A Call to Speak: How Dare we NOT speak out?
Proverbs 24:11-12 commands us to: “Rescue those being led away to death; hold back those staggering towards slaughter. If you say, “But we knew nothing about this,” does not He who weighs the heart perceive it? Does not He who guards you life know it? Will He not repay each person according to what he has done?” Although this verse is not expressly speaking about sharing the gospel or boldly talking about our faith, I believe that it still applies and the truth is still the same. We have a responsibility to speak and we will be held accountable. We have been graced with the news of life! Knowing the truth, can we keep silent and abandon our brothers and sisters to death?
“On the contrary, we speak as men approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel. We are not trying to please men, But God, who tests our hearts.” (I Thessalonians 2:4)
What is it that keeps us from speaking out? In the end, I believe it comes down to this: we fear men more than we fear God. Unlike Paul (the author of I Thessalonians), we are trying to please men, rather than the God who tests our hearts.
Now, in America, we do not face severe persecution for our faith. We have no threats of imprisonment hanging over our heads nor have we witnessed the beatings or executions of close friends or family members. The greatest trial that most of us will face for our faith is an occasional snub or insult now and then, perhaps the end of a friendship, or a job opportunity lost. And yet, we do not speak. We are afraid. Why?
“Hear me, you who know what is right, you people who have My law in your hearts: Do not fear the reproach of men or be terrified by their insults. For the moth will eat them up like a garment; the worm will devour them like wool. But my righteousness will last forever, my salvation through all generations.” (Isaiah 51:7-8)
“Do not fear the reproach of men or be terrified by their insults.” We should not fear men, nor should we fear death. Instead, Jesus tells us who we should fear in Matthew 10:28 “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.”
And as Christians, we have a “blessed assurance” of salvation, and life, and help in times of trial. “For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive.” (I Corinthians 15:22)
“What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31)
At the end of the “Great Commission” (Matthew 28:18-20), Jesus, after telling His followers to preach the good news of life to all nations, also gives them this wonderful promise. “And surely, I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20) Christ is with us always! Can we be afraid of men when the One who defeated death is by our side?
And yet, we do not speak. Why?
Paul writes in Romans 1:16 “I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ…” Can we, in all honesty, say as much? If we did, would our actions verify our words or identify us as liars?
When we, in fear, remain silent when our Lord’s name is mocked, we are acting as though we are ashamed of our Lord. When we, in order to avoid being different, do not speak up and acknowledge Christ, we act as though we are ashamed of our Savior.
And Jesus Christ himself said, “If anyone is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when He comes in His Father’s glory with the holy angels.” (Mark 8:38)
And also in Luke 12:8-9, “I tell you, whoever acknowledges me before men, the Son of Man will also acknowledge him before the angels of God. But he who disowns me before men will be disowned before the angels of God.”
“It comes down to this: I am more afraid of being “ashamed” before men, than standing ashamed before the Creator of the world… I am more afraid of what men will say, than what my Lord will say. I am more afraid of being shunned by men, then shunning the Risen Lord.”
~ An anonymous prayer journal entry
Are we more afraid of being “ashamed” before men, then standing ashamed before our Lord in heaven? Are we more afraid of what men will say to us, than what our Lord will say? Are we more afraid of being shunned by men, then shunning the One who died in our place? Who do we want to please more, God or men?
Now, I know that if I was asked those questions, I would throw my shoulders back, tilt my head proudly, and stoutly proclaim “Of course not!” and “Of course I want to please God more than men!” But when it comes down to it, what do my actions prove? What does my behavior say?
Everyone has heard the old saying “Actions speak louder than words”. It is very true. We are known by our actions, rather than by what we say. The apostle Paul wrote in I Corinthians 4:20 “For the kingdom of God is not a matter of talk but of power.” In context with the rest of the chapter, the word “talk” refers to empty arrogant boasting. In other words, Paul is telling us: do not simply say it; prove what you say by your deeds.
I am a master of excuses. I can always find a “good” reason to remain silent. “But Lord, I do not know enough!” “I am not skilled with words.” (I borrowed that one from Moses). “I have no time now, I’m in a hurry.” “Next time, I’ll speak next time!”
But, the Scriptures tells us to make the most of every opportunity. Ephesians 5:15-16 warns us to “Be very careful, then, how you live – not as unwise, but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.” And Paul repeats his urging in Colossians 4:5 “Be very wise in the way you act towards outsiders; make the most of every opportunity.”
Paul also wrote to Timothy in II Timothy 2:11-13 “Here is a trustworthy saying: If we died with Him, we will also live with Him; if we endure, we will also reign with Him. If we disown Him, He will also disown us; if we are faithless, He will remain faithful, for He cannot disown Himself.”
And again, we are warned against disowning Christ in Matthew 10:32-33 “Whoever acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge him before my Father in heaven. But whoever disowns me before men, I will disown him before my Father in heaven.”
Now, while we many not literally disown or deny Christ by our words, what do our actions say? Do we disown Christ by our actions? Do we disown Him by remaining silent, by failing to speak?
Brothers and sisters, it should not be this way! Our attitude should be like that of Peter and John, who, when standing before the Sanhedrin, boldly refused to keep silent and said “…Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God’s sight to obey you rather than God. For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.” (Acts 4:19-20 & Acts 5:29) “Peter and the other apostles replied: “We must obey God rather than men!”
“Then Paul answered, “Why are you weeping and breaking my heart? I am ready not only to be bound, but also to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.” (Acts 21:13) Like Paul, we must be ready to shunned, abandoned, persecuted, and even ready to die, for the name of our Lord.
Jesus warned us, His followers, in John 15:18-21 that the world would hate us and persecute us. “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. Remember the words I spoke to you: ‘No servant is greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also.”
And again in Luke 21:17-19 “All men will hate you because of me. But not a hair of your head will perish. By standing firm you will gain life.”
Paul exhorts all Christians in I Corinthians 16:13 to “Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be men of courage; be strong.”
Brothers and sisters, stand firm in the faith; be strong! Speak out and do not be afraid any longer! Do not stand ashamed before our Lord in heaven, because you were afraid of men on earth. Consider these questions today: Who do you fear? Who do you wish to please most? Are you ashamed of Christ? What do your actions say?
~ A Servant of the King