By Kevin Shrum
Pastor, Inglewood Baptist Church, Nashville
The boldness and courage of the Ukrainian people are currently being challenged. Only time will tell where this challenge leads. One Ukrainian mother was reported to have said that the Ukrainian people would fight for their freedom and for democracy “to their last blood.”
The question arises: are we as courageous and as bold in sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ? We do not fight for souls with bullets and guns, but with prayer, grace, love, courage and boldness.
RECEIVED (I Thessalonians 2:13-14). When Paul arrived in Thessalonica (Acts 17), he preached the gospel consistently and boldly, “without ceasing” (Ch. 2:13). The early results were amazing – they “received the word of God that you heard from us, you welcomed it not as a human message, but as it truly is, the word of God, which also works effectively in you who believe” (v. 13.) As a result, many in Thessalonica became followers of Jesus Christ, founding a Church and establishing a beachhead for the good news.
Their reception of the gospel brought about their suffering for the gospel, which they did with grace and boldness.
REJECTED (I Thessalonians 2:15-16). But the reception of the gospel is often accompanied by resistance to the gospel. Paul reflected on the rejection of Jesus Christ that led to His death and resurrection, which was the ground of the rejection of Paul and his cohort.
Some in Thessalonica were persecuting Christians (v. 15) and were “forbidding us (them) to speak to the Gentiles that they might be saved” (v. 16). The rejection of God’s grace led to the murder of Jesus Christ and to the future sufferings of His followers.
Whenever the gospel is preached there are usually three responses (Acts 17:32-34): (1) some will immediately believe; (2) others will desire to continue the conversation; and (3) many will reject the gospel, sometimes violently and abusively, with mockery. When we boldly preach the gospel, we will often be met by the strong headwinds of resistance, sinful rebellion, even mockery.
We are often surprised by this resistance. Who in the world would want to reject the good news of the forgiveness of sin, new life in Christ, and eternal life in heaven? But the heart of sinful people is irrational, resistant, and arrogant. We must boldly preach the gospel. Only the Holy Spirit can break through to the hard heart and mind of a sinner.
FOCUSED (I Thessalonians 2:17-20). The Apostle Paul confronted the headwinds of resistance with focused determination. Rather than backing down and backing away, Paul was even more determined to continue his ministry to the Thessalonians (v. 17). Paul assigned part of the resistance to the gospel to those who rejected and mocked it, but to Satan who always hinders the spread of the gospel.
Instead of focusing on the roadblocks set up against the gospel, he focused on what God had done in Jesus Christ and what God was doing among His people. This is why Paul noted in verses 19-20, “For who is our hope or joy or crown of boasting in the presence of our Lord Jesus at His coming? Is it not you? Indeed, you are our glory and joy!”
God calls us to mimic Paul — we preach the gospel as some believe and others reject it, doing so with grace-filled determination and spirit-empowered boldness.