As believers we know that the Gospel “is the power of God for salvation” (Rom. 1:16). Yet, that same Gospel can put us in danger. Consider all the Apostle Paul went through as he proclaimed the Gospel. He was imprisoned, flogged, beaten, pelted with stones, shipwrecked — “exposed to death again and again.” He said, “I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my fellow Jews, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false believers.” (2 Cor. 11:23-28)
What does this tell us about the Gospel? Is it only powerful enough to deliver us from eternal damnation and not the dangers we experience now? Or, though we still might face troubles in this world (Jn. 16:33), does it deliver us in ways that help us cope with whatever we must endure?
Shouldn’t a dangerous Gospel lead to fear?
Living in a fallen world, it’s scary enough to see all the evil sinful people can do to one another, as well as hearing about so many natural disasters happening. On top of that, we’re saying that as followers of Jesus Christ, Christians might additionally experience persecution, rejection, ridicule, and more — maybe even death. How can we not experience fear?
Continuing on with the example of the Apostle Paul who faced a wide variety of dangerous situations, we can see that we don’t have to be paralyzed by fear. We can find courage in the face of danger when we maintain perspective. Paul said, “I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me” (Phil. 1:20-22).
We have something far better in death than we have here. Consequently, we must remember what Jesus said to “not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more” (Lk. 12:4). If God delivers us from earthly dangers, it means He still has work for us to do. But, even if we die, it’s not meaningless.
Read more about perspective: Perspective in Church Safety
Doesn’t a dangerous Gospel lead to anxiety?
One would think that knowing the Gospel could put us in danger, would make us anxious. Yet, the Apostle Paul who faced so much danger because of the Gospel, actually came to experience a deep inner peace and contentment. He said, “I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.” (Phil. 4:12) How? He goes on to say, in verse 13, “I can do all this through him who gives me strength.”
Notice how it says contentment was something he “learned”. Peace and an anxiety-free mindset isn’t something that comes natural to us. But, we too can learn to be content, regardless of our circumstances, as we rely on the power of God, that same power that saved us, to strengthen us. We demonstrate that reliance by taking everything to Him in prayer. Just prior to saying he has learned to be content, the Apostle Paul said, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 4:6-7)
We need to do all we can to keep our churches safe, to prevent harm where we can. Yet, we still could find ourselves facing danger. Some may be simply because we live in a fallen world, but some could additionally come on us because we’re holding fast to the Gospel. Churches may purposefully be targeted.
In the face of dangers, of whatever nature, let’s help our congregations work through their fears and anxieties. We can do that by helping them gain the needed perspective and encouraging them to turn to God for the strength and power they need. Just as important, we must be an example of the courage and contentment that is ours now, because of the power of the Gospel.