by Neil Downey
We had previously suffered and been insulted in Philippi, as you know, but with the help of our God we dared to tell you his gospel in spite of strong opposition. (1 Thessalonians 2:2)
What makes people do dangerous things? Sometimes it’s the adrenaline rush that accompanies cheating death. For others, maybe the promise of glory or riches awarded for bravery and valor. In some cases, it’s sheer insanity. But I don’t think the apostle Paul fits into any of these categories. He risked his life (and eventually gave his life) for something he deemed more valuable. Take a look at his daredevil resume:
Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my own countrymen, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false brothers. (2 Corinthians 11:24-26)
Paul’s passion for the gospel [Jesus message] and zeal for seeing God glorified in the lives of people drove him to do some treacherous stuff. He didn’t exactly play it safe and he attempted some feats that I’m sure left his friends shaking their heads in disbelief. If Dos Equis existed in the first century, Paul could have been the spokesman because he was, perhaps, the most interesting man in the world. “I don’t always preach. But when I do, I prefer the gospel.”
If Dos Equis existed in the first century, Paul could have been the spokesman because he was, perhaps, the most interesting man in the world.
But this life of courage in the face of danger wasn’t one that he just fleshed out on his own. The Holman Christian Standard Bible translates 1 Thessalonians 2:2b “we were emboldened by our God to speak the gospel to you in spite of great opposition.” God provided Paul and his companions – and countless missionaries since – with divine boldness to declare the gospel. Paul wasn’t afraid to take risks, to spiritually pioneer new areas, to dream big.
In my various roles and responsibilities in ministry over the years, I have tended to be relatively cautious, to be satisfied with mediocrity, to settle for the status quo – mostly because I was afraid of failure and of my image taking a hit. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had a chance to speak the gospel to somebody and totally wussed out. But the goodness and grace of God has also empowered me to “dare to tell” people the gospel in spite of (some slight and vaguely perceived) opposition. It’s now my prayer that I will be sensitive to the Spirit’s leading and strengthened by the Spirit’s power in order to tell people the greatest news they’ll ever hear.
When have you “dared to tell” people the good news in spite of real or perceived opposition? When have you chickened out? What was the difference?
Neil Downey is Pastor of Community Life at Central Church in Sioux Falls, SD. This is an excerpt from his book The Late Awakening.