Choosing Boldness [May 6, 2018]

God doesn’t promise that things will go the way we want them to.  Our call is to keep on trusting God anyway, and to trust Him with our whole lives and our whole hearts.

How many of you saw today’s sermon title and wondered if I was going to talk about salsa?  So let’s talk about salsa.  Do you prefer bold or mild?

Do you know what robots dip in salsa?  Microchips.

I tried to ask Google whether more people buy bold or mild, but instead of salsa, I got information about coffee.  So how about coffee…do you prefer bold or mild?  Or blonde?

In case you wondered, tortilla chips do not taste good dipped in coffee, neither bold or mild.

Boldness is something the Bible encourages.

2 Timothy 1:7 says, “For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.”

Msg version: “God doesn’t want us to be shy with his gifts, but bold and loving and sensible.”

In the letters to the churches in Revelation, Jesus tells the church in Laodicea that their lack of boldness makes him vomit.  He says,

“I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth.” (Rev 3:16-17)

I don’t want to make Jesus vomit!  Boldness doesn’t mean rude, obnoxious, loud, or disrespectful. Being bold is being confident, fearless, daring, strong, and not easily intimidated.[1]  Boldness makes us more effective in telling what we know about Jesus.

When I was a customer service rep, I learned to be bold when answering questions so a customer could have confidence in my answer.  If I answered mildly, “I think it might be…” then they would ask to speak to someone else who really knew the answer, which drove me nuts because I DID know the answer.  I learned to say, “It is . . .” with confidence.

In the book of Acts, we see the disciples speaking boldly about all they have seen and heard.  Their lives have been changed because of Jesus.  We too are called to be transformed (Romans 12:2) and to boldly trust and boldly follow Jesus.

How are we to be bold? We see in the story from Acts that we read today that we are to pray boldly.

The early Christians have a rather dramatic experience in prayer.  Prior to this they had been teaching in the temple about what happened with Jesus, and they were confronted by the priests and temple leaders who were disturbed that Peter and John were teaching that through Jesus there is a resurrection of the dead. (Acts 4:2) It’s pretty hard to tell people about Jesus without talking about the resurrection, actually.  Their testimony was very effective, and that day 5,000 men, not counting the women and children, became believers. (4:4)

The temple council, trying to keep the peace, commanded Peter and John to never speak or teach in the name of Jesus again.  But Peter and John boldly replied, “Do you think we will obey you rather than God? We cannot stop telling about what we have seen and heard.”  Despite this response, the council let them go because they were afraid of a riot. (4:21)

When Peter and John told the other believers what had happened with the council, we might expect they would go into hiding and stop preaching about Jesus until everything settled down, or that they would ask God to make everything peaceful, and keep them from having any more trouble, but instead they pray for more boldness!

“Give us . . . great boldness in preaching your word.” (4:29)

And then the place where they were meeting shook. God responds boldly, confirming for them that God had heard their prayer, and they were filled with the Holy Spirit, and went out and preached the word of God with boldness. (4:31)

A bold prayer strengthens their boldness.  We, too, are called to pray boldly.  Jesus says, “Ask and you will receive.” (Matthew 7:7)   As we seek to become more and more a congregation that thrives, let’s ask God to make us bold and to give us clear visionfor the words we need to speak, the actions we need to take, and the ways we need to be transformed, so that we might be fully committed disciples of Jesus, ever growing in holiness and grace, and drawing others to him.

Along with praying boldly, we need to…

Trust boldly.

We see this trust in the prayer in Acts 4.  They begin their prayer, “Sovereign Lord, you made heaven and earth and the sea and everything in them…You anointed Jesus to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place.” (4:24, 27-28)  They trusted that God had a plan from the beginning  in sending Jesus, and that God would continue to strengthen them as they continued to teach in the name of Jesus.

We also see bold trust in the story in Daniel 3 of Shedrach, Meshach and Abednego.  King Nebuchadnezzar had commanded that everyone in the kingdom should worship the gold statue that he had had made of himself.  Shed, Mesh & Abe refused to obey, and instead only worshipped God.  The punishment for refusing to worship the gold statue was to be thrown into the furnace, but that didn’t scare these guys.  Instead they make a bold statement of trust in God:  “If we are thrown into the furnace, the God whom we serve is able to save us…but even if he doesn’t, we still won’t worship the gold statue.” (Dan. 3:17-18)

God does save them and they survive.  They were even dancing in the furnace.  But before that, they were already trusting, saying, “God is able to save us, but even if he doesn’t, we will still trust in him and worship him alone.”

This is bold faith. God doesn’t promise that things will go the way we want them to.  Our call is to keep on trusting God anyway, and to trust Him with our whole lives and our whole hearts.

Jesus demonstrated this most dramatically in the Garden of Gethsemane when he prayed, “My Father! If it is possible, let this cup of suffering be taken away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.” (Matthew 26:39)  And Jesus taught us to pray similarly, “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” (Matthew 6:10)

We are to pray boldly, to trust boldly, and to . . .

Live boldly.

Jesus demonstrated this in his life and ministry, and in his death and resurrection.  And he taught this in his preaching.  The section of Matthew that we read this morning comes from what is probably the most famous sermon, Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount.  Jesus says, “You are the salt of the earth.” (5:13)  “You are the light of the world.” (5:14)  Salt and light are bold.

It’s striking to me that Jesus doesn’t say, “Go become salt” or “Go become light.”  He says, “You ARE salt.”  “You ARE light.”  He’s telling the disciples to be who they ARE as his followers.  To boldly live as the bearers of the message, witnesses to the life of Jesus and the love of God.  To not be afraid to be who they were called to be.

We don’t always realize how much we are being transformed by spending time with Jesus, but people notice when we respond to situations differently, or when we make different choices about our lives. Salt and light are basic things that make a big difference in the world.  Can you imagine if there were no salt or light?  Can you imagine if there were no Christianity?  If Jesus had never come?

My first funeral after I became a pastor was for a longtime member of the church who had been in the hospital for some time.  In the hospital I had met one of her friends, a Jewish man who was always wearing his yarmulke and prayer shawl.  As we were preparing for her memorial service, I was concerned about offending him because I was going to be talking a lot about Jesus and the resurrection, something that is an important part of Christian funerals.  I asked him if that was going to be a problem, and he told me I should boldly proclaim what was central to my faith.  He said he would step out of the room at that point because that was what his faith dictated, but he also said that he could see how Christians had made the world a better place when they were true to their beliefs. His words made it much easier for me to be bold that day.

Sometimes being bold is more of a risk, as we make choices that challenge us. A woman named Sarah went with her husband on a business trip.  She and her daughter enjoyed the mornings while the husband attended workshops. One afternoon it was announced that there would be elephant rides for the children in the hotel parking lot. Her daughter, Katie, was delirious with excitement. Sarah told her, “Life is always full of wonderful surprises if we’re open to them. Some mornings you get up not knowing what will happen, and you get to ride an elephant that day!” When they got home, there was an invitation for Sarah to join a group of journalists on a trip to Ireland. She was tired of traveling, and not really a spontaneous person, so she told them she would probably not go. Her husband, overhearing her, said, “So, you’re not going to ride the elephant?” She decided to go.[2]

Though God is powerful, he doesn’t force us.  We get to choose whether to follow Jesus, and whether to be bold – whether to pray boldly, to trust God boldly, and whether to live boldly.

Living boldly instead of living fearfully and timidly means:

  • Instead of shying away from showing someone love, we take action. Love boldly.
  • Instead of being too afraid of embarrassment, we tell someone about how Jesus has changed us. Tell our stories boldly.
  • Instead of holding a grudge, we offer someone forgiveness. Give grace boldly.
  • Instead of hiding our beliefs, we take a stand, and we speak boldly.

Most of all, living boldly means following the Lord’s guidance with faithfulness and obedience, regardless of cost.[3] Choosing mild is much easier.  Mild is more comfortable. Mild makes God spit us out. Mild doesn’t ask much of us.  Bold asks everything of us.  Jesus, who gave everything for us, asks us to boldly give him nothing less.

How will you choose to pray and trust and live boldly today?

Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.  Glory to him in the church and in Christ Jesus through all generations forever and ever! Amen. (Ephesians 3:20-21)

Footnotes
[1]
Mike Yaconelli in You Don’t Have to be Perfect to be a Christian
[2] https://therocketcompany.com/10-new-preaching-stories/
[3] Lloyd Ogilvie, The Communicator’s Commentary: Matthew (Waco, TX: Word Books, 1983), 109.

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