Guillen-Barre is a slowly progressing illness that paralyzes people beginning in the feet and sometimes moving all the way into the chest and neck. It’s terrifying to feel your muscle control slipping away and wondering whether your breathing will soon stop. In most cases GB reverses itself and patients make a full recovery but they are forever changed by the brush with a permanent infirmity.
As horrible as physical paralysis is, spiritual paralysis is far worse and, I would argue, far more common. In fact, paralysis is one of the devil’s top tools for preventing evangelism and stopping the spread of the gospel.
We’ve all experienced it. We meet someone that we really click with. We begin to spend time with them at work or at play. We actually consider talking to them about Jesus. But then the paralysis sets in. We cannot seem to bring ourselves to discuss the most important topic in our life and in theirs. “Jesus” just will not come out of our mouths. It would be easier to bend our arm halfway between our wrist and elbow than to talk to our new friend about their soul. Why? What happened?
We often assume that the people we know are not interested in the Bible. Or we assume that people are already comfortable in their faith and have no interest in anything we have to say.
Paul could have made such an assumption when he traveled city-to-city preaching the gospel. Yet he entered the synagogues, places where devout Jews were found, to preach to them. The entire church began among already devout people (Acts 2:5). Today, we likely assume such devout people are already comfortable in their faith.
We also tend to assume that wicked, sinful people – those with no obvious interest in spiritual matters – would likewise be uninterested in Jesus. We filter them out having never even spoken to them about the Lord. How do we know? Rough, Galilean fishermen were the first disciples (Matthew 4:18-22). Sinners were the chosen friends of Jesus (Matthew 11:19). Our assumptions and filters must be eliminated.
Fear is incredibly powerful. Yet all of God’s great men and women have rejected fear in favor of trusting in God for every need. The apostles were told that they would stand before powerful kings and governors (Mark 13:9) and Jesus would sustain them. Paul was warned of what awaited him in Jerusalem at the end of his third missionary journey (Acts 21:10-16). He appeared before murderous Jews and ignorant Romans and yet he never missed an opportunity to preach truth. Finally he would appear before Caesar and preach among the most influential people of the day (Acts 26:32; Acts 28:16, 30).
Satan will try and convince us that we will be persecuted for our faith. Oddly enough, he may be right. But we must know that any persecution that does come our way is laughable compared to what our brothers and sisters in the first century experienced. Be encouraged by the example of all those who stand for truth and let us “speak the word without fear” (Philippians 1:14)