It is great to meet you. I must admit, I’m quite jealous of all of you who regularly have the opportunity to see my dear friend Laura. Isn’t she a gem? Laura and I met while I was working in Pittsburgh and she had just graduated from college. We met early every Wednesday morning to share what we were learning about God and discuss the ministries where He had placed us. For Laura, we discussed her desire to see students at the University of Pittsburgh come to know, love and follow Jesus for the rest of their lives. For me, we discussed my desire to see my co-workers come to know, love and follow Jesus for the rest of their lives. Our ministries looked dramatically different and yet incredibly the same.
1 Thessalonians 2:8 says, “We loved you so much that we were delighted to share not only the gospel of God, but our lives as well because you had become so dear to us.”
This verse first caught my attention during my freshman year of college and it has shaped much of my life, relationships, and ministry over the last 10 years. I love that Paul begins with loving the people of Thessalonica. Out of his love for them he also shares the gospel and his life with them. A friend of mine pointed out that if one of these three components is missing we are robbed of much of the effectiveness that we crave in sharing the gospel and introducing true and lasting freedom to those around us.
We must love people. Whether we are meeting people in the dorms, classes, workplaces, churches, or neighborhoods, we must love people. Man. So many days I stink at this. But thankfully, oh so thankfully, God does not ask us to do this on our own. He knows that on my own strength, out of the goodness of my own heart, I will fail everyday in loving people well. And instead of chastising me for my poor loving skills, He teaches me of His love for me. How kind He is!
When I was in high school a friend of mine shared this quote with me, “Preach the gospel always and when necessary use words.” For a long time I thought that was a great plan, but I’ve come to realize, WORDS ARE NEEDED! I must actually speak and share the gospel. Romans 10:14 asks the question of “how can they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in Him of whom they’ve never heard?” Oh friend, we must proclaim the name of Jesus and the message of His glorious salvation!
I’ve found that there are plenty of people out there for me to love and I’ve grown in my willingness to speak the gospel, but the third piece of this verse I have found to sometimes be the most tricky. What does it look like to share your life with those around you?
For me, it often begins with coffee and chocolate. At work I longed for my office to be a place where my co-workers wanted to be, a place where they would stop in during the spare moments of their day. So a Keurig coffeemaker was purchased and a supply of assorted chocolates was kept readily available. As word got out that I always had coffee and chocolate in my office, I had a consistent stream of my co-workers stopping by my office. I loved the opportunity this provided for me to hear about their day, ask them questions about their lives, and share stories about my life. Of course, this wasn’t always convenient. Conversations that were essential in developing relationships and trust often prevented me from finishing my work which then required that I work late. But soon these inconveniences were all worth it! Friendships were developed and these relationships continued outside of office hours – I was invited to happy hours, bridal showers, picnics and many of them I invited into my home and into my life. I was then able to invite these dear friends to read the Bible with me and experience for themselves the person of Jesus!
It seems so simple. Coffee and chocolate. But I quickly realized, those around us are desperately longing for real friendship. I’ve learned that it is essential that I share my life with those I hope to see a part of God’s kingdom. They desperately need to know that I’m not a perfect person and the wonder that the God that I know wants to use a broken person like me. He is a God who redeems the unredeemable, restores the broken, brings hope to despair, and life to the dead.