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What motivated the early church to press on under threat of rejection, persecution, and death? It’s the same thing we need to overcome our fear of sharing the gospel with our neighbors—gospel courage.
I have a dear friend who has a beautiful wife, one very precocious little girl, and one little boy who’s the mellowest kid I’ve ever seen in my life. My friend loves his family very much. He makes a good living, lives in a great house, and has great friends. He enjoys a really good life. Regardless of where you come from, you could look at his life and think that he’s very blessed.
My friend recently got on a plane to Darfur to go to one of the most dangerous places in the world to dig wells. He went to help provide clean drinking water for people he did not know and who, by and large, do not care for him. Some of them would rather he die than be there to give them clean drinking water. As he went, he was betting it all on the providence of God that he wouldn’t run across the wrong crowd at the wrong time. Because if you do, out in the desert in some of the places his group had to travel, you are dead.
Fearless faith results from holding on to Christ as our treasure
Now, why would he leave a beautiful wife and two awesome kids and get on a plane to go dig water wells for people who would just as soon kill him as drink his water? Why would he do that? Because to live is Christ and to die is gain.
The Christian living a life worthy of the gospel of Jesus Christ is fearless, regardless of the situation. The Apostle Paul describes the mature Christian life this way: “Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel, and not frightened in anything by your opponents” (Phil. 1:27–28). Being fearless in our faith makes the gospel look big.
From our Western comfort zone, my friend’s trip to Darfur can be seen as an extreme example of gospel-fueled courage. But don’t we need this sort of confidence in Christ to simply overcome the fear of sharing the gospel with our neighbors?
Paul talks about marginalization, insults, oppression, persecution, and suffering as if they’re gifts. They are “granted” to us (Phil. 1:29) to further the cause of Christ, which is the goal we all strive toward together.
The Christian living a life worthy of the gospel of Jesus Christ is fearless, regardless of the situation.
The day will come—perhaps today—when you will die and see all of history being effectively rewritten from the halls of heaven. The annals of history will not be filled with wars and kings. There will be one story: the heroes will be missionaries, and the victor will be seen clearly as Christ. Knowing this, who cares if friends or enemies mock you? Do not be “frightened in anything by your opponents” (Phil. 1:28). Be willing to get on a plane and go to dangerous places. Be willing to take the pay cut at work to do what’s right. Be willing, no matter who your opponent is, to be fearless.
This is a clear sign to them of their destruction, but of your salvation, and that from God. For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake, engaged in the same conflict that you saw I had and now hear that I still have. (Phil. 1:28–30)
To be opposed because of our faith is a sign of our opponent’s destruction. Ironic, isn’t it? Especially given that it was the Christians’ destruction the early church’s persecutors had in mind.
In fact, to be opposed for our faith in Christ is a blessing because it is in itself a sign of our salvation! (Matt. 5:10–12).
Christ is all
Fearless faith results from holding on to Christ as our treasure. If we believe that our reward in heaven far surpasses all the comfort, convenience, and collections of the world, we, too, will be willing to consider them all as loss.
Be willing to get on a plane and go to dangerous places. Be willing to take the pay cut at work to do what’s right. Be willing, no matter who your opponent is, to be fearless
Paul encourages those in the Philippian church to remember the gospel that saved them, the gospel that brought them all together and made them family, the gospel that secures them second by second for the glorification of eternity so that they will hold all else loosely and ultimately fear nothing.
A life worthy of the gospel
So what does it look like to live a life worthy of the gospel of Jesus Christ? It looks like standing with courage against all oppressors, natural or supernatural. What secures you is Christ.
Christ is all. Looking at it that way, the implication becomes rather simple. Not easy. But simple. The gospel motivates fearless faith.
How are you doing?
Fearlessly face that question.
Are you living a life worthy of the gospel of Jesus Christ? Have you found Christ worth living for, worth dying for, worth casting all away for his sake? Examine your own heart. Do you just hang out with people who are like you? Are you timid and fearful when it comes to any opposition to your faith?
Face these questions with courage, and press on. Jesus loves you.
This post is adapted from Matt Chandler’s new book To Live Is Christ, to Die Is Gain, which he is taking on the road with a book tour. We’re giving away five copies of the book on Twitter, so follow @theResurgence for details.