Thursday, June 9, 2016

I Dare You to Tell the Good News – 1 Thessalonians 2:1-2



You know, brothers, that our visit to you was not a failure. We had previously suffered and been insulted in Philippi, as you know, but with the help of our God we dared to tell you his gospel in spite of strong opposition. (NIV®)
Not a Failure
For if this plan or action is of men, it will be overthrown; but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them; or else you may even be found fighting against God. (Acts 5:38-39 NASU)
How do you measure success or failure? It was clear even to the enemies of the Gospel that true success can only be accomplished if God is behind it. Individuals, business, churches, and nations all have different ways of trying to judge whether or not they are being successful or failing in their mission. We are often urged to set goals for ourselves so that we can measure our success. One such person, Gordon Hall set the following goals in 1985 at the age of 32:
1.       Be America’s youngest billionaire by age 38
2.       Speak five languages by age 40
3.       Be the world’s richest man by age 60
4.       Win Mr. America body building title by age 38
5.       Be elected President of the United Sates[1]
Let’s see how Mr. Hall did in reaching his goals. According to newspaper accounts, in June of 2015, Hall received an eight-year prison sentence for a $93 million tax scam with the sovereign-citizen movement. This was in addition to a fifteen-year sentence for a Ponzi scheme in South Carolina, which he was already serving. Neither of these were his first fraud convictions.[2] Based on his goals, he is a failure. While it is not wrong to plan and make goals, we must remember, “In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps” (Prov 16:9 NIV®). If Mr. Hall had inquired what the Lord wanted him to do and these goals were truly what God wanted, Mr. Hall either would have been President or would be in the running.
But now you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. (James 4:16 NKJV)
When making our goals and a means of measuring if we have attained them, a biblical approach is necessary. If our goal setting is not done after asking the Lord what He wants us to do, it is based on arrogance and pride. James clearly labels it as evil. Hall’s goals were all about himself and what he wanted. He was working for the three Ps, possessions, prestige, and power. He boasted about and what he was going to do.
“Whoever wants to be first must take last place and be the servant of everyone else.” (Mark 9:35 NLT)
Biblical goal setting has to start with the right perspective. Jesus told His disciples that they must become servants of everyone else if they wanted to be great. There has to be a heart change that puts others’ interest before our own when we make our plans. If the heart is not in the right place, even serving other with the goal of getting the three Ps will still be measured as a failure in eternity.
When we look back at Paul’s comments to the Thessalonians, it is apparent that someone thought Paul was a failure. Paul came to Thessalonica after being beaten and imprisoned in Philippi. He stayed in Thessalonica only three weeks before things got so hot that the believers helped him escape during the night (Acts 17:1-10). Paul didn’t measure his success based on his previous imprisonment, how long he was able to teach in Thessalonica, how large the crowds were, or being accepted by the community. No, his success was measured in faithfully proclaiming, “This Jesus, whom I proclaim to you, is the Christ” (Acts 17:3 RSV). Some of the Jews, a great many devout Greeks, and some leading women formed this new church in Thessalonica (Acts 17:4). The measure of his success was not simply in seeing people saved, but it was also in seeing this church established that was able to carry on when he was pushed out of town after only three weeks!
Dare to Tell
And pray on my behalf, that utterance may be given to me in the opening of my mouth, to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel. (Eph 6:19 NASB)
Have you ever been in a position like Paul? You shared the Gospel boldly, and then you were beaten up because of it. It may not have been a physical beating but perhaps it was a sound rejection not just of the Gospel but they made it personal and verbally attacked you. Maybe they made it miserable for you at work by claiming that you were using work time and resources to witness. How did you react? Paul depended on God to help him continue to share the Gospel with the Thessalonians, even in the face of strong opposition. When he wrote to the Ephesians, he asked them to pray for him so that he could be bold in sharing the Gospel and this was while he was imprisoned. This request was similar to his prayer request to the Colossians in 4:3, “pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word” (ESV).
If you are having trouble getting up the courage to share the Gospel with someone or anyone, the answer is prayer. It isn’t just you or me praying but enlisting others to pray for us. Not only will God answer a prayer like that but it also helps us to be accountable to do our part when our prayer partners ask us how we are doing in sharing the Gospel.
Perhaps the prayer needs to be for boldness, an opening, or the prayer needs to be for obedience. We’ve seen that Paul asked for prayer for boldness, but what about openings for the Gospel or just plain old obedience to Jesus.
Conduct yourselves with wisdom toward outsiders, making the most of the opportunity. Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person. (Col 4:5-6 NASU)
One of the problems with daring to tell others is not always the Gospel message but the messenger. We are often so concerned with getting the message out that we don’t consider whether or not the timing is right. While anytime may be the right time, sometimes, the occasion must be massaged so the message is received. This takes wisdom in how to turn a chance meeting or a preplanned meeting into an opportunity to share the Gospel. It takes grace to do this, not a club. It takes just enough salt to make sure that the topic of the conversation is steered in the right direction. I’ve seen some people who could turn a rabid sports discussion into a witnessing opportunity without any objections. However, that may not always work and we still need to know how to respond to people so that there will be another opportunity for ourselves or for another. We may be planting or watering seed for another person to come along and reap a harvest (1 Cor 3:6-9).
He said to them, "Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation.” (Mark 16:15 NIV)
Obedience to the Great Commission is what all of us want to do but seems to be very difficult for most of us. Some of us find excuses by saying that evangelism isn’t our gift. The trouble with that excuse is that Jesus gave the command to “make disciples … teaching them to observer all that I commanded you” (Matt 28:19-20 NASU). It doesn’t take a genius to understand that a disciple must obey the commands that Jesus gave His disciples. Jesus didn’t single out any one of them because he had a gift of evangelism. No, He told them all to go and make disciples. He told all of them to preach the good news. If we want to call ourselves disciples of Jesus then we need to obey just as the original disciples did.
While God does give a specific gift of evangelism to some (Eph 4:11), it is evident that evangelism or preaching the Word is something that we do as we live our lives. When the church was scattered after Stephen’s martyrdom, they evangelized. “But some of them were men from Cyprus and Cyrene, who, when they had come to Antioch, spoke to the Hellenists, preaching the Lord Jesus” (Acts 11:20 NKJV). That word preaching is euaggelizo. It means, “to announce good news (‘evangelize’) especially the gospel.”[3] Note that these were not the leaders of the church. These were not the Apostles. These were people just like you and me, except they were obedient to the command.
Others of us quote the adage, “Preach the Gospel at all times. When necessary, use words.” These words were supposedly uttered by St. Francis of Assisi but Pastor Jamie Arpin-Ricci point out that, he never said this; rather, his writings reveal that what he said has been turned around in our modern culture. Our culture is more like St. Francis’ than we would like to think. We too often verbalize the Gospel but don’t live up to it. We pay lip service but don’t walk the walk. This is what St. Francis was trying to reverse. Now days, we quote the adage and use it as an excuse to not say anything.[4] We think that when we live godly lives, people will understand why and miraculously get saved without saying a word. It doesn’t work that way.
Help in Telling
Prayer for boldness, openings, and obedience certainly are necessary. However, some of us need some help not only in motivation but in how to develop those openings. Here are some books that span a broad spectrum of approaches. Since we all have different personalities and gifts, one of these may be just the approach you are looking for. Otherwise, you may want to adapt parts of each to your own style. I dare you to tell the good news today.


[1] Robert Reinhold, “Massive Hall Mansion Is the Talk of Phoenix,” Gainsville Sun (Arizona), October 27, 1985, accessed May 27, 2016, https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=1320&dat=19851027&id=lj1WAAAAIBAJ&sjid=3ekDAAAAIBAJ&pg=3841,3560850&hl=en.
[2] Robert Anglen, “Gordon Hall Trades Millions, Mansion for Prison Cell,” Arizona Republic | Azcentral.com (Phoenix), June 26, 2015, accessed May 27, 2016, http://www.azcentral.com/story/money/business/2015/06/26/former-arizona-millionaire-gordon-hall-tax-scam-federal-prison/29316959/.
[3] Biblesoft’s New Exhaustive Strong’s Numbers and Concordance with Expanded Greek-Hebrew Dictionary, s.v. “NT: 2097”, (Seattle: Biblesoft and International Bible Translators, Inc. 2006).
[4] Jamie Arpin-Ricci, “Preach the Gospel at All Times?,” huffingtonpost.com, August 31, 2012, accessed June 6, 2016, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jamie-arpinricci/preach-the-gospel-at-all-times-st-francis_b_1627781.html

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