Speaking from Acts 17:22-32, Andrea began by telling that there is no need for us to be involved in transactions because God is always the same, and He is already providing for us; providing all we will ever need, if only we will accept Him.
Speaking of Paul, Andrea told us that in Jesus’ day, greek mythology was very much ‘alive and kicking’. Paul was in Athens in Acts 17, and he was uncompromising in preaching his belief. This belief was steadfast and unswerving. It is important to remember that Paul was an intelligent and successful man. He was a well educated and successful man, but he gave it all up for Jesus, choosing to go out into the world to preach the gospel rather than staying in his comfort zone. He spoke with authority. He had a non negotiable belief which gave him power through a non negotiable God. Therefore, he was able to adapt to every situation.
Andrea told us that this sermon is meant as a message of encouragement. She shared with us two proactive choices which will help us to galvanise our non negotiable stance:
- Be prepared
- Be optimistic
Firstly, Andrea said that we need to remember that when Paul preached, he did it with authority. Throughout his life, Paul actually only preached two things:
- Jesus is Lord
- Heaven is our home
Andrea told us that we have everything we need in order to follow Jesus. She encouraged us to be non negotiable in sharing Jesus with people, not just on a Sunday at Church, but in our lives outside the Church, too. When Paul preached in the Synagogues, he was preaching within his ‘stomping ground’. He was a Pharisee. He was used to speaking in this arena, but Jesus called him to go out and preach the word to those outside the Synagogue too.
The truth is that if the only people who know that we are Christians, are those people we see in Church, then we’re doing things very wrong. We should be able to talk to people about Jesus. Andrea told us that every single person has at least one sermon in them; our testimony. If we have no other words than this, then we can simply tell people about our life and about what Jesus has done for us.
One of the other places where Paul preached was in the Agora, which was a market place, a little like a town centre nowadays; a place where life was happening all around him. Here, he taught about Jesus, and about what He had done for him. There is a calling upon us to share Jesus with the people in our lives.
Paul was sent from one place to another, but he adapted and made the best of the situation, choosing to use these as opportunities to share Jesus with the people he met. The truth is, that if we prepare ourselves in this situation, then we can be prepared to share Jesus elsewhere, too. It is a requirement of God that we be prepared to give our testimony everywhere, especially in outside places, where non believers are. We are called to be able to stand in front of the ‘temples’ of other ‘gods’ and tell of what our God, the one true God has done for us.
If we are to compare other gods, to our God, we see that the other gods required people to do something in order for them to be there for them, but our God has already covered every possible sin and wrongdoing that will ever be committed, and all we must do is believe in Him. The only thing God asks of us is that we go out and tell people about Him.
We are not promised an easy life. In John 16:33 is is told to us quite clearly that we will have trouble, but God tells us that He has overcome. If we do the things of God, we are being obedient. The truth is that unlike with other ‘gods’, nothing has to happen before we can serve Him properly. We already have everything we need. He has provided it, and we are set apart for His divine purpose. He has forgiven us as if all of our sins have never, and will never happen. He simply asks that we “Go into all the world and preach the good news”. God doesn’t want our perfection, He simply wants a heart that is open to Him.
Our preparedness needs to be non negotiable. Our permanent stance must be to say “I forgive”, if we, too wish to be forgiven, because if we don’t forgive, we may end up looking back on our lives with regret for all those years we lived with unforgiveness in our hearts.
The key point here is that we must guard against our service being reliant on anything other than what He has done for us.
Secondly, Andrea said that there is a calling on us to be optimistic. We have a sure and certain hope in Jesus and in what He has done for us.
Optimism isn’t blindly formed happiness, but a peace in knowing that Jesus has already covered everything. He effected the forgiveness of sin for ever and ever, and cast our sin as far as the East is from the West.
Sometimes when life happens, we find this truth hard to remember and we find ourselves not walking in that truth. Change can be hard, and we may feel as if we have been plunged into chaos, because our safe place is no longer safe and the emotions that are associated with that are so difficult to deal with.
Andrea explained that she was not telling us that we need to be happy all the time, but that we must know that we have to keep our feet planted on the solid rock that is Jesus Christ.
When our storms come in, we must remember that Jesus is there. Loss, whether it be of a relationship, a friendship, a job, can be just as bad as grief, but there is no need to feel guilty, depressed or ashamed to admit that we are struggling. That feeling is the work of the enemy, who wants us to seek out quick fix solutions, but they are all lies.
The truth is that optimism is admitting that things are bad right now, and that they do hurt, but that we have a God that we can trust in, who wants only to bring us through that storm, so that we may speak a new testimony of what He has done in us; so that He may celebrate our successes with us.
Speaking scientifically, Andrea then told us about the brain’s reaction when we are optimistic. When something goes right, and we are happy, our brain releases dopamine, which is effectively a ‘happy chemical’. This chemical is addictive, and so we desire more of it, but the way to get it is to be optimistic, so when we are optimistic, our brains are conditioned to be even more optimistic.
Philippians 4:4 says “Rejoice in the Lord always”. God tells us that He’s got everything covered, and that we are to think on the good stuff and celebrate the successes. He tells us in the Bible that we must fight; that we must hold up our shield of faith. We are not called to put faith in our own ability to do it. Only God can enable us to do anything.
In closing, Andrea said that our optimism must be rooted in the hope and anchor that is Christ Jesus. God has set us apart and He loves us so so much. We need only believe and hope and trust in Him.
Scriptures: Acts 17:22-32, John 16:33, Mark 16:15, Philippians 4:4