"For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self discipline." 2 Timothy 1:7
"Keep a clear mind in every situation. Don't be afraid of suffering for the Lord. Work at telling others the Good News, and fully carry out the ministry God has given you." 2 Timothy 4:5
In times when our culture cries out for affirmation and screams victimization, it can be a daunting task to speak truth. People we love are making decisions and living ways we know lead down a pathway of destruction. We are caught between a rock and hard place– do we savor the relationship and ignore the behavior or do we speak up and potentially sever it? In a perfect world we would speak the truth and savor the relationship but often our fears are based on the reality that truth isn’t well taken. As times grow darker and the world seems to be less and less concerned with morals, values, and truth, it is a more important time than ever to be a strong voice amidst confused cries and a light in dark places. We were never promised sharing truth would be easy. In fact, the bible illustrates over and over this will be hard and met with resistance.
Denunciation & Death
The prophet Jeremiah demonstrates two negative reactions we may encounter from people after sharing truth: Accusations of us having turned "against" them and declarations that they want us dead (figuratively or literally). The Lord instructs Jeremiah to give a message to the people in hopes that they will listen, repent, and turn from their evil ways so that they will be spared the disastrous consequences of their sin (Jeremiah 26:3). Jeremiah delivers these truths and in response, the people seize him and cry out that they want him dead because he prophesied “against” the city. Jeremiah was being obedient to God and trying to save the people with a message from God HIMSELF but the people wrongly viewed it as Jeremiah turning ‘against’ them. People we share truth with can have the same unfounded reaction toward us.
Truth is often offensive because it stands in contradiction to people's feelings, natural desires, and their plans prompting a reaction of defensiveness and accusation. We can all relate to someone thinking we are turning against them after sharing truth. As the Bible says in 2 Timothy 4:3, “A time is coming when people will no longer listen to sound and wholesome teaching. They will follow their own desires and will look for teachers who will tell them whatever their itching ears want to hear.” If you never want to hear hard truths and be held accountable, you can guarantee you have these same itching, destructive ears. If your friends only tell you what you want to hear and their advice is in contradiction to biblical truths, the friendship may be destructive. Loving someone means sharing hard truths with them. Often these truths will prevent your loved ones from experiencing the natural disastrous consequences of their sin.
Additionally, people may want us “dead” when we share truth with them: death of the relationship, revenge, suffering, death of our reputation, and more. Regardless of someone’s reaction to truth, “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28). Despite popular belief, our goal is not to live a safe life in our comfort zones never bothering anyone with truth. Our goal is to be the light of the world, make disciples of all nations, and share truth, despite the costs. That is why Jesus said, “Take up your cross daily and follow me.” Taking up our cross is hard, sacrificial, uncomfortable, painful and may result in death just as our Savior demonstrated. We must remember that for many, the truth is the only hope they have of being set free (John 8:32). Are you willing to surrender your comfort, acceptance, and safety through sharing truth for someone to be potentially spared the consequences of their sin?
Vilification & Exploitation
Paul gives us insight into speaking truth despite the message not being well received and people manipulating, exploiting, and vilifying us as a result. In Acts 19 Paul is arguing “boldly and persuasively” to the church over a three month period. The people “became obstinate, refused to believe, and publicly maligned the way” (Acts 19:9). In other words, they are refusing to change their thinking and are publically slandering Paul. Their misconduct prompted Paul to leave them. Notice, he didn’t decide in advance to avoid them. Instead, he preached boldly for three months after which he left. There comes a time when you've delivered the truth and the rest will be left up to God. When people are continuously slandering you when you have spoken truth, it may be time to move on. Your job isn’t to change their heart but to share the truth. As 1 Corinthians 3:6 says, “Some plant the seeds, some water them, but only God makes them grow.”
Paul knew he would face opposition but his purpose and action did not waver. He went on to lead daily discussions for two years "so that all of Asia’s Greeks and Jews would hear the word of the Lord” (Acts 19:10). After 27 months of boldly proclaiming the truth, much of which was to people who didn’t believe and wanted to destroy him, Paul did not lose focus on his calling to share truth. When people refuse to believe you and set out to try to destroy you, malign you, and manipulate you, that does not alter your duty to share truth. Opposition WILL come. Like our pastor Perry Noble said in a sermon recently, "With opportunity comes opposition."
Finally, people will exploit you, your church, your ministry, or God for their own selfish purposes. They will use the name of Jesus in order to promote their agenda to you but actually have a deceptive, wicked heart. Jeremiah 12:2 says, "You are always on their lips but far from their hearts" and 2 Corinthians 11:14-15 reminds us that "even Satan and his servants disguise themselves as servants of righteousness and angels of light." People who are exploiting us may look like 'good Christians' but we have to be cautious when their words and behaviors do not line up with scripture. The bible refers to these people as "wolves among sheep" (Matthew 10:16). In Acts 19, people are attempting to exploit Jesus’ name for their own means of casting out evil spirits without having ever entered into a relationship with Him. The evil spirits reply and say, “I know Jesus, I know Paul, but who are YOU?” (Acts 19:15). Paul’s testimony of Jesus was so powerful that the people recognized the power in Jesus' name and tried to unsuccessfully use it for their selfish purposes. This reminds me of the movie The Book of Eli, set in a post-apocalyptic world where people are without hope, Carnegie knows the power of the "The Book" (the Bible). He sets out to find the Bible so he can use it for his selfish purposes - as a weapon to bend people's wills and hearts to his own controlling, manipulative, and exploitive agenda. Paul's influence teaches us to be confident, bold, persuasive, and relentless with the truth and to defend the truth even in the face of opposition, exploitation, and suffering.
Sometimes we come across people who believe or promote false information about Jesus resulting in unbelief or mockery. In John chapter 7 people did not believe in Christ because of their misconstrued information about Him. They relied on their own understanding and preconceived notions, not on truth. They said, “The Christ is supposed to come from David’s family and Bethlehem not Galilee”(John 7:42). Little did they know, Christ actually did come from David’s lineage and was born in Bethlehem. When lies, misconceptions, or false beliefs are preventing others from recognizing Christ, it is important to share truth. We must remember that to unbelievers, the “message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God (1 Corinthians 1:18).” They may see it as foolishness but it is because they are dying apart from Jesus. For us who are saved, it is power and knowing others are dying in their foolishness gives us a prerogative and urgency to share the truth.
Fear & Providence
Fears can hold us back from sharing truth with people but God's providence should motivate us to move forward. Fear of consequences, fear of rejection, fear of accusations, fear of confrontation, fear of the person and a host of others stop Christians from sharing life-altering truth every day. We must remember, "There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love" (1 John 4:18). To perfectly love someone, we cannot fear any potential consequence that will come with sharing truth. Loving someone means sharing truth with them (1 John 3:18).
John 7 assures us that we can trust in God's provision instead of our fears if we are being obedient to His will: "They tried to seize [Jesus] but no one laid a hand on him because his time had not yet come.” It was not time for Jesus to be seized, despite the uproar he caused and the desire of the people to “seize” him. Likewise, we will only be seized when it is time. Regardless, “Our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us” (Romans 8:18). We may suffer but that suffering is a glorious thing when it is done for the glory of God. No suffering is in vain when in obedience to our Lord. We can rest in the confidence of no matter the outcome, we were obedient to truth and God will have his will done. God's providence and His love stretch far beyond fear's grasp.
God uses our boldness and perseverance in difficult situations for the purpose of growing us in Him. Fear can either paralyze us or grow us tremendously. Sharing truth may be uncomfortable at first but we should see this as an opportunity to grow. No fear in this world is founded apart from fear of the Lord. Because God is for us, who can be against us (Romans 8:31)!?
Truth must be shared with love. Jesus didn't ominously and condescendingly yell at people to turn from their sins. He lovingly invited them to the truth and thus experience freedom. Jesus was very tactful with the way he shared truth as countless stories in the bible illustrate. His loving tone, way of speaking, and choice of words are part of the equation and so should be ours.
Truth is timeless, eternal, always brings life, and delivers freedom. It can always be trusted because it is from God. The only fulfillment that is lasting is from Jesus and found in his truths. All else proves hollow, deceitful, and destructive in the end. As long as our world seeks to fill its voids in things outside of God’s design, the cries will continue. It is up us to be bold bearers of the truth.
"For the word of the LORD holds true, and we can trust everything he does." - Psalms 33:4
"But the Lord said to me, "Do not say, ' I am only a child.' You must go to everyone I send you to and say whatever I command you. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you and will rescue you." declares the LORD . . ."Get yourself ready! Stand up and say to them whatever I command you. Do not be terrified by them, or I will terrify you before them . . . They will fight against you but will not overcome you, for I am with you and will rescue you," declares the LORD." Jeremiah 1:7, 17, 19