DANGER AHEAD!! Go anyway
Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
Genesis 12:6 “Abram passed through the land unto the place of Sichem, unto
the plain of Moreh. And the Canaanite was then in the land.”
In Abram’s day, an alien traveling alone was at huge risk, but he went anyway. Being on mission is dangerous. At home it can mean estranged neighbors, at school being ostracized, at work being fired. On the wrong side of town, “on mission” can mean being robbed, across the world it can mean sickness and death.
Danger is part and parcel of missions, nearby and far away. We are not to be foolhardy. Safety is important, but not the main thing. Risk dogs our steps.
USA Christians, raised and cloistered in a soft low-risk atmosphere, seem to have amnesia when it comes to remembering our legacy, our true heritage, the seemingly infinite number who have sacrificed to carry out the Great Commission.
The first USA Protestant missionaries left for British-controlled India at the height of the War of 1812. Bravo for Luther Rice, and Adoniran and Ann Judson.
Hundreds of missionaries and Chinese Christians died in the Boxer Rebellion of 1900. In 1934 John and Betty Stam, in their twenties, laid down their lives as missionaries in China. Their martyrdom sent scores to the mission field.
I will never forget reading the biography of Bill Wallace. I already knew he died a martyr’s death in China after the Communist takeover, but I was totally unprepared for the book. As I read it, I grew very fond of this gentle, brilliant medical doctor who fell totally in love with the people of China. As the Communists began brutalizing him and beating him into unconsciousness, I was appalled. Knowing the moment of death was near, I fell off the couch at the parsonage of First Baptist Church of St. John. On my knees I read the account of his death.
In 1956 the world was mesmerized by a Life magazine front page feature on Auca Indians killing five missionaries in Ecuador: Jim Elliot, Pete Fleming, Ed McCully, Nate Saint, and Roger Youderian. Their deaths sent hundreds of missionaries to the field. The world collectively grieved with their widows and children. These ladies later helped win the Aucas to Jesus. Some became close friends with the very ones who had stabbed and speared their husbands.
In the early years of African missions, missionary graves outnumbered converts. Most believers were baffled at the staggering number of missionary deaths in Africa, but some understood. In those hard days, Spurgeon foretold, “by heroic sacrifice the foundations of the African church should be laid.” Livingstone also believed the rigors of his day were a prelude to a huge harvest of souls in Africa. Both were right. If they could see Africa now! It began the twentieth century with four million believers, and ended it with four hundred million.
Many missionaries have launched out for the cross, only to find a shore to die on. Disease has wiped out thousands, cruelty has killed hundreds. The record of “Go” is written in blood. “There always must be martyrs for Christ. It seems as if the Church never could plough a wave without a spray of gore” (Spurgeon).
Many have died that missions might live. We may wonder why God allows it, but submit to Him. “Lord, we do not ask thee to explain reasons to us. He who demands a reason of God is not in a fit state to receive one” (Spurgeon).
This we know. God allows no consecrated life to be wasted. Nothing about going is ordained in vain or for naught. Spurgeon once grieved especially over a young man he nurtured for three years, preparing him for the mission field. The “beloved Hartley” left, landed, and died. Out of his sadness Spurgeon drew this conclusion, “Surely the Lord means to make further use of him; if He did not make him a preacher to the natives, He must intend that he should preach to us.”
Of every fallen missionary, it can be said, “They being dead yet speak.” Dying without regret in the cause, they challenge us to follow. They went forth, looking forward to unbelievers; they went down, looking backward to believers.
Dwell only momentarily on their graves. Contemplate rather their crowns and their example. Their deaths are fingers of glory pointing upwards, and fingers of flames pointing onward. They fell, assuming others were coming behind them.
Risk does not waylay other causes. Stanley advertised for volunteers to join him on a study trip to Africa. He wanted thirty to sign up; 1200 volunteered to face African fever and every other peril to extend the kingdom of knowledge.
When gold was discovered in Alaska, within fourteen months a thousand men had left everything they owned to go, risking life and limb for love of gold.
The great Scottish missionary Alexander Duff lamented, “When Queen Victoria calls for volunteers to go to India, hundreds respond. But when King Jesus calls, no one goes.”
The influence exerted by ambassadors willing to go is hard to overstate. Centuries ago the little island of Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), just off the southeast coast of India, and where Buddhists believe Buddha stepped from earth into heaven, sent forth, not hundreds, but thousands of Buddhist missionaries. They targeted the whole Asiatic coast, and stormed its beaches. Largely as a result of their travels, in eight countries of that region a majority of the population is Buddhist (Thailand 93%, Myanmar 88%, Cambodia 87%, Tibet 80%, Sri Lanka 70%, Bhutan 70%, Laos 59%, Vietnam 52%). Buddhism has become the world’s fourth largest religion, claiming 358,000,000 adherents, the vast majority of whom could trace their spiritual roots to the Ceylon invaders. Shall we Christians be outdone by them?
People travel abroad for governments, business, education, knowledge, pleasure, Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism. Shall we not go for Jesus? Are there no more heroes for the cross?
Quit yourselves like men. When Reclamation War is over, those who sacrificed most will be the most decorated. He who stayed at home and church in ease will find discomfort in the end. The most scarred will be most honored, the most scared will be most dishonored. The unprofitable servant used as his excuse fear. It was, and is, an unacceptable excuse.
Fear of risk even thwarts us at home. In a communist country, it is unlawful for a church to do any type of organized activity outside the walls of a house of worship. We live in the freest nation on earth. What have we done lately that would have gotten us in trouble in a communist country? What risk are we running in our free land?
If I seem overly zealous, I do not apologize. In the matter of going to a dying world, we cannot tolerate lukewarmness or lessen our zeal. For the Great Commission, the fervor of the USA church must ever remain at white hot heat, for when her ardor cools, it reverberates everywhere.
For the challenge of this era in which we live, the USA church has been honed. All signs indicate we are in a state of decline, but like a beautiful flower, the USA church’s last glorious act could be to cast the Gospel seed to all the earth. This may be the one last great cause left available for the USA church to do.
We need to heed the heroic call. It is impossible to lead an exemplary life without going. We all must go, some short-term, some long-term, to our city, to our state, to our nation, to the uttermost.
To have the heart of God, we must go. In one deed, the incarnation, God revealed by His own example what should be done about lostness. He sent His only begotten Son to go be near the lost ones. That Son says to us, “As my Father has sent me, so send I you.” God had His Son go. Can we do less? Untold millions are still untold. Let’s go tell them. DANGER AHEAD!!! Go anyway.