It was May 9, Victory Day in Moscow. I was riding the subway with our chief of station, Avi Snyder. We emerged from a packed train into another press of people. They were shouting and waving flags—we had walked into the middle of a Communist rally! Blood stains on the hammer and sickle banners had dried long ago, but the passion driving people to wave those flags was fresh. The protesting mob was carried along by a vehemence so intense that it was palpable.
What a contrast it was to see our young Russian Jews for Jesus staff brave those crowds to attest to the truth about Jesus, the Prince of Peace. The situation could have become ugly—but our work-ers in Moscow are zealously committed to the Lord. Their courage typifies the very best of Jews for Jesus. And while they regularly face harassment and persecution, God continues to add to their number those who are being saved on a weekly basis.
With August upon us, we are wrapping up our Summer Witnessing Campaign in Moscow as well as in Paris and New York City. This summer we distributed millions of gospel tracts and spoke with thousands of interested inquirers who gave their names, addresses and phone numbers for further follow up. Best of all, we prayed with hundreds of individuals—right on the streets—to receive forgiveness of sin and everlasting life through Jesus. It took courage for those campaigners to hand out tracts and witness to strangers.
People who tell me they admire our courage in Jews for Jesus often declare that they could never do what we do. Some think that we are braver than ordinary Christians. We are not! We are not oblivious to risks, inured to the pain of rejection, or comfortable with the sense of vulnerability. Courage is not fearlessness in the midst of frightening situations. Courage is the determination to forge ahead despite our fears and uncertainty.
Where do we get our courage?
Courage is based on commitment. We agree to certain obligations, then we must act to keep these commitments because it is right to do so—despite the risks. If you understand our Jews for Jesus commitment, you’ll understand why we do what we do.
Our priority has always been evan-gelism. Recently, we committed ourselves to a very simple mission statement that codifies our priority: We exist to make the Messiahship of Jesus an unavoidable issue to our Jewish people worldwide.” Our commitment to that mission drives us to lift the name of Jesus boldly. If His Messiahship is to be unavoidable, then we cannot avoid the risks that come with making sure our people hear of Him.
We Jews for Jesus need courage, not just to stand out on the streets and hand out tracts. We need courage to sit at the telephone and invite people to meet with us to study the Bible. We need courage to visit your Jewish friends with whom you’ve asked us to follow up because they may be open to the gospel. We need courage to risk the displeasure of others. We covet your prayers for the courage and boldness to do those things because, to be honest, sometimes we feel a bit frightened, even as we venture forth.
Remember the cowardly lion in the story of the Wizard of Oz? He wanted courage, so he set off with his friends to find some. Do you remember what he received at the end of the journey? A medal. All along, the cowardly lion had shown courage. Although he felt cowardly, he braved all kinds of dangers because of his commitment to his friends. That’s courage—willingness to do what is right, despite our fears.
In Acts 4, Peter and John are arrested for standing up in the Temple to tell crowds of Jewish people about Jesus. They are dragged before the Sanhedrin, the ruling body of political and religious leadership. This assembly has the power to extract pain, to imprison, even to execute. They demand that the two men stop preaching. The intimidation level has to be pretty high at this point! How do Peter and John answer? “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you more than to God, you judge. For we cannot but speak the things that we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:19-20).
Peter and John had a simple commitment—to tell others what they had seen and heard about Jesus. God granted them the courage to keep that commitment. I believe they felt fear in the pit of their stomachs as they heard the threats of those leaders, just as you or I would. In fact, after their release, they sought out their companions and prayed, “Now, Lord, look on their threats, and grant to Your servants that with all boldness they may speak Your word” (Acts 4:29).
Christians who say to me, “I could never do what you Jews for Jesus do” underestimate themselves and the Lord. If those Christians really believed that God wanted them to stand on the street and hand out gospel tracts, they would find the courage to do just that. Nevertheless, God doesn’t call every Christian to do what we Jews for Jesus have committed ourselves to do. He gives each of us enough courage to accomplish what He calls us to—but we won’t find the courage if we are not open to hearing His call. Each of us must find what God wants us to do and go for it.
What do you need courage from the Lord to do? Perhaps you need holy boldness to speak of Christ to your friend or neighbor who doesn’t know Him. Perhaps you need the courage to live for Christ despite the displeasure of an unbelieving spouse or parent. Maybe you need courage to refrain from joining the banter of office gossip and coarse jesting. Whatever you need courage from the Lord for, He will give it. It will mean taking risks. But if you know that it is right, if you know God wants you to do it, He will give you the courage you need.
Jonathan Edwards said, “True boldness for Christ transcends all, it is indifferent to the displeasure of either friends or foes. Boldness enables Christians to forsake all rather than Christ, and to prefer to offend all rather than to offend him.” That kind of courage and boldness is based on commitment, but it is built by trust and endures through hope and love. It’s the kind of courage that, by God’s grace, has been and will continue to be a hallmark of Jews for Jesus.
I want to thank you for upholding us in our commitment to forthright evangelism. Let’s encourage each other in our commitments, as we trust the Lord together and look forward to His coming. May each of us be a profile in godly courage so that we may do what He has called us to do.
“Be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart, all you who hope in the Lord”