The Gospel Perspective

One hundred years ago, Helen Howarth Lemmel wrote the famous hymn, “Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus,” which was inspired by a small tract entitled “Focused” by missionary Isabella Lilias Trotter.

In it, Trotter takes the reader on a journey extolling the beauty and power of Christ in a life focused on Him and His glory using illustrations of nature – burning glass that gathers the rays into an intensity that will kindle fire. This power of the souls’ focus on Jesus will dim the distractions, fears, and anything else that vies for our affections.

In Acts 9, Luke tells of Christ redirecting Paul away from persecuting Christians through a brilliant light, a voice from heaven, and finally blindness. Paul’s transformative encounter with Christ refocused his purpose from persecuting the church to proclaiming the Good News. This story inspires me on so many levels.

First, Paul wasted no time after his conversion to share the Gospel. Since he had been an opponent of Christ, breathing threats and murders against the church, he also knew he had a target on his back. However, this opposition did not dissuade him from advancing the Gospel. He desired to tell the story of Jesus – His death, burial, and resurrection – so that others would find redemption and grace to be forgiven.

From Paul’s perspective, every opposition and encounter with an unbeliever was an opportunity for a changed life, as Paul was so intimately aware of his own story. Paul knew that “to live is Christ and to die is gain.” (Phil 1:21) He counted his former life as rubbish compared to his new life in Christ. (Phil 3:8)

Imprisonment was not an impediment. Fear was not an obstacle. The burning desire within him focused his preaching like a laser. What effect does this perspective have? It brings the gospel message to the forefront while moving the focus away from the messenger. The preacher must decrease while Christ must increase. As proclaimers of the Good News, we must embrace smallness to proclaim the Gospel with power. Everything Paul does he does in light of the Gospel.

Paul redefined “success” to be the advancement of the Gospel, not personal fame. We see this in two ways. First, he was happy to let others preach the word; second, he was unconcerned though enemies attacked his ministry. I’m sure Paul had some irritation with those who proclaimed Christ to gain fame or notoriety or even to cause more suffering on Paul. Paul didn’t mind taking a back seat. Knowing that the Gospel was advancing, he rejoiced. (Phil 1:8)

How does the Gospel message change you and me today? Do the distractions of a successful career, a comfortable life, or a gospel that promises prosperity in this life dim the message of Jesus. As countless world missionaries can attest, bringing people to Jesus often involves the harsh realities of persecution, disease, hunger, and even death.

Sadly, many in modern American evangelicalism preach that Jesus wants his followers to be healthy and wealthy. After all, we are kids of the King! Where is the focus? On us! On material things! Let’s turn our eyes to Jesus so that despite the difficulties and suffering, Christ is magnified. We, as believers, are in this race together. As Paul set the example, let us also set the standard of those that come after us.

The Gospel will advance. We can be sure of it. Let this truth remove any fear and generate boldness so that others may also catch the same courage to proclaim His name throughout the earth!

~ Shan Norwood and his wife Rina have been members at LIFE Fellowship for seven years. Shan is a recent graduate of Gordon Conwell Seminary and holds degrees in Biblical Studies and Christian Thought. He serves as a LIFE University instructor and as a stepdad to Micah and Caleb Godsey.

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