Thursday, June 28, 2012

Making the Gospel Paramount

Last Sunday one of our pastors gave a fantastic sermon on Paul's suffering in prison (Philippians 1:12-18). He asked whether we knew the difference between the words "paramount" and "tantamount."

I had to think about that for a second. I knew both of those words--had probably used them in a sentence before--but I wasn't sure I really knew the subtle difference between the two.

Thankfully, he enlightened us.

Paramount means the top, the pinnacle--over and above everything else.

Tantamount means that one thing is on equal footing with another.

Then came the challenge. "Do you make the gospel paramount to everything else in your life? Or is the gospel just on par with everything else?"

*gulp*

I wondered, do I really think about advancing the gospel as much as I think about other things? (Like what's for dinner?) Do I really do everything I do in order to advance the gospel? (Like teaching my students or being a mom to my daughters?) Or do I, sometimes, just think about "God stuff" every once in a while, making it equal to or on par with the rest of my life?

I had to admit that I might be in that "tantamount" camp more often than I'd like.

Paul's thinking was that no matter what hardship he suffered, no matter what his circumstances were, it all served a gospel purpose. This is Paul who was writing from prison, folks. Our suffering should be looked at as an opportunity rather than a hinderance. "For to live is Christ," right?

Sunday's sermon really came at a good time for me because I'm heading out on a missions trip today. Sure, I'm going to an amazing place--Italy!--and that's probably what I've focused on a little more than the purpose of our trip. I'll admit, my focus has, at times, been wrong. Thankfully, I was reminded on Sunday that the reason we're going to Italy is because of the gospel and only because of the gospel.

Do you know that only about 1% of Italians consider themselves evangelical Christians? That's a really, really small number of people. Don't get me wrong--a lot of Italians go to church and consider themselves religious, but a very small number have ever heard or understood that Jesus loves them and that He gave His life for them. Many don't want to hear that their "religion" isn't enough to save them--that only a relationship with Jesus will make a difference in their lives.

We're going for them. Because Italians need Jesus, too.

Today I will get on a plane with three other leaders and thirteen high school students from my church. We will certainly laugh, eat lots of gelato, and make new friends. It's going to be a great trip. But I'm not naive enough to think it's going to be all about the gelato.

Our trip is also going to be about serving others when it's 100 degrees outside. It's going to be about overcoming language barriers. It's going to be about getting our kids to focus on the Italian kids and getting the Italian kids to focus on Jesus, maybe even for the first time. It's going to be about doing things we might not be 100% thrilled to be doing, but doing it all for the sake of the gospel.

Because the gospel is paramount.

"What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice." Philippians 1:18
[I hope to check in here a couple of times over the next couple of weeks, if even to post a picture or two, but if I don't, don't worry. I'll be suffering for serving the Lord in Italy, and I'll tell you all about it when I get back.]


Shelly

7 comments:

  1. "Because Italians need Jesus, too." Oh, how I love this line! :) I can't wait to hear all about your trip, Shelly. Have a wonderful time, and I will pray that God blesses your trip by moving in your life and the life of those you serve!

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  2. Thinking of you and
    sending prayers for a
    memorable, soul-FULL
    trip for you and your
    group! I will miss you
    when I'm in Chicago,
    but look forward to
    meeting another time : )

    xo Suzanne

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  3. Praying for you as you go and serve and sweat in that heat.

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  4. Will be thinking and praying for you. Will look forward to reading or hearing about the ways God reveals/ed his goodness to you and the others on the trip and to the Italians you meet along the way. colette

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  5. Thanks for sharing Momma Wildman! Just what I needed right now for some refocus! Thinking and praying for you guys down south :)

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  6. Krump!! So good to hear from you! I think of you so often, praying that your time is fruitful. We are having an awesome time. Can't wait to trade stories!

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  7. Awesome blog post and awesome mission! I will be praying for you all as you serve Christ. I look forward to reading about your blessings! May God richly bless tour efforts!

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