Welcome to 2022! As always, mixed reactions were waiting to greet the new year. Some of us are thanking God that we’ve finally left 2021 behind and hoping that major improvements will begin and that life will get back to normal. Others feel like we’ve become trapped in an endless episode of the old Twilight Zone TV series with no way out. Still others are resigned to adjust as best they can and just try to survive day to day. In any case, a new chapter begins today and our prayer for each of us is that we will focus our attention on the only One who already knows what lies ahead and what challenges we’ll face.
An Unexpected Holiday Visitor ~
. . . And speaking of challenges, you’ll notice that our first post of the new year is a bit briefer than usual. That’s not just because it’s a holiday and everyone is busy with seasonal activities. It’s also because the parting shot of 2021 for me happened to be my own up close and personal contact with the COVID virus. I’ve been in the process of dealing with it for several days and at this point, everything, including writing, feels like a major chore. But I wanted to begin the new year by sharing at least one brief admonition that I hope all of us can take with us as we embark on the next phase of our journey.
The fact that an atmosphere of fear and anxiety has plagued our country for the past two years needs no elaboration. We’ve all felt it to some degree. We’ve seen our people turn against one another in more ways that we would have ever thought possible. We see conflicts erupt over skin color, ideological agendas, religious affiliation, sexual and gender issues, economic class, political views, and, of course, the whole issue of government mandates and corporate restrictions. Whether 2022 will bring a modicum of relief to any of the divisive issues facing us now is impossible to know, but we can be sure of at least one thing. That is that the New Year will bring its own set of fresh and unforeseen challenges that will test our faith and our resolve – and there’s one element that we desperately need.
A Common Characteristic ~
There’s a term that’s mentioned repeatedly in describing the attitude and demeanor displayed by the followers of Jesus in the early days of the Church. It’s a quality that requires no academic prerequisite, no special training, and no elaborate ritual to acquire. It is equally effective whether employed by males or females, Jews or Gentiles, old or young. This unique quality strengthens and encourages the weak even as it stymies and frustrates opponents and enemies. Displaying it often turns apparent defeat into unexpected victory – and the lack of it can spread paralysis in the ranks. In recording one of the many confrontations the disciples faced after Pentecost, Luke highlights this unique and powerful quality.
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. (Acts 4:13 NKJV)
It wasn’t their intellectual superiority, or their debating skill, or their physical prowess that left their adversaries dumbfounded. It was their boldness, and it’s important to understand that the Greek term translated as boldness is not some kind of braggadocious arrogance. The term primarily refers to the courage to speak, especially in an intimidating situation. It implies an attitude of confidence that produces fearlessness. The early followers of Jesus faced a world aligned against them at every turn. The Jewish leaders hated them. The Romans saw them as rebellious opponents of Caesar. The pagans and idolaters considered them an existential threat. Those who made their living through bribes and extortion wanted them extinguished along with their message. The only weapon they had was God’s truth and the living Spirit of the resurrected Son of God, but that was more than enough.
No Insurance Against Suffering ~
Boldness didn’t mean they wouldn’t suffer. It didn’t mean the road would always be easy. It didn’t mean that they would always seem to come out on top. But whether the threat was imprisonment, or torture, or social expulsion, or other forms of deprivation, they faced it with boldness. In spite of the oppression and persecution they faced, their opponents in Thessalonica said of them:
…These who have turned the world upside down have come here too. (Acts 17:6b NKJV)
Paul referred to the source of this unique kind of courage in his letter to the Ephesians:
… according to the eternal purpose which He accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord, in whom we have “boldness” and access with confidence through faith in Him (Ephesians 3:11b–12 NKJV)
One thing is absolutely clear as we enter this new year. This is not a time for the followers of Jesus to be passive, timid, compromising, and uncertain. Neither is it a time to endorse arrogance, religious bigotry, physical aggression, or reclusive and cultic isolation. But the boldness we desperately need will also not be found in denominational creeds, charismatic pulpiteers, or iconic evangelists. It’s found in asking ourselves the question that Del Tackett asked in his Truth Project series . . . Do you really believe that what you ‘say you believe’ is really real?
A Compelling Conclusion ~
The writer of Hebrews condensed it beautifully, and as we take a deep breath and forge headlong into the unknowns awaiting us in 2022, may the power of that admonition grant us overcoming faith, defiant joy, and inexplicable peace.
Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh, and having a High Priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching. (Hebrews 10:19–25 NKJV)
HAVE A HAPPY, PROSPEROUS, FULFILLING and “VICTORIOUS” NEW YEAR!
“TWEETABLES” ~ Click to tweet and share from the pull quotes below. Each one links directly back to this article through Twitter . . .
- “Boldness is mentioned repeatedly in describing the attitude & demeanor displayed by followers of Jesus in early days of the Church. The unique quality strengthens & encourages the weak even as it stymies & frustrates opponents & enemies.” @GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)
- “The Greek term translated ‘boldness’ implies an attitude of confidence that produces fearlessness. The only weapon the earlier followers of Jesus had was God’s truth & the living Spirit of the resurrected Son of God. And that was enough.” @GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)
- “Displaying boldness often turns apparent defeat into unexpected victory – and the lack of it can spread paralysis in the ranks.” @GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)
- ”Boldness didn’t mean the early followers of Christ wouldn’t suffer. It didn’t mean the road would always be easy. Whether the threat was imprisonment, torture, social expulsion, or other forms of deprivation, they faced it with boldness.” @GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)
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