I wrote in the blog post before this one about fear and how God’s perfect love casts out all fear. The followers of Jesus feared when he was taken away by the Romans in the garden. They continued to fear while he was being mocked and beaten and hung on the cross. After he was dead and buried, they hunkered down behind locked doors for fear of the Jews. (John 20:19)
Even after Jesus appeared to them, risen from the dead in the flesh, the apostles continued to live in fear. It was not until they were filled with the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost that they emerged out of their funk from behind locked, closed doors to preach the Gospel boldly in the crowded streets of Jerusalem.
As I continue to read through the Bible, now in the book of Acts, I see something else that I hadn’t seen before. In Acts 3 & 4, we see Peter and John healing a lame man, being hauled in front of the Sanhedrin and being instructed to stop preaching in the name of Jesus. Afterward, Peter and John met with the other followers of Jesus in Jerusalem and prayed for boldness to keep speaking the gospel in the name of Jesus!
I previously observed that this change from fearful believers hiding behind closed doors to bold proclaimers of the Gospel on the crowded city streets happened only after they were filled with the Holy Spirit. It wasn’t Jesus appearing to them, risen from the dead, that overcame their fear; it was the Holy Spirit who filled them!
But there is more. They prayed for boldness while remembering the words of David in the Psalms (Psalm 2:1-2):
‘Why did the Gentiles [nations] rage,Acts 4:25-26
And the peoples devise futile things?
‘The kings of the earth took their stand,
And the rulers were gathered together
Against the Lord and against His Christ [Anointed One/Messiah].’
There will be opposition when we preach in the name of Jesus. That’s why we need the boldness. We need to be able to overcome our fear of rejection and our unhealthy desire for favor from people to be able to preach the gospel. We can’t do it on our own; we need the help of the Holy Spirit.
I suffer greatly from this defect, myself, which I recognize as I read through these passages. I need that boldness that comes from God’s Holy Spirit, or I will continue hide “behind closed” doors – or maybe the keyboards of this computer on which I type!
And, there is one more thing before I get to the point. I think this is an area in which we could all use a little bit of dying to self. I certainly speak for myself when I say that I stand in my own way of being able to preach the Gospel boldly as Peter and John did. My self, my flesh, is in the way of me being who God wants me to be in Him. That flesh, that self that is in the way, needs to die. It needs to yield to God. It needs to be sacrificed to the purposes of God.
Not that I have overcome this self. I confess and admit to you as I write this that I have not. But, that brings me to the final point.
The disciples were praying for boldness to preach the gospel, to do what Jesus told them to do, which was to proclaim the Gospel in Jerusalem and beyond – to the ends of the Earth. But, Jesus told them to wait… to wait and to pray. While they were waiting and praying, they were filled with the Holy Spirit.
And when they had prayed, the place where they had gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak the word of God with boldness.Acts 4:31
Reading this again, and mediating on the progression from fear to boldness, and the filling of the Holy Spirit that gave them that boldness, I saw something new: I noticed that they gathered again to pray for boldness. They had been filled with the Spirit on the day of Pentecost, but they met again to pray for boldness. That’s when I realized that being filled with the Holy Spirit is not a one-time event.
The disciples were filled with the Holy Spirit as they prayed in Acts 2, and then they were filled with the Holy Spirit again as they prayed in Acts 4. We don’t get filled up and stay filled up. We need to go back, and go back, and go back again, to be filled by the Holy Spirit. We need to have our spiritual gas tank filled over and over again.
Not that the Holy Spirit is like a commodity. He isn’t, but we are vessels that are broken and porous. We need to be continuously filled. We need to go back to God over and over to be filled by His Spirit; otherwise we will be “running on empty” as the song goes.
Again, not that I have lived this way or have done or experienced this myself – very often at least. I have to confess that I don’t and I haven’t.
Please pray for me as I pray now for you that we would be doers of the word and not hearers only. Please pray for me that I would have the desire and the willingness to pray for boldness and seek God until I am filled with the Spirit on a continual basis that I might live the life that God has destined me to live and be the follower of Christ He would have me be.