Back to Index

Listen to sermon by clicking here:

You Too Can Be Bold
August 19, 1979

St. Paul's United Methodist Church


You, too, can be bold. Sometimes we wish we were just a little more bolder. We wish perhaps that we would be adequate in all circumstances. A salesman came trembling to a sales manager and said, “The buyer has discovered that his property is underwater. What am I going to do? And he's angry.” The sales manager said, “Don't let him back out of the deal. Be bold, sell him a motorboat.” Are there times when you wish you would have said something? Have you had the experience after a conversation or confrontation when you think of all those things you could have said? A young minister went to his first church to preach his first sermon. A friend asked him. “Well, how did it go?” He said, “Which sermon? The one I planned to give, or the one I gave, or the one that I preached so eloquently to myself on the way home?” O, to have words just at the right time in the right place! O, to be bold and be so sure of ourselves! 

I'm impressed when I read about Peter and Paul in the book of Acts, with their boldness and bravery. In Acts 9:32-35, Peter said to a man who was paralyzed, and for eight years had not got out of bed, “Jesus Christ makes you well. Get up and walk,” and the man walked. Paul, in Acts 14:8, met a crippled man who had never walked in his life. Paul said, “Stand up straight on your feet,” and the man jumped up. I'm impressed because there were crowds of people there. Can you imagine their nerve, their boldness, their bravery! What if nothing had happened? What if he didn't get up? Where would the credibility go? What a risk they took in front of those crowds! What a risk they took with this new young religion to make such a claim—stand up and walk! Such bravery! 

You, too, can be bold. In our lesson from 2 Corinthians 3:4-18, Paul must have been facing timidity in that congregation. People were perhaps a little unsure of themselves and Paul talked to them about boldness. The first point in being bold is to get a goal big enough. Too small a goal limits one's boldness. A ceiling that's too low limits one's potential. Too often our power is dissipated, our power is weakened and lost because we do not attempt enough. We don't take enough chances. We don't take big enough steps. We don't attempt enough in the name of God. And if we don't try, if we don't attempt enough, our power is not used to its fullest. Stretch, get a goal that stretches you. Get a goal that pulls you. Get a goal that's so big, everything in you is demanded. Get a goal that pulls you out of yourself and makes you do things and be someone you never thought you could be and do. Get a goal big enough and worthy enough of your commitment. 

Paul then laid out what kind of  goal is worthy of taking a chance, being bold and risking. That goal is the ministry of Christ, the ministry of the New Covenant, or as the Jerusalem Bible says, the New Relationship which has come into existence between God and people. That new relationship is possible through the Holy Spirit. You are the ministers, not just ordained people, but all the people of God are ministers, are servants of the ministry—to preach it, witness to it, teach it and live this new relationship between God and us which has come through Jesus Christ. Paul contrasts the New Covenant with the Old Covenant. And he contrasts it with the religion of his day, which he calls a written dead code, written letters on stone which are dead, formal, and legalistic. The religion of Jesus’ day, the religion of Paul's day was legalistic, filled with petty, picayunish laws. In contrast to that kind of  religion came Jesus, came the power of the early church as it expressed the Holy Spirit. Paul says the Spirit brings life and the Spirit is life. This is a living faith. 

This is the ministry to which we're called, a task worthy of us. Often in our lives, we've let our religion become cold, formal, written, and not alive and dynamic. When it becomes mere words, when it becomes mere form and mere practices, it loses its power, it's dead. In contrast, Paul offers the Holy Spirit which brings life. To that task, Paul says you can be bold as we perform this task because our power, our audacity, our nerve, comes not from ourselves, but from God. In 2 Corinthians 3:4, Paul writes, “We have confidence through Christ.” There is nothing in us that allows us to claim that we are capable of doing this work. All our qualifications come from God. In that is our boldness. There's nothing in us that qualifies us for the awesomeness of this responsibility. Our confidence comes from God. Our qualifications, our abilities and our capacities come from God. Our boldness comes from realizing we don't have to trust in our own powers and in our own abilities. When you feel inadequate, when you feel,  “I can't do that. I can't say that, I can't accept that job. Oh, I don’t know what I would do,” then trust in God. Don't trust in your own power, trust in God's power. 

In the covenant, in the relationship between God and people, God takes the initiative. God does the acting. We are the actors. God takes initiative and establishes the relationship. God comes to meet us. It's God's ministry, not our ministry. It's God's task. It's God's work, and God is the actor and God gives us the power to perform this ministry. When you get shy, when you get timid, when you think you're just not able and capable, do you doubt God's power? Cannot the God who parted the Red Sea, cannot the God who healed the sick, cannot the God who raised Jesus Christ from the dead, cannot that God empower you to do whatever he calls you to do? Do you doubt God's power? Paul in writing of himself in Ephesians 3:7-8, said, “I have been made the servant of that gospel by the gift of grace from God, who gave it to me by his own power. I who am less than the least of all the saints have been entrusted with this special grace.” I who doubt my own capacities, I who have a self image that's low, I who feel unworthy—I’ve been given the great grace of God to do this task. 

2 Corinthians 4:7, “We are only the earthenware jars that hold this treasure to make it clear that such an overwhelming power comes from God, not from us.” Now, the jars are important for what’s the treasure without the container, but the power comes from God. It's very humbling, but it also is very encouraging to me, and it gives me confidence. It should make us bold to realize that in the final analysis, whatever we attempt to do in the name of God, the power comes from God. We trust not in our own abilities and in our own capacities, but in the power of God to flow through us. And God in order to achieve this ministry, in order to build an effective new relationship with people, in order to express his great love for all people, calls you and me into ministry. 

And God gives you and me special gifts which are called gifts of the Spirit, spiritual gifts. In the 12th chapter of 1 Corinthians they are listed. Which one of these gifts is yours, or which one of these gifts do you have the potential of receiving? Preaching, not necessarily from behind pulpits, but God gives the gift of preaching to some, the gift of teaching God gives to some. Not everyone has all these gifts. We each receive our own. They're all valid. They're all empowered by God. 

The third gift is healing. The gift of healing is given to you and me, to special people; the gift of miracles; the gift of discerning spirits, telling the difference between the true spirit of God and false spirits; the gift of tongues and the gift of interpreting tongues. The Corinthian Church at that time was involved in tongues, and had people in it who felt superior to others because they could speak in tongues. They felt that tongues were the only sign of the Holy Spirit, but Paul goes on to say that the most excellent of all gifts, the greatest of all the gifts of the Spirit that God gives us, spelled out beautifully in the 13th chapter of 1 Corinthians is love. At the close of that beautiful chapter, Paul writes that it is love that you should strive for. 

Set your hearts on spiritual gifts, especially the gift of proclaiming God's message which brings us back to our ministry. When these gifts are given to you and to me in order to do God's ministry, these gifts are not given for our own sakes. These gifts are not given for our own blessings. These gifts are not given for our own enrichment. These gifts are not given for our own sense of superiority to other people. These gifts are given through us to do ministry, to bring the love of God to all people, to bring his Spirit to our people. 

How do we receive these gifts? How do we receive boldness? There are many ways but Paul gives us one in the 18th verse of chapter three, “Like mirrors we reflect the brightness of the Lord.” The truth here is that we become that which we idealize. We become that which we worship—the heroes who we worship, the people who we admire, those we idealize. We tend to become what we love. We become that which we think is the most important. 

Hero worship, especially for children and youth—they become who they worship. How important  is the kind of teachers we have for our youth groups and Sunday school. In our church, we have tremendous teachers. Our youth leaders are heroes we can emulate and who we would want all of our children to be like. We become what we worship, admire, and idealize. 

And Paul tells us to make Jesus our hero. Gaze on Jesus and let the light of God reflect on us like a mirror. As we worship, as we pray, fill our minds with the Bible, fill our minds with Christ's words, fill our lives with his teachings, and emulate, we lift Christ up in honor. The reason we admire, revere, worship, bow, and pray is so we will become what we admire. Paul says we will be transformed into his likeness. 

I read in our United Methodist paper this week of a big rally on the Holy Spirit in Louisville, Kentucky. There were 3,000 persons there when Father McNutt, a Roman Catholic priest, spoke. After he spoke, they had a healing service which ran past midnight, with over half the people participating. This priest who is becoming very famous in this area of the Spirit said, “Every Christian can heal. You don't have to have any special gift, just love Jesus and pray for persons and healing happens.” 

Love Jesus. Emulate, worship, commit and love. Be willing to pray, to open yourself to the very power of God as it flows through. Then God's ministry can happen. You, too, can be bold, not in your own adequacy, not in your own abilities, but in the very power of the Holy Spirit.

© 1979 Douglas I. Norris