As Christians we are passionate about good news – or we should be. That's what the 'gospel' is, after all. Jesus Christ brings hope, joy and peace in a world that appears starved of it.
I have been encouraged to see that there are good news stories being reported amid the bleaker ones that often dominate the headlines. There are good things happening across the world and they should be talked about and celebrated. Here are three uplifting stories that caught my eye and inspired me to reflect on aspects of the gospel.
It freely gives
School teacher Kimberly Bermudez was sitting next to a fellow passenger on a flight and talked about the challenges of her job. Many of her students came from low-income families and some were homeless, arriving at school hungry. Her seatmate said that his company donated to schools like hers. She welcome this and revealed that the teachers at the school would give their own money to help meet the families' needs. A man sitting behind her with a baby on his lap tapped Kimberly on the shoulder and gave her more than $100. More and more people came forward on the plane to give. When one person shares their story, it can create a ripple effect.
We all love to receive gifts. However, when someone goes above and beyond to bless us, it can take us by surprise and we may not know how we could ever thank them or repay them enough. The beauty of the gospel is that we haven't deserved the free gift of unmerited grace and being welcomed into a right relationship with God. There's nothing we can do to earn our way into God's favour. Jesus giving himself freely for us at the great cost of his own life is central to understanding why the cross is good news for us.
How often do we walk past the homeless person on the street, avoiding eye-contact or perhaps giving a few pence here and there? Every single person is made in the image of God. In response to the grace God has freely given us, we should do all that we can to help those in need and go the extra mile. Businessman James Minns did just that by offering a job on the spot to 25-year-old homeless man Ryan Davidson. Ryan said: 'It has opened my eyes to how generous and kind people can be. I've never met anyone like James – he has changed my life completely.'
Life-changing moments stick with us. Being diagnosed with cancer at 19, studying at university and becoming a parent have been big life changes for me. However, nothing compares to the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. This has been the biggest change in my life and like any life change, I want to share it with people. As Ryan's life was profoundly changed by the act of kindness shown to him, so our lives can be completely changed through an encounter with the risen Christ.
After his car broke down, Walter Carr walked 20 miles in the night to make sure he arrived to his new job on time. A police officer en route who was impressed by Walter's determination took him to get some breakfast before taking him to start his shift.The chief executive of the company was so impressed he travelled from Tennessee to Alabama to meet his new employee and then gave him his own car. This is an inspiring story of dedication; Walter's values shaped his determination to make it to work, not to mention his grit and experience of rebuilding a life after his home in New Orleans was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina. Walter said: 'I want people to know this – no matter what the challenge is, you can break through the challenge. Nothing is impossible unless you make it impossible.'
A customer of the moving firm where Walter works said: 'I can't imagine how many times on that lonely walk... in the middle of the night did he want to turn back. How many times did he wonder if this was the best idea?'
How often on the journey of faith are we tempted to turn back when things get dark, difficult and draining? It's in these very moments that we need to look beyond ourselves. We need to run with perseverance in the faith and fix our eyes on Jesus who endured the cross and opposition from sinners so that we would not grow weary and lose heart (Hebrews 12:1-2). Nothing can separate us from God and with this confidence we can persevere, knowing that through whatever trials we face he is with us.