The early church had it pretty rough from the outset. They were opposed by Jewish religious leaders, confronted by pagans and persecuted by Rome. Yet as we read through the early chapters of Acts they seemed highly motivated to share the message of the cross with others. Prison, persecution, even being driven from Jerusalem didn’t seem to dampen their spirits in the least. If anything, they seemed to grow more bold.
While I was sitting here reading I kept asking myself, “I wish I knew what motivated them? I wish I understood how to make the fire of evangelism burn that hot in today’s society.” Sadly, I think I know the answer, but it troubles me at a very personal level. They believed the message of the gospel! It wasn’t an intellectual ascent to an ideology or doctrine, it was a commitment to a man, the Son of God – Jesus Christ. My fire doesn’t burn as brightly because I am not as nearly committed.
The story of Abraham and Isaac illustrate this simple principle better than any other lesson I know (Genesis 22). To paraphrase; God asks Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac. Abraham agrees and is only moments from killing his own son when God stops him and says, “I have seen enough.” God didn’t want Isaac, he wanted Abraham. The church at Macedonia demonstrated this same spirit, who “in their extreme poverty overflowed in a wealth of generosity… and this they did, not as expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord, and then by the will of God to us” (2 Corinthians 8:2, 5). How could poor, persecuted Christians give so willingly, they had already surrendered self – the rest was easy.
If we truly desire to motivate the next generation of Christian servants then we must inspire them to love Jesus, to surrender their own selfish will and ambition and give themselves first to the Lord. To do that effectively we MUST model that behavior in our own lives.