How does the gospel of Jesus Christ impact your life? By “gospel” I mean the incredible news that God the Son came in flesh, lived, died, and rose from the dead to free you and many others from your sins. I’m not asking about that day years ago when you first understood that truth and responded with repentance toward God and faith in Jesus Christ. I’m asking what it does to your thoughts, feelings, desires, plans, and actions every day.
John Paton left Scotland as a missionary to the New Hebrides islands in the South Pacific in 1858. Previous missionaries to the same people had been killed and eaten by cannibals. Within seven months of his arrival he had buried his wife and newborn baby, both of whom died of fever; he dug their graves with his own hands. He was sick almost to death at least fourteen times himself. Always under threat of attack by the natives, he often slept in his clothes to be able to run quickly in the night. Once he was called to the bedside of a dying man and when John leaned over him to pray the man pulled a knife and held it to his throat. And if the hardship wasn’t bad enough on the field, Christian friends and family in Scotland criticized him relentlessly for his foolish decision to leave a fruitful ministry there for the certain failure of this mission.
Yet near the end of his life John explained his attitude through it all. “Let me record my immovable conviction that this is the noblest service in which any human being can spend or be spent; and that, if God gave me back my life to be lived over again, I would without one quiver of hesitation lay it on the altar to Christ, that He might use it as before in similar ministries of love, especially amongst those who have never yet heard the name of Jesus. Nothing that has been endured, and nothing that can now befall me, makes me tremble – on the contrary, I deeply rejoice – when I breathe the prayer that it may please the blessed Lord to turn the hearts of all my children to the mission field and that He may open up their way and make it their pride and joy to live and die in carrying Jesus and His gospel in to the heart of the heathen world.”
I’m not saying every Christian must go as a missionary to unreached people to prove his or her commitment to the gospel. But I am saying if that gospel is truly the “great news” we say it is then it should motivate a constant, active gratitude to the One who came, lived, died, and rose again to free us from our sins. Our devotion to His service and His glory should be just as strong as Paton’s, no matter where and how we live it out.
So how is the gospel impacting you?