How did they do it?

“These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.”

–Deuteronomy 6:6-7

I listened to a great podcast by my favorite minister, Tim Keller. It is rare for me to turn off one of his sermons and not feel completely rejuvenated in my walk with Christ. I believe he is God’s gift to those of us who are new in our faith and need clear and practical guidance.

Yesterday’s podcast was about “how” Christianity spread in the early church. Persecution was common and harsh. People could lose everything (including their lives!) simply by claiming to follow Christ. How did the early Christians feel the strength and courage to voice their beliefs? What motivated them to willingly step into such real threats to their safety? They must have truly believed in the message!

The more I learn, the more I am convinced that the fact that Jesus’ message has survived for so long is itself evidence of its divine nature. Nothing less than God’s word could push through such intense opposition. Today, the most serious form of “persecution” I might face is an errant eye-roll or insensitive “joke”. Yet, I still find it veritably impossible to be willing to audibly describe to another human the degree to which I pray to Jesus for my physical and emotional support here on earth (not just my eternal salvation in heaven).

Jesus spoke of the life-sustaining force of His message more than once. When speaking with the Samaritan woman at the well, he offered her “…a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” (John 4:14) Soon after that, his disciples urged him to eat, and He replied, “I have food to eat that you know nothing about.” (John 4:32) As Keller noted in his sermon, Jesus was saying that following His message was nothing less than a fundamental part of what He needed to survive. We don’t drink water once in a while. We don’t eat every now and again. We do these things every day, throughout the day. They sustain us, and so can His message.

I read the word and feel peace. I speak with others about how God has lifted me from the swamp of my sins, and my fears subside. I feel forgiveness and love. What sensations could feel more powerful? The effects are real. I’m not imagining them. So, why isn’t it enough? Why is it still so hard for me to connect with others around Jesus’ message, particularly given the lack of any “real” threat of persecution (at least compared to what first century Christians faced)? Plus, don’t I want others to have the same feelings? Don’t I want that for my family? If I do, why do I not talk about it? Am I embarrassed? How can I squash the embarrassment and openly show others the love that God has freely given to me?

God, fill me with the energy to truly live with your message exuding from me. Help me learn how to talk about why I lean on your word as a form of sustenance. I feel like I never seem to know what to say or how to say it. Please send the Holy Spirit to use me to help fill others with your message. As the minister of my church says every Sunday, please “speak through me or in spite of me, but may they be your words.”

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