In the November 1997 issue of New Beginnings Mr. Leslie McCullough urged us to recognize the tremendous impact our personal example can have in preaching the gospel. He appealed to us to be the brightest light in our neighborhood—to enthusiastically take to heart Jesus' instruction to be the light of the world.
But it is so easy to treat this admonition lightly. Do you personally grasp its importance? Do you truly comprehend just how vital your part in preaching the gospel really is?
The number one desire expressed by the members of the Church at this time is to see more concrete evidence that God is working through us as a body—that the gospel is effectively being preached through our efforts. But unfortunately, we tend to become sidetracked by focusing almost entirely on what and how we must preach before we adequately focus on the kind of vessels we must be to credibly represent the gospel.
We all know the old saying: What you do speaks so loud I can't hear what you say! Credibility is our first order of business. Our success locally and centrally in preaching the gospel depends upon how effectively we consolidate our personal examples and efforts into a unified endeavor. The work of the Church is merely the combined example and effort of many individuals.
God Working In Us
We are a young and developing work. Our efforts are imperfect. Our resources are small. Our knowledge concerning which programs God will abundantly bless and which ones will prove less productive in our present context is still fragmentary. Any work that we do—individually or collectively—must have God's blessing to be successful. Surely we all remember that "unless the LORD builds the house, they labor in vain who build it" (Psalm 127:1). God must be working in us and through us (Philippians 2:13).
To have God's blessing we must love one another, honor one another and work together in a manner that those who see and hear us can say, That is the way people ought to treat one another.
This is no small thing. Paul said that all knowledge, understanding and prophesying (preaching) is worth nothing if we fail in love (1 Corinthians 13:2). And Jesus tells us, "By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another" (John 13:35). Conversely, being poor examples in exhibiting respectful, loving behavior will destroy our credibility and render our preaching ineffective.
James puts it this way: "Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show by good conduct that his works are done in the meekness of wisdom. But if you have bitter envy and self-seeking in your hearts, do not boast and lie against the truth. This wisdom does not descend from above, but is earthly, sensual, demonic. For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there. But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy. Now the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace" (James 3:13-18).
Who Will God Bless?
Some have asked: How can we know that God will bless us—and the work we do?
The answer really depends on us! God has called us, given us His Holy Spirit and a wonderful opportunity to work together. But it is up to us to learn how to pull together and work as a team with love, respect and honor for all. If we do that, God will bless our efforts. We possess the knowledge. We know what needs to be preached. We just need continuous, miraculous help from God to be effective.
But if we become embroiled in conflicts over how we are to work together and fail in being the light this world so desperately needs—fail in being a very different body of people who truly reflect the Spirit of God and the character of Christ in the way we work together and relate to all people in or out of the Church—then God cannot and will not bless us.
Your Part Is Vital!
What is your part in preaching the Gospel? First and foremost it is to be the very best Christian that you can possibly be. Your personal life—your zeal, your respect for others, your willingness to cooperate, your self-control, your heartfelt prayers—is what God is really examining. He blesses the work of His people, His servants. Your first responsibility is to be one of those fully committed servants.
Please don't underestimate this vital dimension of the work of God. The Church can never be stronger than the individuals who make it a body. The Scriptures tell us, "The LORD looks from heaven; He sees all the sons of men. From the place of His dwelling He looks on all the inhabitants of the earth; He fashions their hearts individually; He considers all their works" (Psalms 33:13-15). The success of the United Church of God, an International Association, in preaching the gospel will always rest upon the foundation of individuals who are united together through Jesus Christ (Romans 6:5; 12:5).
Our number one priority right now is to achieve that unity so God can use us effectively in His service. Paul tells us, "For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' But if you bite and devour one another, beware lest you be consumed by one another! I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh" (Galatians 5:14-16).
So we can see that a needed part in God's work is our being a vessel that God can use as a light to those who hear the "good news" that we so much desire to proclaim. God will then abundantly bless our efforts in the manner He sees fit.
David expressed this principle so well. "Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the path of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful; but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and in His law he meditates day and night. He shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that brings forth its fruit in its season, whose leaf also shall not wither; and whatever he does shall prosper" (Psalms 1:1-3).
Your personal example is vital to the success of preaching the gospel! Are you deeply committed to doing your part with an abiding confidence that it will make a difference in the way God blesses the efforts of His people to finish His work?