4 Such is the confidence that we have through Christ toward God. 5 Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God, 6 who has made us competent to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. – 2 Corinthians 3:4-6 (ESV)
There are some tough, grueling, dangerous jobs out there. Underground miners. Seafaring commercial fishermen. Space-bound astronauts who sit atop a huge seething rocket waiting to be blasted out of the atmosphere, only to return through the fiery blaze of re-entry. Police officers and firemen, who face danger every day. Construction workers perched on an I-beam far above the not-so-soft concrete below. Utility linemen, strapped to a wooden pole, dealing with high voltage electricity. (I can still remember, as a child, seeing my Uncle Larry – a telephone lineman – at the top of a utility pole, waving down at us, not fearing the fact that he was about 40 feet above us with no net underneath). Democratic presidential candidates on Fox News.
In Old Testament times, it would not have been unreasonable to place “prophet” on this list. Many died for what they believed and proclaimed. According to tradition, Isaiah was sawn in half. Jeremiah faced stoning. Ezekiel, Micah and Amos were martyred.
And work was no easier for the apostles of Jesus Christ. In fact, their mortality was amazingly high. The probability of being killed in the line of work for these men was at least 8 out of 11 (not counting Judas Iscariot for obvious reasons). That’s roughly a 73% probability that you would not live to retire and draw on your 401(k).
James (the brother of John) was put to death by Herod Agrippa.
Tradition holds that Thomas was stabbed in India, Matthew was martyred (as was Thaddeus) and Andrew was crucified.
Peter was also crucified – upside-down.
Paul was beheaded by the Romans around the same time as Peter.
James of Alpheus was either crucified or stoned and clubbed to death (his brains coming out of his skull) after being physically thrown from the temple by Pharisees.
The fates of Philip, Bartholomew and Simon the Zealot are unknown, even to tradition.
I think of these men. And I look at myself, and the things that make me anxious or bring me down. There is no comparison.
How did these men do it? How did the apostles face certain hardship and probable death by methods most painful and gruesome and humiliating?
Simple: there hope was in Christ. Paul said it quite succinctly: I have no hope in self. I know that, on my own, I cannot do it. But Jesus Christ did it. He was perfect, flawless, sinless, and He died a horrific death on the cross. He came to die and rise again and bring me hope. And because of that hope I have confidence in God through Jesus Christ.
12 Since we have such a hope, we are very bold, 13 not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face so that the Israelites might not gaze at the outcome of what was being brought to an end. 14 But their minds were hardened. For to this day, when they read the old covenant, that same veil remains unlifted, because only through Christ is it taken away. 15 Yes, to this day whenever Moses is read a veil lies over their hearts. 16 But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed. 17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18 And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. – 2 Corinthians 3:12-18 (ESV)
Boldness comes from reliance in God through Jesus Christ. Not circumstances. Not our own abilities. But God’s grace.
Boldness comes in trusting the Lord. He has each of us in His grip. Our past, present and future are in His more than capable hands. Our part is to seek Him, our only fear being the fear of the Lord. Our part is to follow God.
Our part is to love God first, and love our neighbors.
Today, stand boldly on God’s Word. Know that He is with you no matter what you face. Know that the very Power (the Holy Spirit) Who enabled Paul and the apostles to face the most difficult of situations – great dangers, perhaps even death – lives within you.
Knowing God Himself lives within you, what could you possibly have to fear?