A Message Beyond Our Abilities
Have you ever felt you were a party to something you had no right or business participating in? I am referring to those times in your life when you were invited to take part in something so truly significant and awe inspiring you were left feeling unfit, ill-equipped, and ultimately overwhelmed. I know I am well acquainted with this feeling. In fact I am faced with this sentiment on a weekly, if not daily basis. Truth be told, every Christian is likely familiar with this gnawing sensation. You know the one. The one that hints that we are participating in something so much bigger than ourselves, and that more responsibility has been placed upon us than we would really feel comfortable shouldering. Obviously I am speaking of the fact we are participators in, and heralders of, the glorious gospel of Christ.
Most assuredly, the message that has been entrusted to us is far beyond our capabilities to communicate. How can our mere words and actions do justice in expressing the full weight of the our sin problem, or the extravagance of God’s love and grace shown toward us (Eph 2:1-10)? The responsibility and the momentousness of it all is quite overwhelming. I can only imagine one might experience the same range of emotions Bozo the clown would feel if he were tapped to play the lead in Hamlet – tremendous joy, followed by a healthy dose of fear and trepidation.
Obviously we shouldn’t allow the magnitude of our responsibility to result in PTS (Paralyzed Tongue Syndrome). Unfortunately a good many of us do. It isn’t uncommon for well meaning believers to fret over what to say, or how to say it, to the point they don’t say anything at all. It isn’t that they are ashamed of the gospel, but rather they are anxious about what to say when given the opportunity. These are gospel believing Christian who would love to share their living hope with others, only they stumble under the weight of their own insecurity. Bozo forgot his lines because he is suffering from stage fright.
So what is the cure for our paralyzed tongues? The cure can be found in Acts 4. Starting in verse one we can read the account of when Peter and John were taken before the Jerusalem Council. If anyone had an opportunity to allow their insecurities to reign it would have been these guys, and especially at that moment. Put yourself in their sandals; standing before the men of highest education and status in the community, only to be asked to defend your faith. However, if you read the account (verses 1-13) you discover they indeed ended up sharing their faith with boldness. Two verses in particular stand out in our search for a cure.
8a. Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them…
13. Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated and untrained men, they marveled. And they realized that they had been with Jesus.
The only reason Peter and John were able to share their faith with such bravery was because of their relationship with Jesus Christ, and the empowering of the Holy Spirit. It is these same two agents which help all believers share the gospel with courage. Our relationship with the Lord produces in us both a living hope, leading to boldness (2 Cor 3:12), and the desire to share that hope with others. Motivated by this hope our job is simply to open our mouths and trust that the Holy Spirit will both empower and assist us (Phil 2:13, Luke 12:11-12). In the end we are merely the vessels God choses to use to spread his gospel.
Just as every clown yearns to play Hamlet, we long to share the hope of our salvation in Christ. However, unlike the untrained clown, God has given us every thing we need to take the stage. We may doubt ourselves, but therein is the heart of our problem. Our trust should never be founded in our abilities, but rather in the author and finisher of our faith. We are simply faithful to proclaim, he alone saves. We are Bozo, this is Broadway, and we have been asked to play Hamlet. Break a leg.
Addendum: My lovely wife felt I might be offending some clowns out there. In her words “I believe those who are clowns take their jobs seriously, no matter what we believe to be a higher ranking job. They may be very happy being clowns….it could be a fun job.” I totally agree. To clarify, it wasn’t my intention to insinuate that being a Shakespearian actor was more desirable, or a position of higher standing. I was simply alluding to the different training/skill sets involved in each theatrical discipline, and how awkward it would be to step outside of your training. In any case, it is common knowledge every Shakespearian actor wishes he could make balloon animals.