Paul writes to followers of Jesus as an apostle - someone sent on a specific task, with a message to deliver. He is not just sent by anyone - he is an apostle of Jesus - sent by the Lord of Lords! It is not his choice, nor the choice of others - it is the plan of God. He is sent with a message to people far and wide, and in that context he writes effectively to us.
Paul writes that he is thankful. In fact he thanks God whenever he prays for the followers of Jesus. He is thankful because he has heard - heard of their faith in Jesus and their love for all God's people. He has heard that you form a 'new community', a people who look out for each other. Even through hard times and lockdowns you have learnt to hold together, to be church ... all because you are rooted in Jesus.
Yet this faith and love that he has heard is in you hasn't simply come from nowhere! No, it springs up, it comes from storehouses of hope. These storehouses are great silos, huge warehouses - bigger than the size of football pitches - set side by side, one after the other, each and everyone stacked high with hope! We know that human earthly stores and supply chains can fail - we have seen news of McDonalds running out of milk shakes, Nandos running low on chicken! But God's storehouses of hope will not fail - they are not stored on earth but in the heavenlies, and there is plentiful supply ... always at the ready to enable faith and love to spring up.
This enabling of faith and love happens through people bearing the good news - the good news of Jesus, i.e. the very message that Paul as an apostle is sent to give. When that message is given and it is heard, when it lands and fuses with someone's life and heart ... then the message bears fruit, and that fruit is faith in Jesus and love that comes from Jesus.
This is God's order: People are sent, they take the message of the good news, and that message connects people to God's incredible store of hope. That connection produces something, it bears fruit - and faith & love spring up.
Then something further happens: that same faith and love enables people, fuelling and compelling them to themselves carry the same good news message. Hence the key question for us:
Key Qn: [OUT] Who are you carrying the good news message to?
Challenge: Relay the message to one person in the next couple of weeks
It is an important question, because in the purposes of God the plan is to take the message out to the whole world!
Remember for yourself who you learned the good news from. For some of us it will be from friends at university, for some maybe their parents, or from youth group or youth leaders. For others it might be the pastor at church, still others people in the church. All these people were faithful bearers of the gospel message. And now the message is in your hands to pass on - hence the challenge above!
Meeting the challenge might involve just a sentence or two, perhaps explaining how through the tough months of pandemic you have held steady through your faith in Jesus, and encouraging your friend that they can discover the same certainty too.
A few weeks back I was at a garden party, and talked with the host about the pandemic experience. I mentioned how many were re-evaluating, discovering new opportunities. They explained that they felt 'stuck', and couldn't seem to believe there were new horizons. I encouraged her that many probably had the same feeling, and yet God has so much more for each of us, and therefore for her too. I could see the cogs going round in the thinking pause that followed, and then the conversation moved on. That was my bit for the day, my version of meeting the above challenge. Let us learn to go with these brief moments of sharing the good news, and then trust God for another opportunity on some other day.
Each and every one of us can do that ... because of the faith and love in Jesus that we have, faith and love that springs up from God's storehouses of hope.
And remember that God has great storehouses of hope in the heavenlies! Feeling bashed by the pandemic? Re-connect with God's stores of hope. Let them produce fruit in you, and be empowered and commissioned to share it with others.