Yanadi prays that we will start seeing sharing of lives as gospel opportunities and actively pursue them.
I send my older son to his piano lessons. I also get the unenviable parental duty of supervising his piano practice. I witness him struggle, get frustrated and even throw tantrums when I don't show approval (he can't tell if he gets things right yet). Supervising his practice reminds me of myself when I was his age with my mum supervising my practice. It felt like my mum was just insisting that I play the piano because she thought it was good and she could not do it herself. Only in adulthood did I realise its goodness, which I hope my son can eventually understand. It's an opportunity for him to hone his potential gifting. It's an opportunity to relax himself and enjoy the music he makes. It's an opportunity to entertain others. It's an opportunity to teach music to others. It's an opportunity for potential conversation starters. It's even an opportunity to serve the body of Christ in the area of congregational singing, if the Lord one day saves him.
Many of us came back from church camp recharged with fresh motivation to do spiritual good to one another. Some perhaps question why our church leaders keep on insisting that we share our lives with one another beyond the 1.5 hours on Sundays. Many of us are involved in one or two Christian ministries either in church or outside church, so what's the point of sharing lives with our fellow church members? Let me offer a perspective that I hope will help us see why sharing our lives beyond Sundays is good and worthy of pursuit, just as I hope my son will be persuaded that his piano training is good and worthy of pursuit.
Something that I noticed about GBC is that we are a people who are excited about gospel opportunities. I remember when we used to run Exploring Christianity in our Seekers Class on Sunday, quite a number of us would bring someone to the class and support the class. A few years ago when there was the Celebration of Hope event, a number of us volunteered to be counselors for the event and brought our friends and family members to the event. Most recently, quite a number of us partipated in the MacPherson outreach at the end of last year. We are rightly excited about gospel opportunities where non-believers can hear the gospel proclaimed. Since we are already excited about gospel opportunities, why not consider the sharing of lives as gospel opportunities?
Perhaps the most helpful insight that I heard during our recent church camp came from the workshop "Doing Spiritual Good in Our Parenting" by Pastor Mark. There, he gave this anecdote that is a common occurance for those of us who have more than one kid. How often it is when our kids fight for a toy, our solution is to get them to agree to let the older one play for 10 minutes and then for the younger one to play for the next 10 minutes? We could have addressed the hearts of our kids, prompting them of the sinful tendencies in their lives when they love their toys more than their own siblings and how much they need a Saviour to transform their hearts, but we choose the "comfort" of resolving the conflict with the most efficient, pragmatic solution, so that we can resume our "comfortable", conflict-free situation. What a loss of a gospel opportunity to parents!
The applications of the above anecdote aren't just limited to parents if we realise how much we love our comfort and will go for efficiency when presented with problems. How many gospel opportunities are lost! Perhaps we should be more intentional about considering situations, especially unfavourable ones, to be gospel opportunities. A key to that is we should be comfortable with less-than-comfortable situations and less-than-efficient solutions. For those of us who struggle with unbelieving family members, let me encourage you to not give up in seeking for gospel opportunities. Don't be discouraged by the sneers and jeers of your unbelieving members. If you didn't sneer or jeer our Lord when you were younger, know that some of us did, I know I did. So don't give up. But the only way to seek for gospel opportunities is by sharing lives with them. So seek to share lives with them.
While the gospel is necessary for unbelievers to be justified, the gospel is also necessary for believers to be sanctified. Paul wrote to the Christians in Rome:
First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is proclaimed in all the world. For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of his Son, that without ceasing I mention you always in my prayers, asking that somehow by God's will I may now at last succeed in coming to you. For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you—that is, that we may be mutually encouraged by each other's faith, both yours and mine. I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that I have often intended to come to you (but thus far have been prevented), in order that I may reap some harvest among you as well as among the rest of the Gentiles. I am under obligation both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to the wise and to the foolish. So I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome.
– Romans 1:8-15
Paul was eager to preach—proclaim—the gospel to the Christians in Rome, are we just as eager to preach the gospel to fellow Christians in GBC?
Gospel opportunities don't have to only involve sharing the gospel to unbelievers for their salvation. While it's good that we share our lives with our unbelieving friends and family members, we miss the other half of the gospel if we don't do that with our fellow believers. Paul in his letter to the Romans proclaims the gospel in several ways:
- Paul encourages the Romans for their faithfulness that their faith is proclaimed in all the world (Rom 1:8).
- Paul teaches the Romans the doctrine of salvation by grace alone and justification by faith alone (Rom 1-11).
- Paul exhorts the Romans to live out their Christian faith (Rom 12-16).
- Paul possibly corrects the Romans of some erroneous behaviors that happen amid them (Rom 12-16).
- Paul warns the Romans about some who are dividing the church and deceiving Christians (Rom 16:17-20).
Even when Paul has written powerfully what had to be instructed, he still desires to meet the Romans to preach—proclaim—the gospel to them (Rom 1:15) so that both the Romans and Paul may be mutually encouraged (Rom 1:12).
As Paul seek for gospel opportunities by meeting the Romans in person, we can seek for gospel opportunities by meeting one another and sharing our lives. What does seeking for gospel opportunities mean in this case? It means that we seek for opportunities to apply the gospel, not just in our own personal life, but to one another as fellow covenant members of GBC.
How can that happen? Of course we have to meet. We have to get to know one another. We don't have to know everyone but we do have to know someone for this to happen. And let's look beyond our own family so that we can exit our comfort zone and be comfortable with those we are naturally uncomfortable with, thereby experiencing God's supernatural power in our lives. We must ensure that our relationship is informed and guided by God's Word. Reading the Bible, or at least Christian books recommended by our elders, is a safe way to do it. As the relationship deepens, and when we trust that the relationship is guided by the agenda of God's Word and none other, we can be confident that it is a safe place to encourage and be encouraged, to teach and be taught, to exhort and be exhorted, to correct and be corrected, to warn and be warned, and even to rebuke and be rebuked, with the goal of the mutual building up of one another.
My prayer is that we start seeing our sharing of lives as gospel opportunities and that we start actively seeking for gospel opportunities, both with the unbelievers outside the church and especially with fellow believers in our church. Let's not waste God-given gospel opportunities for the sake of comfort or efficiency. Sharing of our lives is gospel opportunities worthy of pursuit.
GBC, gospel opportunities can come anywhere and anytime with anyone. How are we stewarding them? Are we preparing ourselves for them? Are we actively pursuing them?
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