Jim Cymbala

B. Childress
Jul 14 2013

A film crew and I were at the Brooklyn Heights Promenade, a pedestrian walkway that overlooks the East River in
downtown Brooklyn, to tape the companion DVD for this book.  But we had time to kill as we waited for it to get dark and
for the lights from the southern tip of Manhattan to become visible.  While the film crew arranged the lights and got the
cameras in position, I noticed that a small group of people had stopped to watch.  They probably thought we were
shooting a commercial or wondered if I was someone famous.  They stood watching and waiting, some licking ice cream
cones while we prepared to film the next segment.

Downtown Brooklyn has become a very trendy spot, as is often the case with trendy places, it isn’t exactly the Bible Belt.  
Some might even call it godless, due to the hostility of many neighborhoods toward Christian churches and their
message.  As I waited for my cue, I knew that my next sentences were going to address how life doesn’t work unless we
know Jesus Christ as Savior and the Holy Spirit empowers us.  I was born and raised in Brooklyn, and I strongly sensed
that these spectators wouldn’t be thrilled with what I was going to say.

Just because I am a pastor doesn’t mean I am any different from anyone else.  I have the same desire to be liked, to fit in
with everyone else.  I am not immune to the temptation of fear.  At that moment, as I thought about what I would say, and
how much the crowd wouldn’t want to hear it, a silent but strong pressure came over me.  Because I didn’t want to be
sneered at, cowardice was tempting me.  But I fought it.  I asked the Lord for help.  “God, don’t let me hold back in
speaking for you because of possible hostility from these people.”

The camera lights came on, the director counted down, “Three, two, one,” and he gave me the cue.  I started talking.

My lines took just two minutes, but the reaction of the crowd took even less time.  As soon as I mentioned Jesus, some of
the people dropped their heads and walked away.  When I mentioned salvation, others brazenly stared at me as if to
say, “Are you out of your mind?”  By the time I finished talking, not one person from the crowd was left.  But I got the
words out.  I spoke boldly about Jesus Christ as the Savior of the world.

Dealing with Fear

Fear presents itself in many ways – fear of rejection, opposition, suffering, and failure to name a few.  But regardless of
the ways we encounter fear in our lives, the Holy Spirit can help us overcome it.


Downtown Brooklyn isn’t the only place resistant to the gospel.  As Christians, we can find hostility wherever we go.  That
opposition can cause us to become fearful and timid.  At times, we all fear rejection.  We’re afraid that if we stand for
Christ, if we speak for Christ, we might not fit in with our family, friends, or coworkers.  That’s why Scripture warns us
about the importance of public confession of our faith in Christ.  We can’t have it both ways – either we turn our backs
on Jesus to escape ridicule, or we embrace our faith no matter the reaction of others.  “Whoever is ashamed of me and
my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the
holy angels” (Luke 9:26).  What a sobering thought that Jesus might be ashamed of some of us when he returns to earth.

This need for boldness applies even to kids who grow up in a Christian home.  They go to church, attend Sunday school
or Christian camps, and have friends who are believers.  They can talk about spiritual things without experiencing much
resistance.  But things change when they reach high school and later go off to college.  Suddenly they find that if they
talk about God the Creator, or worse, Jesus dying for the sins of the world, they’re labeled.  Professors call them
ignorant; students brand them as intolerant.  Christian students quickly learn that talking about their faith can make them
socially unpopular, so some keep quiet, fearing the rejection of their peers.

When Christian students leave school and enter the workforce, they find a similar hostility.  Now they learn that
mentioning Jesus at work may even cause them to lose career opportunities.  Again, because of fear, some gradually
become closet Christians.

We live in a hostile spiritual environment, and we don’t have to be young to face the pressure of giving in to fear or
timidity.  It’s true for ministers as well as for people in the pew.  That’s why this promise from the Bible is so important for
us: “For the Spirit of God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power” (II Timothy 1:7).  Through the Holy Spirit,
God has promised to give us courage, and even boldness, to swim against the current and to speak for Christ even
though we might be mocked.


We have many believers in our congregation who once lived pretty crazy lives.  Perhaps they were involved in criminal
activities, drugs, or other self-destructive behaviors.  What is interesting is that there seems to be a pattern in so any of
their stories.  While they lived a destructive lifestyle, their family was there to support them.  But once they put their faith
in Jesus and became born-again Christians, their families often turned against them.  When they didn’t live for God,
when they used drugs, wasted money, got arrested, and who knows what else, their families never bothered them.  But
once they started following Christ and attending church regularly, their families started to exert emotional pressure on

“What?  Do you think you’re better than us?”

“The church is just after your money.”

“What are you in, some kinda cult?”

A great pastor in another part of the city was once a wild, middle-class drug abuser until Christ transformed his life.  
What a surprise to him when he excitedly told an uncle, “I found Jesus!” and his uncle cynically replied, “Really?  I did not
know he was lost.”

In the previous chapter, Terry Khem told her dramatic story of becoming a Christian.  She had grown up in a Buddhist
family, and for the first year of her new faith, she hid it from her family.  She was afraid of their rejection.  Then when she
overcame her fear and told them, she faced a great deal of opposition as the only Christian in a house full of Buddhists.  
Sometimes she sat in her car to pray just to avoid the battles she faced inside her own home.

But we don’t have to be a Buddhist immigrant or a recovering drug addict to face opposition to our faith within our own
homes.  It happens in stable, otherwise loving homes across this country every day.  And that’s not even mentioning the
opposition that awaits us when we leave our homes.  Without courage and boldness from the Holy Spirit, the battle can’t
be won.  The Spirit’s invisible but powerful strength will help us live a life worthy of our Lord.

With the Holy Spirit’s help, we can experience the same courage that God gave to the early believers.  They were
threatened by the very authorities who had arranged the crucifixion of Jesus.  Upon their release from jail, they gathered
with other believers in a prayer meeting (always a good idea when we’re faced with an assault on our faith).  “After they
prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken.  And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and
spoke the word
of God boldly
” (Acts 4:31, emphasis added).  Praise God!  They felt the heat, but through a time of prayer, they
experienced a fresh infilling of the Spirit and a new boldness.


But let’s be honest – other than going through the emotional suffering of rejection or opposition, there isn’t a lot of deep
suffering for Christ in North America.  At least not the kind of suffering faced by the early church.  But it is a different
story in other parts of the world.  Recently I was invited to be a part of a leadership conference in Hong Kong.  Hundreds
of church leaders from mainland China attended the conference.  It was a unique event in many ways, and participants
were there to receive encouragement, instruction in the Word of God, and lessons in apologetic techniques.

The communist regime had for a long time tried to wipe out Christianity; in fact, they have often tried to erase any
mention of God.  But a church movement has been growing miraculously for many decades in China.  Despite the
threats and danger, the body of Christ there has grown strong and vibrant.  There are now tens of millions of Christians
in China.

To lead a Chinese church requires a great deal of courage and boldness.  I was told that probably half of the
participants had served time in prison, just for serving Christ!  As I heard them worship and watched them pray, I felt
unworthy to be there.

One morning before I was to speak, they lifted their voices in Mandarin, singing praises to God.  I watched as they
poured out their hearts in song.  Then my interpreter translated some of the words for me.  The gist of the chorus went
something like this:

    Since you died for us,

    We now offer ourselves to die for you.

    Since you gave yourself on the cross,

    How can we do less than give ourselves for you?

    So, come what may,

    Whether we live or we may die for you,

    We belong to you.

That’s not the typical praise and worship song we sing in North America every Sunday, is it?  Singing those words and
meaning them takes great courage.  It was sung by Christian leaders who knew the meaning of suffering for Christ.  
Some of the most courageous believers today are found in Asia and in Muslim countries where suffering for Jesus is a
real possibility.  Think of those Pakistani believers I mentioned earlier who are surrounded by daily threats and hatred.  
How do Christians under such opposition stand so boldly for the Lord Jesus Christ?  They stand only through the Holy
Spirit, who was given to the church so that bold witness for Christ could be made no matter what the outcome.


Many of us feel prompted to do something for God, but we hold back because we’re afraid to fail.  A fear of failure stops
us from starting the very thing God has laid on our hearts.  It might be to join a ministry in our church (or even start one),
share a Bible passage with someone on the phone, or perhaps start a prayer meeting.  We know it is a prompting from
the Lord.  But that means leaving our comfort zone and stepping out into uncharted waters.

Consider the building of the temple in Jerusalem.  King David wanted to create a magnificent building for God, but the
Lord told him that he wouldn’t be the one to do it.  Instead, the Lord chose his son, Solomon.  All of the officials of Israel
gathered in Jerusalem, and David announced God’s plan.  “Of all my sons – and the LORD has given me many – he has
chosen my son Solomon to sit on the throne of the kingdom of the LORD over Israel.  He said to me: ‘Solomon your son
is the one who will build my house and my courts’” (I Chronicles 28:5-6).

God’s choice was clear.  Seems simple, right?  David had already received the building plans from God himself and
collected most of the needed materials.  All Solomon had to do was
start.  But right there is so often the place of failure.  
David understood the challenge facing his son.  Throughout the chapter we find him encouraging Solomon: “Be strong
and do the work” (verse 10).  And “Be strong and courageous, and do the work.  Do not be afraid or discouraged, for
the LORD God, my God, is with you.  He will not fail you or forsake you until all the work for the service of the temple of
the LORD is finished” (verse 20).  

Despite the facts that Solomon was God’s choice and that he had complete instructions and all of the needed materials,
he still had to get past the fear that paralyzes us to inaction.  
The Message, a contemporary Bible translation, renders
verse 10, “And do it!”  No one is saying that there won’t be opposition or problems, but it is through the Spirit’s
impartation of faith and boldness that we can be brave and move ahead with the work God has called us to do.

God has called all of us to something.  Remember what Jesus said about the moment he will return?  “Be on guard!  Be
alert!  You do not know when that time will come.  It’s like a man going away: He leaves his house and puts his servants
in charge,
each with their assigned task, and tells the one at the door to keep watch” (Mark 13:33-34, emphasis added).  
But because of fear, we haven’t always gone out and done it.  Just because there is an “assigned task” doesn’t mean it
will automatically get accomplished.  Nor does it mean it will be easy.

Whether building a temple, leading an underground church in the face of government opposition, or simply speaking the
truth in front of a crowd in Brooklyn, we have all faced challenges from fear.  But the Holy Spirit is greater than our fear
of rejection or failure.  His power makes the weakest as bold as a lion (Proverbs 28:1).

Be Bold in the Spirit

Paul wrote to a young pastor named Timothy about the promise of a bold, fearless Christianity through the indwelling
Spirit.  Timothy came from a family of believers.  Both his grandmother and his mother were Christians before him (II
Timothy 1:5), so Timothy came from a faith-filled background.  He was the spiritual son of the apostle Paul and
eventually entered the ministry.  Obviously Timothy enjoyed great spiritual privileges from the very day of his conversion.

But despite all those early advantages and godly examples, something was amiss with Timothy’s ministry.  Thus Paul
challenged him, “I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands.  For
the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power” (II Timothy 1:6-7).

Paul reminds Timothy, and all of us, that we can be sincere in our faith and yet drift back away from a bold spiritual
position into fear and timidity.  Even Christians who love the Lord and study the Bible can be fearful and self-conscious
when opportunities to speak for Christ arise.  Sadly, in some situations, we seemingly can speak about anything but our

So what did Paul tell him to do?  Did he tell him to try harder, to reach down for something deeper within?


Paul told Timothy that the Holy Spirit was the only antidote to the virus of fear in his life.  The Spirit’s fire had to be stirred
up – nurtured and given attention to – for when God’s Spirit was ablaze, there would be boldness to replace Timothy’s
seemingly natural inclination to timidity.  And now, two thousand years later, church history has clearly shown that when
God’s Spirit moves, when believers and churches meet God in a new way, people become bold and radical for Jesus

Take Courage!

Spiritual courage is the great need for so many of us today.  We may have heard great teaching and read multiple
translations of the Bible.  But what we need to do is to “stir up” the work of the Spirit within us.  We must give ourselves
afresh to God in prayer, Bible reading, and a new yielding to the Holy Spirit.  We must also separate ourselves from
thoughts, words, and actions that hinder the Spirit’s flow.  In the words of Scripture, “Come near to God and he will come
near to you” (James 4:8).

If we humbly draw near for a new intimacy with God, will he turn us away?  Will he deny us the blessings we ask for?  If
he gave us Jesus while we were yet sinners, will he now as our heavenly Father reject our petitions for more of the Spirit’
s boldness and courage?  That would deny everything we know about him from Scripture!

How many believers come to the end of their lives and feel as if they somehow missed the fullness of God’s plan for their
lives?  They think that perhaps God had something more planned, but it eluded them.  This is a sad thought.  But if we
allow the Spirit to move through us, we will see his plans and purposes accomplished.  We won’t come to the end of our
lives regretting so many missed opportunities to do more for Christ.

Our future will be determined by how we allow God the Holy Spirit to work in and through us.  We can live our days out in
fearful hesitation and second-guessing, or we can “let go and let God.”  God’s plan for us is not about who we are and
what talents we bring to the table.  It’s about the resources and grace God has promised us.

So we say with confidence,

    “The Lord is my helper: I will not be afraid.

     What can mere mortals do to me?”

    Hebrews 13:6, emphasis added


SPIRIT RISING, by Jim Cymbala with Jennifer Schuchmann, Copyright 2012, Zondervan.