“Begin Again”: A Weekly Devotional for a New Year, Week 33

“Now at Iconium they entered together into the Jewish synagogue and spoke in such a way that a great number of both Jews and Greeks believed. But the unbelieving Jews stirred up the Gentiles and poisoned their minds against the brothers. So they remained for a long time, speaking boldly for the Lord, who bore witness to the word of his grace, granting signs and wonders to be done by their hands.”

Acts 14:1-3

Is this a time for courage and boldness? Or a time to be cautious? I think many of us are stuck between these two extremes. Perhaps we are stuck, because we see: examples of boldness that seem downright foolhardy or shrill; and examples of caution that – we think – are simply cowardice.

In his second letter to his apprentice, Paul encouraged Timothy this way: “God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.” (2 Timothy 1:7) Paul connects this call to be bold to the faith of Timothy’s mother and grandmother. Paul recognizes that same faith in Timothy as a “sincere faith” (2 Timothy 1:5). Paul has written Timothy a second time to encourage him. That’s important, because it is never enough to hear just once that we must be bold – it’s an encouragement we need often and early.

One of the best ways that I receive that encouragement, is simply to listen to Scripture (often Paul’s letters to Timothy), and hear it as directly addressing me. If you are in a season of discouragement – of timidity, or even fear – I can just say it really works. The YouVersion Bible app is very good for this. We can, of course, simply read aloud to ourselves, or one another.

When you do, think about this, as you listen: These are God’s own, inspired words, which are meant to speak directly to you. Yes, not everything you hear, is meant for you: You and I are not Moses, Elijah, or Esther. But in every story, God’s Spirit is at work, to bring each of us what we need to hear at this point in our lives. When we hear God’s Word in this way, we will be neither bold, nor cautious, according to our own lights – He will help us to know when to step out and speak, or to wait and pray.

When we speak boldly, we speak sincerely, frankly, from the heart – a heart full of the Spirit and God’s Word. “Bold” does not mean “brash” – fired up for no reason at all. Bold means a heart that – like a furnace – we fan into flame under the authority of God’s Word, by the power of his Spirit.

We need God. We need his Spirit and his Word. We don’t have “what it takes” to be ‘bold’ or ‘cautious’ in the best senses of either word. If we try, then we will fire wide of the mark, or we will miss the right thing we should have done, when we had the opportunity. There is a lot of too bold and too timid all around us, and – if we are honest – there’s a lot of both, playing tug-of-war in our hearts. The Spirit’s path to our heart is through the Word. Listen, and let him guide into the right, bold thing to do, and/or the cautious, wise thing not to do.

Prayer: Lord, I see so many people doing crazy things, with no forethought – things that can only make matters worse. But I also see people refusing to step in – to step up! If I’m honest, that’s me, too. So speak to me Lord, as I listen to your Word. Cut a path straight to my heart, and show me what I should do today. Amen.

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