The people of God in Northern New England have the opportunity, privilege and blessing of being His messengers to the least religious region in our country. God's message is a simple one and has been delivered by His people from Biblical times until today. Turn from your ways and turn to God.
Once we turn to God and experience His indescribable love and forgiveness, we desire to share His message with others. Who could ever keep such Good News to themselves? But in all honesty, sometimes I've stopped delivering His message because of the reactions I encountered. I take the dismissal and rejection of His message as an indication that I'm not making progress. And yet, I really shouldn't be surprised when I deliver God's message and it is ignored or rejected. Countless other messengers have experienced those very reactions.
Consider the messengers sent by King Hezekiah. Hezekiah and his officials decided to celebrate Passover – a tradition lost during the rule of previous kings who did not follow God. Hezekiah commanded curriers to travel throughout the land with God's message - return to God for He is gracious and compassionate. And so, “the couriers went from town to town in Ephraim and Manasseh, as far as Zebulun, but people scorned and ridiculed them. Nevertheless, some from Asher, Manasseh and Zebulun humbled themselves and went to Jerusalem. Also in Judah the hand of God was on the people to give them unity of mind to carry out what the king and his officials had ordered, following the word of the Lord.” (2 Chronicles 30:10-12)
My first reaction to this passage was disbelief. Really?!? These curriers proclaim God's amazing message through the entire northern kingdom of Israel and only a few respond? Why is there only response in the southern kingdom of Judah? Wait a minute – what if I'm in a “northern kingdom?” What if all I can expect is scorn and ridicule? What if all I do to proclaim God's message only produces minimal results? That is not a job that I want to sign up for!
Ultimately, I don't have control over what will happen when I deliver God's message. I may be scorned and ridiculed. The hand of God may move people to follow His word. When I consider Hezekiah's curriers continuing to deliver God's message, even without results, I realize this is the model I am called to follow. I am not responsible for the results. I am responsible for the delivery. We also see this principle when God instructs the prophet Ezekiel, “Son of man, listen carefully and take to heart all the words I speak to you. Go now to your people in exile and speak to them. Say to them, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says,’ whether they listen or fail to listen.” (Ezekiel 3:10-11).
So even though we are not responsible for the results, we still need to thoughtfully consider our delivery of God's message. Numerous researchers have suggested that the majority of communication actually happens non-verbally. In addition to considering how we verbally deliver God's message, we should also carefully consider how we deliver God's message non-verbally. How we live is a powerful way to deliver God's message.
Returning to the scriptures above, we see Hezekiah choose to follow the word of God by reinstating the Passover celebration. To Ezekiel, God's instruction is “listen carefully and take to heart all the words I speak to you.” These individuals are responsible for delivering God's message verbally, but they also implement God's word in their own lives. To fully deliver God's message we must base our lives on God's word. The discipline of daily Bible reading results in life choices that proclaim God's message. How we spend time, how we spend money, and how we love others are prevalent life topics addressed in the Bible. How am I delivering God's message in these areas? I should regularly consider how I am delivering God's message in every aspect of my life – verbally and non-verbally.
Delivering His message is my service and offering to God. I want to follow the example of David who refused to offer sacrifices to God that cost him nothing (2 Samuel 24). Our delivery of God's message should cost us something. It is actually a good sign if we encounter difficulty, hurt and rejection while delivering God's message with our words and our lives. Instead of trying to avoid difficulty and pain, we can use them to drive us to an even deeper connection with and dependence on God.
My hope for God's people in Northern New England is that we support and encourage one other to continue delivering God's message and not turn to other activities that result in immediate worldly results, success and achievement. Our aim as His messengers is not to please others, but to please God. May our prayer be that of Psalm 19.
The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they reveal knowledge.
They have no speech, they use no words; no sound is heard from them.
Yet their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world.
In the heavens God has pitched a tent for the sun.
It is like a bridegroom coming out of his chamber, like a champion rejoicing to run his course.
It rises at one end of the heavens and makes its circuit to the other; nothing is deprived of its warmth.
The law of the Lord is perfect, refreshing the soul.
The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy, making wise the simple.
The precepts of the Lord are right, giving joy to the heart.
The commands of the Lord are radiant, giving light to the eyes.
The fear of the Lord is pure, enduring forever.
The decrees of the Lord are firm, and all of them are righteous.
They are more precious than gold, than much pure gold;
they are sweeter than honey, than honey from the honeycomb.
By them your servant is warned; in keeping them there is great reward.
But who can discern their own errors? Forgive my hidden faults.
Keep your servant also from willful sins; may they not rule over me.
Then I will be blameless, innocent of great transgression.
May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart
be pleasing in your sight, Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.
*All scripture references in this post are from the 2011 NIV.