I recently had the privilege of speaking to a missionary organization. As I was preparing for our time together, I thought of the many missionaries we have known through the years. I reflected with great joy on the missionaries we have been privileged to support through the years in such far away places as China, Africa, South America and Central America. We’ve also supported missionaries here in America serving among the Native Americans, inner city outreaches and prison ministries.
I have always been impressed with the sacrifices that these chosen ones are willing to make to spread the Gospel, win souls and advance the Kingdom of God here on earth.
I’ve long enjoyed reading books about missionaries; how they grew up, how they sensed God’s call on their lives and the great adventure of surrendering to that call.
Often times and it would seem in most cases, surrendering to that unique call of service brought with it tremendous challenges, difficult circumstances and often great sorrow.
I remember back in the 60’s, hearing of a man named J.W. Tucker, a missionary to the Congo, who was killed on Thanksgiving day, 1964. I was in bible college in 1966 when I was exposed to his story by way of a slide presentation. At the end of that presentation, the question was asked, “Who will go to fill this vacancy?”
At this point, I had only been a Christian for about a year and I had never considered such a possibility. The chapel where the Tucker story had been presented was finally empty of all the students except one. Me!
‘Til the wee hours of the morning, I knelt and prayed, trying to ascertain whether or not God wanted me to prepare to fill that vacancy in the Congo.
Finally, it was as though I sensed the Lord almost laughing (just an impression I had in my mind) as He resolved for me the issue at hand.
I concluded that it wasn’t that He wanted me to go to the Congo, but He wanted to know if I’d be willing, should He so lead (pretty sure He already knew). I settled that issue right there, long ago. Yes, I’ll live my life and exercise my ministry with a willingness to respond to Your leading, whenever and wherever that may be.
In reflecting on all these things as I prepared to share with the missionary organization I mentioned previously, I thought one of the most difficult and intimidating challenges for those called to bring the Gospel (especially to unreached areas) must be in considering how to tell someone about God who has never heard about Him.
This thought took me to Romans chapter one. I know I’ve read this book many times through the years but, as is often the case, this time I saw something a little more clearly.
In the sixteenth verse of Romans one, Paul writes, “For I am not ashamed of the Gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes…”
In other words, the power of God to save the lost is inherent in the message of the Gospel itself. It is not our talent, our intellect or our persuasiveness that will “win the day”.
Neither is it our competency!
Understand, we should all employ the talents He has given, the knowledge and wisdom He has imparted and with a
passionate concern, seek to persuade those who desperately need a Savior. However, these are all just tools to present the gospel.
The power to save is not in the tools but in the message of the gospel. Competency might be defined as the ability to efficiently use all the tools at our disposal to help achieve a successful outcome.
But even in this, the power of the gospel to save is not resident within the realm of competency but rather and solely within the message itself.
This should be a great encouragement and relief to us all, as we are most aware of our own inabilities and shortcomings.
None of this is an excuse to resign to do less or settle for sloppiness but rather to illustrate the difference between the presentation of the gospel and the power of the gospel.
Let me say clearly here, we are all missionaries! We have each been commissioned to “Go into all the world, preach the gospel and make disciples.”
“All the world” may mean across the ocean, across the country, across the street or across the table, but every true believer has been commissioned. About this, there can be no debate.
Whether on some foreign field or in our own neighborhood, the question remains, “How do we tell people about God
who don’t even know there is a God?”
But wait, isn’t that question perhaps flawed, in view of Paul’s letter to the believers in Rome?
Romans 1:18 goes on to say, “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them.” Romans 1:18-19
So God has made that which is known about Himself both evident within them and evident to them.
Question: who is the “them” this verse is speaking to? Answer: the ungodly and the unrighteous!
Paul continues: “For since the creation of the world, His invisible attributes, eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.” Romans 1:20
“Clearly seen,” “being understood” and “without excuse” are very telling statements. It reminds us of Psalm 19 where David writes, “The heavens are telling of the glory of God; and their expanse is declaring the work of His hands. Day to day pours forth speech, and night to night reveals knowledge.” Psalm 19:1-2
This reminds me of a story told to me by a Lutheran missionary some years ago. The missionary was on a passenger boat traveling on a river in China. As he sat on a deck chair reading his Bible, an elderly Chinese gentleman sat down beside him. At one point the Chinese gentleman asked the missionary about the book he was reading. The missionary replied that he was reading the Bible. The Chinese gentleman asked what the Bible was. The missionary responded by saying it was a book about God, His love for mankind and His purposes and plan to redeem mankind from sin. The Chinese gentleman said “So, there is a God?”. The missionary responded, “Why, yes! The Chinese gentleman remarked, “I thought so!”
I love that story, that testimony! A man who never heard a sermon, didn’t go to church and didn’t even know what a Bible was had concluded there must be a God. “I thought so!”
How can that be, some might ask. Well, Paul has just told us by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, “Because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them.”
But this is not salvation! This is God going before, preparing the way, if you will.
This is God enlightening, wooing and influencing the ungodly and unrighteous.
But salvation comes by no other means then the message of the substitutionary, atoning work of Calvary’s cross.
“…And without the shedding of blood there is no remission of sins.” Hebrews 9:22. This again is why Paul writes, “And when I came to you, brethren, I did not come with superiority of speech or of wisdom, proclaiming to you the testimony of God. For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.” 1 Corinthians 2:1-2
Remember what we said earlier? It’s not the talent, intellect, persuasiveness or competency but rather the message of the Gospel. “Jesus Christ and Him crucified.”
This should be an encouragement to each of us as we realize, according to scripture, that God has already revealed Himself to the ungodly and unrighteous.
Our part or commission is to articulate, demonstrate and propagate the message of the Gospel, “For it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone who believes.”
Remember always, we as true believers, each and every one are Gospel Missionaries.