A while back a friend was recounting to me a frank conversation that they had had with a manager at a particular restaurant chain regarding poor service delivery. Somewhere in their story, they said something like “What kind of Mickey Mouse show are you running here?”, to which I responded with a touch of undisguised unbelief, “Did you really say that?” Sheepishly, the reply came, “No… But it’s what I SHOULD have said!”
I grew up hearing my parents telling me “You always have an answer for everything” but I can think of more than a few times that I’ve been in a situation where I’ve been ‘put on the spot’, or emotions started to run high and I either
– blurt something out that has a ‘trailer of regret’ hooked up to it, or
– can’t think of something clever to say so end up saying nothing, or
– get scared about what people may think or do if I say something that they don’t agree with, and take an easy way out.
And afterwards, once it’s too late and the moment has passed, I think “Man, I should have said this or that!” or “Why didn’t I just say what I was really thinking or feeling”.
Maybe it’s happened to you too?
The conditions were just right in Acts 4 for this to happen to Peter and John, two of Jesus’ friends. They were arrested and hauled before all the important, educated and furious religious. If it were me, this would be about the time I’d hit a blank. But that didn’t happen. The Holy Spirit had their backs. And their mouths. Just as Jesus promised some time before. And God was glorified.
11 Whenever they bring you before synagogues and rulers and authorities, don’t worry about how you should defend yourselves or what you should say. 12 For the Holy Spirit will teach you at that very hour what must be said.” Luke 12:11-12
12 But before all these things, they will lay their hands on you and persecute you. They will hand you over to the synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors because of my name. 13 This will give you an opportunity to bear witness. 14 Therefore make up your minds not to prepare your defense ahead of time, 15 for I will give you such words and a wisdom that none of your adversaries will be able to resist or contradict. Luke 21:12-15
Luke (the writer) specifically tells us that these two were just ordinary guys without any theology degrees – nobodies basically.
13 When they observed the boldness of Peter and John and realized that they were uneducated and untrained men, they were amazed and recognized that they had been with Jesus. Acts 4:13
Now we may not be hauled before a council and put on trial for our faith so formally, but I guess sometimes we fear what people think and what we should say if we are ever asked about what we believe. Every day we can share the Gospel of Jesus Christ with others…but how often do we actually do it? Jesus promised that He, through the Holy Spirit will give us the words to say just like He did for Peter, John, Stephen, Paul and many others!
If we really want to be a church that changes our city we need to learn to listen to the prompting of the Holy Spirit and be ready to share the good news at His say so. We don’t have to rehearse our defence, just follow His lead. There’s freedom in that. It means it’s not up to us… it’s through our obedience that God will bring the breakthrough – not through our eloquent words!
And it’s something we can pray for, just like the early church did. They prayed for παρρησία parrēsia.
29 And now, Lord, consider their threats, and grant that your servants may speak your word with all boldness (parrēsia), Acts 4:29
This is what parrēsia means:
freedom in speaking, unreservedness in speech, openly, frankly, i.e. without concealment, without ambiguity or circumlocution, without the use of figures and comparisons, free and fearless confidence, cheerful courage, boldness, assurance
So, get out there with some parrēsia, and get ready to drop the mic!
God’s got your back. And your mouth.