preach the gospel
Week 31 is scheduled for study July 24-30, 2023. All of us have been called to preach the gospel, both in and out of the church. This is a universal responsibility for this dispensation.

Day 1

As you read about Paul’s efforts to preach the gospel, the Spirit may prompt you with thoughts or feelings. Write these promptings down, and make plans to act on them.

Acts 16-21 – The Spirit will guide me in my efforts to share the gospel.

It can be easy to begin to think that everything that happens in the scriptures is inspired action by the participants. This is not the case. Just because it is in the scriptures doesn’t mean that what happened was inspired. The events are considered by the writer who wrote the account to be noteworthy, for whatever reason. Take chapter 16 of Acts. Luke, the assumed author of the book, was not an Apostle. He just recorded the growth of the church as he experienced it. Luke made these comments in verses 6-9.

Now when they had gone throughout Phrygia and the region of Galatia, and were forbidden of the Holy Ghost to preach the word in Asia,

After they were come to Mysia, they assayed to go into Bithynia: but the Spirit suffered them not.

And they passing by Mysia came down to Troas.

And a vision appeared to Paul in the night; There stood a man of Macedonia, and prayed him, saying, Come over into Macedonia, and help us.

Verse 6 tells us that they were just working spreading the gospel the best way they knew how, but when they tried to plan on a trip to Asia the Spirit stopped them. This means they had to make other plans. We aren’t told that they were directed where else they were to go, but when they tried to go into Bithynia, the Spirit stopped them again. Finally, after arriving in Troas the Spirit sent Paul a dream of a man in Macedonia who asked them to come there to preach the gospel.

We are expected by the Lord to do what we think and feel is the right thing to do. If we need special guidance the Lord will send it. But until that comes, we are to do what our own judgment tells us is best. In many instances this is how we build the kingdom. When our heart is in the right place, we use our own judgment to decide what we should do. Some might choose to hold an open house in their ward, while someone else might focus on inviting those not of our faith to join us in our service projects. The options are almost endless, and the personalities involved are infinitely diverse. There is no one right way to do the Lord’s work.

Note that in the verses above these missionaries made their own plans and went to work. When they were headed in the wrong direction they were told by the Spirit not to do that thing. And when something specific was needed they were told to head a particular direction. The point here is that they were doing something, anything. The Spirit, as they say, can’t steer a parked car.

Day 2

As you read about Paul’s efforts to preach the gospel, the Spirit may prompt you with thoughts or feelings. Write these promptings down, and make plans to act on them.

Acts 16-21 – I can declare the gospel in all circumstances

I’m afraid I suffer from too narrow a vision of what it means to share the gospel. In my mind I need to be in a classroom or in a person’s home. That is where the gospel is shared. The manual points out that when Paul landed in prison one would think that then was a good time to keep your mouth shut. But Paul and Silas used this as an opportunity to convert their jailer. What they saw that many of us would not even think of was that this was the jailer’s usual place of business. Where else would they run into someone like this man, but at his place of business?

Anywhere we are may often be new to us, but normal for those we encounter in that place. Declaring the gospel message doesn’t always come in the form of formal lessons. Most of the time we are just sharing what we have experienced in our daily life with someone we have just met. Don’t others do that with us all the time? If we had a tough commute to where we were going, if our luggage got lost, we just spent longer than normal at the department of motor vehicles, or if we just found a great deal on something at a store, these things are topics we all discuss with strangers.

The point of talking to others about mundane and common things is that it is this act of sharing the common that makes us comfortable with each other. When we are comfortable with another person it becomes easier to share things that are special to us or to share things that make us happy. We all need to be aware that talking to others is an art form that requires practice. Small talk is difficult for some, and easy for others. When it comes to sharing what makes us happy that is easy for some and more difficult for others. The only way for us to make it a more comfortable experience is to put ourselves into the position of needing to do it more often.

Missionary work may be something we have to choose to learn how to do. In that case it becomes a deliberate choice we make to talk to someone about something that is important to us. But missionary work is also something that can be second nature, like sharing a review of that movie we saw that impressed us for whatever reason. We don’t usually weigh what we share that made us so happy when it comes to a movie or a good place to eat. So why are we so careful about sharing the experience we had as we served someone and we found great joy in that service? Why is what happened with our child or our friend that impressed our soul something we act embarrassed to share with others?

Once we learn that it is both natural and joy-producing to share with others what makes us happy, a whole world of opportunities opens to us. If it doesn’t come naturally to you then it will have to be learned by making deliberate choices to try it. When we see that being vulnerable in this way brings us joy, we will come to see that missionary work is not a burden to be avoided, but an opportunity to make friends and love others that enriches our life more than we can measure.

Day 3

As you read about Paul’s efforts to preach the gospel, the Spirit may prompt you with thoughts or feelings. Write these promptings down, and make plans to act on them.

Acts 17:16-34 – We are the offspring of God.

That we are all the offspring of God may have been something easier to accept in generations past. Back then people were often raised among their own kind and rarely, if ever, strayed from their own social circle. So to say that we are all children of God may have felt more natural. Now we face a worldly philosophy that does its level best to divide us from one another and make us feel separate and distinct, and often “better” than “those other people.” This popular and heavily pushed agenda makes it more difficult to simply accept that we are all one family with the same Father in Heaven.

I find it almost amusing that no one seems to have a problem with the notion that we all have Adam and Eve to be our first parents in mortality, yet we look at the diversity around us and wonder how those other people could have possibly come from the same parents. The scriptures mention in several places where the Lord changed the look or language of His children for one reason or another. Like everything in our religion, we must take it on faith that we are all part of one great whole.

I lived and worked at BYU-Hawaii for almost 16 years. If there is one lesson I learned well in that time it is that our strengths are increased through diversity. BYUH is one of the most ethnically diverse campuses in the world, yet there is an amazing amount of love and cooperation among all those nationalities. We used our differences to learn about ourselves, and to help us achieve better things. More than any place I have ever been (and my parents were in the military, so we traveled a lot) I have never seen more unity among people of diverse cultures and nationalities than at that school.

I was raised in a primarily Caucasian culture. We assumed that we were “special”, whatever that means. It wasn’t until I spent time at BYUH that my eyes were opened to just how special these people are from other cultures. We all have so much to offer one another in the form of cultures, customs, habits, expectations, faith, and ways of demonstrating love to one another. It was truly one of the best experiences of my life. Now I am grateful the Lord gave us such diversity. If we choose to embrace the differences in others, we will come to see that there is power in cooperative diversity. That is what makes the church so strong. We are able to believe and adopt the culture of Christ and rise above our ancestor’s local cultures that may have had practices that were more harmful than helpful. The key is to accept everyone as a fellow member of the family.

FHE/Personal Study

Acts 19:18-20 – The value of possessions

Everyone makes some form of sacrifice to join the Lord’s church. For some that sacrifice is very significant, and for others the change to the new religion is less impactful. Those in this second category will pay their price, but it comes later on in the form of trials. The point is that everyone has to pay a price sooner or later for adopting the covenants of salvation. Here are today’s verses.

18 And many that believed came, and confessed, and shewed their deeds.

19 Many of them also which used curious arts brought their books together, and burned them before all men: and they counted the price of them, and found it fifty thousand pieces of silver.

20 So mightily grew the word of God and prevailed.

Look at the price mentioned in verse 19. When Judas betrayed Jesus he was paid 30 pieces of silver. With that money the priests bought an entire field. These people took their books on divination, etc. and voluntarily burned them, because they were covenanting to live a different kind of life. The monetary cost of this change came to the tune of 50,000 pieces of silver. That is a massive sum of money.

Sometimes we see someone who may have been in a profession that is not compatible with the gospel of Christ who converts and has to give up their entire income to make their baptismal covenant. Have you ever considered the cost to those who are ministers of another faith? They have to start over again in life, often under very humble circumstances, since they don’t have any work experience outside of their old jobs as preachers. And what about those who worked as those in today’s verses in fields that are contrary to the things of God? Their whole life has to begin anew – new jobs, new friends, new beliefs, new customs, and new standards for behavior. Now that is a sacrifice worthy of note!

As I mentioned at the beginning of today’s lesson, all of us will have to make significant sacrifices of one sort or another at some point in our life as a disciple of Christ. None of us escape this necessity if we are to be successful in embracing our covenants. Every person’s sacrifice is tailored to their own needs for the salvation of their soul. What you have to go through is not what I have to go through. Some are tried later in life, others when young. The point is that all will be tested and will have to demonstrate their willingness to give their all to the Lord, no matter the cost. I have written about my personal experience and cost in an article entitled How Far Will You Go? I only hope that experience was the worst of what I will be asked to pass through. Sometimes we are asked repeatedly to sacrifice in the name of our obedience to God. Like I said, everyone’s experience is tailored by God for the welfare of their own soul.

Hopefully, if you have already experienced some of your own trials, you are more prone to be patient and empathetic with others as they are made to go through their own periods of trial and heartache. We can be a great support and source of comfort when we share with others what we have gone through for the sake of following Christ. No one should be made to feel that their personal suffering is their sole burden to bear. A big part of our baptismal covenant is to share our and others burdens so that no one has to go through life feeling alone.

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NT31-2023 – Called to Preach the Gospel