The fear of evangelism is a normal response. Trepidation can typically accompany Jesus’ call to carry out the Great Commission. When a soul’s eternity is at stake, even the most seasoned Christian can succumb to fear when God has given them opportunities to proclaim His name.
When we examine Scripture and God’s promises, we discover that most of our fears are self-imposed.
I believe the prophet Isaiah offers us a few clues. Out of great love and mercy, God provides a simple, effective tool on how we find delight when confronting the fears of evangelism.
That tool is an ax.
“A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit. The Spirit of the LORD will rest on him – the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of power, the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD – and he will delight in the fear of the LORD.” (Isaiah 11:1-3)
In these verses, the prophet Isaiah is prophesying the coming judgment upon Judah. The people had turned their back on God and His promises. A once proud tree was going to be cut down by the ax of God’s judgment to a humble stump. By God’s grace and mercy, He was going to accomplish His promises through humility. The promised Messiah was going to come from an unexpected source. He was not going to come from a powerful, majestic tree of riches and royalty, as people would be expecting from a king, but from a virgin birth in a lowly manger.
Pride is a source of all fear. We go to great lengths to preserve our treasures, dignity, and identities. We strive to present ourselves as being normal, respected, perhaps even accepted. In the preservation of self, we easily fall victim to fear when facing the prospect of losing our identity with the world rather than on Christ.
Sometimes, out of God’s great love and mercy, He uses an ax to cut down our tree of Self so that we can find true delight in Christ.
In the prophecy of Isaiah, a shoot will come from a stump. From its roots, a branch will grow that will bear much fruit. These words were all fulfilled in Jesus Christ, the Messiah.
These words are very similar to the promises Christ gives us in the New Testament. Christ dwells in all those who have placed their trust in Him. Those who remain in Christ are connected to the stump of Jesse. The Spirit of the Lord rests in us. We will receive the same fruits from the Holy Spirit that was promised for the Messiah.
The prophet Isaiah states that the Spirit of the Lord will rest upon the Branch. The gospels state that Christ lives in us – the same Holy Spirit will rest in us through Him. Through the Prince of Peace, we receive the Mighty Counselor.
From the words of Isaiah, we receive three blessings from the Holy Spirit that will help us in proclaiming the message of Christ to the world:
Wisdom and Understanding
The Holy Spirit helps us to see the depths of God’s nature and look into the essence of all things through the lens of His grace. We are able to distinguish and discern the false images that people like to portray.
Counsel and Power
The Holy Spirit allows us to know what people need and gives us the words to say. Through us, He shares with people the plan that was formulated for their redemption. And through these words, He gives the power to trust in this message.
Knowledge and Fear
The Holy Spirit grants Christians an over-riding concern in what He desires. We are given a reverent respect for the Lord that ultimately submits to His will. By doing so, we discover a delight in trusting His ways over what we think is best. By fearing and knowing God, we conquer self-imposed fears.
When God chooses to use an ax to cut down branches that do not bear fruit, it can be a painful experience. Fear can be a clue that we are not bearing fruit that God desires. This can also include the fear of proclaiming His name to the world – even with our friends and neighbors.
From an act of love and mercy, the ax of God’s judgment can prune self-imposed fear – a fear that has been used to protect what we really do not own (earthly treasures, reputation, pride). In its place, we find delight in what God treasures – a forgiven saint joyfully doing His will.
“We proclaim him, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone perfect in Christ. To this end I labor, struggling with all his energy, which so powerfully works in me.” (Colossians 1:28-29)