My heart raced as I made my way up and down the store with the push broom. Back and forth I went as time passed quicker than I’d hoped. My coworker and I had gone from mere acquaintances to a growing friendship. I had been open about my faith, but that day I had to get something off my chest. There I was, this zealous, passionate nineteen year old fresh out of her small one year of Bible school wanting to tell my new friend something about Jesus. I was afraid and nervous. On my way toward the back of the store where she was counting down the registers I suddenly stopped. With her attention, the words left my mouth quicker than I could take them back. “You need to know that God loves you so much!” Immediately the insecurity hit. That’s what I came up with?! What will she think of me now? Will she still trust me with her thoughts? What did I just do? To my surprise she stood there silent, but with a grin on her face. She didn’t think I was a weirdo. She was receiving my not so profound words.
This was not a random, out of the blue, spur of the moment decision. We were becoming good friends. I valued her input in my life. I enjoyed hanging out with her outside of work. She was very aware of my faith.
I don’t remember if I said anything else or if we talked more that night as we closed up the store, but I do remember feeling excited that I finally opened my mouth to tell her about God’s love.
I have grown so much in my evangelism since that awkward night. Right now I find myself in a more isolated position in my current vocation and do not have as many opportunities to build friendships with people that are not Christians. Much of my experience in meeting people who are not Christians came from working retail jobs. While many people tend to not enjoy retail positions, I always found them exciting and challenging for me to live out my faith. I have met some of the best people on the planet by working retail. Working these jobs helped me discover my passion for evangelism. I love befriending people that do not know Jesus. I love sharing his love!
Through these experiences and studying the Bible regarding evangelism, it became clear to me that you don’t need to be some ultra sheltered weirdo to stand out for Christ. Rather, my relationships with non believers flowed naturally as I was, well, myself. As my hunger for God grew, so did my desire to be a part of furthering his kingdom. What God was doing in my heart poured out into everything I did in the day to day. My desires to make Jesus known impacted my conduct in practical ways. I worked really hard, I sought to be at right standing with all of my coworkers, and I pursued friendship. I listened and asked questions. I didn’t act shocked or surprised when sinful behavior was revealed. I prayed for them often and told them I was doing so.
I want to share with you four ideas regarding overcoming the fear of man. I do not mean fear in the “I am scared or insecure of what people think of my personality” kind of way, but rather the fears we face in our culture today as truth is rejected and one wrong comment could mean the end of a friendship.
Where do we start in overcoming the fear of man? Let’s begin with the first, and greatest, commandment.
1. To overcome the fear of man, first and foremost we need to love God with all of our heart, soul, and mind.
Matthew 22:37-39 says, “And he said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.'”
In this day and age our understanding of what loving our neighbor looks like can be a bit hazy. We tend to start with our own understanding and go from there. But Proverbs 3:5 reminds us that we cannot lean on our own understanding. Further wisdom is found in Isaiah 55 where we see that God’s ways and thoughts are not ours. His ways are higher than our own! So what does this mean for loving our neighbors? It means that loving your neighbor never comes at the expense of forsaking the first and greatest commandment of loving God with our entirety. Loving our neighbor is to flow out of the love we have for God. And what exactly does this love look like? 1 John 5 tells us that when we love God, we obey him. Why are we starting here? Because when we love God this means we love what he loves and hate what he hates. We are for what he is for.
When phrases like “acceptance” and “non judgmental” become the anthem of the generation one can lose any sense of direction of what it looks like to show true love. But culture and anthems do not define love. God does. It is not loving to your neighbor when you celebrate sin. You are actively hating their soul when you applaud behavior that grieves the heart of God.
When we seek to love God with our heart, soul, and mind our aim becomes to love our neighbor in a way that most importantly honors God. And how do we love God? By knowing him through his word.
Loving your neighbor does not mean you forsake your love for God. It flows out of that love. It is because of his love that you are able to truly love the lost.
2. Overcome the fear of man with compassionate love.
So if it’s not loving to my neighbor to champion and accept sin, then how do I show them affection and gain trust? The answer is by showing compassionate love. Romans 5:8 says, “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”
While we were sinners God showed us grace through Jesus. Not after we got our act together.
In the same way we need to extend grace and compassion to those around us. This is why point number one is so vital. Because we cannot do it on our own! We cannot love others without love for God! We need the grace of God to help us give grace.
It is not loving to strike up a conversation with someone who does not know Christ about where you see sin in their life. You may not ever openly do this, maybe you think this example is crazy… But what does your Facebook account reveal? Is it smothered in speech that will cause you to look insensitive, opinionated, and hurtful?
Compassionate love in action looks like being slow to speak. Quick to listen. Sincere in actions. Peace seeking. Life building. To sum it up, compassionate love means being a servant. John 15:13 says, “Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.” This verse refers to what Christ did on our behalf. He laid down his life for us.
We should not be waiting for people to stop sinning before we pursue a friendship. We should be meeting them where they’re at and serving them with compassionate love.
3. Overcome the fear of man by making friends.
I want to be brief with this point. Anything you have to say to your peers regarding faith in Jesus will be filtered through the relationship you have with them.
Do they trust you? Or are you known to engage in gossip?
Are you encouraging? Or are you always a downer?
Are you friendly? Or standoffish, sticking to yourself?
We need to approach evangelism by making friends first. If our aim is to make disciples, it should be resulting from a foundation of friendship you already have.
The time of viewing people as projects must come to an end. They are not tally marks to add up at the end of a mega church service. Jesus died for us and called us friends. People aren’t projects. They are souls in need of the good news of God’s grace.
Go make friends.
4. Overcome the fear of man by understanding salvation does not rest on you.
The salvation of the lost does not depend on our efforts, but on the faithfulness of God that he is drawing sinners to himself.
“No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day.” John 6:44
This truth alone should alleviate any pressure you may feel that you have to say or do all of the right things. God is the one drawing people into relationship with himself. And it is a joy that we get to be a part of how the gospel is shared with our friends!
He is at work in the hearts of the lost. He alone can save them. Not us, not our works, not our words. It is the Father that draws us to him.
You may have noticed I did not directly deal with overcoming the fear of man by telling you to say this, do that a certain way, or practice your gospel message better on a napkin. Rather, I wanted to take a moment to say it is always going to be a little scary when sharing your faith with others. However, when we love God with our entirety, show compassionate love to our neighbor, make friends, and rest in the sovereignty of God, then our fear of rejection takes a backseat in comparison to the joy in being a part of God’s kingdom.
Yes, we may fail. We will say the wrong things. We could even lose friends. But God is faithful to continue the good work in us and he is surely faithful to bring the lost to himself.
As Christ followers, our mission is to create disciples. Part of this mission means sharing the gospel with those God puts in our life. The Bible says the harvest is plenty, but the workers are few. Who are the people in your life that need to be told the good news of Jesus?
“He said to his disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.'” Matthew 9:37