Fear is a Phantom
Zig Ziglar said, “Fear is often false evidence appearing real.” Many times, you will discover that those you were worried about offending have been waiting (or even praying) for someone to talk to them about their souls. Often the most intimidating people are the most open to the gospel.
Begin to share your faith and soon you will discover that your fear was but a phantom. As you confront it, like a mirage, it will fade away until it completely disappears. I have heard countless stories illustrating this.
My mentor, Reinhard Bonnke, told me the amazing story of his brother’s salvation. Many years ago, Reinhard had a dream. He saw his unsaved brother, Jürgen, walking on a treacherous footbridge stretched above a deep, rocky chasm. Suddenly a cloud of fog came over the bridge, and he heard his brother crying for help as he fell to his death.
Reinhard awoke with his heart pounding and his bed soaked in sweat. Then the Holy Spirit spoke clearly and specifically. “Jürgen is on the bridge to eternity. If you don’t warn the godless man, I will hold you accountable for his death… Write him a letter and tell him what you have seen in this dream.”
Weeks passed. Finally, the long-awaited reply came from Jürgen. Emotion overcame Evangelist Bonnke as he read it. Jürgen said that his wife had just left him and his best friend had just died. Drowning in depression, he had decided to take his own life when he had a dream – the exact same dream as Reinhard’s!
When he awoke, he fell at his bedside and prayed, “Almighty God, you know that I don’t even believe in you, but I have a brother who serves you. If you have spoken to me through this dream, speak to me through Reinhard.” A few days later, Evangelist Bonnke’s letter arrived like a word from Heaven at just the right moment. “Your dream was my dream,” Jürgen said. “I have given my life to Jesus. He has forgiven my sins.”
Imagine if Evangelist Bonnke had allowed fear to stop him from writing the letter that saved Jürgen’s life (physically and spiritually). He would have lived with the regret that Jürgen’s blood was on his hands.
Trust the Holy Spirit
You must trust that the Holy Spirit is working with you. As much as you want to see people saved, Jesus wants it more! The Holy Spirit is highly invested in evangelism. He lingers at the foot of the cross. He co-operates with soul winners because they do what is closest to God’s heart.
Cultivate a deep conviction that when you share the gospel, the Holy Spirit – God Himself – works with you! That will make you fearless. If God is for you, who can be against you (Rom 8:31).
This requires something called faith! Just as we are saved by faith, as followers of Jesus we live by faith. Is it any surprise that we must also evangelize “by faith?”
- By faith we trust that the Holy Spirit has gone before us and prepared the hearts of those we encounter.
- By faith we choose to view the encounters we have in our everyday lives as “divine appointments.”
- By faith we trust that the Holy Spirit will give us the right words at the right moment as we share the gospel.
- By faith we trust that the Holy Spirit will take those words and continue to use them in that person’s heart long after we’ve parted ways.
But remember: every action of faith includes an element of risk. That is never going to change. So why would we risk our wellbeing and comfort for someone else? We find the answer in our next principle.
Love Trumps Fear
Fear is an emotion everyone feels, but love is infinitely more powerful than fear. Love compels us to take risks. Love acts like an anesthetic, numbing us to fear so it won’t govern our actions. As 1 John 4:18 says, “There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear.”
At one of our “Schools of Evangelism,” a young man asked me an honest but painful question during Q&A. “I have been preaching on the streets for more than 20 years but have never led anyone to Christ. What must I add to my message to get results?” The answer was immediately obvious to me. I simply responded, “Love.” And that answer applies to more than a frustrated street preacher; it applies to all of us. According to 1 Corinthians 13:1, a message without love turns us into “clanging cymbals!” How utterly annoying and unappealing!
I’ve encountered many people who view the lost as “targets,” or a convert as a “notch in the belt” (perhaps I’ve even been guilty of this myself). Winning the lost is all about “winning” for them. So they think they must be a better debater or more clever and witty than their “target.” But that’s not how it works.
“Winning” the lost often means being willing to look like a “loser.” It requires vulnerability. It means being willing to be embarrassed and even accepting persecution. What compels us to subject ourselves to such exposure? Love – seeing the lost the way Jesus sees them.
Love is not selfish (1 Cor 13:5). That means to love others is to put them before ourselves. If fear of rejection keeps us from sharing the gospel, it means we love ourselves more than we love the lost. Love risks the loss of comfort, convenience, and security for the gospel’s sake (Mark 8:35).
I believe love is the most crucial part of evangelism. Let’s ask God for a baptism of love. Evangelism will become as easy as breathing!
From grade school to Bible College, I always feared test day. But I discovered a secret. After graduating seminary, I went to university and got a job as an all-night security guard. The job’s long, boring hours gave me the opportunity to study more than ever – sometimes four-to-five hours a night. Soon I came to realize I did not dread tests anymore. I actually looked forward to them – because I was ready for them!
Preparation puts confidence where there used to be fear and insecurity. That’s why 1 Peter 3:15 says that we should be ready to give everyone an answer for the hope that we have. Don’t wait until the middle of a conversation with an unbeliever to start thinking about what to say.
In the ancient world, warriors had to be ready for surprise attacks. An unprepared soldier was a dead soldier. If a soldier lounged around in bare feet, it meant he did not expect an attack. But wearing his military shoes signified readiness. Paul had this in mind when he said, “Stand firm…having your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace” (Eph 6:15).
Smith Wigglesworth used to say, “I don’t get ready; I stay ready.” Whether we are at a gospel crusade or grocery store, we must live with our “gospel boots” on!
I’m amazed by how few Christians can quote a few basic evangelistic scriptures on command. Perhaps this is a major reason so few share their faith – they’re not ready! Part of wearing “Gospel Boots” means being able to represent the gospel message faithfully when needed.
If we are prepared to share the gospel, the Holy Spirit will use us. Imagine losing power in your house and it becomes dark. You go down to the basement and find two lanterns – one has kerosene and the other doesn’t. Which would you use? The lantern that’s ready of course! We don’t have to beg God to use us. If we are ready, God will use us automatically!
Here are 5 tips to prepare you to share your faith!
1. Be aware of those around you
I love it when the Holy Spirit gives me a word of knowledge about someone’s need. It is a powerful tool and great “ice breaker.” However, we don’t always need a word of knowledge to discern someone’s need. Most of the time we are just too busy or self-absorbed to notice the obvious needs all around us.
If we will make a conscious decision to be mindful of the people around us, we will find many opportunities to share “a word in due season” to pray with people and to lead them to Christ. The more we practice, the more sensitive we will become and we may even discover that the Holy Spirit has been leading us more than we ever realized.