How to Overcome Fear of Sharing the Gospel – The Story of the Waldensians

Today I’m excited to share an article written by my friend, Quiana Casamayor. It originally appeared on her blog Written Lives as part of her five part series on sharing the gospel. I asked Quiana if I could repost her article here as a follow up to the article I wrote a few weeks ago titled “Why I Don’t Share the Gospel.” I hope it’s an encouragement and challenge to you! 
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Gaspar hesitated at the town’s threshold. To go further could cost him his life. Go on, you can’t give in to fear! He chided himself, but the reluctance in his mind had spread to his legs as well. He could force them no further.
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Adriel had gone on a little ways before he realized that his young student was no longer with him. Anxiously he glanced back but the boy was not to be seen. He shook his head and began retracing his steps, I might have expected as much – it is his first trip. He found Gaspar sitting on the cobblestone of a side street; his back against the wall of a house; his face hidden in his hands. Gaspar lifted his head at the sound of the approaching footsteps. He searched his teacher’s face, expecting to find either reproach or disappointment. Instead he was met by a smile.
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How can he have patience even with cowardice? Gaspar wondered, averting his eyes. He bit his lip,
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“How is this fear to be overcome?”
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“There is no fear in love, but perfect love…”
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“casts out fear.” Adriel nodded.
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“Right.”
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“I’m afraid I do not possess that sort of love.” The older man laughed aloud.
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“Of course you do! “In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” So you see that it has been purchased for you through His sacrifice.” Gaspar’s brow furrowed.
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“That is His love for me. Not mine for others.”
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“We love because He first loved us. The love for others comes from Him.” Adriel extended his hand to Gaspar and lifted him up from the ground. Without pausing to close his eyes or bow his head Gaspar breathed a silent prayer.
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When they turned onto the main street again Gaspar felt the same reluctance. It may be a step closer to persecution, but it is also a step closer to saving their souls. He told himself. Then he felt Adriel’s hand upon his shoulder. They continued on together and entered the town.
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The two came as merchants, carrying all manner of materials. From linnen to silks, that were not easily attainable in the heart of France.
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“Such wares,” Adriel had explained on their journey, “shall find us a welcome in the humble peasant’s cottage and the baron’s castle alike.” The truth of this statement Gaspar now saw for himself. They had only knocked upon two doors before they were invited into a home. The youth watched Adriel carefully, waiting for him to tell their customers of that which they had really come to offer them. He dreaded the approach of the topic yet he was eager that they should speak of it before his new found resolve abandoned him. To Gaspar’s bewilderment, Adriel said nothing and they left the house without sharing the gospel.
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“You did not speak though you had the opportunity.”
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“They were not yet ready to hear the message we have brought.”
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“How do you know that?”
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“Because I prayed the Lord would show me. In every house, I pray for discernment to know if our message will be received there.” Gaspar’s eyebrows rose.

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“Is that not fear?”
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“No it is caution. When caution is the suggestion of fear it stills the tongue, but when it comes of wisdom caution teaches the tounge when to speak.” Adriel reached to knock upon another door and Gaspar took the matter to thought.

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 Into this home also they were welcomed. The family seemed to be neither wealthy nor poor. The lady of the house was careful to stay within their means. She bypassed the silks and the wool alike, sorting carefully through the linens. Three young children played on the floor nearby. Two girls who were slightly older crowded near her, offering many suggestions on what she ought to purchase though she paid them little heed. Adriel nodded to Gaspar as he began to pack away the unselected items.
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“I see, Madam, that you have little care for our more extravagant wares. Still I wonder if I couldn’t interest you in the most valuable possession that I have to offer. It would cost you all that you have to acquire it but it is a treasure of the utmost worth. It’s a pearl of great price…”
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In a land where the circulation of the Bible was prohibited, only those in the hierarchy of the church had either access to the scriptures or the education  to read the language in which they were written. The Waldensians were  the first people to attain a translation of the Bible in a language they could understand. By reading God’s word for themselves they discovered that the orders of their Lord, Jesus Christ were in opposition to the demands of the Roman Catholic Church, which had declared itself the ultimate authority of the time. These men and women were faced with a predicament similar to that of the early church Christians.
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“But Peter and John answered and said to them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you more than to God, you judge.” (Acts iv. 19)
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Among many other issues, the Waldensians, disagreed with the church’s stance on witnessing.
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“In the eyes of Rome, the Waldensian heresy was one of orthopraxy rather than doctrine. Their sin was to take the Great Commission too literally—”Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you,” (Matthew xxiix. 19 – 20) rather than leaving this to the professional clergy class, which, according to its apologists, alone was “to preach, and exercise an office which was confided to the Apostles and to their successors only.” – Geoffrey Bodkin, Excerpt from Article: Lessons from the Waldensians 
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Contrary to the charge of the Roman Catholic Church the lay people, including the women, preached the gospel. They all understood Christ’s death on the cross and they knew of its power to save men from their sins. Thus, in the midst of a religious culture that taught that confessions, penances, and purgatory were necessary to pay for one’s sins the Waldensians told the people of the free gift of God – which is the sole means of forgiveness and salvation.
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In result they were excommunicated from the church and denounced as heretics. Soon after they began to face a campaign of persecution that continued for hundreds of years. Their lands and possessions were seized. The men, women, and children alike were tortured and murdered by the thousands in the most brutal of ways. Still they were not content to merely practice the truth. They had a precious light that they were determined to share despite persecution. The Waldensians sent missionaries out over the greater part of Europe.
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So many of us have been silenced by fear. Afraid of the possibility of being ridiculed, of damaging our reputation, of loosing a job or friendship, or of being inaccurate in our presentation of the facts. Our fear has deterred us from speaking of the work that our God has accomplished. These people were threatened by dangers that far exceeded anything we have had to face. If they spoke of the gospel it was not only they who could be killed but their wives, husbands, or little ones with them. Though the fear they faced was insurmountable they did not buckle under it. They did not fall back or fall silent. The Waldensians had discovered the antidote for fear. Something that could push them through it. It was love.
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“There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears has not been made perfect in love.”(1 John iv. 18)
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Only a great motivation would be capable of overcoming a deterrent like fear. Love – perfect love is that motivator. There are two demonstrations of this love that are important to the sharing of the gospel:
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1. Christ’s love for us
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“This is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” (1 John iv. 10)
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God’s love is perfect. It is unfailing, faithful, undeterred, selfless. Perfectly capable of overcoming every obstacle and of rescuing and caring for the subjects of its affection. Because of the love God has for us – the work that he did on our behalf- we are enabled to go forth boldly to the rescue of others. We are not subject to fear because He is with us. We have confidence because we trust that our lives are in His hand rather than in man’s. We rest in assurance that we are under the control of the One who loves us perfectly – even should He choose to spend us in the pursuit of another’s soul.
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“Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you,  I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” (Isaiah xli. 10)
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Repeatedly in God’s word we are told that persecution will come. 2 Timothy iii.12 tells us, “all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.” Thus, it should not come as a surprise to us. Suffering does not remove us from the caring hand of our King. Christ Himself suffered and His response in that trial demonstrated how perfectly He trusted the love of His Father.
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“When He was reviled, He did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but continued entrusting Himself to Him who judges justly.” ( 1 Peter ii. 23)
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He trusted the One who loved Him and in result His actions were not dictated by fear. The Waldensians demonstrated a similar confidence. Their persecutors recorded that they could find no moral flaw in them. They described the Waldensians they murdered as a peaceful, patient, pious people. Their actions joined their words in being a witness because they were free from fear. Confident, despite their struggle, that God had not lost His love for them.
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“For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans iix. 38 – 39)
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2. The love Christ gives us for others
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“Love does not seek it’s own.” ( 1 Corinthians xiii. 5) When one is moved by love an action is not weighed by its cost to you but rather by its benefit to the other. Jesus demonstrated this by going to the cross, taking the weight of our sin, and being separated from His father on our behalf. When fear is cast out it does not necessarily follow that the threat is gone, but simply that one is no longer afraid of that threat. Thousands of Waldensians faced slow, painful deaths. That which threatened them became a reality. Yet they counted this suffering to be worthwhile because they knew that the cost was outweighed by the benefit. In Matthew x. 28 Jesus said, “do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.” In accordance with this the Waldensians were more concerned that the people around them would suffer an eternal torture in hell than that they would face a cruel but temporary death. Love for others allowed them to disregard the fear for themselves that could have paralyzed them.
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The Waldensians demonstrated that fear can be overcome. Fear of a stronger degree than we have yet faced failed to deter them. Because it fell away before the perfect love they possessed. That combination of their assurance of God’s unchanging love for them and the selfless care of their love for others made them speak. The dangers that threatened them did not go away but they were not afraid of them. We don’t have to be either! 

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Quiana Casamayor is an aspiring author, a Canadian, and by grace, a redeemed daughter of God! In addition to writing she loves spending time with her family, playing with children, and training horses. Her desire is to use writing to remind people of the stories that God has written – recorded in history – and the lessons that are to be learned from them. She is currently working on a historical fiction manuscript as well as writing on her blog, Written Lives

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