Paralyzed by Fear
And now, Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness . . . Acts 4:29
I don’t generally think of myself as struggling with fear. I’d even venture to say I might be brave under certain circumstances, though bravery and stupidity do often look a lot alike. There are those times though, when I’m an absolute coward. I’ll boldly go to jail or a treatment center to share the story of God’s work in my life. I would even go to some foreign land to do the same. When, however, God asks me to cross the street to share my story with a neighbor who appears to be struggling, I suddenly turn chicken.
It’s far easier to tell my story to an addict in treatment whom I don’t know and whom I’ll never see again. When it’s someone close to home though, for some reason, I begin to worry about what they’ll think. I don’t want to be the religious nut in the neighborhood. I don’t want them to mock me. What if my efforts are met with apathy or even hostility? Then, whenever I run into them, it would be awkward. It would be best if I just kept to myself.
For reasons that are far more valid than mine, the early Christians were also fearful of sharing their faith. In today’s passage, Peter and John were arrested and then let go with a warning to stop talking about Christ. And when they had further threatened them, they let them go (Acts 4:21). Upon being released, they went to their friends, prayed for boldness, and went right back to spreading the gospel. Whatever fear they had, they took that fear to God and continued acting in obedience. They didn’t pretend they weren’t in very real danger, but neither did they let fear stop them from doing what Jesus had commanded. In addressing their fear appropriately, they were filled with boldness (Acts 4:31).
When we find ourselves fearful, we must do the same. It does no good to pretend we’re not afraid. Whatever we’re struggling with, we should gather with those who understand our struggle and pray about it. Then, we should face our fear, not allowing it to paralyze us from doing what we’re supposed to do. Often, it’s only in the radical action of obedience that we find the boldness and transformation we’ve been seeking.