Motivation for the Mission—5

“… they stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city…” (Acts 14:19)

Another powerful motivation for speaking the good news to others is faith (this series begins here). The classic statement of this is, “I believed; therefore I have spoken” (2 Corinthians 4:13; which is a quotation from Psalm 116:10).

In this verse, Paul sees a parallel between the Psalmist and himself. He has the same spirit of faith as the Psalmist (2 Corinthians 4:13). Paul, too, believes and therefore he speaks. The “therefore” is important because it shows that his speaking is based on his faith. Thus, faith is another motivation for speaking.

In context, the kind of speaking Paul is talking about is telling others the good news. The large section from 2 Corinthians 2-6 is about Paul’s evangelistic and missionary ministry. The same is true of the immediate context. A few verses before the passage quoted, Paul says he did not preach himself but “Jesus Christ as Lord” and spoke about God making the light of the gospel shine in people’s hearts (2 Corinthians 4:5-6). The subject is evangelism—telling others the good news about Jesus. And the thing he mentions here that motivated him to do this is faith.

We could think of many aspects of faith that can lead us to speak. If we deeply believe the message is true, we will speak it. Our general life experiences, coupled with the they ways we interpret those experiences, yield a variety of beliefs in us about many things. If we hold those beliefs deeply, people won’t have to try very hard to get us to talk about them. Similarly, if we have received the message of the gospel and experienced the truthfulness of it in our lives, we will believe it deeply. When that is the case, that faith will motivate us to tell others about it.

More specifically, if we believe Jesus is Lord of the universe (Acts 2:36; 2 Corinthians 4:5), we will tell others. The accession of a new ruler in the world is always newsworthy, but today news travels so widely and quickly that we rarely have an opportunity to tell it to anyone because they’ve already heard it. Interestingly, the Bible’s word for “tell good news” was used in just this sense—the good news of the accession of a new Emperor to power in Rome. Likewise, the fact that Jesus has ascended to the throne of the universe is certainly newsworthy (Acts 2:30-33; Hebrews 8:1). Though most people have heard of him, they may not have heard the actual good news that he is the reigning Lord of the universe (Acts 10:36; 1 Corinthians 15:25). If we believe this earnestly, we will find ways to tell others about him.

Another aspect of faith that will motivate us is that, if we truly believe people are lost apart from Christ, we will do something about it. My perspective is that many people are definitely lost but also that this was overemphasized in the past to the point that it was out of balance with other motivations for evangelism. It is in fact still true, however, and does have a place in our motivation. People are indeed lost, in at least two senses. They lack a healthy direction for their lives right now, and they are headed for certain condemnation and destruction at the judgment. If hearing the latter triggers overwhelming negative feelings in you, I regret it, but I still stand by it. Even if it was stated too much previously it is still true. And if we believe this, it will lead us to speak. Any decent person will give directions to someone who is lost in a city and is open to help. So with us. If we believe people are lost, we will seek to help them find their way.

Another aspect of our faith that motivates us to speak is our belief that God himself will work through our doing so. We believe the good news about Jesus is in fact the “power of God for salvation” (Romans 1:16). We believe that as we find ways of “telling them the good news about the Lord Jesus” the Lord’s hand will be with us and a great number of people can believe and turn to the Lord (Acts 11:20-21). We believe that God works when we speak his message, and so we speak.

We could multiply this list of ways faith leads us to tell the good news. Looking again to the context, however, it seems that Paul is thinking specifically about his faith that God would raise him from the dead (2 Corinthians 4:14). Immediately after stating that his faith leads him to speak, he says “because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus and present us with you to himself” (v. 14). “Because” in v. 14 expresses the cause of his speaking in v. 13. In other words, he speaks because he believes God will raise him from the dead.

This makes good sense if you consider what he described just before this passage. In the preceding verses he tells about being hard pressed, perplexed, persecuted, and struck down. In fact, he even says he carries around the death of Jesus in his body, so that the life of Jesus might be revealed in him (2 Corinthians 4:7-12).

Paul suffered for the gospel. He was persecuted in many ways (2 Corinthians 6:4-10). When you receive opposition for what you do, it may cause you to reconsider what you are doing. Paul, however, did not let the opposition cause him to stop speaking. He believed the message so much that he continued to speak regardless of the consequences.

In fact, he believed that even if his speaking cost him his life, he would still be okay because he would be raised from the dead. Even if the worst possible thing happened to him—he was killed for preaching—one day God would raise him up to share in the glory of Christ (Romans 2:7-10; 8:17-18; 1 Corinthians 15:43; 2 Corinthians 4:17; Colossians 3:4; 2 Thessalonians 2:14; 1 Peter 1:7).

It would be easy for a post like this to become an occasion for inferiority, guilt and self-condemnation. That is certainly not motivating, and it is not what I am aiming for. Rather, having identified faith as a broad and powerful motivation for evangelism, my question is, how can I strengthen my faith so that it becomes a more effective motivation in my life?

Personally, I believe I still tend to be better at knowing spiritual truth in my head than believing it deeply in my heart. It has been a long and difficult journey for me to make progress in this regard, but there has been some progress over the years. Identifying the problem has helped. So has tending to my heart.

Romans 10 tells us,

If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.

Romans 10:9-10

It is helpful to notice the correspondence between confessing Jesus as Lord and believing God raised him from the dead. They go hand in hand (cf. Romans 1:4). Paul is really talking more about one thing here than two. Still, there can be a gap between what we say with our mouths and what we believe in our hearts. Notice that both times he references our faith, he adds “in your heart.” My guess would be that you have confessed Jesus with your mouth and also believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead. But it is also easy for our hearts to become dull and lose some of their vitality to where they don’t measure up to our confession. That’s the thing I have struggled with for many years, and that’s where tending to our hearts can help.

In the spirit of Psalm 139:23-24 I often ask God to search my heart. That passage includes additional things besides what we are discussing here but opening our hearts to God as this text describes is certainly a part of tending to them. I regularly ask God to give me a new heart, an undivided heart, a soft heart, a pure heart, and a heart like his. That kind of heart can believe the truth of the resurrection of Christ and know his Lordship. The upshot of all this is that  strengthening our hearts through meditation and prayer can give us the kind of heartfelt faith that will empower us to speak.

If you want to know what a person thinks, listen when they talk about it. If you want to know what a person truly believes, consider their actions and all their talk—including where, when, how much, and at what cost. In the spirit of the Psalmist, if we believe, we, too, will speak. And if we believe deeply, we will speak even if it costs us something. Such faith is a powerful motivation for evangelism.

Click here for more information on how Empowering Subjects can equip your church for the mission.

Published by Marvin Bryant

After serving as a minister for churches for forty years, Marvin founded the Empowering Subjects to equip subjects of the King to change the world like Jesus did.

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