Boldness is something that I have both lacked and prayed for much of my adult life. I am often confident of what needs to be accomplished but fearful when it comes to my involvement in the process. I know that Scripture teaches us clearly that timidity and fear are not aspects of the “Spirit-filled” life and yet I have often found myself identifying with those traits more than power, confidence or even a sound mind. As I have read through the Gospels I have always marveled at what I always interpreted as boldness in Peter’s life. He was always quick to respond, to react, to speak up or even to act out. He was quick to follow Jesus, the first among the Apostles to confess Him as the Christ, the only one bold enough to ask to walk on water and even the one that chose to fight when Jesus was being arrested. I started to look at each of these instances and a few others; I looked at the events that surrounded them, what was happening before and how Jesus responded after. What I began to realize is that there were indeed times in which Peter was very bold but there were also times in which Peter was very brash. Lately I have prayed a little bit differently, “Lord teach me to be bold but rebuke me if I am ever brash. Help me to have courage for your will but teach me to have no respect for mine. May my faith be in your voice and not in my feelings or desires.”
When Jesus asked the disciples “But who do you say that I am?” the Holy Spirit welled up within Peter and with boldness he proclaimed “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus blessed him and announced to him and all the others that this response was not his but that of the Father speaking to him. Peter walked in perfect boldness at that moment, he did not fear being wrong, he did not doubt what was within him and he chose to be led by the Father as He spoke. A short time later Jesus began to prepare His disciples for His ultimate purpose, to die for sin and to overcome it and death by rising from the grave three days later. When Peter heard this it troubled him. I am sure he was sad; he was probably worried about his own future, much less that of Jesus and all the others. Something rose up within him again, but it was not the voice of the Father. Peter pulled Jesus away from the group and he began to rebuke the Son of God, “this shall not happen to You!” The same man, operating in what appears to be the same boldness, but this time Peter spoke on his own. He was not being led by the Father and he was not yielding to the Truth, he was speaking his mind. Jesus’ response to him was much different than when he was proclaimed as the Christ, “Get behind Me, Satan! . . . you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men.”
In a very short span of time Peter has heard Jesus address him as the rock on which He will build His church and as Satan, not mindful of the things of God. How can one man have such a huge span of response and reaction? I think it is pretty easy. If we are honest haven’t most, if not all of us, had spans such as these? Haven’t we walked in faith and strength in one moment only to let our flesh have its way in the next? Abraham believed God’s promise enough to leave everything he had ever known but was fearful enough to tell a king in a new land that his wife was his sister. Jacob believed the prophesy of God enough to know that he would be stronger than his older brother but was devious enough to steal the blessing rather than watch to see how God would give it. Samson believed that he had been given supernatural strength by God to lead the people of God and yet he was lustful enough to believe that he could use that strength for his own pleasure with no cost.
My conclusion is this, boldness is a fruit of faith while brashness is a fruit of sin. We are bold when we are confident of God and His voice in our lives. It was boldness that allowed Joshua to march around Jericho’s walls believing that the shouts of their voices would bring them down; boldness that allowed David to march out to fight Goliath, Nehemiah to ask to rebuild Jerusalem’s walls, Peter confess Christ, Paul appeal to Caesar and John to endure exile. Boldness is the Holy Spirit welling up within us and our refusal to stifle or grieve Him. It is our decision to trust in God and to refuse our flesh. Brashness is the exact opposite and yet it can look like boldness at times. Brashness is what we walk in when we must have our way, when we yield to our passions and desires. It is the fruit that we bear when we give in to our fears and lusts and the fire we fight with when we make up our minds to have our way at all costs. Brash was what Saul was when he refused to wait for Samuel and made the sacrifice himself. It is the description we could use for David when he called for Bathsheba giving no thought to anyone other than himself and it was certainly the choice that Ananias and Sapphira made when they chose to lie, saying that they gave all of their proceeds from the sale of land to the church.
As God always does, He works to move us from brash to bold. In Peter’s life God did an amazing but rather unexpected work. On the night of Jesus’ arrest, as He was preparing the disciples and even Himself for what would occur in the next hours He turned to Peter and said, “Simon, Simon! Indeed, Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you that your faith should not fail; and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren.” Before the night was over it seems as if Peter’s brashness is broken. He denied Jesus three times and found himself alone, weeping at what had been revealed about his heart. This sifting was not for his destruction as Satan had hoped; it was for his benefit, for his increase, for his boldness. We see that his brokenness produced a humility that created greater boldness by the removal of brashness. Peter was now a man that walked not in pride but in joy, not in violence but in confidence, not in his own strength but in that of the Holy Spirit. The same apostle that told Jesus that He should not suffer then writes to us about our need to suffer, our need for humility our need to become like Jesus and to submit ourselves to His will for our lives. God will work in us to build boldness, but just as much, if not more, He will work to remove brashness. He is not merely a God that pours into us, He is also a God that removes from us those things that attempt to distract and destroy us.
In Acts 4, after being arrested, released and forbidden to speak in the name of Jesus, Peter and John returned to the church and together they all prayed, “that with all boldness they may speak Your word”. I pray today that we would all pray the same prayer. I pray that we would long to be bold with the Word of God and the things of God and meek and mild with everything else. I pray that we would allow God to remove from us any brashness. I pray that our character would be humble so that when boldness does arise it is clear that we are hearing and speaking the Word of God. I pray that we would choose and even pray to be invisible when it comes to the things of this world but clearly seen in the things of God. If you are like me and you struggle with boldness, pray for it. God will grant it but then you must walk in it. Let God speak and then watch as He puts you in position to be bold, but be very careful. Do not believe that you need to become bold; you need to let God give you boldness. The difference is that in one you will choose boldness when you desire it, in the other you will receive boldness when it is called for. Maybe you are like Peter; you speak your mind at all times. I pray today that you would also ask for the boldness of the Holy Spirit, that you would not waste your strength and authority on the things of this world but would wait until God leads you to be bold. I believe today that we, the Body of Christ, would have a greater influence in our communities if we walked in the boldness of God and rejected the brashness of men. May we long to be heard only when God speaks through us, because when God speaks everything changes.