by William B. Effler
Good News Helps" is a new column for you and us. It is a column dedicated to lighting the fire for evangelism in our pulpits in practical and proven ways. Each month, readers will find practical preaching and instructional encouragement for the ministry of evangelism. This month "Good News Helps" looks at the coming of the Good News in Luke's Christmas account. Luke tells us the coming of the Good News was unexpected, immediate, recognizable, and ongoing. The same is true today.
When good news comes to a person it is often unexpected. Luke tells us the appearance of the angels and the good news they were carrying came "suddenly" (v. 9). (Question: Am I living at a pace of life, which, if good news came to me "suddenly," would allow me to change directions as the shepherds did?)
Luke also tells us the message of good news was immediate. Working people, fearful people, as were the shepherds, don't need to hear that help is coming later in the evening or at the end of the week. People living with life and death decisions need good news now. People living between a biopsy and the lab report want to hear the results now. Unemployed people, having interviewed for a possible job and waiting to hear the results of the interview, want to hear now. The angels said, "Today (not tomorrow)...the Messiah has come" (v. 11). A common failing of many of us is we put off words of blessing until tomorrow when we should have spoken them today. (Question: Can I discipline myself to take the necessary time to be a messenger of hope today when the opportunity presents itself?)
Luke records that the shepherds were told they would be able to recognize the baby Jesus (v. 12). In addition to hearing good news, people need to know how they can be sure that God's blessing is for real. The angels offered very clear directions so the shepherds will know that they have found the Messiah (v. 12). (Question: When bringing the good news to a person in need, what practical signpost might I offer that would assure them that God is moving in their life?)
Lastly, Luke tells us in verses 17-20, that the shepherds told everyone what had happened (v. 17); people were astonished at the shepherds' story (v. 18); Mary treasured these reports in her heart, and the shepherds went back to work praising God (v. 20).
Key Lesson: The acid test of the effectiveness of an evangelists is that those who have heard and received the good news remember the message, long after the messenger is gone. The message of the Good News will have ongoing life. Today's flashy communicators may be able to draw a crowd, but will they build a community that has staying power?
William B. Effler is author of Turning the Church Inside Out