The gospel is undefeatable.
I was reminded of this truth over the weekend. After I finished my last final exam for the semester, I made my way back to Tennessee as a surprise for my former students. Each year, our college ministry holds a mystery trip in honor of the graduating seniors. The students dress up in formal wear and go they know not where.
This year, I was part of the mystery.
And for good reason. This group of graduating seniors was the last class I lead in ministry before moving to Africa. They were my final students. For them, my serving as guest speaker was a fitting end to their four years. And for myself, it was the last page in a chapter of ministry.
As I stood up in front of the room, I looked around at the ones with whom I shared life. They were familiar faces in a room of people I did not know. Now, they were departing, spreading out, quite literally, across the globe. Some plan to continue school; others plan to start a career; and several leave soon for foreign lands.
We rehearsed stories that made us laugh, and we thought back to times that made us cry. It was truly a testimony to the power of the gospel. For, it is the gospel that brings together a church. It is the gospel that takes those who were once not a people and makes them God’s people. And once a people, it is the power of the gospel that keeps that community, that strengthens that community, and that causes it to stand.
That gospel is undefeatable.
I watched over the years as circumstances tried to destroy that community. Sometimes it was internal issues, disagreements theological or otherwise. At other moments, it was outside forces, the death of a parent or the utter chaos of natural disaster. But in those moments, the things that sought to destroy God’s people did nothing more than prove just how powerful the gospel really is. In times when people should divide, they would unite. When life tore people down, others would wrap their arms around them and help them stand.
Instead of division and destruction, I witnessed guidance and growth. I watched the gospel transform the lives of these students. I watched as the gospel compelled them forward, feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, and sharing the good news that first changed them. It was the power of the gospel at work every step of the way.
Now, I was watching them leave.
My first reaction was one of concern, like a parent afraid of children stepping out of the nest. I know the safety that great church community provides for those students. My fear was, and still is, that they will not find another community like the one they are leaving. It would break my heart to see them wander without the essential lifeline of the body of Christ. That is a dangerous road that will inevitably cripple any believer.
Yet, as I spoke to those students, admonishing them to stay the course, a realization occurred. The gospel is undefeatable.
God, in his great kingdom purpose, takes the one group and multiplies it out over the globe. These students, having tasted of the goodness of the gospel, having lived in the community it births, now push that light into dark corners.
And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven (Matt 6:18-19, ESV).