Boldness is the courage to act or speak fearlessly, despite real or imagined dangers. When a person acts boldly, he or she takes action regardless of risks. A petite mother will boldly snatch her child’s hand away from a six-foot stranger. A man may boldly stand up to a dictatorial boss, knowing he could be fired for doing so. Boldness is not to be confused with rashness or aggressiveness. It is, however, similar to assertiveness in that it empowers someone to do or speak what is necessary, in spite of the possibility of a negative outcome.
Boldness was one of the first characteristics the Holy Spirit imparted when He came to indwell believers after Jesus ascended into heaven. The followers of Jesus had been hiding in fear of the Jewish authorities, praying and encouraging one another. Then the Holy Spirit came upon them, and those formerly terrified disciples became fearless preachers (Acts 2). A short time later, as the disciples faced persecution from the authorities, they prayed for boldness (Acts 4:29). Their prayer was answered, and they were filled with the Holy Spirit and “spoke the word with boldness” (Acts 4:31). God gives us boldness when our objective is to obey and glorify Him with it.
Spiritual boldness can appear to be opinionated or extroverted, when in fact the bold person may feel great trepidation. Such boldness comes from the Holy Spirit who compels a person to speak the truth in love even when it may not be welcomed. Healthy boldness can be compared to a woman who is terrified of snakes but sees one on her porch. She is frightened, but she will not let it escape because it is dangerous. She goes after it with a shovel and kills it, even while she is shaking violently for fear herself. It would not be accurate to state that this woman enjoys confrontation. Instead, her boldness in killing the snake comes from a determination to do what is right to protect her family regardless of her fear. Spiritual boldness pursues the truth, works to destroy lies and error, and speaks what is right regardless of how terrifying such action may be.
Worldly boldness, on the other hand, can become pushy or confrontational. It thrives on popular approval and often ignores caution or sensitivity. The incredulous words, “What were you thinking?” follow in the wake of a bold fool. We should not be bold in doing evil, accepting dares, or crossing boundaries simply to prove we can. Boldness without discernment can lead to foolish words and risky behavior. The book of Proverbs often connects rash boldness with folly. Proverbs 13:16 says, “Every prudent man acts with knowledge, but a fool flaunts his folly.” Foolish people are so blind to their own error that they shamelessly brag about it. They are bold in proclaiming their erroneous viewpoints and even bolder in carrying them out. Boldness is no more fitting for a fool than jewels are fitting for a hog (see Proverbs 11:22).
Proverbs 28:1 says, “The wicked flee when no one pursues, but the righteous are bold as a lion.” The righteous are bold because they know that God is for them and what they have to say is important (Hebrews 13:6). When the apostle Paul was in prison, he wrote to the churches asking for prayer that he be bold in continuing to proclaim the gospel (Ephesians 6:19). Godly boldness is motivated by passion for Christ and His truth. It is rarely self-centered because it requires us to set aside our natural desire for comfort and popularity. For Paul to speak boldly would most likely mean more persecution. Stephen spoke boldly and became the first Christian martyr (Acts 6:8–10, 7:1–2, 54–58).
As followers of Christ, we should pray as Paul did that the Lord will grant us supernatural boldness to speak and live as He would have us do. In this age of great deception and resistance to truth, we need boldness more than ever. Boldness, coupled with love and humility (1 Corinthians 13:4–8; 1 Peter 5:6), is like a light in the darkness (Matthew 5:14). When we are convinced that our message is life-giving and eternal, we can speak with boldness, knowing that God will use it to impact our world (Isaiah 55:10–11).