While we were living in England, I read in the local newspaper of a couple who
made a wonderful discovery. On their back doorstep they had kept a vase for
their umbrellas. Although it appeared to be of Oriental origin, to them it
seemed of no real value.
One day a visitor to their home took a particular interest in that well-used
urn. He then asked a strange question, "May I borrow this vase for a few days?"
Surprised at such an unexpected request, they nonetheless agreed.
He returned two days later with incredible news. The vase
was a Chinese work of art dating back to the Ming dynasty, valued at more than
100,000 pounds British sterling! I wasnt surprised to learn that the couple
immediately moved their treasure indoors and discontinued the practice of using
it to store damp umbrellas. They now realized its true value.
When I read that story, I reflected on the gospel of Jesus Christ and how it
often is treated in the Western world. Unfortunately, many professed Christians
view it as a routine piece of information. Too many believers treat the good
news as no news, taking a ho-hum attitude toward the incredible declaration
that God loved us so much that He gave His Son as a sacrifice for our sin.
Although both secularism and non-Christian worldviews work to impede the spread
of the gospel, apathy has become the biggest enemy of all.
The diary of Andrew Fuller, 18th century Baptist pastor and missiologist,
passionately reveals how he was flooded with emotion and commitment when he
first grasped the concept of Gods grace: "I was overcome with joy and
transport. I shed, I suppose, thousands of tears as I walked along and seemed
to feel myself as it were in a new world." No wonder it was Fuller who helped
to lead the modern mission movement. When William Carey suggested the
organization of an international Baptist mission society, he ran up against a
stone wall at the Northampton Baptist Association meeting in England in 1792.
Fuller stepped in with encouragement, advising Carey to ignore the apathy of
other pastors and to begin the Particular Baptist Missionary Society which was
dedicated to world evangelism. It was also Fuller who gave the first
sacrificial financial gift as start-up funds for that group. And it was Fuller
who pledged to pray regularly for Carey and who gave generously of himself by
promoting missions, preaching the gospel and recruiting missionaries for the
cause of Christ.
The gospel that Andrew Fuller believed in was the gospel of Gods undying
love and compassion for a lost and needy world. To Fuller it was genuinely good
news, because without the knowledge of Jesus Christ, His atoning cross and
triumphant resurrection, people would be lost forever. No wonder that he wept
over the truth of Gods grace and the wonder of its application to himself
personally. It was a message of salvation that one could ignore only at great
peril. And once a person came to trust in the Savior, the gospel became such
good news that people could not keep it to themselves. It was news that needed
to be shared.
Is there room for apathy in being counted a steward of such a wonderful
message? Absolutely not. For some professed followers of Jesus who may at times
find themselves indifferent toward the gospel, it is time to recognize afresh
its true value. Like the people in the tale of the vase, lets treat the gospel
like the treasure it is!
Phil Roberts provides insights into theology and spirituality in todays
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