved. The most loving thing you can do, is to help your friend turn from their sinful ways. In Mark 1:15, Jesus said “…repent and believe in the gospel”. Only by obediently and boldly sharing the Gospel story with the lost can we make a difference. Showing Love, acceptance and tolerance will help open the door to sharing the gospel with our unbelieving friends but we must walk through that door when it is opened and share the good news with them. Remember, with our unbelieving friends, we are showing them that we accept them as friends and tolerate their differences but we are not accepting and tolerating their sinful lifestyle or sinful behavior. The only way we can let out friends understand this distinction is to actually talk about sin. If we don’t talk about the sin in our own life, and the sin in their life, they will easily confuse our tolerant behavior as acceptance of their sin and sin in general. If we truly love our friends we must help them confront the sin in their lives not turn a blind eye to it. I suggest that your focus should be on your friends soul and where they will spend eternity not whether they will be offended or not. I would be terrified for my friend if I knew they were on their way to spending eternity in hell! Your friends soul is far more important than your concern about hurting their feelings and possibly placing a wedge in your current, worldly relationship. Again, this is not about us or our feelings, it’s about trusting God to open the hearts and minds of the lost so they may have a chance to be saved from an eternity in hell.
Ok, back to the fears… The common denominator of fears about failure, rejection and embarrassment is pride. These fears stem from looking to the world and other people for approval. Just so you know, there can be no failure when you are obediently sharing the Gospel. And keep in mind that sharing the Gospel is what God requires of us, not how many salvation decisions we notch on our pistol. So the only way to be a failure is by simply NOT sharing the Gospel when you are called to do so. When you focus on God’s love and acceptance rather than whether a lost person responds to the Gospel message you will never feel rejection. The person may reject the Gospel, but they are not rejecting the messenger. Embarrassment will only happen when we are more concerned about what someone else thinks than what God wants you to do. Your goal is to please God, not the unbelievers we are witnessing to. Pleasing God will never be embarrassing.
If you look at changing your perspective it can be helpful when dealing with fear about sharing the Gospel. Instead of being concerned about yourself, and the impact that sharing the Gospel of Christ will have on you, consider, the impact on the people you DON’T share the Gospel with. For example, your popular friend that is the life of the party and the kind of guy that will give you the shirt off his back will go to hell when he dies if he doesn’t repent of his philandering ways and turn to Jesus as his personal Lord and Savior. Your kind, generous coworker that always pitches in to help and gladly puts in the extra hours if needed will go to hell when she dies if she continues to believe that things like saying the rosary, going to mass regularly and helping the poor will earn her way to heaven when she dies. Your daughter that thinks she is in love with her girlfriend and is living an openly gay lifestyle will go to hell when she dies if she doesn’t repent and ask for God’s forgiveness. The list goes on…
If you fear saying the wrong thing, remember that Jesus himself promises that “the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say.” (Luke 12:12) All we have to do is trust God to do what He promises.
If you are struggling with being able to trust God than you have more work to do before you step onto the battlefield.
Ok, we’ve addressed some of your fears, now let’s look at their fears. The unbelievers that we are witnessing to actually have fears that are very similar to our own. They are also afraid of the unknown, they can be afraid of losing their friends too. They may be thinking, if I bought into this repenting of my sins stuff and changed my behavior, all my friends would bail on me. If I stopped drinking and partying I would never see my friends because we always meet at the bar. I remember when I was lost, I was afraid that I wouldn’t have the ability to feel good and have fun without consuming alcohol and other substances. Before I was saved, I was afraid that life would be miserable with all the “rules and regulations” I thought I would have to give up having fun to be a Christian. Just as it is for the saved, pride is a big hindrance for the lost. I was one of those guys that always “fixed it myself”, at least I thought I did. The idea of humbly admitting that I needed help and then asking for it was a tough pill to swallow. Some folks are afraid of making the wrong decision. This is one reason for pointing out the sin in their lives while you are talking with them. The Holy Spirit will convict the ones He has selected and will use their sins to do that.
If you’re going to fear anything, be fearful for the lost people you are reaching out to and listen to what Jesus said in Luke 12:8 “And I tell you, everyone who acknowledges me before men, the Son of Man also will acknowledge before the angels of God, but the one who denies me before men will be denied before the angels of God.”
It would not be truthful if I told you I never experience fear when sharing the Gospel. I like to call it a “managed fear”. Similar to when I hit the road on my motorcycle. When I ride, I am well aware of the dangers involved so I never get on my bike without taking it to the Lord first. When I ride, I am relying on the Lord to guide me and protect me. I put my life in His hands. I still have to ride safely and avoid unnecessary risks but I ride with a cautious confidence and assurance because I know that God is with me. By going first to the Holy Spirit in prayer, asking for His divine hand on my witnessing efforts and trusting in Him to protect me and to do the work of softening the hearts of those I will speak to, I can have that same assurance that whatever happens will be God’s will. That gives me the peace, confidence and boldness to go forth in His name and to His glory.
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