Craig Groeschel - Make Me Bold
How many of you honestly believe in the power of prayer, raise your hands? Excellent. How many of you, even though you believe in the power of prayer, believe you could pray more consistently and with more faith? Interesting, right? That's funny to me. Why is it that we as followers of Jesus know that we have access to go boldly before the throne of grace, that God hears our prayers, He's moved by our faith, and yet so often our prayer life can be inconsistent, can be haphazard, and is often faithless in so many ways? Why do you think that is?
My theory is that there are a lot of us that even though we really do love and honor God, we don't feel like we're good at praying at all. It could be because some people are really, really good at it, and when we're in a prayer time with them we feel like oh my gosh, I'm not gonna pray out loud after that. We get a little prayer envy. I don't know if you've ever been around someone that almost, they look like a professional prayer, meaning they're so good like God probably goes, "Wow, that was really good", you know?
And it's almost like there's this implied point system to praying, like you get more points if you use a Bible verse in your prayer, you're praying like, "And God, we just ask you to come upon us as you say in your word in Isaiah chapter 54, God, that no weapon formed against us will prosper". That person can pray. They just used the Bible. I didn't know where that Bible verse was. Or you get bonus points if you bind up the devil, 'cause when you bind up the devil, people go like, "Mm, yeah", and your prayer's like, "I bind you, devil. Get out of here in Jesus' name" or whatever. And then if someone says, "Yes, Lord", in your prayer, ding, ding, ding, ding more points.
I've often felt like a prayer failure, like a point-less prayer, like no Bible verse, no mm, yes, Jesus, you know? And sometimes just almost pointless before God, meaning what was that all about? Some people, you intimidate me. You're like, "Hey, let's get together and pray for like an hour". Let's not. An hour, are you kidding me? Five minutes straight, that feels like an accomplishment for me. Honestly, there have been times when I get very bored praying, like I'm bored. I'm thinking God's bored when I'm praying sometimes. Like all you're praying is this same old routine, kinda prayer rut, I think that's a big problem for a lot of us, and maybe at the root of it for some of us, the biggest problems would be that our prayers are just too safe, predictable, mundane, rote, and safe. God bless this food, this greasy cheeseburger and fries I'm about to eat, bless this food. That takes faith to pray that, whatever. God, keep me safe today, be with me, help me get a good parking spot, whatever.
Sometimes I wonder if the all-powerful God in heaven looks at our prayers like that and says, "That's almost an insult that you're praying that safe". I'm very, very excited because this week, we released a brand new book. It's called "Dangerous Prayers". The service that my mom was in was much louder 'cause she screamed and went kinda crazy, but the title is "Dangerous Prayers" and the subtitle is, "Because following Jesus was never meant to be safe". Those of you that were with us four years ago, we did a message series on three dangerous prayers that are in this book. We talked about the dangerous prayer, "God, search me", David prayed this, "Search me, God, see if there's any offensive way in me". We talked about the very dangerous prayer, "God, break me", break me. And we talked about the dangerous prayer, "Send me. Anywhere, anytime, whatever you want, God, I'm available".
In the next four weeks what we're gonna do is we're gonna talk about four entirely different, brand new dangerous prayers. Our dangerous prayer today comes from the book of Acts, it starts in the fourth chapter. To give you the context, Peter and John were preaching with great faith on the death and the resurrection of Jesus, and they are praying for miracles, and there was this guy who was unable to walk for 40 years, and they prayed for this guy, and God miraculously healed this guy, and now he was able to walk.
The only problem is the Sadducees and the captain of the temple guard and some of the religious leaders thought that Peter and John were leading some kind of cultish movement and so these leaders arrested Peter and John, put them in prison, put them on trial the next day before the Sanhedrin, who would've surrounded them in a circle and asked them this question: "By what authority are you doing these miracles? In whose name are you preaching this message you're preaching"? And Peter responded in Acts chapter four, verse 10, he's crazy bold but he says this, he says, "Let me clearly state to all of you and all the people of Israel", in other words, make no mistake, "that this man was healed by the powerful name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, the man you crucified but whom God raised from the dead".
Some might say that was bold. That was bold beyond measure, because Peter's saying basically, "You killed Him, but God raised Him back". One of the reasons this was so bold, not just the fact that he said, "You killed them", but whenever Peter said, "God raised Him from the dead", the Sadducees did not believe in any form of bodily resurrection. What Peter was essentially doing was making a declaration of war. "You did this, God raised Him, and I'm declaring war". Because of this boldness, verse 13 says, "The members of the council were amazed", they were taken aback, they were blown away, "they were amazed when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, for they could see that they were ordinary men with no special training in the Scriptures".
They were amazed, blown away, that these regular, unschooled, ordinary guys were so bold. This Scripture is funny to me because the word in the Greek that's translated as ordinary is the word idiotas. Think about it with me. This word can be translated as unschooled, ordinary, of no special value, or idiotas can be translated, you guessed it, as... idiots. They were blown away and amazed at these idiots who had nothing special about them, but they were incredibly bold in their faith for Jesus. So suddenly, there's a little bit of a problem. The religious leaders looking on, they've got a guy that couldn't walk but now he can, and so there's obviously a miracle, but they're afraid that Peter and John, this movement's gonna take over, so they've gotta shut them down, so they threaten them.
"Don't ever preach about Jesus. Stop doing these miracles however you do them. If you talk about Jesus, we will arrest you, we will beat you, and we will execute you. Don't talk about Jesus or you will physically pay". So what do you think Peter and John did when they could potentially not only be physically beaten and tortured, but lose their lives? They did what I did, they prayed. But lemme tell you what these men did not pray. They didn't pray, "Oh, God, keep us safe from these bad guys. Don't let anything bad happen to us. God, all I want is a nice job with a good 401K, I just wanna be happily married and left alone, I just wanna go to my little Life Group and listen to my little Christian music. I wanna do my little praise dance at church, and I just wanna be comfortable".
They didn't pray anything like that. What instead they prayed with a threat of death was they prayed a very dangerous prayer, because following Jesus was never meant to be safe. And I wanna show you the prayer that they prayed, and this is our dangerous prayer that we're gonna pray as a church this week, and who knows, you may incorporate this into your prayer life throughout the years to come. Verse 29 they said this to God: "And now, O Lord, hear their threats", in other words, "we know they plan to beat us and to kill us if we talk about Jesus". "Hear their threats", and watch this dangerous prayer, "and give us, your servants, great boldness in preaching your word. Make me bold, God. Make us bold. Give us unshakable spiritual convictions, that we have the courage and the faith to obey you no matter what the personal cost. God, even though it may be painful, make me bold".
And all of the religious leaders were amazed by their boldness. Question for you. How amazed, for those of you who are followers of Christ, how amazed are people by your boldness? Think about it. We're gonna talk about this this week in our Life Groups. On a scale of one to ten, one being the absolute lowest, ten being the highest, how amazed are people by your boldness? Some of you, you might even be a little modest and say like, "Oh, probably a seven or a eight", but the truth is you're a 9 or a 10 because everyone, everywhere that knows you know where you stand, that you've been transformed by the grace of Jesus, that you have spiritual fruit in all that you do.
Sometimes you speak up publicly, other times you don't even have to, just your presence alone represents the goodness and the grace of God. Everybody knows whether they agree or not that you are a committed disciple, you're a follower of Jesus Christ, you're up at a eight or a nine. Others of you, if you're really honest, you might say, "I'm a Christian, but I just don't talk about it much, I'm probably more like a two, maybe a three. I'm on the lower end". You might be the one that you're at work, and you work with someone for three or four years, and they say, "Oh my gosh, you're a Christian? I had no idea. We've been working side-by-side for four years. You go to Life.Church? Wow, I go to Life.Church too, what campus do you go to? I had no idea you're a follower of Jesus".
In other words, if we really drill it down to what they're saying is, "I didn't see any real fruit. There's nothing in your life that ever gave any evidence that you're a disciple of the one who gave His life for you". How amazed are people by your boldness? Back when I was in college, I was a new follower of Jesus and we were studying in a Bible study this Acts 4 and 5 text, and we all agreed to start praying, "Make us bold". Because in college, we wanted to be popular, we wanted to be liked, we didn't want to be written off as Jesus freaks, but we recognized after who Jesus was and what He did, make us bold. Well, it was the end of my senior year and I had just met Amy, we'd been dating for about two months, but even though it'd been two months, I knew she was the one for me, and I was gonna close the deal and all God's people said... amen, amen.
I was in love and all the love songs on the radio made sense and it was amazing. And we had this banquet at the end of my senior year that was the sports banquet for all of the athletes in my university, and I knew that I was getting an award, the reason I knew is because my mom and dad drove up two hours to be there, so that cued me in that someone told them to be there. I had no idea that the award I was gonna get was the top big one, it was the athlete of the year, top performing student athlete. And so they called me up and I was really taken aback, and they said, "Would you like to say a few words for maybe 60 seconds or so"? Little did they know that I had been asking for God to make me bold.
So the first thing I did was just declare my love for Amy, even though I'd only known her for two months. I introduced her as my Christian babe. Is that true? That's true, I said, "This is my Christian babe, of whom I would marry", and I had to get that settled in case there were any other guys out there who thought they had a chance, uh-uh, no, get back, or I'll show you bold in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, okay? And so I marked my territory with my bride.
And then I went on to declare with every bit of boldness that my life had been transformed by Jesus, and if you don't know who Jesus is, He is the sinless Son of God, who loved people who were broken and messed up, just like me. And I called on the name of Jesus and He changed my life, and He forgave my sins. And then I looked out to all my other peers, all the athletes, all the coaches, respected faculty, and said, "If you call on His name, you can do it today, you can do it a year from now, you can do it five years, you can do it 20 years from now, but any time you call Him, He'll hear your prayer, He'll forgive your sins, His name is Jesus, His name is above every name", and then I walked off.
Thank you for clapping for my boldness 'cause nobody clapped after the end of that talk. It was awkward! I mean not like, "Congratulations on the award", not like, "That was inspirational", silent. Drop the mic and nobody's excited about it. And I was walking back to my seat just dead silent, and there was this guy that I didn't know well but I respected him, he's a great soccer player, and he was sitting in the seat, you see, everybody was sitting down when I walked by them, and he just looked up at me, and his mouth was kinda hanging open, and he goes, "Bro, that was the boldest thing I've ever seen in my life". And then I sat down.
Question for you. How amazed are people by your boldness? When they look at you would they say, "Oh, undoubtedly, beyond a shadow of a doubt, you are a disciple, a follower of Jesus". Or would they say, "Oh, I didn't even know you were a Christian, really? Me too, how amazed". I wanna look again at this very bold prayer, and I wanna show you what God did. Peter and John prayed this, in the middle of threats against their life, "Oh now Lord, hear their threats, and give us, your servants, great boldness in preaching your word". Make us bold, God. "Stretch out your hand with a healing power; may miraculous signs and wonders be done through the name of your holy servant Jesus. After this prayer", somebody say "After the prayer". "After this prayer, the meeting place shook, and they were filled with the Holy Spirit. Then they preached the word of God boldly".
Here's what I love. It was after the prayer, they were filled with the Holy Spirit, and they preached the word of God boldly. After the prayer, they were filled with the Holy Spirit and they preached the word of God boldly. You may say, "Well, I'm not really naturally a very bold person. I'm kinda more quiet, I'm a little bit more timid, I'm more reserved, I'm kinda the laid back type, I don't like to be very public with my faith". Listen, from a biblical sense, boldness is not a personality trait. When the Holy Spirit comes upon you, you can be naturally quiet and suddenly filled with spiritual courage, and boldness comes out as a result of the Holy Spirit. It's not a personality trait, it is the work of the Spirit.
What I love about these guys is they prayed, the Holy Spirit came, and they preached with boldness. They didn't go back and put in their Air Pods, and hit their favorite pump-up song. What are you doing? Working on my boldness. Jesus loves people, na, na, na, na, na. That's kinda what I might look like before I preach sometimes, not lying, just saying. They prayed, the Holy Spirit came upon them, and they preached with boldness. Be very careful. If you pray this dangerous prayer, "Make me bold", you may see opportunities to be bold in ways that you never saw before. Be forewarned, oh my gosh, am I gonna have to give a speech? Here's my PowerPoint presentation of why we should do this deal at work and you should follow Jesus, okay? Do you have to do that? Maybe, maybe not.
There's innumerable ways the Holy Spirit may prompt you to be bold. You may just be in a conversation with someone and suddenly you feel urged to ask them, "Do you mind if I pray for you"? And you're not even comfortable praying out loud, but the next thing you know, you're calling heaven down and believing by faith for the power of God to touch this hurting person right in front of you. You may be in a meeting and there's something that's inappropriate and you just very lovingly and appropriately say, "Now let's not do that, we could be better than that", and you might be bold. You might be bold when everyone else is gossiping against someone and trash talking it, and you just don't participate, or you walk away, or even bolder you say, "Come on, look, let's be better people than that", and you just step in.
You might be bold by dressing modestly in a culture where everyone else does anything but dress modestly. You might be bold enough to say, "You know what, I'm not hooking up like everybody else. I mean, that may be your thing, but I'm called to a different lifestyle", and you just declare it, "I'm saving myself", and that's really, really bold. You might see someone that's hurting and say, "Hey, I'm coming to bring you to church this week, I'm not just inviting you, I'm bringing you". There's a difference between inviting and bringing. Some of you, you've been kind of inviting, but you start to bring. "You know what, guess what? This weekend, we're going to church", and you invite someone.
There are so many different ways that God might manifest Himself through the power of the Holy Spirit when you have the courage to pray, "Make me bold". What would happen if every day just this week you set an alarm on your phone before you go to class, before you to work, before you go wherever, whatever you do, you took a few moments and just said, "God, make me bold today. May I have the faith to believe that you'll show up and do what only you can do? Make me bold". Peter and John. In the midst of very real possible persecution, kept on preaching Jesus, kept on watching God do miracles, people continued to get saved, and the high priest and the religious leaders said, "We're going to stop you".
Verse 18 of Acts chapter five says, "They arrested the apostles and put them in a public jail. But an angel of the Lord came at night, opened the gates of the jail, and brought them out". Then the angel told them, "Get back to work, boys. Go to the temple, and give the people this message of life". If you're daring enough to pray a very dangerous, faith-filled prayer, "God, make me bold", let me show you three attributes of boldness that I promise you will see. The first one is not fun, but it is true.
Number one, boldness almost always triggers spiritual opposition. Boldness almost always triggers spiritual opposition. Peter and John, they continued to preach boldly, "Jesus is risen from the dead", and verse 18 says they were arrested and put in a public jail. This is the second time this week they've been put in jail. A lot of times people say, "Oh my gosh, I'm trying to live for Jesus and things aren't going well". Listen, serving Jesus is not a formula for everything going perfectly in your life. Whenever you serve Him faithfully, there's often spiritual opposition. In fact, I don't worry when there's opposition for my obedience, I worry when there is none because I may not be being obedient. Hear me, I promise you. If you pray, "Make me bold", the Spirit of God will come upon you and you will find yourself standing up for the power and the name of Jesus in ways, and it will not always go well for you.
People will make fun of you, they'll laugh at you, they'll talk behind your back, you may not get invited to all the parties, you may be passed over for a promotion, people may not let their kids hang out with your kids, or whatever, there is spiritual opposition, and the bottom line is this: if you're not ready to face opposition for your obedience to God, you're not ready to be used by God. It's a part of it. It's a dangerous prayer, it really is. Make me bold. Boldness often triggers spiritual opposition.
The second thing is really exciting and that is this: that boldness often releases God's miracles. In other words, when you live with bold faith, you'll often see the hand of God move miraculously in and around you. I want you to see this verse, verse 19 of Acts 5, and I hope you find it as funny as I do. To me, this is just unbelievably hilarious. Peter and John are in prison the second time, Luke is reporting on this, and this is what Luke says. The way he says it just makes me, just, it's so funny. He says, "But an angel of the Lord came at night, opened the gates to the jail, and brought them out. But an angel of the Lord came at night, opened the gates to the jail, and brought them out". No exclamation point, no, like, "Oh my gosh, you're not gonna believe what happened next. This is the most amazing thing I've ever seen". Not, "Hey, hey, hey, listen to this. They were in jail and an angel showed up! Ten feet tall, eyes of blazing fire! Sword the size of a Honda Accord"! And nothing like that. An angel showed up.
Listen, if an angel shows up behind me, get the photo! 'Cause I'm putting it online. Hashtag #angelwings or whatever, I don't know. An angel shows up, I'm talking about it. This is amazing. But Luke just says, "You know what? They're praying, they're preaching, they're in prison, and an angel of the Lord shows up and opens doors". In other words, when you're walking in obedience to God, you are not surprised by the miracles of God. He just shows up, He's just faithful. When you start praying, "Make me bold", and the next thing, you are bold, suddenly you'll see the power of God in your life in ways that you may not have ever before. You may pray out loud for the first time and you don't even know how to pray and you're nervous, and suddenly you're praying with faith and it's like this prayer's coming from somewhere else because maybe it is.
Someone might ask you a verse if you're trying to share your faith with them. You're like... They ask you a question and you don't know what do say. Like, "I don't know that". And suddenly a verse of Scripture pops into your brain, and it seems to come out of nowhere. You're like, where did that come from? You won't be surprised by the miracles of God when you're walking in obedience to God. Bold obedience often triggers the faithfulness and miraculous power of God. Make me bold.
The third thing I hope you'll know is this: that no matter what, boldness always requires faith. It always requires faith. You pray, "Make me bold", and I promise you this week, you're gonna have to live by faith in a way maybe you haven't in a long time. The angel says this to Peter and John, opens up the doors and says, "'Go to the Temple and give the people the message of life!' So at daybreak, the apostles entered the Temple, as they were told, and immediately began teaching". What do the angels say? Essentially, "Hey, go do the very same thing that got you arrested twice, go keep doing that thing, the thing that may get you killed, go do that thing". It's always going to take faith. Make me bold? Watch as the Spirit prompts you to do something that takes faith.
Recently, I was at the gym and a guy came up to me that happened to be the very same guy that was at the awards ceremony that said, "That was the boldest thing that I've ever seen". I hadn't seen this guy for a long time, and he gave me an unusually warm greeting, not kinda like the, "Hey, we played different sports at the same college" greeting, but a much more special greeting, and he quickly told me his story that he had gone through a very dark season in his life, and he didn't know where to turn, and he thought about that time back in college when I talked about the power of Jesus to heal and to save. And so he thought well, I need to go to church somewhere, might as well go to that bold guy's church and see if he's still saying the same thing.
So he said, "I came to your church, but I know you hate it when we call it your church". He said, "Now it's my church as well". And he said, "I love our church". And he told me how he'd been transformed by the grace of Jesus. And then we had a really awkward bro hug in the middle of a gym, which was kinda bold in a not-so-wanna-be-bold-that-way-everyday type of way. And I was moved beyond description because you never know what our God might set into motion through a single act of bold obedience. You never know what might happen when you pray, "Make me bold", and later on that day you stand up for the name of Jesus, or you step in when everyone else steps out, or you show a generous expression of love in a way that you might not have felt comfortable otherwise, and you may not see it in that moment, but you never know what God might set into motion through a single act of bold obedience.
Here's the great news, ha-ha, Peter and John were bold, "Make us bold", and they served Jesus faithfully, so do you know how God blessed them and how God rewarded them? I wanna tell you all about it. Peter ended up marrying his high school sweetheart, John met someone online and fell equally in love, they had the perfect weddings at the Jerusalem chapel, they got the amazing Instagram photos, Peter took his bride to Jamaica, John took his to the Bahamas, they had the best honeymoon, they came back because they were best friends, and riding the wave of the resurrection and the miraculous healing, they started a consulting business together, and it went wild beyond their expectations. They made so much money, lived such a comfortable life. In their early 50s they sold their business, they retired in the mountains, and they raised their grandkids happily ever after because whenever you're boldly obedient to Jesus, your life always gets better, doesn't it?
Let me tell you what happened to Peter and John, who prayed for boldness and were incredibly bold for Jesus. Contemporary historians tell us that John was arrested and dipped in boiling oil. It was designed to kill him because it killed almost everybody, but somehow he lived through that torture and was exiled, excommunicated to the Isle of Patmos, where he spent the rest of his life alone. Peter, we know according to first century sources, was martyred in Rome, and tradition tells us when they went to crucify him as Jesus was crucified, Peter said, "I'm unworthy to die as my Savior died. Would you crucify me upside-down"? And that was his reward for bold obedience. It's a dangerous prayer because obedience and boldness, almost always trigger spiritual opposition.
So don't worry when you face opposition for your obedience and boldness to God. Worry when you don't. How amazed are people by your boldness? If you know Jesus like I know Him, if you've been forgiven like I've been forgiven, you wanna be bold, you wanna let the light shine, you don't care if you face opposition because you want others to know the freedom and the grace available through God's son Jesus. What would happen if you pray, "Make me bold"? What would God do in you? What would God do through you? Remember though, it is a dangerous prayer. Make me bold.
So Father I pray for a church full of Jesus followers, bold and courageous in dangerous faith. At all of our churches, nobody looking around, I'm just gonna ask, the next seven days, between now and when we see you back at church, 'cause you will be here next weekend 'cause you have no idea what you miss when you miss a week in the presence of God with God's people, we'll see you next week, between now and that time, I'm curious as to how many of you will pray this prayer daily. Put a reminder on your phone before you walk out of your apartment or your house, do not raise your hand 'cause you feel like you wanna impress anybody, don't raise your hand out of guilt, but raise your hand out of passion that you want God to make you bold. If you'll pray that with me for the next seven days, let's see what our God will do, will you lift up your hands right now? Just all over the place, all of our churches.
O God, thank you for people ready to be bold in our faith. God, over the next few days, and even over the remainder of our life, God, we pray for a spirit of boldness, that your Holy Spirit would come upon us and not that we'd be like weird, annoying bold, but appropriately, lovingly, full of grace, standing up for that name, that name that is above every name. God I thank you that over the next seven days we will see time and time again when you prompt us, God, empowered by your Spirit, to represent the glory, the goodness, of your Son, Jesus, make us bold.
As you keep praying today at all of our churches, let's just talk plainly, let's do this if you will. Go ahead and open up your eyes and just kinda look up this way if you will. A scale of one to ten, if you're on the lower end, I might ask you this: do you really know the grace of Jesus? Have you really experienced His forgiveness? Because when you do, it's really hard to keep to yourself. There may be some of you, you recognize you could be like me, I grew up going to church, I had a head knowledge but not a heart relationship.
Some of you, you may recognize that's you. You can be in church but not be engaged following Jesus. Who is Jesus? Peter and John said it very simply. He is the Son of God. He was without sin. He died on a cross for the forgiveness of sins and God raised Him from the dead, defeating death, hell, and the grave. Anyone who calls on that name, the name that is above every name, your sins would be forgiven, you're new, the old is gone, you become new. You're not a better version of you, you're different, you're new. You'll be filled with the Spirit of God, the same Spirit that raised Christ from the dead, and you will never, ever be the same. You belong to God, you are in His family.
At all of our churches, some of you may say, "That's not me". Here's what we're gonna do today. We're gonna fix that, and you're gonna boldly say, "I need Jesus". Let me tell you something Jesus said. He said, "If you confess me publicly, I'll confess you before my Father. But if you're embarrassed by me, ashamed of me, if you won't confess me, I'm not gonna confess you". If you follow Jesus, you follow Jesus, and we often follow Jesus publicly. At all of our churches, those who say, "I need His grace, I need His mercy, I need His forgiveness. Today, I'm turning from my sins, I wanna follow Jesus, I don't care who's watching, by faith, I give my life to Him boldly at this moment, Jesus save me, make me new, I give my life to you", that's your prayer, lift your hands boldly all over the place right now, and somebody celebrate, somebody give God some praise, praise God for you.
Others of you say, oh come on church, come on church, hey, help them feel a little bit of love, help them feel welcome. Jesus, I need you. Others of you today, "I surrender, I don't care who's watching, Jesus, I wanna follow you". We love you, God loves you, we celebrate with you. How about you just stand to your feet if you don't mind. Hey, we're gonna pray together, and in a moment I'm gonna give you one more chance to make them feel loved. You may reach down and hug the person next to you if they lifted up their hand today, and we're gonna pray as a family to God. Pray:
Heavenly Father. Forgive my sins. Jesus, save me. Make me brand new. Fill me with your spirit. So I can follow you. And live for you, and be bold. In all that I do. My life is not my own. I give it to you. In Jesus' name I pray.