The annals of church history state without reservation that John Knox was bold. Please enjoy a few snapshots of this boldness.
Knox’s biographer gushes,
“In his lifetime, Knox was denounced by regents, queens and councils, and his effigy was hoisted high and burned at the Mercat Cross in Edinburgh. Ridiculed as “Knox the knave” and “a runagate Scot’, he was outlawed and forbidden to preach by the archbishop of St. Andrews, and orders were issued that he be shot if he failed to comply. Knox did not comply. Years later, a would-be assassin fired a shot through a window of Knox’s house, narrowly missing his mark. Still Knox preached.”
One of my favorite stories is when Knox was summoned by Queen Mary of Scots (who was not his biggest fan). He is sitting patiently in the queen’s court and says this to her four attendants,
“O fair ladies, how pleasing is this life of yours, if it should ever last, and then in the end you might pass to heaven with all this splendid gear. But fye upon the knave death, that will come whether we will it or not! And when he has laid on his work, the foul worms will be busy with your flesh, be it never so fair and so tender; and the silly soul, I fear, shall be so feeble that it can neither carry with it gold, fine clothing, pearls, nor precious stones.”
The final example is a story of Knox’s daughter (who no doubt learned her boldness from her father).
Elizabeth (Knox’s youngest daughter) went to James I to plead for the release of her husband. The King told her that if she would persuade her husband to submit to authority over the church, he would let him go free. Tradition states that she held her apron towards the King and said, “Please your Majesty, I’d rather have his head here.” Impressive. In my opinion, this boldness flows from the love of Christ and the visual example of her dad.
So what is the secret to Knox’s boldness? Here is what the Scottish reformer teaches us:
You must have convictions.
Bold men/women are bold about something. Whether it is fighting for equality, justice, morality or freedom, they are willing to speak up about something they are passionate about. G.K. Chesterton said it best, “Tolerance is the virtue of the man without convictions.”
This is the demise of today’s generation, having a skewed view of tolerance. The correct definition of tolerance is ‘the pursuit of respect and graciousness for those with differing viewpoints in the public square’. It is not a concession of the equality of all truth claims. First, to think that all viewpoints are truth is logically absurd and second, that is not true tolerance, rather it is rank, demonic postmodernism.
Therefore, convictions are the prerequisite for boldness. But can someone acquire convictions? Absolutely! This is the one of the main activities of the Holy Spirit: building convictions through the renewing of the mind.
Romans 12:2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
So read the scriptures. Pray that the Spirit will deepen your affections for Him and His word.
You must not fear man.
Fear hinders movement. In spiritual terminology, fear hinders your progression in sanctification.
1 John 4:18 There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.
Matthew Henry states muses in his commentary,
“Those who perfectly love God are, from his nature, and counsel, and covenant, perfectly assured of his love, and consequently are perfectly free from any dismal dreadful suspicions of his punitive power and justice, as armed against them; they well know that God loves them, and they thereupon triumph in his love.”
You must pray.
Knox’s biographer stated,
“Put simply, Knox knew without prayer he was a ‘dumb dog’, a watchdog with neither bark nor bite, of no use to anyone.”
Again, Knox simply prayed and acted. He knew the Spirit would blow where He wants (John 3:8), he must simply open his mouth and speak.
Yet we must remember the Reformer’s great faith in God. According to historian John Howie, Knox’s ardent enemy, Queen Mary of Scotts admitted that ‘she was more afraid of Knox’s prayers than of an army of 10,000 men.” Scripture speaks of the result of such faith when it states, “The prayers of the righteous man avails much” (James 5:16).
You must act.
Some readers may be surprised that indecisiveness is condemned in scripture because it reveals a lack of faith.
James 1:6-8 But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. 7 For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; 8 he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.