‘Speak the Word of God With Boldness’
“They were . . . filled with the holy spirit and were speaking the word of God with boldness.”—ACTS 4:31.
1, 2. Why should we strive to be effective in our ministry?
THREE days before his death, Jesus told his disciples: “This good news of the kingdom will be preached in all the inhabited earth for a witness to all the nations; and then the end will come.” Before his ascension to heaven, the resurrected Jesus commissioned his followers to ‘make disciples of people of all the nations, teaching them to observe all the things he had commanded them.’ He promised them that he would be with them “all the days until the conclusion of the system of things.”—Matt. 24:14; 26:1, 2; 28:19, 20.
2 As Jehovah’s Witnesses, we have an active share in a work that had its beginning in the first century. No other work is equal in importance to the lifesaving work of Kingdom preaching and disciple making. How vital it is, then, that we be effective in our ministry! In this article, we will see how being directed by holy spirit helps us to speak with boldness when we engage in the ministry. The two following articles will show how Jehovah’s spirit can direct us to teach with skill and preach with constancy.
We Need Boldness
3. Why does sharing in the Kingdom-preaching work require boldness?
3 Our God-given work of Kingdom proclamation is a privilege beyond compare. However, it is not without challenges. While some people readily accept the good news of God’s Kingdom, many prove to be like those living in the days of Noah. They “took no note until the flood came and swept them all away,” said Jesus. (Matt. 24:38, 39) Then there are those who ridicule or oppose us. (2 Pet. 3:3) Opposition may come from those in authority, from schoolmates or workmates, or even from close family members. Add to this our own personal weaknesses, such as shyness and fear of being rejected. A multitude of factors can make it difficult for us to exercise “freeness of speech” and speak the word of God with “boldness.” (Eph. 6:19, 20) Perseverance in speaking the word of God requires boldness. What can help us to acquire it?
4. (a) What is boldness? (b) How did the apostle Paul muster up boldness to speak to the Thessalonians?
4 The Greek word translated “boldness” means “outspokenness, frankness, plainness.” That word conveys the idea of “courage, confidence, . . . fearlessness.” Boldness does not mean bluntness or rudeness. (Col. 4:6) While being bold, we also want to be peaceable with all. (Rom. 12:18) Moreover, as we preach the good news of God’s Kingdom, we need to maintain balance between boldness and tactfulness so that we do not offend someone unintentionally. Indeed, boldness calls for qualities that require much effort to cultivate. This type of boldness does not come from within or from self-reliance. After the apostle Paul and his companions had been ‘insolently treated in Philippi,’ how did they ‘muster up boldness’ to speak to those in Thessalonica? “By means of our God,” wrote Paul. (Read 1 Thessalonians 2:2.) Jehovah God can dispel our fears and give us similar boldness.
5. How did Jehovah grant boldness to Peter, John, and other disciples?
5 When challenged by “rulers [of the people] and older men and scribes,” the apostles Peter and John said: “Whether it is righteous in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, judge for yourselves. But as for us, we cannot stop speaking about the things we have seen and heard.” Rather than praying to God for persecution to stop, they and fellow believers made supplication, saying: “Jehovah, give attention to their threats, and grant your slaves to keep speaking your word with all boldness.” (Acts 4:5, 19, 20, 29) How did Jehovah respond to their request? (Read Acts 4:31.) Jehovah helped them muster up boldness by means of his spirit. God’s spirit can do the same for us. How, then, can we receive God’s spirit and be directed by it in our ministry?
6, 7. What is the most direct way to receive God’s holy spirit? Give examples.
6 The most direct way to receive God’s holy spirit is to ask for it. Jesus told his listeners: “If you, although being wicked, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more so will the Father in heaven give holy spirit to those asking him!” (Luke 11:13) Indeed, we should constantly pray for holy spirit. If certain aspects of the ministry—doing street witnessing, preaching informally, or working business territory—intimidate us, we can pray to Jehovah for his spirit and ask him to help us muster up the needed boldness.—1 Thess. 5:17.
7 That is what a Christian woman named Rosa did.* One day when Rosa was at her place of work, a schoolteacher she works with was reading a report from another school about the mistreatment of children. The teacher was so disturbed by what she read that she cried out, “What is this world coming to?” Rosa could not pass up such an opportunity to give a witness. What did she do to get the courage to speak up? “I prayed to Jehovah and asked for his spirit to help me,” says Rosa. She was able to give a fine witness and make a follow-up arrangement. Consider also the case of a five-year-old girl named Milane, who lives in New York City. Milane says: “Before I go to school, my mommy and I always pray to Jehovah.” What do they pray for? Courage for Milane to take her stand and speak up about her God! “This has helped Milane to explain her position on birthdays and holidays and refrain from joining in when those occasions are observed,” says her mother. Do these examples not show that when it comes to mustering up boldness, prayer works?
8. What can we learn from the prophet Jeremiah about acquiring boldness?
8 Reflect also on what helped the prophet Jeremiah to acquire boldness. When Jehovah appointed him as a prophet to the nations, Jeremiah replied: “Here I actually do not know how to speak, for I am but a boy.” (Jer. 1:4-6) In time, though, Jeremiah became so persistent and forceful in his preaching activity that many viewed him as a calamity howler. (Jer. 38:4) For over 65 years, he boldly proclaimed Jehovah’s judgments. So well-known was he in Israel for his fearless and courageous preaching that some 600 years later when Jesus spoke with boldness, some believed that he was Jeremiah returned to life. (Matt. 16:13, 14) How did the initially reluctant prophet Jeremiah overcome his shyness? He states: “In my heart [the word of God] proved to be like a burning fire shut up in my bones; and I got tired of holding in.” (Jer. 20:9) Yes, Jehovah’s word exerted power on Jeremiah and impelled him to speak.
9. Why can the word of God affect us the way it affected Jeremiah?
9 In his letter to the Hebrews, the apostle Paul wrote: “The word of God is alive and exerts power and is sharper than any two-edged sword and pierces even to the dividing of soul and spirit, and of joints and their marrow, and is able to discern thoughts and intentions of the heart.” (Heb. 4:12) The message, or word, of God can affect us the way it affected Jeremiah. Remember that although men were used to write the Bible, it is not a compilation of human wisdom, for it was inspired by God. At 2 Peter 1:21, we read: “Prophecy was at no time brought by man’s will, but men spoke from God as they were borne along by holy spirit.” When we take time to engage in meaningful personal study of the Bible, our minds become filled with the message inspired by holy spirit. (Read 1 Corinthians 2:10.) That message can prove to be “like a burning fire” inside us, so that we will be unable to keep it in.
10, 11. (a) What should be true of our study habits if we are to acquire boldness in speaking? (b) Name at least one step you plan on taking in order to improve the quality of your personal study.
10 For personal Bible study to have a powerful impact on us, it should be done in such a way that the Bible’s message reaches deep inside us, affecting our inner person. For example, the prophet Ezekiel was given a vision in which he was asked to eat the roll of a book containing a strong message to be delivered to an unreceptive people. Ezekiel was to absorb the message fully and make it part of him. Doing so would make the task of delivering that message pleasant—like the taste of honey.—Read Ezekiel 2:8–3:4, 7-9.
11 We are in a situation similar to that of Ezekiel. Today, many simply do not want to hear what the Bible says. If we are to persevere in speaking the word of God, it is important that we study the Scriptures in a manner that allows us to absorb their message fully. Regularity—not a hit-or-miss approach—should mark our study habits. Our desire should be like that of the psalmist who sang: “Let the sayings of my mouth and the meditation of my heart become pleasurable before you, O Jehovah my Rock and my Redeemer.” (Ps. 19:14) How important it is that we take time to meditate on what we read, so that Bible truths sink deep down into the heart! Surely, we should strive to improve the quality of our personal study.*
12. Why do Christian meetings help us to be guided by holy spirit?
12 Another way to benefit from Jehovah’s holy spirit is to “consider one another to incite to love and fine works, not forsaking the gathering of ourselves together.” (Heb. 10:24, 25) Exerting ourselves to be in regular attendance at Christian meetings, listening carefully, and applying what we learn are fine ways to be guided by the spirit. After all, does not Jehovah’s spirit give direction through the congregation?—Read Revelation 3:6.
Benefits of Acquiring Boldness
13. What can we learn from what the first-century Christians accomplished in the preaching work?
13 Holy spirit is the most powerful force in the universe, and it can empower humans to do Jehovah’s will. Under its influence, the first-century Christians accomplished a tremendous preaching work. They preached the good news “in all creation that is under heaven.” (Col. 1:23) When we consider that most of them were “unlettered and ordinary,” it becomes obvious that they were motivated by a stronger force.—Acts 4:13.
14. What can help us to be “aglow with the spirit”?
14 Living in a way that allows holy spirit to direct our lives can also motivate us to carry out our ministry courageously. The combined benefits of constantly praying for the spirit, diligently engaging in meaningful personal study, prayerfully meditating on what we read, and regularly attending Christian meetings can help us to be “aglow with the spirit.” (Rom. 12:11) Concerning “a certain Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria, an eloquent man, [who] arrived in Ephesus,” the Bible says: “As he was aglow with the spirit, he went speaking and teaching with correctness the things about Jesus.” (Acts 18:24, 25) By being “on fire with the Spirit,” we can demonstrate increased boldness in our house-to-house ministry and when witnessing informally.—Rom. 12:11, The Bible—An American Translation.
15. How does speaking with increased boldness benefit us?
15 Increased boldness in witnessing has a positive effect on us. Our attitude is improved because we appreciate more fully the importance and benefit of our work. Our enthusiasm is enhanced because we find greater joy when we are effective in the ministry. And our zeal is fortified because we have a greater awareness of the urgency of the preaching work.
16. What should we do if our zeal for the ministry has diminished?
16 What if we have lost our zeal for the ministry or our fervor for it is not what it used to be? Then an honest self-examination is in order. Paul wrote: “Keep testing whether you are in the faith, keep proving what you yourselves are.” (2 Cor. 13:5) Ask yourself: ‘Am I still aglow with the spirit? Do I pray to Jehovah for his spirit? Do my prayers show that I rely upon him to do his will? Do they contain words of appreciation for the ministry entrusted to us? How are my personal study habits? How much time do I take to meditate on what I read and hear? How involved am I in congregation meetings?’ Reflecting on questions such as these can help you identify areas of weakness and take corrective measures.
Let God’s Spirit Make You Bold
17, 18. (a) On what scale is the preaching work being done today? (b) How can we display “the greatest freeness of speech” in declaring the good news of God’s Kingdom?
17 The resurrected Jesus told his disciples: “You will receive power when the holy spirit arrives upon you, and you will be witnesses of me both in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the most distant part of the earth.” (Acts 1:8) The work that began then is being done on an unprecedented scale today. Close to seven million Witnesses of Jehovah are declaring the Kingdom message in over 230 lands, spending nearly 1.5 billion hours a year in the ministry. How thrilling it is to have a zealous share in this never-to-be-repeated work!
18 As in the first century, the global preaching work today is done under the direction of God’s spirit. If we respond to the spirit’s direction, we will display “the greatest freeness of speech” in our ministry. (Acts 28:31) By all means, then, let us be guided by the spirit as we declare the good news of God’s Kingdom!
Names have been changed.
To get the most from your Bible reading and personal study, see the book Benefit From Theocratic Ministry School Education, chapters entitled “Apply Yourself to Reading” and “Study Is Rewarding,” pages 21-32.
What Did You Learn?
• Why do we need to be bold in speaking the word of God?
• What helped the early disciples to speak with boldness?
• How may we acquire boldness?
• How does acquiring boldness benefit us?
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How can parents help their children acquire boldness?
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A brief prayer can help you to muster up boldness in the ministry