Steve Wallace


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White Unto Harvest

Maybe Some Need This


Three separate missionary journeys of Paul are recorded in the book of Acts. Fortunately for Paul, he had some experience with traveling before his first preaching trip (Acts 9:30; 11:25).  However, the logistics of travel were not the only obstacles that he had to surmount in his work of spreading the gospel in foreign lands.  Please notice the following account from Acts 18:

After these things he departed from Athens, and came to Corinth.... And he reasoned in the synagogue every sabbath, and persuaded Jews and Greeks.  But when Silas and Timothy came down from Macedonia, Paul was constrained by the word, testifying to the Jews that Jesus was the Christ. And when they opposed themselves and blasphemed, he shook out his raiment and said unto them, Your blood be upon your own heads; I am clean: from henceforth I will go unto the Gentiles.  And he departed thence, and went into the house of a certain man named Titus Justus, one that worshipped God, whose house joined hard to the synagogue. And Crispus, the ruler of the synagogue, believed in the Lord with all his house; and many of the Corinthians hearing believed, and were baptized. And the Lord said unto Paul in the night by a vision, Be not afraid, but speak and hold not thy peace: for I am with thee, and no man shall set on thee to harm thee: for I have much people in this city.  And he dwelt there a year and six months, teaching the word of God among them.

Paul had to overcome fear (v. 9).  During this missionary journey alone Paul had already been mocked, ran out of town twice, beaten and imprisoned (Acts 17:32,10,14; 16:22-24).  With such negative experiences behind him one might imagine his thoughts as he entered the city of Corinth and especially when he encountered resistance to his teaching in the synagogue there (v. 6).

Fear must be overcome today if men are to take the gospel to other towns or to other countries.  Fears can be rational or irrational.  Regardless of their basis, we all understand the paralyzing effects of unconquered fear (Matt. 25:24-25).  It is hoped that what we say herein will help any who struggle with this obstacle today.  What can help us overcome fears today?  In answering this question we will go step by step, beginning with overcoming fears relative to going to a strange place to preach and then those having to do with actually working in a strange place.

  1. Do not let fear hinder you in your work of preaching (2 Thes. 2:1-2).  Paul started preaching right after he was converted and was not deterred when Jews tried to kill him (Acts 9:20-23). He contended with Judaizers who came to Antioch and even withstood the apostle Peter to his face (Acts 15:2; Gal. 2:11).  He would not “shrink” from preaching the whole counsel of God in his local work with a church (Acts 20:27).  Following his example and his advise in 2 Timothy 4:1-2 will help us all to keep from letting our fears be our counselors.  Our next point grows out this one.

  2. Recognize the consequences of fear.  What would have happened if Paul had been afraid to withstand the error he faced in the various churches of his day?  Galatians 5:4 leaves us in no doubt with regards to the answer of this question: “Ye are severed from Christ, ye who would be justified by the law; ye are fallen away from grace.”  Thus, we see the results of such fear in our work in a local church.  Overcoming such fear is a step in the right direction.  It will also help us in overcoming other fears we will face in our service to God.

  3. Realize that there is something more important than you.  Paul was “bold” to preach the gospel to the Thessalonians in spite of justifiable fears (1 Thes. 2:1-2).  Paul recognized the danger that sinners were in and did all he could to try to help them (2 Cor. 5:10-11).  He was willing to “be spent” for the souls of others (2 Cor. 12:15).  There is a very great danger that we forget the sacrificial attitude that characterized the early Christians and allow things to become more near and dear to us than Christ and the lost.

    May we all remember Paul’s words, “For me to live is Christ” (Phil. 1:21).  It was his desire that Christ “be magnified” in his body “whether by life, or by death” (Phil. 1:20).  There is something far more important than any one of us.  Our lives are only of real consequence if they are spent in the service of Christ.

  4. Recognize that God can protect his people no matter where they are.  The three Hebrew children of Daniel 3, though far from their homes, were protected by God from the burning fiery furnace.  Paul was guaranteed his safety in Corinth, a city far removed from his birthplace of Tarsus (Acts 18:9-10).  As this article is being written, three brethren close to this writer are in two different foreign countries preaching the gospel.  Countless others are in various countries around the world.  God is the God of all creation (Isa. 45:22; Rom. 10:12).  Jesus has “all authority ...in heaven and on earth” (Matt. 28:18).  God can and does watch over his people.  When we go to another country for his purposes we can do so with a confidence that the people of this world do not have (Heb. 13:5).

  5. When in a foreign country, continue with your work in spite of your fears.  Ezekiel was told, “Be not afraid of them, neither be afraid of their words” (Ezek. 2:6).  This command is much like those forbidding lust or covetousness: It calls upon us to not let our emotions or passions override what we know to be right.  This is the secret of so many of the brave men of faith in the Bible.  They did not let fear keep them from their duty.  Through faith they “from weakness were made strong” (Heb. 11:34). This writer has dealt with fear in a foreign country many times (in nearly every instance the fear turned out to be baseless).  It has proved very helpful to cut the chase and simply deal with the fear of death even though, to my knowledge, my life has never been in danger.   Thoughts like the following have been a big help: 1) Realize that all people die and that I will one day also; 2) Recognize that I am doing something in the service of God and that it would be far better for me to die while so involved than in some empty, frivolous or even sinful way.

  6. Live so you can die. It is clear that Paul made this his practice (2 Cor. 5:1-10).  Let’s face it, the ultimate fear that faces all of us is the fear of death.  This fear must be faced and conquered, not be allowed to govern our lives and make them fruitless or purposeless. The purpose of life, as revealed in the above-cited text, is for man live with God both here and in eternity.  Do not let the fear of death keep you from living the way you should (Heb. 2:14-15).

Conclusion

Fear is something all people must deal with.  It is hoped that the points we offer herein would prove especially helpful to those contemplating spreading the gospel in foreign fields.  The word “courage” does not appear in the above material.  In spite of this, the above points should go a long way in helping one be courageous.  Please note Webster’s definition of courage:

“The attitude or response of facing and dealing with anything recognized as dangerous, difficult, or painful, instead of withdrawing from it; the quality of being fearless or brave; valor; pluck” (p. 419)

This article is not intended to imply that one cannot be a faithful Christian unless he goes to work in some foreign field.  Nor should one infer from it the message that, unless he goes to a foreign land to preach, he is fearful.  However, if fear is the only hindrance to a brother’s doing mission work it would be our hope that our words herein would lead such a one to think further on the matter.  Let us put the great commission above our own emotions (Mk. 16:15-16).


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