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Afraid to Speak

Last Word

by Mike Matthews on April 1, 2014
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When we defend God’s Word against skeptics, it is easy to become intimidated. So much is at stake, and it seems so easy to falter.

Mike Matthews

Illustration by Dave Ham

Mike Matthew, Editor in Chief

Whenever I watch a skilled speaker like Ken Ham defend his faith against a nonbeliever like Bill Nye, one of the first things that goes through my mind is “I couldn’t do that.” And yet I know every believer is obligated—and privileged—to share his faith boldly.

So I always have to stop and think through why I find apologetics so intimidating, and how I’m supposed to overcome my inhibitions.

Even though I’ve been a Christian for years and I’ve learned many fascinating truths that confirm God’s Word, my newfound knowledge has been attended by a growing awareness of the gravity of speaking aright.

A Conundrum

After so many years writing for a creationist organization, I’ve come to appreciate the heavy responsibility we bear as creatures made in the image of God. We are word speakers who are supposed to represent the Word on earth. It is easy for someone like me, who is naturally timid, to fear misstating something when I speak.

I don’t really think this is a pride issue (though that is always a danger). It is a sincere desire to represent my Lord well. I feel deeply my own inadequacies. And the high bar of Scripture doesn’t ease my fears. Christ warned that “every idle word” shall be brought into judgment (Matthew 12:36; see also James 1:19 and Proverbs 10:19). I’ve known these verses for years, and they weigh on me.

And yet our obligation to speak is just as plain in Scripture. “Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season” (2 Timothy 4:2). “Always be ready to give a defense” (1 Peter 3:15).

How do we reconcile these two competing duties? Sure, we could say that we must become masters at defending our faith. But who feels sufficient for these things?

An Act of Faith

Several verses encourage me. For instance, Christ encouraged His disciples, “The Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say” (Luke 12:11–12).

I must cling to several thoughts, in faith. While I can’t neglect doing my part in studying and praying, God has chosen weak vessels—“not many wise” (1 Corinthians 1:26)—to spread His gospel. In our very weakness, His grace and glory is most magnified.

God takes our faltering words and imperfect understanding, and the message somehow gets through. If God has designed this as His way to get the job done (and even the most talented debaters are weak vessels at best), I have no excuses.

In fact, the incident that comes to my mind whenever I face these fears is Moses’s confrontation with God.

Moses was one of the most talented and educated men in all the earth. And yet he recognized his inability and the certainty of failure in his own strength. Yet God didn’t hold back His demands on Moses. Indeed, He became angry at Moses’s obstinacy. I think God recorded this event to help the rest of us. Several lessons can be drawn from this account, but two are most obvious: God’s Word will get the job done, as long as we are faithful to share it (Isaiah 55:11). And God’s calling comes with the power to get it done (1 Thessalonians 5:24).

In the end, we are just mouthpieces, sharing God’s Word as plainly as we know how. Every Christian can do that. As we mature, we may refine our arguments, but God can and does—by His design—use us, as long as we’re faithful to His Word and to Him.

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