Finding Freedom from the Fear of Man
God is sovereign over our lives, so we can lean into His sovereignty in the midst of every evangelism encounter He brings our way.
We are quick to affirm the truth of the statement above, and if we are honest, we should be just as quick to admit how difficult it can be to live it out. But let’s not just nod in agreement and leave it there. This is worth pressing into.
Numerous fears may arise when we think about sharing the gospel with someone. Some likely ring familiar to you:
- “I don’t know how this person will react, so I need to wait for another opportunity.”
- “I’m not sure what kind of question will be asked. I should wait until I’m more prepared.”
- “I don’t want to be viewed as judgmental. I’ll just let my actions do the talking.”
There are many great resources – including several from EvanTell – that provide helpful suggestions for addressing these. But I want you to see something different here. I want you to see that these are not “isolated fears.” These all share one common root: fear of man. So, let’s strike at the root.
Identifying fear of man as a root problem
The common evangelism fears listed above are so much easier to confess than, “I have a fear of man.” However, admitting to the root of these fears is essential to moving forward. We can more easily expose this root by simply rephrasing the fears as a “why” questions.
- Why am I concerned about how this person will react? Because I fear disapproval before man.
- Why am I worried about not knowing answers? Because I fear looking foolish before man.
- Why do I want to avoid being viewed as judgmental? Because I fear being labeled as unaccepting of others before man.
Try this why-question approach with the fear you struggle with the most. I think you’ll find it can be distilled into fear of man. It can then be distilled further into related root systems like fear of confrontation, fear of conflict, fear of rejection, etc. However, almost all examples like these stem from “fear of man.” The good news is that the Bible is not silent on this issue.
Resting in God’s sovereignty as the solution to the problem
When we experience the fear of man, we are directly confronted with our own weakness. The Bible never tells us to dig deeper into ourselves to manufacture more strength. Instead, we’re reminded over and over again to rest in the strength and sovereignty of God. Let’s look at a few examples:
The Call to “not be afraid” in Scripture
Many times, throughout Scripture when someone is called to do something daunting, there is a command to “fear not” or “do not be afraid” from God Himself or an angel. This is really important, because just the presence of these statements shows how much our God knows us. He is well aware there is fear involved when we follow Him. But we can’t stop there. We must ask, what are we called to do instead of being afraid? The direct or implied answer is never, “just turn the fear off.” The answer is always “trust God.” I love how succinctly this is said in the Psalms:
When I am afraid, I put my trust in You. – Psalm 56:3
Where did the fear go? Nowhere. The focus simply changed from trusting himself to trusting God. Or how about the often-quoted passage from Joshua:
Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” – Joshua 1:9
What is the solution to fear here – for Joshua to toughen up a bit and march on? No, it is for him to trust that God is with him. God knows Joshua is looking at his weakness and wondering, “how am I going to …” God steps in and tells Joshua to trust Him instead. Jesus does something similar in the book of Matthew.
In Matthew 10:26-31, Jesus is sending out the 12 disciples to go and tell others about the Kingdom of God. In the span these few verses, Jesus tells them “do not be afraid” four separate times. Four times! He fully understands that talking to others about the Kingdom of God will be an endeavor that involves fear. But why are they not to be afraid? To answer that, we have to go back to verse one in chapter 10.
Jesus called His twelve disciples to him and gave them authority to drive out impure spirits and to heal every disease and sickness. Matthew 10:1
The disciples were told to trust the power of God in the midst of their fears. While the abilities they were given were only for this specific mission, the lesson continues from the Old Testament: trust God in the midst of fear. The apostle Paul leaned heavily upon this lesson as well.
In 1 Corinthians Paul explains his experience in sharing Christ among the Corinthians.
I came to you in weakness with great fear and trembling. My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power. 1 Corinthians 2:3-5
There is a lot that could be unpacked here, but what matters most for our purposes is that the Apostle Paul is describing the fear, weakness, and trembling he experienced when sharing the truth of Christ with the Corinthians (see Acts 18:1-19 for more context here). In his fear, he knew not to rely on his own power, wisdom, or words of persuasion. Instead, he turned his focus from the power of fear to the power of God. The result was a “demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power.”
This, Christian, is a culmination of the response to fear we’ve seen all the way through the Bible, and we must take this approach as well when we face “fear of man.” We are not to pull ourselves up by our bootstraps or find strength within – we are to turn from trusting ourselves to resting in the power of the Holy Spirit and Jesus’ promises to be with us in all our encounters, including evangelistic conversations.
When fear of man pops up – and it will – we acknowledge it as real, but then we make the choice to rest in the truth that God is sovereign over all. Because of that, we can freely speak about what we know is true about Jesus in a loving and confident way, and we can leave the results to God.
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