Last summer one of my closest friends from high school passed away after battling cancer. If you’ve been following this blog for a while, you may recall a post I wrote about her last days called “Christians Never Have to Say Goodbye.”
I couldn’t help thinking about Kristi and her family as I heard Beth Moore share the final point of her ADVANCE acrostic:
E– Everything is redeemed if it serves the gospel
Beth’s main point was that we have the choice to use our hardships to advance the gospel and spread God’s kingdom on earth. I watched Kristi’s husband do this over the course of her brutal cancer treatments and her last days before going home to heaven. His regular posts on Caring Bridge not only updated friends and family about Kristi’s health condition, they also shared his faith journey with authenticity and boldness. It was impossible to read through a post without being pointed to the person of Jesus and to be reminded that true hope is found only in Him.
My friend’s husband exemplifies the idea of submitting something awful for the sake of the gospel. In the past year he has continued to write about his journey as he’s sorted through the grief of losing his wife and raising their four kids. He doesn’t sugar coat life as a single parent with sunny platitudes, but he does share the hope he continues to find through faith in Jesus. Countless lives around the globe continue to be impacted by the truth he shares.
The Apostle Paul did something similar throughout his ministry. He took hardships he endured and used them to advance the gospel. Rather than focusing only on his “target audience,” he viewed anyone in his path as a perfect candidate for hearing the good news of Jesus. Even his guards and fellow inmates in prison benefitted from being near him. He rejoiced at the opportunity to share with these captive audiences.
“Now I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that what has happened to me has actually served to advance the gospel. As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ” (Philippians 1:12-13).
In some cases, Paul’s faith was so evident in the midst of hardships that others were drawn to him even when he wasn’t focusing on them specifically:
“After they had been severely flogged, they were thrown into prison, and the jailer was commanded to guard them carefully. When he received these orders, he put them in the inner cell and fastened their feet in the stocks.
About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them. Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. At once all the prison doors flew open, and everyone’s chains came loose. The jailer woke up, and when he saw the prison doors open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself because he thought the prisoners had escaped. But Paul shouted, ‘Don’t harm yourself! We are all here!’
The jailer called for lights, rushed in and fell trembling before Paul and Silas. He then brought them out and asked, ‘Sirs, what must I do to be saved?’
They replied, ‘Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household.’ Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all the others in his house. At that hour of the night the jailer took them and washed their wounds; then immediately he and all his household were baptized. The jailer brought them into his house and set a meal before them; he was filled with joy because he had come to believe in God—he and his whole household” (Acts 16:23-34).
Here are few thoughts based on these passages and Beth Moore’s teaching:
-We don’t always get to pick our circumstances, but we can choose how to respond to them
-We can trust God in the midst of a hardship and ask Him to reveal Himself and use it to advance His kingdom
-We can’t put boundaries around with whom, where or when we share the gospel; our “target audience” is anyone God puts in our path.
-When our focus is on God and we spend time with Him, our faith will naturally overflow to impact others
-It is biblical and honoring to God when we focus on Him in the midst of our hardships; this pleases Him and gives hope to others
I’m aware that these things are easy to write about, but much more challenging to put into practice. Still, what do you have to lose by praying a simple prayer like this: “God, use the hardship I’m facing right now to advance the gospel”? Ask God to draw your attention to the ways He’s inviting you to advance the gospel in the midst of your difficulties.
Writing about Beth Moore’s teaching from the Living Proof Live event I attended has made it sink in so much more. I hope it’s been a blessing in your life and has inspired you while giving you practical tools to advance the gospel.
Here is the acrostic in its entirety:
A- A kingdom is coming
D- Dare to advance it
V- Vie fiercely in prayer
A- Add traction to your action
N- Never take a “no” from the devil
C- Cease the policing and the pacing
E- Everything is redeemed if it serves the gospel
*Special note to those planning to join Focused Living at CPC this fall: If you enjoyed reading about Paul and Silas in the Acts passage above, you are going to love our first study this fall on 1 & 2 Thessalonians by Beth Moore called Children of the Day.
If you’d like a great example of someone who is using his hardship to serve the gospel, visit Kristi’s husband’s blog at the link below.
If you’re in the midst of a hardship right now, click on the link and be encouraged by Casting Crowns’ song “Praise You in the Storm”