Having a missionary heart

by Narelle Atkins

He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.” (Mark 16:15)

According to the Gospel of Mark, this is one of the last things Jesus said to His disciples before He ascended into heaven. The Gospel of Matthew also records The Great Commission (Matthew 28:16-20).

We are commanded by Jesus to preach the gospel to the whole world and share the good news about Jesus bringing salvation to the world through His death and resurrection. This was a new way of thinking for the disciples. They understood that the Israelites were God’s chosen people and the focus in the Scriptures (Old Testament) had been on God working out His purposes and plan for salvation through His covenant with Abraham and his descendents.

The ministry to the Gentiles (non-Jews) really kicked off after Jesus ascended into heaven. The early missionary activities of the apostles are recorded in the book of Acts. In Acts we learn about Paul’s mission to preach the gospel to the Gentiles.

When I was younger I remember being quite intimidated by The Great Commission. How did this command impact the decisions I made? Did this mean I should dedicate my life to doing God’s work? And what would this look like? I had not felt called to be a missionary overseas or work for a Christian organisation. Was I selfish for wanting to live a so-called normal life as a wife and mother or should I have higher aspirations?

God created us with unique talents and abilities that we can use to bring Him glory. The body of Christ is made up of diverse people who work together to enable the gospel to be preached to all nations.

Whether we are serving on the front line as a missionary or playing a supporting role behind the scenes, we can all help in some way to reach people with the gospel message. And we can build relationships with those around us in our own mission field at home.

I can now see how my ‘missionary heart’ is revealed in many ways, including Bible studies, blogging and my Christian fiction writing. How is your ‘missionary heart’ revealed? What can you do to further the work of the gospel in our world?

The race for an eternal prize

by Narelle Atkins

On Monday this week, talk in the Australian media included commentaries discussing why the Australian Olympic team had only won 1 gold medal. (They have won 12 silver and 7 bronze). The Aussies won 14 gold in 2008 and 17 gold in 2004. Expectations are high that the Aussie team will bring home a large number of gold medals.

Aussie swimmer James Magnuson came one hundredth of a second away from winning gold in the Mens 100m freestyle swimming final. Heartbreakingly close to a gold medal but not close enough. Winning an Olympic silver medal is an outstanding achievement and I offer my congratulations to all the competitors who have given their best and won medals at the London Games.

Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians in Greece was written around 55 A.D. Chapter nine includes a sporting analogy the people of Corinth could identify with because their cultural heritage included the Ancient Olympic Games. The Ancient Olympics were believed to have been held for the first time in 776 BC and continued for centuries before being abolished in 393 A.D. by Emperor Theodosius who banned pagan cults. The Ancient Olympics were linked to religious festivals for the Greek god Zeus, the ruler of Olympus.

1 Corinthians 9:24-27: Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.  

Paul uses the analogy of a runner to explain self discipline in the Christian life. Althletes undergo years of rigorous training to prepare for the Olympic Games. They make sacrifices in order to focus on achieving their Olympic dream. And unless there is a tie, only one winner will receive the prized gold medal. Four years later athletes will compete in a new race for gold. New champions will arise and previous world records will be broken as athletes strive for excellence in their chosen sport.

Paul encourages us to have purpose in the way we live our life and to look forward to receiving the prize of eternal life. There is no heartbreaking second place because we all have the opportunity to receive the eternal prize. But Paul does caution us to be aware that we can disqualify ourselves if we don’t run the race to the end and have faith in Jesus Christ as our Lord and Saviour. Will you finish the race and receive the crown that will last forever?

Who will win the crown?

by Narelle Atkins

I’m a tennis fan and I’ve been following Wimbledon. Due to the time differences between Australia and the UK, I haven’t been able to stay up late and watch many matches. I woke on Tuesday morning to learn that the top seeded ladies player, Maria Sharapova, had been knocked out overnight and I was happy to hear my one of my favourite players, Roger Federer, had won his fourth round match.

Since the number two seeded player, Rafael Nadal, was defeated in the men’s second round, I’m wondering who will make it through to the singles final of both the men and women’s tournaments. This year the finals will not be a battle between the world’s number one and number two players, who are statistically the most likely players to reach the final. Who will finish the race and claim the Wimbledon crown?

In 2 Timothy 4 the apostle Paul writes to Timothy, knowing the end of his life is near.

2 Timothy 4:7-8: I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that day – and not only me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.

Paul uses the analogy of an athlete when he considers his Christian journey. Unlike the tennis players who strive to win the Grand Slam, Paul’s mission was to spread the gospel to the Gentiles and bring people to Christ. Paul defended the Christian faith and stood firm despite fierce opposition and stints in jail. He was martyred for his faith not long after writing his second letter to Timothy.

At Wimbledon there can only be one winner in each of the tournaments who will be crowned the champion. Paul uses a sporting metaphor and tells us there is a ‘crown of righteousness’ waiting for him and those of us who finish the race and keep the faith. We have this to look forward to as we struggle like Paul to fight the good fight. Will you be awarded a crown of righteousness on the day when Christ returns?