Chicago Street, Minneapolis is not exactly the best place to be at 10:30 p.m. on a Saturday. There are drug deals going down in the bus stops, and young women in sky-high heels and bandage mini skirts selling themselves for sex to strangers in cars. Oh, and last Friday, I was there, and I was scared for my life.
My group of ministry-minded students started at a homeless rescue shelter, and decided to go out on the streets to hand out bologna sandwiches and share the gospel. Andrew, the supervisor at the center, encouragingly told us, “Remember, the closer you get to Chicago, the more dangerous it gets. Actually, Chicago is like the most dangerous street in this area.”
I dismissed his warning, thinking, “We’ll play it smart and not go that far down the road.”
Sure enough, we went straight toward Chicago. I kept waiting for someone to jump out of the shadows with a knife. I was completely doubting the wisdom of our enthusiastic evangelism. And suddenly, I remembered under whose name we were there.
The disciples didn’t even know what they were getting into
In John 16, Jesus tells his disciples that he will be leaving them soon. The disciples don’t clearly understand how he is going to leave them, and respond with “Now we know that you know all things and do not need anyone to questions you; this is why we believe that you came from God” (v. 30).
The disciples are gung-ho for the gospel. They don’t understand the inevitable hardships that will cripple them with fear. But then Jesus warns them, “Do you now believe? Behold, the hour is coming, indeed it has come, when you will be scattered, each to his own home, and will leave me alone. Yet I am not alone, for the Father is with me. I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation” (v. 32-33).
The disciples are confident in their beliefs. But Jesus responds in sarcasm, “Do you now believe? Because later on, things are going to get hard. You WILL be scared for your lives.”
When we share the gospel, it’s frightening. When God leads us to places that are dangerous, we lose confidence and start to question why we are there.
But Jesus gently reminds us, “Take heart; I have overcome the world” (v. 33).
If the One who loves you enough to die for you has overcome the world, what do you really have to fear? “For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39). That, my friends, is encouragement indeed.