In an evangelistic newsletter I recently received, one article’s author, Rich Robinson, wrote: “People often regard the messenger as the message.”
People. Often. Regard. The. Messenger. As. The. Message. Not only did that statement catch my attention, it convicted me anew and triggered some self-assessment. What kind of message am I sending when I share my message? When people hear and see me, what picture do they get of the Person I’m representing? What kind of portrait am I painting of Him? Is it one of beauty, compassion, kindness, patience, and longsuffering?
It's Good News! Really!
As a Christian, I am representing Christ. So what type of picture do I want people to have of Him? (Of Him, not of me?) Loving? Gentle? Meek? Compassionate? Merciful? True? All qualities He either demonstrated or applied to Himself. The message is called Good News, so shouldn’t we make it sound good, and better yet, act like it is!?
It's All About the Fruit
The fruit of the Spirit is a potpourri of nine components — Love. Joy. Peace. Longsuffering. Kindness. Goodness. Faithfulness. Gentleness. Self-control. And if you have the Spirit within you, you are a living vessel containing all of them. They don’t trickle into you one at a time. They are poured into you the moment you receive the Holy Spirit. And you don’t have to work or labor to “earn” them. They are the outwardly visible signs of the Holy Spirit residing and working within and on you.
How's Your Delivery?
Read over the list again. Write them down individually. Which one of the manifestations of the Spirit do you struggle displaying? Which one loses when your old, sinful self wins out and rises to the surface to be displayed? Maybe it depends upon the particular day and what’s going on in your life. One day you’re swimming in Joy and Peace, and the next day depression is creeping into your vessel and silencing that joy and peace. Things are going great in your life one day, which makes it SO MUCH EASIER to demonstrate faithfulness. Then the following day you get the worst news of your life, and faith just drowned and sank to the bottom of your vessel. Or it may be that kindness, patience, and self-control come easily to you, until you get stuck on a work project with the least amiable and most arrogant person in your department, whose behavior just happens to be threatening your job.
Actually, the Gospel isn’t my message; and frankly, it’s already offensive enough to many who don’t like hearing that they’re sinners, don’t like being told not to do something or live a certain way; don’t like hearing that something you do is actually dangerous for you; or don’t believe there is only one way to salvation, and that way is Jesus Christ, The Way, The Truth, and The Life. And that’s not my opinion; it’s His. I’m quoting Him when I say it, so, I guess when we have a problem with that, we need to take it up with Him, not the messenger.
But people do take it up with the messenger, and we need to expect that and be ready with an answer for it. Or be willing to listen patiently to the rebuttals that often come in response to the telling.
But the question is: Can I be uncompromising in my faith and in His truth without being pushy, nasty, or condescending? That’s got to be the goal. Since people are going to be convicted about the message anyway, I need to be firm in my conviction and sensitive to my actions and words when I’m giving it. I shouldn’t apologize for my faith, but I need to be extra careful not to act in a way that detracts from the message or gives people a reason to reject it.
Read through the Gospels and you will find Jesus frequently rebuking the religious authorities for their arrogance, and sneaky, loaded questions, and their twisting of God’s laws and intentions while remaining patient, compassionate, and merciful toward the masses of people who followed Him around, even when He knew many, if not most, of them followed Him trailed after Him just for the healing they could get out of Him. He had a message to give, and He didn’t let anything compromise that message.
What Kind of Messenger Are You?
So, how would you describe yourself as a messenger? Are you patient? Merciful? Gentle in speech? Or are you more of an abrupt messenger? Maybe manipulating or pushy in your attempts to get people to agree with you? Are you arrogant in your delivery? Do you show disgust or displeasure at a rejection of the message? Or a genuine disappointment? Are you heavy handed in your approach, or gentle and meek? Is your tone of voice loving and encouraging, or condescending or patronizing? Do you show respect and love for the person—someone with God’s image stamped on them—to whom you’re delivering the message?
Are you allowing the Holy Spirit to use you as a vessel to change another person’s heart, to draw them closer to Christ? Or are you stifling the Spirit’s work with your attitude and tone?
A lot of introspective questions to ask; questions that require much soul searching and prayer. Questions that may provide convicting answers and a follow-up request for forgiveness, from God and from the person with whom you shared the message.
Being a Better Messenger
I think most of us have some work to do in being better messengers. I know I do. As a teacher, (a trained one), my fault lies in thinking that everyone is supposed to listen devotedly and believe what I say. Teachers tend to get a little high-handed and bossy, with everyone. They often think they have all of the right answers and need to share them with everyone they meet. So I need to slow…down…and…tone…it…down. And ask questions. Show compassion. Listen more and speak less. Get to really know a person by listening to their hopes, dreams, fears, and heartaches. And remember where I once was in this journey, and the stinky cesspool from which Jesus has dragged me, sometimes kicking and screaming.
Can I get an “Amen!”? J
Next week I’ll give you some great questions to help you be an interesting (and challenging) messenger, an especially provocative one! If you don’t quite know where you are on this journey, the questions will be helpful for you to explore and answer. If you need more tools in your messenger toolbox, they’ll be good for that, too.
And if you have any tips to share with us on messenger giving, leave a comment for us to discuss and learn. We’re all in this journey together!
So, until next Monday, may your week be full of blessings that you receive and give, your heart be full of joy and thankfulness, and your days be filled with laughter. Build a little heaven in your life right now, and watch your heavenly garden grow!
When the eyes of the soul looking out meet the eyes of God looking in, heaven has begun right here on earth. ~ A. W. Tozer