2 Kings 7
The news today is full of stories of how people all around the world are starving. Most of us in this country have never seen anybody who has had little or nothing to eat for long periods of time, but a little imagination will point us to what an agonising experience this must be. So we can imagine what the inhabitants of Samaria felt like in the story we just heard from the OT when they were besieged by the Assyrians with no access to food and water. In the part we didn’t hear, some of the people even resort to cannibalism, the situation has got so bad. Particularly graphic is the story of the four men suffering from leprosy who were not admitted into the city for fear of spreading infection – they were stranded outside the walls with an army in front of them. In sheer desperation, they decided to desert and switch sides. They went to the enemy camp to hand themselves over, only to find it empty. They gorged themselves on the food that had been left behind but suddenly realised that it was terribly selfish to keep the news of salvation to themselves. So, in spite of being rejected by the people of Samaria, and being left to die, they hurried off to tell them that their troubles were over, they had been saved. And so they arrived at a basic ethical principle of life – it is immoral and selfish to keep good news to yourself.
Christians describe the story of Jesus, of what he has done to bring us forgiveness of our sins as “the Gospel”, a word meaning good news. If we know that God loves us, and fail to tell other people, especially those who are in desperate need of His forgiveness and grace, we are being selfish. The purpose of the Christian Church is to glorify God in making the Christ of the Scriptures known to everyone through the love of God; in worship, word, and action. So, the big question is, “What can each of us do to encourage others to grow in God’s love and in their knowledge of Jesus Christ?”
A good place to search for answers is to turn to the Bible and look at how the early Church grew and developed:
- They worshipped God together – Praise
- They prayed together – Prayer
- They cared for those in need – Care
- They shared their faith in Christ – Share
And the Lord added to their number.
Praise – Prayer – Care – Share…a good theory which, let’s be honest, must have worked 2000 years ago or else none of us would be here now, nor would there be over 2 billion practising Christians around the world. But how can we put it into practice in the here and now?
Ask yourself, how did I come to faith in Jesus? It may be that, like me, you were brought up in a Christian family, had the usual teenage rebellion, but later came back to the Church. It may be that you saw Christians busily involved in caring for the needy, and wanted to know more about where they got their inspiration from. Possibly, you got into casual conversation with a Christian friend, who seemed an example you wanted to copy, and who quietly demolished any reasons behind your prejudices you held against religion. You may have been invited by a friend or neighbour to a church service or event and were so impressed by the warm welcome you received that you kept coming back.
A minister or priest can only do so much, and if you leave the task of promoting church growth to the professionals, so to speak, very little will happen. So we as a congregation, and each of us as individuals, must check ourselves to see how good we are at attracting people by praising God together in our worship, by praying for non-churchgoers, , by caring for those in need, or by sharing our faith in Christ with anyone who is willing to listen. Everybody is different, so each needs a different approach. But all those who have not yet heard the good news are metaphorically starving to death. So if you have an opportunity this week for evangelising one of your friends or neighbours by praise-prayer-care-share, ask God to give you the right words to say. To keep the good news to yourself would be indescribably selfish.