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Inspiration for Today’s Devotional: “Rock Solid Friendship”

Pinkie Pie, in a desperate attempt to get her older sister to move to Ponyville and be closer to her, keys in on the fact that Maud Pie is looking for friends to make and tries to pair her with Starlight Glimmer. She almost constantly interjects between the two in order to get them to pair up and do more together in hopes of kindling friendship, and always through rather big, vocal, and boisterous actions. The problem she failed to realize was that Maud and Starlight were actually hitting it off all on their own, and that her attempts to get them closer together were disrupting their connection and were actually driving a wedge in between them. She ended up nearly sabotaging the very friendship she was trying to encourage to form.

As I’ve said in previous messages, there’s no “one right way” to perform a ministry or share the Gospel. Some people are better suited to doing certain things than others, but, more importantly, some people respond to certain things better than others. Back in college, I got more of a Gospel message hanging around with the people at Chi Alpha Campus Ministries not doing much other than lounging and talking than I did from attending the people preaching hellfire and damnation at the speaker’s circle. I dare say the opposite would be true for at least some people, and perhaps even in a different point of my own life, but that goes part in parcel with “preaching the Good News to all people”–acknowledging that all people are different and times and places change.

Even in the Bible, different people required different approaches. Some people changed their lives and embraced the Good News as a result of a miracle, such as Paul’s jailer (Acts 16:25-34) and Peter (Luke 5:1-11). Others did so as a result of being brought up in the faith by a devout family member, such as Timothy (2 Timothy 1:5). Some came to Jesus as a result of being preached to in a crowd, like we normally think of today, such as the crowd in Jerusalem in the first Christian Pentecost (Acts 2:40-41). Others only needed to have someone (Jesus Himself in this case) stop and acknowledge them, such as with Zacchaeus (Luke 19:1-10).

Yet while the dominant problem among American Christianity is not proclaiming the Gospel at all, the opposite problem, proclaiming the Gospel in only one way, can be just as bad. Even if someone commits to trying to share the Good News, they may fall into the trap of doing it in only one way or trying to be especially profound and persuasive, as many young adult Christians slip into. Like Pinkie Pie in this episode with her intent to get Maud and Starlight to become friends, they want to really drive home Jesus whenever there’s an opening as hard and fast as they can. As a result, they might end up sabotaging their efforts.

The biggest example of this I can think of is tragedy. Whether a Christian or a non-Christian, when tragedy strikes the feeling is often that God is far from you; perhaps even abandoned you. Now, for most Christians, the impulse at that point is to try and reach out to minister to that need. Yet often the temptation is to give some sort of Bible scripture or passage or inspirational story to show the working of God in the world for good in the midst of tragedy or how the one suffering should be happy that they didn’t suffer like another or that they need to “give it all to Jesus” to have misery taken from them. In other words, to try and find some way to “cure their problem” by offering this big, spiritual, powerful message to make the person suffering turn to Jesus on the spot.

The problem is that usually isn’t the right kind of Gospel to be preaching at that time. The Bible points it out in its oldest book: the book of Job. When Job had lost everything, his house, his wealth, his children, and his health, and finally couldn’t take any more and cried out in despair and misery, his friends stopped trying to just be there for him in his suffering and started saying: “Well Job, all you have to do is repent of your sins and God will restore you.”, even though Job had never sinned to begin with. During the whole exchange between them, his friends kept extolling the mercy of God, how he wasn’t neglectful of the suffering of people, and praising his might and justice. And yet…when God himself answered Job’s lament, he ended up reproving them and telling them to ask Job to pray for them, because in their earnestness to try and come up with a pat answer and solution about Job’s suffering they ended up accusing both him and God falsely; even though they meant to praise and proclaim the Lord the whole time (Job 42:7-9).

Usually the best thing to do when someone is in misery is to “weep with those who weep” (Romans 12:15), not try to explain suffering away or sound profound. That’s both artificial and not helpful.

Likewise, in many other situations, one has to give the right Gospel message. The Bible itself addresses how foolish it is to try and preach the Good News to someone while ignoring their physical needs (James 2:14-17). And while there are certainly cases of strangers bringing strangers to Christ, usually it doesn’t come out of someone just spitting John 3:16 in their face but doing something “Christ-like” first. Nothing tells a non-Christian how “fake” a Christian is than offering a pat, quick answer or handy passage and then no more when there’s an opportunity to minister to their needs. Conversion in the Bible often followed action. Even that first sermon that I mentioned earlier that Peter gave on Pentecost was preceded by crowds of people hearing the disciples who received the Holy Spirit speaking in their native languages simultaneously (Acts 2:1-13). I’m not saying that every Gospel share has to come with a miracle; the point I’m making is that “action-orientated preaching” tends to make people more apt to listen to spoken witnessing.

As Maud herself hinted at in this episode, what everyone wants more than anything is a sense of belonging and acceptance. People want to feel they have value and are valued by others. Simply hitting people with Bible verses, even profound ones, isn’t going to do that. You’d be surprised how precious it is of a thing to someone who is in despair or depression for someone to come along and simply wonder how they’re doing and show interest and concern that they’re even alive. Even if my problems were still right where they were before I met someone like that, I always felt better afterward.

On a final note, if proclaiming the Good News, always consider your motive. What is the real impetus behind your Gospel message? Genuine care and concern for the individual as a person, or wanting to make oneself feel better about “doing something for God”? Quite simply, no matter who you are, you’re going to listen to people that you feel genuinely care for you: Christian, Muslim, Jew, atheist, agnostic, pagan, or whatever. Pinkie Pie’s own attempts to persuade Maud in this episode were based off her desire to have Maud live closer; not to find someone for her older sister to connect to. In the same way, if sharing the Gospel doesn’t start with genuine love for someone else, it will be just as counter-productive.

My final note for this inspirational is to hold to the Gospel message and proclaim it to all nations. Just be on guard that your particular “translation” isn’t defeating its purpose.

Suggested Prayer: “Lord God, thank you for your Son, Lord Jesus Christ, and the example He gave with His life in how to reach people; by meeting them at their need rather than setting Himself higher and bidding them to build themselves up to reach them. As I commit myself to doing your Will today and pledge myself as available to you for the sake of the Gospel, please help me to always ‘speak the truth in love’ (Ephesians 4:15) and always minister to others with genuine love and affection; seeking their needs over my own. Gratefully in Jesus’ Name, Amen.”