What is it that makes someone leave his home, his job, his church, and take his family to a place on the other side of the world where everything is different? Different language, different food, different world view…
Our brother and friend in ministry, Paul Madison, often speaks about his passion for reaching others for the Lord Jesus Christ. His motivation is plain: he wants them not just to know about Jesus, he wants them to experience Jesus. He wants them to experience the mercy, forgiveness and peace that comes through knowing Him.
Paul and his family gave up their entire life to go and make a difference, to be a light shining in the darkness. At heart, they are like so many of us who feel compassion and concern for those who are in need either materially or spiritually. The big difference is that they didn’t just feel something; they did something about it!
The Apostle Paul wrote that the religious things we do are of no value, but “the only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.” [Gal.5:6 NIV] What this means is that what really matters is allowing our faith to overcome our fear so we can do things to benefit others - even things that come at great cost to ourselves.
God the Father has this type of love. He gave up something very valuable for us – His Son!
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” [John 3:16 ESV]
Jesus, of course, modeled this kind of love, too. He gave His life so that we could live. “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. [John 15:13 ESV]
To go live in a strange place like Paul Madison and his family did not only takes love and faith, it takes courage. Many believers who would otherwise go share their faith are often attacked with fear and intimidation. They know that in some countries people are persecuted for sharing their faith; some even lose their lives.
It has been said that courage is not the absence of fear, it is doing the right thing in spite of it. Listen to how Jesus describes Himself as our Good Shepherd:
“The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life—only to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord.” [John 10:17-18 NIV]
Jesus went to the cross intentionally. He knew He would suffer. But He did it anyway because He loved His Father and He loved us. He went to Jerusalem knowing what was waiting for Him there, and He went anyway. That’s love. That’s courage, too.
As followers of Jesus, most of us will likely not have to give our lives for our faith. But shouldn’t we be carrying the death of Jesus inside of us all the time? The Apostle Paul wrote,
“We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body.” [2 Corinthians 4:10-11 NIV]
As the love of God grows in our hearts, it causes us to be committed Christians, not merely cultural Christians. Doing everything right without full commitment of the heart is not of much use. As Jesus says, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.” [Luke 14:26-27]
There are millions, even billions of people, who have not even heard of the Name of Jesus yet. Will you go? Will you at least go to your neighbor who lives on your own block? The love of Christ compels us, Paul said. I am confident that many of you will let the love of God motivate you today to reach someone with the good news of Jesus!
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