LET’S CONTINUE WHAT JESUS STARTED…
To everyone reading these words, may I start by wishing you a very Happy New Year! It is my specific prayer that each person who belongs to Cambray, and those who feel on the margins, will know the close presence and power of the Lord Jesus Christ as we enter 2014, that, together, we will deepen in our knowledge and experience of the living God at work in us and through us. As Joshua challenged the people of Israel: ‘Consecrate yourselves (today), for tomorrow the LORD will do amazing things among you’ (Joshua 3.5).
Some of the desires articulated at our recent monthly Days of Prayer have been that the Cambray church family will grow into more freedom, love and joy in Christ – confident with gospel optimism as we prove God at work among us, gathered and scattered. It is with that hope that our staff team selected the Cambray verse for the year as the words of Jesus in Acts 1.8: ‘You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses…’ The recent reminder about our calling as Christ’s ambassadors on the frontline in daily life is always highly relevant. However, there is a follow-up aspect to being gathered and scattered which we dare not miss. Disciples of Jesus are also called to witness by speaking of him and for him, and to continue the work that Jesus started.
Let me digress… A few years ago I started collecting ‘Runner’s World’ magazines. Every month I read it from cover to cover, absorbing good advice, technical know-how and inspirational stories of other runners. However, I rarely went out and ran! Yes, I had ambitions to run, especially the London Marathon, yet the snag was that as the magazines accumulated each month, they simply sat on my shelf and I did nothing with all that knowledge I was gaining. There were always good reasons why I did not or could not run… but in the end, I forced myself to get going and for a few months at least trained regularly, and even managed to complete the Marathon I had dreamt about.
The advice after a marathon is to ‘go easy’ the following week. Well I did, and to be honest I have done so ever since… not running since that special day in 1998. And to add to my confessional … I still keep those running magazines in case I have another ’go’ one day. Friends, forget my shameful attempts at running. What about the parallels with discipleship… I am convicted by the resources I keep on the shelf in terms of Bibles, Christian books, commentaries, sermons prepared and digested, knowledge about Christianity… and yet (here’s the crunch question) – how often do I use it to speak of Jesus or the gospel?
Here’s the crunch question to unsettle many of us
Jesus intended each of his followers to be ‘witnesses’ – so here is a question to unsettle many of us – when did we last verbalise anything of our personal faith and life in the risen Christ?
Sure, I pray for the golden opportunity that may crop up one day in a conversation with someone… and I think of possible answers that could be given. But what about the daily walk with Jesus and things that could be vocalised very naturally by way of testimony?
Sure, I can rationalise things by determining that folk will know of Christ by the beauty of our lives… but not many seem to ask for the reason for the hope we have within.
Surely we need to be active in determining to witness for Christ daily… in conversations, in acts of kindness and witness. Thankfully the Holy Spirit has been given for just that – to give us the desire and power we lack by ourselves and to make weak folk bold. He is the One who enables us to translate the collection on the bookshelf into everyday use.
Last month I read a very challenging piece by James Catford (Bible Society), who described how, on a trip to a Middle East country, he was shown photos of men and women running a stall with Bibles on the table. Rather similar to what we would do in the UK or in a Christian bookshop … Yet many of these Christians in the pictures had been targeted, kidnapped, and even murdered. Yes, the Bible can get you killed in some parts of the world.
While we enjoy comparative freedom to share Christ, may we know even greater boldness and zeal in making Jesus known. This coming year may we share in the work God is already doing in those around us, and just as the risen Jesus sent disciples out to do what he had been doing, let’s continue what Jesus started.
With love and prayerful good wishes.