By Sarah Francis Martin
I remember how the book felt in my hands: 600 pages heavy yet it didn’t deter my curiosity and desire to dig in. The title captivated me: How Now Shall We Live. Page by page, the beloved and belated author, Chuck Colson, convinced me and filled in the questions of how to allow faith and God’s Word into every square inch of my life. Something clicked as I read. God used this time to ignite a passionate spark within me to live out His Word and to live out my faith with boldness. I was rearing to go, to do, to proclaim.
However, I was not yet equipped to go, to do, to proclaim. I remember many times when my passion––not quite accentuated with servant love––lead me to bold declarations full of finger pointing and prideful monologues. Oh I meant well, yes. But was it effective for the kingdom? No. I’m thankful for the example of Chuck Colson’s ministry beyond the pages of his life-changing book. Mr. Colson and his team epitomized an important balance in ministry: servant love coupled with boldness. Colson and his team formed Prison Fellowship, which serves inmates and helps them find the love and truth of Jesus Christ. Along with this servant love, Colson equipped Christians to live with a biblical worldview. Both facets of this ministry are intertwined and inspire me to never swing one way or the other, but rather to serve with love and proclaim truth with boldness.
Before you think this is only for those who work directly in ministry, can I encourage you to look at your entire life (work, family, friends, hobbies, etc.) as an opportunity to do ministry with servant love and boldness? How we love others in our sphere of influence says much about who we serve. How we go above and beyond to serve and live as the hands and feet of Jesus says much about who we worship, for serving and loving are like sweet notes in the ear of our Father.
But what does this look like? With Jesus as our example, servant love looks past schedules, timing, and awkwardness. Servant love looks past convenience and looks straight toward the needs of others above our own. This type of act starts with the foundational truths that we are all created by the Almighty, and we all need the mercy that Jesus poured out on the cross. Servant love looks at people through the eyes of Jesus, loving them because He loves them.
Something interesting happens when we take this approach. As we serve with authentic love, as we spend time with others, and as we really get to know those we love and serve, relationships develop. As these relationships form, we cultivate a certain authority to speak truth: God’s truth. As we do life and ministry, we have opportunities to boldly share what God is doing in our life and also boldly offer His good news. How do we cultivate this authority? By exemplifying love. When people know we care bold declarations of faith are received more openly than if we point fingers and slam Bible verses in the faces of others.
In John 15, Jesus commanded us to abide in Him. I often look to this chapter as a refresher course. Serving, loving, and doing things for others are often tiring. I know I can’t do these things effectively and with complete love when I serve out of my own strength. I need to lean on Jesus to revive my heart in order to see others with His eyes. He promises that our efforts will bear fruit when we abide in Him. Fruit produced in my own strength, with my own agenda, tastes bitter and drips with detrimental pride. How easy it is to “check the box” when we do our good deed in order to feel good about ourselves––to be the “good” Christian. But when we abide in Him and desire Him to work in and through us, our life takes on more meaning and purpose. We pour out our lives with love and boldness because we just can’t help ourselves.
Get Comfortable With Being Uncomfortable
For some of us, the uncomfortable aspect will be the actual serving as God takes us to places we’ve never dared to set foot. Maybe these are literal places in the world that are new and a bit frightening. Maybe these are metaphorical places where God asks you to reach out to someone by means that are beyond your perceived capabilities. It is definitely not comfortable to feel inadequate! But, where our strength ends, God goes above and beyond to accomplish His goal. We have the privilege to come along for the ride and experience firsthand when someone sees the working of our King in and through our very lives. Let’s not miss out because we are too intimidated or filled with fear!
This is also not to forget the personal benefits of pushing past discomfort to speak boldly or serve with an above and beyond type of love. God uses these times to grow and stretch us. Looking back at my own experience (hindsight is always 20/20, right?) I am grateful of the times when God asked me to get uncomfortable, to do things I just didn’t want to do. If we are willing, He will show us things about Himself that will invigorate and spur us even further in living out our ministry for the sheer pleasure of furthering His kingdom here on earth.
Know What We Believe and Why We Believe It
Cultivating a lifestyle of servant love and boldness requires confidence. When God takes us outside of our comfort zone, knowing what we believe and why we believe it gives us this confidence. God’s kingdom gives us a firm foundation to stand on because, as Hebrews 13:8 tells us, Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever. The foundation for our bold service and love has been true throughout the ages. I penned some words in my new book Just RISE UP!: A Call to Make Jesus Famous that might encourage us further on the subject of confidence:
I wonder if you would RISE UP! with a kingdom perspective if you experienced for yourself the sensation of standing on a faith, a solid kingdom, that will not be shaken. Would you take a stand for the fame of Jesus if you knew the eternal effects of proclaiming His name? Would you speak of His awesome works in your life if you knew that the hearts around you live desperate for hope and freedom? Would you take on the hard role of leadership in forging the way with your peers if you knew the eternal ramifications of loving and serving others in the name of Jesus?
All of these heart-piercing questions are meant to lead us to evaluate what we believe. We can only live out our faith with bold abandonment if we know just what we stand for. We can make a big impact if we actually declare what we believe with that same boldness. Sometimes our declarations will manifest in actual words, and sometimes they will manifest in the life choices we make, the things we choose or choose not to do. (p. 44)
I encourage you to take some time to sit down and prayerfully create a personal belief statement. Include Scripture to back up each element. Find a mentor or talk to your pastor to help walk you through the process. This is not an overnight project. You might even find yourself challenged when you run up against the question, “Why do I believe this?” This is okay! Blessings abound when we dig into the Word with a heart that yearns to grow closer to God. The Lord promises in Jeremiah 29:13-14 that when we seek Him with all our heart, He will be found. Stand firm on that promise as you seek to develop a deeper knowledge and confidence in the Bible.
I would love to conclude with a prayer that I have placed before God regarding my own heart toward others. It is a prayer that I am confident He will answer for He is the author and creator of my heart and yours.
Father, soften our heart toward those You place in our lives. May we see people with Your eyes of agapeo love: consistent, welcoming, selfless. May we serve them out of sheer desire to serve You. Lord, help us to develop relationships and earn the authority to speak Your ultimate and everlasting truth. May we speak boldly because of this love that You are planting in our hearts. May we share because we desire others to live in Your freedom, mercy, graciousness, peace, and love. In Jesus’ name, Amen!
 Martin, S. F. (2014). Just rise up!: A call to make jesus famous. Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson.
Sarah Francis Martin is a wife, mom, friend, mentor, author, and wanna-be artist. When she is not pecking away at her laptop, you can often find her playing with her art supplies. Sarah has a passion to encourage this generation to make Jesus famous. Read more from Sarah on her blog www.liveitoutblog.com.