By Roland W. Keith
Every October our church engages in what we call “Missions Emphasis Month.” Our lessons focus on the need to take the word of God out into the world, and not just our local community. As you know those who make it their work (sometimes a life’s work) to go to other parts of the world and share God’s word face many risks and hardships that we do not always think about back here in the States. A common hardship is the lack of money. Often, in order to afford the expenses that go into their evangelistic efforts, including their own often meager wages, these laborers of the Lord must rely on multiple churches to support them. Hence the annual emphasis to help raise money to aid these missionaries in their endeavors. And every year I am amazed that our small congregation finds it in their hearts to reach down into their pockets and return to the Lord what seems to be a full and overflowing measure of the bounty He gives each and every one of us in our lives. Moreover, they do this without diminishing their normal contributions needed to sustain our work here at home. Naturally some give more than others, but it is easy to see that an effort is given by all to do their part. With the money raised we support several individuals and families in various countries. The question is, why?
To answer that question, we have to look at what has become known as The Great Commission. In Matthew 28:18-20 Jesus told His apostles, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (see also Mark 16:15-16). Earlier in His ministry He had told them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things” (Luke 24:46-48; see also Acts 1:8).
This commission was given directly to the apostles, but it would take more than one small group of men to achieve, and as we read through Acts and the various epistles we see a growing number of men and women involved in various works designed to assist in the effort to proclaim the kingdom of God to the world. This need for willing men to preach the word to the far reaches of the earth was explained to the Romans in this way: “For ‘everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’ How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in Him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, "How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!" (Romans 10:13-15).
God has chosen to use man in his own salvation, as vessels of the truth. We, that is all Christians, have been charged to involve ourselves one way or another in spreading the good news of Jesus Christ. If we do not go ourselves, we must be among those who send. We must support those who do go by whatever means are necessary to assure the work is done. There is no greater challenge or responsibility. Jesus asked, “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?” (Matthew 16:26). The work of the missionary, indeed the work of all saints, is to vie for the souls of their fellow man. To give every man and woman, all those of the age of accountability, the opportunity accept Jesus as Lord, and secure their souls against condemnation.
As members of the church engaged in the work of informing the world of God’s plan our examples are those who went before us counting the hardships and abuses they endured as cause for joy. As Luke wrote, “and when they had called in the apostles, they beat them and charged them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. Then they left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name. And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they did not cease teaching and preaching that the Christ is Jesus” (Acts 5:40-42). We should all strive to meet their example, not letting the world deter our efforts. We all know the story of Paul and the things he did prior to his fateful trip to Damascus, as Luke recounted, “But Saul was ravaging the church, and entering house after house, he dragged off men and women and committed them to prison” (Acts 8:3). The real story here is not Saul, but the reaction of those being persecuted: “Now those who were scattered went about preaching the word. Philip went down to the city of Samaria and proclaimed to them the Christ” (Acts 8:4-5).
After his own conversion Paul would write, “For I would have you know, brothers, that the gospel that was preached by me is not man's gospel. For I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ. For you have heard of my former life in Judaism, how I persecuted the church of God violently and tried to destroy it” (Galatians 1:11-13). Paul went from being an enemy of God to being one of the persecuted himself, writing:
Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ's afflictions for the sake of His body, that is, the church, of which I became a minister according to the stewardship from God that was given to me for you, to make the word of God fully known, the mystery hidden for ages and generations but now revealed to His saints. To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. For this I toil, struggling with all His energy that He powerfully works within me” (Colossians (1:25-29).
Paul gave up everything to proclaim Jesus as Lord, counting the things of the world as rubbish to be sacrificed to gain Christ (Philippians 3:8). Every time we tell someone about Jesus, every time we mail circulars, donate our time or money or talents to the furthering of God’s word we follow in the tradition not only of Paul and the other apostles, but of Christ Himself. We strive to reconcile man to God, and in so doing to reconcile all men to one another as brothers, as Paul wrote:
For He Himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in His flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that He might create in Himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. And He came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. For through Him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God” (Ephesians 2:14-19).
Paul also wrote the following to his young protégé, Timothy:
I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths” (II Timothy 4:1-4).
As we look at the situation in our own country today would it be amiss to say that many have itching ears? Are we doing all we can to reach those who, given the chance, will be willing to give the truth an audience? And if those who resist the truth confront us will we act according to the will of God? None of us know if we will ever be called upon to endure the things first century Christians, such as Paul, did. It should be noted, however, that persecution of Christians, even unto death, is occurring in the world today. Those of us here in the U.S. should not be unaware of the sacrifices being made by brave men and women in foreign countries, because they refuse to renounce the name of Jesus. They need our support, not just during “Missions Month,” but year ‘round. And not just financially, but in every way we can provide for them, perhaps none being more important than including them in our prayers.
Hi! I'm Roland. I began writing after retiring from the Navy in 2015. I believe that we each should strive to learn from one another, by sharing our thoughts and ideas. As a writer my goal is to help other seekers of truth to find and grow in Christ.