If there’s anything COVID-19 has achieved, it is the amplification of our feelings of isolation, fear, anxiety, and rampant uncertainty. Why would we not feel this way when the foundations of our lives have been shaken and the roots of our idolatrous worship have been left exposed?
In Matthew 12:34, Jesus reminds us that out of the overflow of our hearts, our mouth speaks. What have you heard or spoken during this uncertain time? If you’re anything like me, your words have most likely been laced with fear, full of anxiety, and not as life-giving as you’d expect.
As we re-emerge from COVID-19’s initial impact, how will we find joy in sharing the simple gospel again?
The simple joy of sharing good news
Challenging times can sometimes rob you of your joy, yet our joy should be fueling our mission now more than ever. In Romans 15:11, Paul reminds us that there’s something infinitely and magnificently great about God that evokes worship for people from diverse settings all around the world.
There’s nothing greater that evokes joy and stokes the embers of joy in our heart than sharing the gospel with those in great need around us. Jeremiah 15:16 remind us to take courage in the gospel: “Your words were found, and I ate them, and your words became to me a joy and the delight of my heart, for I am called by your name, O Lord, God of hosts.”
Why is it that we’re feeling anxious and somewhat discombobulated? Could it be that God’s exposing something else in our hearts—counterfeit gods that have rallied for our attention and worship?
In Counterfeit Gods, Tim Keller reminds us that these idols or counterfeit gods are anything so central and essential to your life that, should you lose it, your life would feel hardly worth living. Why is it that at this time, instead of being filled with God’s joy, I’m fighting my own anxiety and insecurities?
Instead of being filled with optimism, I’m fueled by the prevailing (negative) sentiment? Instead of being led by faith, I’m being ruled by my fear? Instead of being driven to share the good news, I’m prone to share fake news?
Keller reminds us again that, “The incomplete joys of this world will never satisfy the human heart.” Only the gospel will be the Good News that truly satisfies! My boss, Luis Palau, recalls this story of the importance of seeing the gospel as good news:
A sharp journalist recently said, 'Luis, you’ve always been adamant about calling the Gospel the Good News. Why is that phrasing so important to you?” I replied, “Because other than journalists, people like good news.” The Gospel of Jesus Christ is Good News. The point of our message is basic. It’s the same message the angel carried to the shepherds: “I bring you good news of great joy that shall be to all people” [Luke 2:10]. In English, the word “gospel” means nothing to most people. But “good news” does… It’s good news on our conscience, because sins are forgiven. It’s good news in relationships because we love other people. And it’s good news because we know we’re going to heaven when we die. Believe me, most people won’t react badly if you say, “Hey! I have good news for you.” Try it!
Let’s explore a few reasons why the world needs the Good News now more than ever, and why you and I need to see ourselves as ambassadors for Jesus in every conversation we find ourselves in.
Good News and bad news
We have seen so much unfold in 2020 that will undoubtedly affect the way we live, worship, work, relax, shop, and more. The bad news around COVID-19 is plentiful, but the Good News surpasses it! What have we seen unfold in recent history that will be with us for a while as people of faith?
First, we have witnessed the unraveling of our culture’s myopic veneer.
The security and certainty we possessed has been stripped away leaving many feeling exposed and vulnerable. In fact, many are experiencing the toughest financial season of their lives right now. What hope do those apart from Christ have at this critical time?
Parachurch organizations may have the luxury of choosing a focal area of priority (worship, discipleship, coaching, counseling and evangelism, etc.) but the people of God do not. This is our time to live out Jesus’ instruction to be light and salt! While we see the world’s systems unraveling, it is a perfect time to point people to Christ and to the cross.
You can even do it online without people having to feel uncomfortable in a church building or invite them to an online gathering like Stories of Hope that the Luis Palau team are hosting on May 30 where they will hear the gospel.
Second, our need for community and connection has been elevated as seen in the popular news feeds of millions of people trying to connect online or in person in creative ways.
One of the headlines that caught my attention was the Portobella Priest who went around West London singing well-known hymns and offering prayers invoking an overwhelmingly positive reaction—even from a vastly secular British press.
There seems to be a greater longing for community now, yet loneliness is pervasive, gender-based violence has increased globally, and psychological distress and suicide increase with some dubbing COVID-19 a global psychological pandemic.
Are we not challenged and moved by the statement in Acts 2:47: “…praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved”? Are we living our life in such a way that our genuine love is being felt by all people?
Are we being a neighbor as defined according to Jesus in Luke 10:25-37? Our response in a time of crisis will magnify the reactions of our communities when things normalize (whatever that means).
Third, our religious consumer addictions have been quarantined and hopefully many consumer-driven Christians now see greater value in relational connection than online community alone.
I can only pray that this will see a leveling out of the church playing field to see greater participation and ownership. Micah Fries and Jeremy Maxfield, in their book Leveling the Church, discuss how pastors should do less ministry and develop more people make an important point (speaking to pastors): “You’re gifted by the Spirit and given by God to serve the body of Christ. It’s not your job to do all the ministry. It’s your job to give ministry away, leveling the church so that everyone steps up to do their part.”
If you’re wanting to bring people to Christ, it may be time to set aside your preferences and opinions and introduce people to Jesus before they hear about your brand of Christianity, your political views, or your church preferences.
The gospel does not need any augmentation; it just needs delivery. And God will take care of the rest. Take encouragement from Isaiah 55:
Just as rain and snow descend from the skies and don’t go back until they’ve watered the earth, doing their work of making things grow and blossom, producing seed for farmers and food for the hungry, so will the words that come out of my mouth not come back empty-handed. They’ll do the work I sent them to do, they’ll complete the assignment I gave them.
Trust in God’s promises—they never fail!
The gospel is immutable and cannot be quarantined
The great news is that the Good News remains unchanged! We need to recover the joy of the simple gospel and share it so that others will be invited into the banqueting hall where we are able to feast on God’s grace in a time of famine and experience God’s inexplicable peace in times of great unrest and anxiety.
The simple gospel remains God’s antidote to a world gone mad. In what ways, can we recover our joy in the Lord and share the simple gospel? The gospel is Good News; go ahead and share it!