Those voices dont go away. We dont hear them once when we start out and then they cease. They keep nagging us every time we speak for God. We tend to feel inadequate before we speak and ashamed of something we said afterward. Its literally part of the cross any believer will bear if he or she decides to step out and minister for Jesus. Studies have shown that the fear of speaking in front of others is a universal human fear. In fact, many people would rather undergo surgery than have to speak publicly. And its not that difficult to understand why. Instantly, you are being evaluated. People are staring at you, assessing your appearance. Every flaw will be noticed. They are observing your intelligence or lack of it. Are you smart? Are you eloquent? Did you say something tasteless or foolish? And then, even if you pass those tests, they may still turn and walk away because theyve decided youre boring. In their minds you didnt say well what you came to say, and thats probably one of the most painful experiences of all. Not only do you tend to be hard on yourself, but clearly there are people who agree that youre a failure.
And so far, all the fears weve mentioned are true for anyone who speaks about anything. We havent even started on the additional factors a person faces who dares to speak about spiritual matters, or worse yet, to confront others about their spiritual needs. Anyone who steps out into this dimension faces not only self-criticism and human evaluation, they face spiritual opposition as well. The devil steps into that situation and tries to distract us. Something always seems to occur before we speak which tries to pull our minds off of what were called to do, and then the devil works to distract our listeners. He tempts, confuses, brings illness, reminds them of sins they committed, points out every flaw he can find and invents some if none are immediately available. All of this is going on inside peoples minds while youre trying to communicate something for God. Its a wonder we ever succeed in reaching another persons heart. But we do, and at amazing levels, that is if we dont allow all that opposition to silence us. Thats really the only way to stop the power of Gods truth.
Questioning John the Baptist (Jn 1:19-28)
John the Baptist wasnt the only one people challenged this way. In fact, if we look carefully at Scripture, well observe that virtually everyone who spoke for God was questioned about their worthiness.
Questioning Peter and John (Ac 4:1-14)
When confronted by an undeniable miracle, the religious leaders didnt listen to Peters explanation of why the miracle had taken place. Instead they looked for ways to discredit the two men standing in front of them. For them it wasnt about trying to discover the truth of the message but to find a way to undermine the messengers. In this case, they pointed to the fact that they were uneducated and untrained, just like Jesus.
Questioning Paul (1Ti 1:12-16)
Paul faced severe criticism, but it was harder to discredit him because he was highly educated; he was a Pharisee and he belonged to a respected family, so he had the credentials that should have qualified him to speak with authority. But Paul struggled with a different kind of attack. The voice that tried to undermine his confidence in his right to speak about Jesus came from his memory of the terrible things he had done in the past. He had been a blasphemer of Jesus and had tried to force Christians to renounce Christ (Ac 20:9-11). One fact were never told is whether he actually succeeded in making a weak Christian turn away from Jesus. Neither he nor anyone else mentions such a thing, but if he did, after he met Christ the memory of that must have tormented him. Hopefully it never happened, but what did happen was bad enough. He tried to make people forsake Jesus, so after he realized that Jesus is the Savior he bitterly understood that what he had been trying to do was to send people to hell. That memory would make it hard for anyone to boldly proclaim Christ. But he did. Listen:
I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has strengthened me, because He considered me faithful, putting me into service, even though I was formerly a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent aggressor. Yet I was shown mercy because I acted ignorantly in unbelief; and the grace of our Lord was more than abundant, with the faith and love which are found in Christ Jesus. It is a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost of all. Yet for this reason I found mercy, so that in me as the foremost, Jesus Christ might demonstrate His perfect patience as an example for those who would believe in Him for eternal life (1Ti 1:12-16).
If you and I think we have a right to a guilty conscience about our past, no one has done anything worse than what Paul did. He tried to destroy peoples faith in Jesus. He deserved a millstone (Lk 17:1-2).
When we reflect on the attacks that come against a person who chooses to speak for God, sooner or later well realize that no one experienced this kind of questioning more deeply than Jesus Himself. He was not only criticized by the religious leaders in Jerusalem but by people in His own hometown, and even by members of His own family. At first, He virtually had no support outside of the testimony of John the Baptist and God, though to be fair, I think His mother always believed (Jn 2:3-4). No one could question the truth He was speaking or the works He was doing. They were real and obvious, so His opponents inevitably attacked Him personally. Watch:
Matthew 13:54-58: His hometown only saw a carpenters son. That same hometown tried to kill Him (Lk 4:28-30).
Mark 3:20-21, 31-35: His own family thought He had become insane and came to take Him home.
John 7:3-5: His brothers mocked Him saying they thought He was ambitiously trying to draw attention to Himself.
Matthew 12:24: Highly religious people couldnt deny that He was successfully casting out demons so they said, This man casts out demons only by Beelzebub the ruler of the demons.
Matthew 21:23-27: And, of course, the religious leaders attacked Him too, just like they did John the Baptist. They kept asking why He thought He had the right to speak and minister for God.
Who do you think you are? How dare you say what were doing isnt good enough! Do you think youre someone special? If not, what gives you the right to tell us what we need to do to please God? Anyone who steps up to speak or minister on the Lords behalf will face such questions from people who know all the gory details of your history, from people who knew you before you became a believer. And if they dont say anything, the devil will. Hell bring up memories about your past or areas where you continue to struggle. Hell work hard to stop you from going through with what God has asked you to do. Hell try to distract peoples attention while youre speaking. Hell try to distract your attention. And if he doesnt succeed, theres always our own inner doubts, our fears of failure and rejection. We can be our own worst critic. We might be the one who reminds us of all we dont understand about God and the Bible, and who offers the suggestion that we had better wait until were able to answer at least most of those big questions before we step out for God. But if we allow those doubts to remain in our minds, well go silent. Well wait for someone more qualified to do the job, not realizing that they are going through the same torment.
All of this is why John the Baptists example is such a blessing to us. He has shown us how to answer these doubts.
Johns answer (Jn 1:26-34)
John basically said to these attacks, Youre right. Im not someone special. Im just a man calling people to do what Gods Word tells us to do. Who I am isnt whats important; its the Savior Im proclaiming whos important.
Im not holy; He is.
Im not your Source; He is.
I cant remove your sins; He can.
Im not the one you need to believe in; He is.
John refused to let the argument be about himself. He was just the messenger, not the message. It was this humility that protected him and endowed him with such authority. He wouldnt let people focus their attacks on him. Was he worthy? Absolutely not! He wasnt even worthy to serve as the Saviors slave and take off His sandals (v27). But someone had to tell people they were in trouble. Someone needed to warn them. So he did, and the truth he proclaimed carried with it a power of its own... because it was true, because it was based on Gods Word. His job was simply to be a voice to let God speak through him. Thats all. Thats enough. God did the rest. Listen:
Now in those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea, saying, Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand
Then Jerusalem was going out to him, and all Judea and all the district around the Jordan; and they were being baptized by him in the Jordan River, as they confessed their sins (Mt 3:1-6).
Why was he so effective? Because that voice spoke Gods Word, and theres power in His Word, so people listened. They looked past the messenger and heard the message. If well step out and speak Gods Word, theyll do the same. All we need to be is His voice.
A voice is calling, clear the way for the Lord in the wilderness; make smooth in the desert a highway for our God. Let every valley be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; and let the rough ground become a plain, and the rugged terrain a broad valley; then the glory of the Lord will be revealed, and all flesh will see it together; for the mouth of the Lord has spoken (Isa 40:3-5).
1) Have you ever allowed God to speak through you? Tell us what happened. How did you feel before and after?
2) Can you think of a time when God spoke to you through an unlikely person: someone who was too young, too old, not educated enough, etc. At what point did you realize God was using that person?