“For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.” Romans 1:16
Last fall I had the incredible opportunity to travel in the footsteps of the Apostle Paul.
Traveling throughout many of the ancient cities to which Paul addressed his epistles, now our New Testament, our group started our adventure in the city of Athens. Boarding coach buses and airplanes, we made our way north along the coast, visiting the same cities and seeing some of the same roman temples Paul would have seen nearly 2,000 years ago.
Near the end of the trip, our tour group visited the island of Patmos, where it is believed that John wrote the book of Revelation. Together, we served each other communion and then split off to spend time in prayer overlooking the city, instructed by our hosts to ask God to speak to us.
Staring into the distance trying to look like I was deep in prayer, I listened.
Now, I’m not sure about you, but for me, I often find that my prayer time turns into an internal debate on whether I’m listening to myself process in my head or if God is in fact actually speaking to me. This moment, in this ancient, beautiful city, was no different.
So there I sat, feet from the site that tradition tells us John wrote a book of the Bible and all I can think about is whether or not I’m hearing my own voice.
I glanced around and everyone else seemed to be journaling furiously. Typical. Of course, I would be the one who missed out on God’s anointed message! One woman was even crying!
It was time to get serious, I thought to myself. You’re in GREECE, Stephanie! Why can’t you hear from God?
At that point, I closed my eyes in an attempt to quiet my mind, and when I opened them, the white washed buildings speckled in clumps along the ridgeline down to the bay caught my eye.
Then I heard it in my soul:
All in? What did that mean? And then it dawned on me…
Throughout the entire trip, what stood out to me the most was the vast distance Paul traveled in order to share the Gospel. Although our group had access to air conditioned coach buses and airplanes along the Grecian coast, Paul traveled the same distance by foot—a whopping 280 miles which would take 94 hours to hike according to Google.
Not only did Paul travel long distances by foot (and sailboat), he did so whilst being threatened, scorned, mocked, ignored and thrown in jail because he brought with him the message of Jesus.
Can you imagine that? That would be the equivalent of walking from Chicago to Cincinnati and getting beat up along the way.
Paul did this three times! In total, people estimate that Paul traveled over 10,000 miles in order to share the gospel—10,000! Nobody walks 10,000 miles risking their life for something they don’t wholeheartedly believe.
Paul was not ashamed of the Gospel because it changed his life. He didn’t care what people thought of him because he knew the power of God for salvation of the entire world was available to anyone who believed in the message he spoke.
Paul was “all in.” He was sold out. He knew what he believed and experienced and took action to share his transformation with the world.
People don’t invite other people into things if they don’t think will change their lives for the better. You don’t hear people say, “Buy this” or “try that” or “come with me” for things they are not excited about sharing.
Although I don’t believe we’ve all been given the same special calling as Paul had, Jesus did give his followers the same instructions to make disciples in Matthew 28:19.
What would it look like if we were “all in”? Would it change our demeanor or our investment in wanting to share God’s message of hope with one another?
After returning from my trip, not a week after, I found myself in a situation with a stranger that I knew God was nudging me to talk to about faith. After asking him about his day and his job he opened up, without my prompting, about being a year sober and how proud he was of himself. The conversation quickly turned to faith and he shared that he had grown up in the Mormon Church but considered himself only somewhat spiritual today. I worked to encourage him and asked more questions, and wouldn’t you know that “hope” came up as a topic.
At the end of our conversation, I explained where I received my hope—in Jesus Christ—and I invited him to church…and he was receptive! It’s amazing what God will do in people’s hearts when we’re willing to obey and take a risk to say hello and see where the conversation goes.
What would it look like for you to be “all in”? Who is God nudging you to talk to and share where you receive your hope?
Have peace in knowing that the Gospel has changed your life and that that is something worth inviting others into!