by Daniel Rieke
One of our favorite passages to quote and to celebrate at Hope Church is the Apostles' prayer in Acts 4:29-30: "And now, Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness, while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus."[i]
In light of this passage and others like it, we want to pray for God to give us boldness to proclaim His Word and that God would move powerfully to authenticate the truth of His gospel. We want God to empower us to accomplish our primary goal as followers of Christ: to make disciples through the proclamation of the gospel (Matt. 28:18-20).
But what I've found in my life is that it is easy to talk about sharing the gospel and proclaiming God's Word to nonbelievers, but it is much more difficult to live a lifestyle of evangelism. It doesn't come naturally to me to live a lifestyle of disciple making and fearless witness to the Word of God. And yet, that's exactly what God calls each of us to do.
If you're like me, and evangelism doesn't flow out of you effortlessly, then God's message to Ezekiel, in Ezekiel chapter 3, can bring much encouragement to us.
 And he said to me, “Son of man, go to the house of Israel and speak with my words to them.  For you are not sent to a people of foreign speech and a hard language, but to the house of Israel— not to many peoples of foreign speech and a hard language, whose words you cannot understand. Surely, if I sent you to such, they would listen to you.  But the house of Israel will not be willing to listen to you, for they are not willing to listen to me: because all the house of Israel have a hard forehead and a stubborn heart.  Behold, I have made your face as hard as their faces, and your forehead as hard as their foreheads.  Like emery harder than flint have I made your forehead. Fear them not, nor be dismayed at their looks, for they are a rebellious house.”  Moreover, he said to me, “Son of man, all my words that I shall speak to you receive in your heart, and hear with your ears.  And go to the exiles, to your people, and speak to them and say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD,’ whether they hear or refuse to hear.”
Here are six observations about God's instructions to Ezekiel in this passage and how it encourages us in our evangelism efforts:
1. God calls us to speak His word to His intended recipients (v.4-6). We should be sensitive to the Holy Spirit at all times and be ready to share the gospel with whoever He leads us to share with. Rather than this being a burden, it is actually freeing because we don't have to “force it” if the Lord isn't leading us to press into the gospel in that particular conversation (see “...not to many peoples” in verse 6). This passage frees us from the pressure of feeling obligated to “spam” everyone we encounter with the gospel. Instead, we’re encouraged to listen to the Spirit’s leading in our conversations and share what and how He prompts us (Acts 8:29, 10:19-20).
However, what this passage does not do is give us license to ignore God's voice and then make that an excuse to never share the gospel, claiming He never led us to share it. If that's what we do, I would challenge whether we are actually hearing from God because He will lead us to these opportunities for evangelism (e.g. 1 Pet. 3:15, Col. 4:5-6, Rom.10).
2. If God had sent Ezekiel to the Gentiles they would have believed (v.6). It is not up to us whether or not people reject the message of Christ. We're simply called to share the gospel and to trust the Lord with the results. Did you notice that success for Ezekiel in this passage was to faithfully proclaim the gospel to Israel (who will reject it) and not share it with others (who would have accepted it)? What do we do with that?
We obey. This command can only make sense within the framework of God’s sovereign plan of redemption and our complete submission to His will. So let us be faithful with the message and trust the results to God.
3. God calls us to speak His Word even if we assume the listeners will reject it (v. 7, 11). We don't know all of God's reasons for calling us to share the gospel with men and women who reject it, but we can trust His plan and His sovereignty, and that He does in fact have a purpose in our obedience (Isa. 55:10-11).
4. God will give us the resolve we need to faithfully speak His Word in the face of opposition, without fear (v.8-9). God is in control and He will empower our obedience, which is why we pray Acts 4:29...we need God to give us boldness. Acts 4:29 shows us that boldness is necessary to share the Word of God faithfully. God knows that it is hard for us to muster courage, so He graciously provides the means to overcome this challenge: His power through the Holy Spirit!
5. We need to hear and internalize God's Word (v.10). In other words, we need to know the gospel, and we need to know God's Word if we're going to be able to share it. It doesn't make near the impact to be involved with human trafficking and South Sudan ministries, and to charge into those dark places, if we aren't equipped with the most important resource we can provide: the gospel. We must make it a HUGE priority to learn, know, and delight in the gospel, so that we can make disciples who love Jesus and rest in His perfect work on behalf of sinners.
6. We need to speak God's Word and trust Him with the results (v.11). What a joy-bringing and life-giving realization! We can simply rest in being faithful proclaimers of the gospel and fully trust God with the results. We don’t have any pressure on us to control the results because we know that "salvation belongs to the Lord!" (Psalm 3:8).
So let us be a people who fervently pray for boldness to share the gospel, and a people who step out in faith at every opportunity the Lord provides us to boldly and lovingly proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ!
[i] Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.