Gospel Zeal

Gospel Zeal

by Andy Constable

Paul writes in Philippians 1:12 “Now I want you to know brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel.”  There must have been questions flying round the church in Phillipi whilst Paul, their spiritual leader, was in prison. What’s going to happen to the gospel? What’s God doing here? Is Paul OK? But Paul reports that what has happened to him has really served to advance the gospel! He isn’t particularly concerned about the circumstances that surround him but whether or not the gospel is being shared. This is what makes his heart beat and what he lives for. He wants to spread the renown and glory of his saviour Jesus Christ! Can we say that is what we live for? I mean a lot of us call ourselves evangelicals but do we live our lives like the main mission is to share the gospel? Do we forsake all circumstances as long as the gospel is being advanced? There is rarely this kind of zeal amongst the church. Let me share three quick reasons why a lot of us aren’t like Paul.

Firstly we are preoccupied with other things. We live in a society that teaches us that the most important thing is life is to look after our own needs. This is not what the Bible teaches: “Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.” We quickly replace sharing the gospel with making sure we have our own private time and get ourselves sorted. The advance of the gospel isn’t in our psyches. And it gets pushed to the back of our minds so that it doesn’t interrupt our busy lives. We become preoccupied with our football teams, small groups, meetings, work, comfort and television. These are not bad things in and of themselves but our vision for the kingdom is diminished if we prioritise these over advancing the gospel. We waste our lives if that’s our priority. We have been left on earth to complete a mission and that mission is to go out into the world and tell people the good news about Jesus. This has to be prioritised above all else.

Secondly we don’t want to step out of our comfort zones. Christians, like all people, love to spend time where they feel comfortable. This is a natural part of life. But many Christians do it to the extreme. They hang out with only Christians and fail to engage in any meaningful relationships with unbelievers. They will organize Christian tea parties where things are relaxed but won’t go to the pub to spend time with real people. Paul is well out of his comfort zone – he is in prison with the palace guard. The palace guard were some of the roughest, toughest soldiers of the day. They consisted of 9,000 handpicked soldiers who were honoured with double pay, good pensions and special duties. They were employed directly by the top dogs of the Roman Empire. But he rejoices because God has put him there to talk to them about Jesus! We are called to go to uncomfortable places to share the gospel with people who have no contact with the good news of Christ. I was at a fishing club this week and spent time with a couple of guys from the community. We had a guy who was lonely and wanted some friends, we had a local hard man and a guy who plays on our footie team. I have no idea about fishing and disliked every minute of it but it was a good opportunity to get to know some guys. Paul said he used any and every means to talk to people about Jesus. Are we ready to step out of our comfort zones and go where no-one else is going for Christ?

Thirdly many leaders aren’t modeling it.  Paul was a man who practiced what he preached. He went into the heart of the Gentile world to share the gospel. Many pastors live in a mode where they focus on their sermon during the week and then have little contact with any non-Christians. I know that our priority is feeding the sheep on Sunday and preaching the gospel through God’s Word but the advance of the gospel also comes through being with non-Christians in the everyday. Leaders need to model a burning desire to advance the gospel in the everyday of life. Are we setting time aside to meet the homeless around our churches if we’re in a city centre church? Are we spending time in the pubs nearby on our lunch break and getting to know the locals? Are we building time in our week to meet up with non-Christians? This is what Paul would have done. Our churches won’t be missional minded unless we as leaders are.

Let me end with some encouraging and challenging words from Paul: “But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.” May that be our mantra – to not count our lives as precious but to finish the job that Jesus has given us of testifying to the grace of God! Let us prioritise it, step out of our comfort zones and pray that our leaders model it!