Summary: In times of national or personal crisis, mature Christians become sensitive to the spiritual needs of those around them and they respond in Christian love by sharing the joy of their salvation.
DISSEMINATING GOD’S GRACE WITH INFECTIOUS JOY
“This took too long”, said Bill Hayden, Australia’s former governor-general, when he was baptized recently into the Catholic Church at the age of 85.
The person who inspired him to reassess his lifelong atheism was Sister Angela Mary Doyle who had gotten his attention over the years as he observed her working among the poor, but also as she visited him on a regular basis while he was in the hospital recovering from a stroke.
Hayden said: “I felt loved and embraced by her Christian example. Every time she left the hospital, I felt a strong sense that I had been in the presence of a holy woman. So, after dwelling on these things, I found my way to God and the Church of Jesus Christ.”
Q: What was it about Sister Mary that influenced this politician to believe?
Most certainly it was not that she went into his room and danced a jig, told funny stories or put on “airs”.
This lovely lady conducted herself around unbelievers the same as believers - unpretentiously - just Sister Mary, oozing infectious joy - experienced by those in whom God’s Spirit dwells. She entered the hospital room “infected” with contagious joy – and Bill Hayden caught it!
Authentic joy is evident in the lives of authentic believers. Such joy can be as evident today as it was when Paul commended Christians at Thessalonica by thanking them for their example of Christian joy - I Thessalonians 1:1-10 . . .
The joy that had taken hold of these Christians welled up within them and spilled over to others for a very good reason - their new status as children of God “chosen”, “elected” by God the Father – a distinction that made them VIP’s!
The Word of God tells us that if we meet certain conditions, we enter into a new relationship with God who confers upon us the distinction of “sonship” so that we become “heirs and joint heirs with Christ”. The conditions? Repentance toward God plus faith in Christ as Savior and Lord – conditions that were predetermined then brought to completion by God’s Son Jesus Christ.
God our Father “chose” the Way by which He would accept into the Family of God ALL who call upon the name of the Lord . . . “elected” to redeem ALL who come to their senses and respond to His invitation.
Whereas ALL of us have been called, whether or not any of us agree to our Maker’s conditions and respond accordingly is a decision each of us makes - due to “free will” which God has granted to ALL, meaning: Each of us is free to accept or to reject that new position to which we ALL have been elected (illustration) . . .
The Thessalonian Christians had understood this theology of God’s plan and had responded accordingly - not by their works of righteousness they had been saved, but by the redemptive work of Christ on the Cross which, by God’s grace, was allowed to happen as a sacrifice for our sins . . . it was up to each of them to accept or reject God’s gift of salvation.
Due to their understanding and subsequent dissemination of God’s grace, the old apostle gave rousing thanks to God and commended these Christians for their “work” . . . their “labor” . . . their “endurance”. They refused to let up or give up.
These believers had gotten so caught up in the joy of their salvation that their faith was evident in everything they did . . . “agape” motivated them to go the “extra mile” if need be . . . hope kept them going constantly with no let-up in their devotion to God and to others - within and without the household of faith.
Would it be okay to say that these believers had been infected by the love of Christ . . . inoculated against the wiles of the devil . . . given a shot of spiritual adrenalin? Why were these folks “on fire” for God?
Think about it: They heard the gospel and responded to it during a time of great persecution, when followers of Christ feared for their lives. Yet, in the face of threats, they received the Spirit of God into their lives with great joy!
Now that they had the joy of Jesus in their hearts, would they clam up and flee for the hills where they would be out of harm’s way? (Well, for preservation of the Gospel, there was a time when the Church did go underground for a while.)
Not so, these believers of discernment and distinction. They were “fired up” because they had a story to tell . . . a Savior to share . . . a God to glorify!