This week I have heard of yet more stories of people who had no knowledge of Christianity as they grew up, yet had an almost sudden conversion to Christ. This has included the stories of several Muslims (now ‘former Muslims’) who knew nothing to very little about Christianity, and had always been taught that Islam was the one true religion, who then heard a Christian explain the gospel and were then supernaturally converted to follow Christ. (Several of these Islamic converts to Christ also had supernatural dreams where they claimed that Jesus appeared to them!) I also heard of an atheist scientist who been taught that science could explain away the need for believing in a God, who then heard the gospel and was resoundingly converted to Christ. The other story I heard was closer to home and involved a young lady who had grown up in an atheist home where her parents were actually hostile to religion and forbad her from anything to do with Christianity. Years later, she ventured into a church one Sunday morning, heard the gospel, and was converted to Christ. Each of these stories confirm what Jesus taught about the work of the Holy Spirit and His mysterious and surprising dealings with people to undergird the church’s preaching of the gospel.
The first Christians faced tremendous hostility, first from their own kin, then from the State. But their response was not antagonism, but intercession. The result was some rather dramatic conversions to Christ among the ranks of the former persecutors!
Dr. Andy Bannister, from the Solas Centre For Public Christianity (U.K.), was recently asked in an interview what he thought the greatest challenge for the Church in 2022 was. Of the three things he was invited to list he placed courage as the first and most pressing challenge. He stated that many Christian and church leaders had retreated in trepidation over the past few years in the face of an increasingly aggressive culture becoming confused about environmentalism, gender distinctions, and human sexuality which regarded Christianity as its enemy. His colleague, Dr. Aaron Edwards concurred with Andy’s assessment and lamented that so few men have the temerity to take a stand for truth. If these Christian thinkers are correct, how can we respond to this “most pressing issue for the Church in 2022”? Would you like to be more courageous? At what points in your life would you have particularly liked to have been more courageous? God’s Word describes dozens of people who found courage after applying the two spiritual principles for finding it. But of all those mentioned in the Bible, one person in particular displayed more courage than most and exemplified the spiritual principles for doing so.
Many of us are able to relate to plants. This is probably because they surround us, provide a source of food and oxygen and are a source of great beauty. Jesus was aware of this connection and made references to plants of one type or another during His ministry on earth. The growth of plants is influenced by the environment they are exposed to. Like plants, our growth as followers of Jesus is also influenced by the nature of the environment that we are immersed in. Chapter 13 of the Gospel of Matthew contains plant-based references such as, the parable of the sower (Matthew 18-23), the parable of the weeds (Matthew 24-30) and in a comparison of a mustard seed to the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 13:31-32). Through the parables of the sowers and the parable of the weeds we should be able to make the connection between desirable plants, undesirable plants and our lives…
Sometimes we can feel that things in our life are beginning to get to us. This could be attributed to a number of factors including the 24 hour news cycle constantly pumping out bad news from all over the world, or to the growing practice of ‘doom scrolling’ on our smart devices. This is the habit of continually scrolling down through news stories that relate to murders, domestic violence, assaults, road rage, floods, fires and disease. Another issue that can reduce our resilience is the almost constant push to create laws that work against members of our society who are unable to protect themselves such as the elderly and the unborn. Little wonder we can feel overwhelmed.