“He (Jesus) said unto them, Go. . .”
A missions message prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
For The Twelve, “Go” became the manifesto governing their lives. They all had jobs, interests, and hobbies, but henceforth every concern yielded to, “Go.” The directive is the marching orders for all believers, the defining edict of our lives. We are not afforded the luxury of influencing only those people who happen to come our way. At some point we have to quit moving only in our daily routines. “Go” means we believers must leave our ruts to find lost sheep.
We have no right to sit idly by with folded arms, indifferent to the world’s woes. Don Hammer, former professor at Midwestern Seminary, on mission in a war-torn Asian country where Christians are persecuted, called home, saying, “It’s a 911 world out here and no one is answering the phone!” Jesus’ directive, “Go,” is His way of saying we need to be answering the phone. Christ-followers are supposed to be front-line emergency response units for humanity’s hurts and lostness.
Our church buildings are not dormitories for sleep nor primarily schools for learning nor hospitals for the sick. Above all else, they are barracks for training. We weld together not as blocks of ice to sit still, but as army units to go forth.
In “go” I’m living the adventure of a lifetime. For me it has become the heroic crusade, a noble, epic saga. I’m grateful God gave me a cause worth giving my life for, and He let me live on earth long enough to find it. Too few find it.
Most people, thinking superficially, believe they want comfort and ease. Much discontent in our lives is due to considering life shallowly. From our deepest, innermost essence a more meaningful voice cries out, trying to be heard. Ultimately, only a summons to heroism in missions can satisfy a Christian’s heart.
Shackleton, in trying to reach the South Pole, asked for volunteers to join him on a trip marked by polar ice, freezing blizzards, and deathly danger. He expected few responses, but was inundated. Many wanted in on his great adventure.
The same valiant desire to accomplish the heroic resides somewhere inside every believer, especially when it comes to Christ’s worldwide missions enterprise. God the Holy Spirit lives in each believer, ever calling us to undertake the gallant challenge of going forth. He may be forced to appeal from a depth of being where we have buried Him too deep to be heard, but He is calling nonetheless.
We asked one of our most gifted laymen to oversee our first Global Impact Celebration. He said no, but as he left our church, he recalled an incident from when he was about ten years old. His mom took him to a WMU meeting where a foreign missionary spoke. The boy was so moved that he had to run outside into the woods to cry at the foot of a tree. As the man drove from our church, after telling us no, he said God seemed to say, “Milton, what happened to that boy under the tree?” He was so overcome that he had to pull to the side of the road while he wept. Once he composed himself, he called our office and said he had changed his mind. He would gladly take charge of our GIC. Many others could tell a similar story. What happened to that softhearted person that used to live in your skin?
Sadly, many believers, taking their cue from unbelievers, live at a shallow level of existence. They wonder why life is boring or meaningless, yet give themselves to superficial pursuits. Believers, heed the Holy Spirit in our own breast. The heroic call, “Go,” can lift us out of a humdrum, mediocre existence.
Francis Xavier (1506-1552), one of Christianity’s most successful missionaries ever, was the Apostle to the Far East, including India, Malaysia, and Japan. He intended to launch an effort to take China for Christ, but died on the border. Though his mission tenure lasted barely twelve years, and he died at the young age of forty-six, he is one of only a handful of men whose converts numbered in the hundreds of thousands. At age thirty-four, when he first decided to carry the banner of Jesus to the Far East, friends tried to deter him from going. He told them merchants at huge expense and great peril risked sailing to India for earthly merchandise. Then he asked, “Shall I not go there for the sake of God and souls?”
Francis got it. By listening to God’s heroic call rising from deep within, he learned what it means to really live. Life unfolds many paradoxes, one being, the life you’ve always dreamed of lies hidden in the mission you’ve always dreaded.
I pray today will begin (or continue) the life you’ve always known deep down you’re supposed to live. The reason large numbers of people are now responding to missions is not because it’s a great idea or because preachers are more persuasive than before, but because what we’re saying resonates with something already being said loud and clear inside you. To go is the only acceptable option.
When Dr. Alexander Duff, veteran missionary to India, came home to Scotland to die, he stood before the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church and made an appeal for others to go to India, but no one responded. At the lectern, he had a fainting spell and was carried off the platform. As a doctor bent over him, examining his heart, Duff opened his eyes and asked, “Where am I? Where am I?”
The doctor told him, “Lie still, your heart is very weak,” but the old warrior refused to stay down. “I must finish my appeal. Take me back. I haven’t finished my appeal yet.” The doctor repeated, “Lie still, you are too weak to go back.”
The old missionary struggled to his feet, determination overcoming weakness. With the doctor on one side and the moderator on the other, Dr. Duff again mounted the platform. The whole Assembly stood in his honor as he continued to appeal for India. “When Queen Victoria calls for volunteers for India, hundreds of young men respond; but when King Jesus calls, no one goes.” He paused, but still no one responded. “Is it true that Scotland has no more sons to give for India?” Again he paused, but still no one responded. “Very well,” he concluded, “if Scotland has no more young men to send to India, then, old and decrepit though I am, I will go back, and though I cannot preach, I can lie down on the shores of the Ganges and die, in order to let the peoples of India know that there is at least one man in Scotland who cares enough for their souls to give his life for them.”
At this moment, the meeting exploded. Young men began springing to their feet, crying out, “I’ll go! I’ll go!” After the famous missionary passed away, many of these young men journeyed to India, to invest their lives as missionaries.
How are you and I doing in this matter of going? Before our missions and ministry revival began, I believed I could stay in Springfield and please God. I somehow had blinders on, which kept me from seeing the obvious in the Bible. We claim we want to be like Jesus. If this is true, we will go on many short-term mission trips. His whole ministry was spent in going on short-term ministry trips from home base in Capernaum. He later gave the Great Commission five times.
It is impossible to follow Jesus’ example or carry out His commands without going. As long as people remain in darkness, we must go carry light to them.
Oswald Smith’s driving motto was an unanswerable question, “Why should anyone hear the Gospel twice before everyone has heard it once?” There is nothing wrong with people hearing the story of Jesus a thousand times, unless at the same time we never once try to take the story to those who have never heard.
When our Lord fed 5000, it would have been bizarre had His disciples only kept feeding the front row over and over again, while never going to back rows. Had first rows been fed repeatedly, while last rows were neglected, those in the back would have eventually stood up and complained, protesting their being left out, “Jesus, back here. We’re hungry, too. It isn’t fair to feed only the front row.”
The call to go is God’s way of making sure we care for the back row, for those who do not cry for themselves. We talk about a second blessing; they’ve not heard of the first yet. We speak of Christ’s second coming; they don’t know about His first coming. We must go carry the bread of life to the world’s back rows.
Imagine, if you will, an estate. The Master has to leave, but tells his servants he will return, and while he’s gone, they are to cultivate the entire estate. They begin near the house, beautifying the lawn, garden and flower-bed. Next year, as weeds begin to grow, they again work near the house, perfecting the lawn, garden, and flower-bed. One day a servant recalls Master’s orders and says, “I must go out into the field. Master told us to cultivate the whole estate.” Fellow workers try to discourage him, “We can’t spare you here. Weeds keep growing close to the house. Too much needs to be done nearby.” Despite their protests, he leaves and begins working in a far corner of the estate. Soon two others remember the Master’s command and make their way to other far reaches of the fields.
One day the Master returned unannounced. He is thrilled at the perfectly trimmed lawn, garden, and flower-bed near His house, but as he strolls out to examine the rest of his estate, his heart sinks. It is wilderness, weeds, and marsh.
Obviously, little effort was made to cultivate it. In the distance he sees one worker laboring alone in the midst of wilderness. A different direction he sees the second worker, way off by himself, trying to tall weeds. Another direction he sees the third worker, all alone, battling an impossible marsh.
After richly rewarding the three servants, he returns to the house, where the other workers are expecting great rewards. But they quickly tell by the look on Master’s face he is not happy with them. “Are you not going to reward us? Aren’t your lawn, garden, and flower-bed beautiful? Why are you disappointed?” “Because you forgot my orders. I didn’t tell you to work same areas again and again, year after year. I told you to bring the entire estate under cultivation. You didn’t do it, and even tried to discourage the three who did, thus no reward.”
What are we going to do this year to help bring God’s whole estate under cultivation? Where will we go to drive back wilderness?
People are in danger of everlasting fire. We all must find our place in the bucket-brigade to convey living water. When I first saw an antique water bucket actually used in fire-bucket brigades, I was surprised to see its bottom was round, not flat. Each time I sat it down, it fell over, it wouldn’t stand up. I got the message. When a fire’s going on, you don’t put your water bucket down. Folks, a fire’s going on, an everlasting one. We need to be in the fire-bucket brigade. All must pray, drawing water from God’s well of protection and anointing. All must give, passing buckets hand to hand, making sure money is given to those seeking to extinguish flames of lostness. But, even after we all pray, drawing power from God’s well, and even after we all give, conveying support, the whole bucket brigade is useless unless we go stand at the end of the line to throw water on the fire.
We all must go, some short-term, some long-term, some to our city, some to our state, some to the USA, some to the uttermost. There has to be contact with the people we seek to save. We all need to deliver the living water in person.
When the missions revival at Second began, we went from seeing the Great Commission as given to the International Mission Board to seeing it as given to the local church. Two years later, we passed the torch to Sunday School classes. Another two years later, we came to see the Great Commission is given to individuals. We call this evolution in our thinking the concept of the tightening noose.
The Great Commission is not given to mission boards and societies, nor is it given to local churches or Sunday School classes. These are all support groups, existing to help individuals, the ones to whom the Great Commission is given. The mission of every Christian is missions. Let’s fulfill our reason for existing. To have the heart of God, we must go. In one deed, the incarnation, God revealed by His own example what should be done for sinners far away. “God had only one Son, and He made Him a missionary. Can we do less?” (Oswald Smith).
Dr. Duff’s appeal still echoes. Will we respond? Our lawn, garden, and flower-bed look great. What about the rest of the estate? Back rows are waiting to be fed. Will we in the front rows go feed them? The world is on fire. Are we somewhere in the bucket-brigade, dousing the blaze? It’s a 911 world out there, are we answering the phone? Untold millions are still untold. “Why should anyone hear the Gospel twice before everyone has heard it once?”