There is a biblical story set in Samaria, the capital city of Israel, during a time when it was surrounded by a foreign army. The siege dragged on for months, and food prices behind the city walls had skyrocketed. People were dying of starvation. Some of the Israelites resorted to cannibalism in order to survive the famine. The crisis had reached its tipping point, and death was certain, either from hunger inside the city or from the sword and spear outside.
God, however, did a miracle. He caused the besieging armies surrounding Samaria “to hear a sound of chariots and a sound of horses, even the sound of a great army” (2 Kings 7:6). They surmised that the king of Israel had hired the Hittites and Egyptians to attack them and deliver Samaria, and they subsequently fled in terror at twilight, leaving everything behind.
It so happened that at that same time there were four Israelite lepers sitting right inside the gate of Samaria. Being lepers, they were not wanted inside or outside the city. But they, too, were dying of starvation. So they had a discussion among themselves, weighing the risks of staying inside the city versus going outside. They reasoned that it was worth the risk to go outside where there was at least a chance they’d survive, whereas in the city they would surely soon be dead.
So that very evening they ventured outside the gate, and they quickly discovered the empty camps of Israel’s enemies. Giddy over this revelation, they first enjoyed a feast among themselves. Then they rummaged through abandoned tents, confiscating silver, gold and clothing, which they subsequently hid for themselves.
It dawned on them, however, that while they were feasting and hoarding spoil, just over the wall their fellow Israelites were still starving. And so they said to each other, “We are not doing right. This day is a day of good news, but we are keeping silent; if we wait until morning light, punishment will overtake us. Now therefore come, let us go and tell the king’s household” (2 Kings 7:9). And that is what they did.
This story has application to all of us who are enjoying the blessings that the gospel has provided us in Christ. We were like the four dying lepers, but God did a miracle for us. Our lives have been changed and our future is bright. But those blessings are available to everyone. This is truly “a day of good news.” If we keep silent, people might die who otherwise could live.
When the four lepers initially shared their good news with the captives behind Samaria’s walls, it was met with skepticism. Similarly, not everyone believes when we tell them the good news that God will forgive anyone who will repent and believe in the Lord Jesus. But even if they do not believe, at least our consciences are clear once we’ve told them the truth. Thankfully, some do believe, and they join our feast!
As those who believe the gospel, we have an obligation to not only share it, but support those whom God has given unique callings and opportunities to share it. Paul wrote to the Philippian Christians:
I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always offering prayer with joy in my every prayer for you all, in view of your participation in the gospel from the first day until now (Phil. 1:3-5).
The Philippians “participated in the gospel” not only by believing it, but by supporting it through the ministry of the apostle Paul:
But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly, that now at last you have revived your concern for me; indeed, you were concerned before, but you lacked opportunity…. Nevertheless, you have done well to share with me in my affliction.
You yourselves also know, Philippians, that at the first preaching of the gospel, after I left Macedonia, no church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving but you alone; for even in Thessalonica you sent a gift more than once for my needs. Not that I seek the gift itself, but I seek for the profit which increases to your account. But I have received everything in full and have an abundance; I am amply supplied, having received from Epaphroditus what you have sent, a fragrant aroma, an acceptable sacrifice, well-pleasing to God. And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus (Phil. 4:10, 14-19).
What a blessing it was for the Philippian believers to have the chance, via their support of the apostle Paul, to help spread the good news that had saved them. And what a tragedy it was that some other churches apparently didn’t seize that opportunity. Paul believed their sacrifices would result in “profit which increases to [their] account,” another way of saying that they had laid up treasure in heaven by their sacrifices. He also believed that, because they had “sought first the kingdom,” God would “supply all [their] needs.” It has been well said that, unless we imitate Philippians 4:14-18, we have no right to claim Philippians 4:19.
If we are honest with ourselves, there is good reason to doubt the salvation of those who have no interest in sharing the gospel or supporting those who are spreading it. If such people are saved, they, in the words of an elderly Haitian pastor I once heard preach, “need to be more saved”!
If you know anything about Heaven’s Family, you know that the gospel is right at the center of everything we do. When folks criticize us, saying we are “just a humanitarian agency,” it shows they don’t know us very well. They should hear Dan Steward, who directs our Micro-Loan Ministry, preach the gospel at one of his small business training sessions in Africa or Asia. Or they should sit in on one of our “God’s Love Groups,” consisting of prospering, small-stake African farmers who are applying what they learn from our Farming God’s Way Ministry, a ministry that starts with repentance and faith toward Jesus Christ and that results in a harvest, not only of corn and beans, but of souls. Or they should follow one of our indigenous prison chaplains or church-planting missionaries in China, Cuba or Myanmar for a week. Or they should read my 500-page book, The Disciple-Making Minister, which has been translated into more than 30 languages and distributed to tens of thousands of pastors around the world. It is full of the gospel of Jesus Christ, and it helps equip Christian leaders to be faithful to that gospel.
Heaven’s Family consists of 20 ministries that are all focused on one common mission: to advance Jesus’ kingdom. In 2018, we’ve decided to group our 20 ministries into three subcategories that are each based on Paul’s list of the three things “that will remain,” namely faith, hope and love.
This month, we focus on our “Faith Ministries,” those seven that are most focused on evangelism and discipleship: Books for Discipleship, Farming God’s Way, National Missionaries, Persecuted Christians, Prison & Rehab, Strategic Bibles, and Unreached People Groups. Gifts to our Faith Campaign will be divided between all seven of these ministries, multiplying your impact to support the spread of the gospel. This is an exciting opportunity for you to “participate in the gospel” and lay up “treasure in heaven” by helping to share the Good News that has so changed your life.
So let me encourage you to yield to the “unction to function”! You’ve been blessed, so be a blessing! —David