I will start this message with the reminder of the Faith Promise missions projects of Fellowship Church. They are
Children of Promise, with which we help support four children,
Tim and Josey Vickey, who are preparing to travel to Malawi for missionary work,
Gary and Gwen Bistritan, who minister on the Pacific island of Yap, and
a Christian worker in Eurasia.
To celebrate Faith Promise participation, I have felt led to prepare a message about missions.
Of course the first passage that popped into my mind was Matthew 28:19-20, in which Jesus gave His disciples an assignment. Jesus told them, “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.”
That passage is probably the one most recognized on the topic of missions. That being the case, I could have developed this message around it. However, I thought - I hope - it would be interesting to instead bring some other passages into the discussion, which led me to look online for Bible verses that talk about missions.
As might be expected, the computer came up with a whole lot of such verses. From that list I have selected four, two from the Old Testament, two from the New. It is those four this message has been developed around. Interestingly, all four in some way relate to Jesus’ call to make disciples around the world.
Let’s begin with the first Old Testament verse. It is I Chronicles 16:24, which we will get to after the stage for the verse is set.
The stage setting begins, for our purposes, at the start of chapter 16 of I Chronicles, where the ark of God was taken to its resting place in Jerusalem. Not too long before this, David had selected Jerusalem as the capital city of God’s people. In Jerusalem, there was not, at that time, a Temple. That was built several years later. But David had pitched a tent in the city. Not a little tent, but a big one. A tent where sacrifices were offered to God. It was there the ark of God was to rest. At the start of I Chronicles 16 the ark was taken to that tent.
What followed was a great celebration. It featured thanks and praises spoken to God. It featured music from harps, lyres, cymbals, and trumpets. It featured singing. Which draws us near verse 24.
Here is some of what was sung.
Verse 8. “O give thanks to the LORD. Call upon His name. Make known the LORD’s deeds among the people.” The people of God were to talk about His blessings.
Verse 9. “Sing to the LORD. Sing praises to Him. Tell of all His wonderful works.” That, too, was to be done among God’s people.
Verse 12. “Remember [the implication is that after remembering, what was remembered was to be told, and again, the telling was to be done among God’s people] the wonderful works the LORD has done, the wonders He has wrought, the judgments He has uttered.”
A tent for God had been pitched. The ark of God had been taken to the tent. Both were cause for great celebration. A celebration that included thanks and praise and music from instruments and from singing. All of that so the people of God could be reminded of all God had done throughout history.
But then verse 24, which is still part of what was sung during the celebration. “Declare His glory among the nations, His marvelous works among all the peoples.”
Wow. It was very important for the people of God to be thankful and to praise, but their joy was not to remain with them. They were to share the glory of God and His works with other people. All peoples. Which of course includes peoples in other nations.
Isn’t that what missions is all about? Telling others - including people in other nations - about God? For us, that includes telling other peoples and nations about God’s Son Jesus. That He is the Savior of all who will accept Him. But the call to do that dates way back to I Chronicles 16. The call there is to declare God’s glory and marvelous works among all nations and all peoples.
Which is why our Faith Promise program is so important. It helps God to be shared in nations where our Children of Promise children live and in Malawi in Africa and on Yap in the middle of the Pacific Ocean and in a very dangerous part of Eurasia.
Why is that important? Why should such declaring be done? Let’s go one more verse. The first part of I Chronicles 16:25. “For great is the LORD and greatly to be praised.”
“Go make disciples of all nations.” That challenge from Jesus was also stated way back in I Chronicles when it was sung, “Declare His glory among the nations, His marvelous works among all the peoples,” that being the first of today’s missionary-type passages.
Another comes from the Old Testament Book of Daniel, where, in chapter 3, a dramatic miracle is recorded. A miracle that centered around three young men. Men of God who had been taken as captives from their homeland to the realm of King Nebuchadnezzar.
It seems the king was, like kings can be, kind of impressed by his importance. With that pride, Nebuchadnezzar made an image of gold ninety feet tall and nine feet wide. He set up the image so it could be seen for miles around. He then ordered that whenever a certain signal was given, everyone in the kingdom - at least in the area where the image could be seen and the signal heard - was to fall to the ground and worship the image. The king’s decree included the penalty for disobedience. The punishment was immediately being cast into a burning fiery furnace.
Well, everyone obeyed the decree. Everyone, that is, except for the three young captive men of God - Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. They refused.
Their refusal angered Nebuchadnezzar, who called the three to him. He chastised them before saying he would give them one more chance. He added, “And who is the god that will deliver you out of my hands?”
The answer? God - the one true God - was the one who would deliver them.
The three men were confident of God’s deliverance. But listen to what else they said. They added, “Yes, we are confident God will deliver us. But if not - if, for whatever reason, we are not saved physically - we will still not serve your gods or worship the golden image. We will still stay true to God.”
That angered King Nebuchadnezzar even more. In his anger, he ordered the furnace to be heated seven times hotter than normal. In fact, it got so hot it killed the guards right after they threw the three men in.
Remember what happened? The three were not killed.
I cannot explain that in any kind of physical way. It was a miracle. A miracle performed by someone else in the furnace. According to the report, when Nebuchadnezzar looked into the furnace to make sure Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were suffering, he saw a fourth being. It is believed that fourth one was God.
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego survived the fiery furnace. Actually, they did more than survive. When they were removed from the furnace, they were completely whole. No burns. Not even any singed hair. Their clothes were still intact. They did not even smell of smoke.
What a dramatic miracle that was. The result? Nebuchadnezzar made another decree. The new one stated this. “Any people, nation, or language that spoke anything against the God of the three captive men who survived the fiery furnace were to be torn limb from limb, their houses laid to ruins. For,” the king added, “there is no other god who is able to deliver in this way.”
What those three young men did - the bravery they showed and the spiritual confidence they expressed - and the miracle their faith brought about - led to God’s deeds, works, glory to be declared. In their case, it was among all the peoples under the kingship of Nebuchadnezzar, which represented a huge, huge part of the world.
“Go make disciples of all nations.” That challenge from Jesus was met - the display of that happened - way back in Daniel when God’s glory and works were told, that being the second of today’s missionary-type passages.
Let’s move to the New Testament. To the first of two New Testament verses for this message on missions. It is in Matthew, just a few chapters before Jesus’ post-resurrection challenge to His followers to go make disciples. The passage is the first part of a verse in chapter 24 of Matthew.
To set the stage, Jesus spoke these words shortly after He made His triumphant entry into Jerusalem, which happened a few days before His arrest, which led to His crucifixion. Jesus spent a lot of time in those few days preparing His disciples for His upcoming suffering, the purpose being that they would not waver from their faith. He also worked with the disciples to prepare them for the ministries they were to have after His return to Heaven.
Early in Matthew 24, Jesus spoke of things that were going to happen in the future. We have experienced these things, but they are not only current events. They have been around since the time of Jesus.
Wars and rumors of wars. And by the way, all the stuff we hear about what ISIS is doing in the Middle East? They are not the first ones to have done such atrocities. I recently read a book that recounts what the Japanese did in the years leading up to World War II. The same things ISIS does, the Japanese did. I am guessing Alexander the Great and Attila the Hun and Caesar did many of the same horrible things.
Nation will rise up against nation and kingdom against kingdom.
Famines. That has happened for a few years in the sub-Saharan Desert part of Africa.
Earthquakes. On my online weather map, there is a button to push that shows where earthquakes have happened in the U.S. over the past few hours. Whenever I hit that button, I am amazed how much earthquake activity there is .
For instance, a week ago when I checked, there had been earthquakes in California, of course, and Alaska, or course, but also in northern Oregon and in central Oklahoma and in the area where Missouri, Arkansas, Tennessee, Kentucky, and Illinois meet .
Of course, none of those quakes was especially strong, which are the ones we hear about. But that does not even include Central and South America, and the rest of the earth’s land, along with what happens in the middle of oceans. And of course earthquakes have happened forever.
Horrible things were going to happen. Jesus shared that with His disciples. But it would not be just politics and nature that would see turmoil. There would be spiritual turmoil as well. Jesus warned His disciples they would be delivered up to tribulation. Some of them would be put to death. In fact, that did eventually happen to all but one of His disciples. Until their deaths, they would be hated by the world.
Many followers - none of His disciples at that time except for Judas Iscariot - but many of those who would become followers would fall away. Many false prophets would arise and lead people astray. The effects on those who remained spiritual would be bad. Jesus said all that, too.
But then these words in the first part of verse 14 of Matthew 24. Actually, verse 13 is where the thought starts. “But he who endures to the end [which is what Jesus wanted His disciples to do - He was working with them to strengthen them to endure] will be saved.”
And apparently the display of being saved was to be preaching the message of Jesus, even when it would be and is difficult to do. That apparently is the case. Hence verse 14. ‘This Gospel of the Kingdom will be preached throughout the whole world, as a testimony to all nations.”
In just a few chapters, Jesus would give His followers the assignment - the challenge - to go to the world and make disciples. The first part of that was to be preaching about Jesus. That is what Jesus taught His disciples to do in the third of today’s missionary-type passages. To preach about Jesus even if - even when - it would be dangerous to do so. In fact, as verse 14 ends, that would and still will need to be done before Jesus returns. As it is worded, preach throughout the whole world and “then the end will come.”
I need to admit that the idea of suffering has never been very exciting for me. Fortunately I have never suffered much at all in any of my years of life. It will be fine with me if that continues for the rest of my days. But I know suffering may come. Knowing that, the fourth missionary-type verse is critical. It is Acts 1:8.
This verse records words Jesus spoke right before He ascended into Heaven, maybe right after He gave the challenge to go make disciples. It addresses whatever fears the disciples might have had. It addresses whatever fears I might have. Fears maybe you have.
In the face of suffering, tribulation, death - including the kind of suffering, the kind of threat Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego experienced, those things happening now because of Christian faith - how could they - how can I - be strong enough to meet the challenge to “go make disciples?” Acts 1:8. Jesus said, “You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you.”
Let me pause halfway through the verse to proclaim that never is any missionary work to be done with our own power and talents - alone. Missionary work must always have the Holy Spirit’s power behind it.
Tim and Josie Vickey? They are energetic and eager to serve.
Gary and Gwen Bistritan? They are very dedicated to their Christian work. Their hearts continue to desire the empowerment of the native people to whom they minister. They are interested in training others for missions work.
The worker in Eurasia? If she did not have courage, she would never be able to survive in her dangerous area.
All those people are powerful. They all have wonderful talents. But none of them is spiritually successful just because of that. They are successful because Jesus has saved them, God has called them, and the Holy Spirit a long time ago came upon them to support them and encourage them and protect them.
“You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you.” It is the Holy Spirit that makes it possible to minister, even when faced with all sorts of dangers. And going on, which brings an interesting twist, here is the rest of verse 8. “And you shall be My witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria.”
Isn’t that interesting? We so often think of missions as being the telling of Jesus far away. Usually far-away countries. And that is of course true, as told in the last part of the verse, which uses the phrase, “and to the end of the earth.”
But far-away places are not the only places missionary work is to be done.
It is also to be done in Samaria. Samaria was the middle part of the Palestine. People in it were rejected - hated I think it could be said - because of some problems in their history. Samaritans were considered not as good as pure Jews.
For us, Samaria might represent areas that are not considered as good or as clean or as religiously-oriented as we are used to. Even when those areas are not far away, missions work is needed there. Are you called to that?
Judea. That was the the part of Palestine around Jerusalem.
For us, that might apply to our state. There are plenty of places in Nebraska where people need to hear about Jesus.
And Jerusalem. That can apply to our own city.
And let me suggest it gets even smaller-scale than that. How about our own homes? Is there someone in your home - maybe in your extended family, too - who needs to learn about Jesus and accept Him? If so, missions work can be done right there.
Our Faith Promise program helps various children and various missionaries. All of them and us together with them are to be involved with missions. Missions here, there, and everywhere. We know that from the challenge Jesus gave following His resurrection.
Isn’t it interesting to know that a similar challenge was given by God in Old Testament times? The challenge to declare His glory and His works among the nations and all peoples, and that such declaring was done at the time of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego?
Isn’t it interesting that we know the telling of Jesus is to occur, even in the face of difficulties?
Isn’t it encouraging to know that can be done when we rely on the power of the Holy Spirit to be with us?
Go and make disciples, here, there, and everywhere. That is the challenge.
Today’s closing song is the hymn Jesus Calls Us O’er the Tumult. As we sing, let’s do so as a prayer that we will remain true to the Lord in the midst of any dangers we face. Let’s also remember to pray for missionaries in other parts of the world. That they, like missionaries since the days of the disciples and even those in the Old Testament who declared God, will stay true in the face of whatever problems they are experiencing.
Jesus call us o’ver the tumult
Of our life’s wild, restless sea;
Day by day I hear Him saying,
“Christian, come and follow Me.”
As, of old, disciples heard it
By the Galilean lake,
Turned from home and work and leisure,
Leaving all for His dear sake.
In our joys and in our sorrows,
Days of toil and hours of ease,
Still He calls in cares and pleasures,
“Christian, love me more than these.”
Jesus calls us: by His mercies,
Savior, may we hear Thy call,
Give our hearts to Thine obedience,
Serve and love Thee best of all.
Our Lord, thank You for entrusting to us the responsibility of declaring Your glory and Your works. Thank You for the responsibility of telling others - those near and those far - about Your love and the salvation You offer. Thank You for the responsibility of making disciples of those who join us in accepting You.
Such ministry can be difficult. You teach us it is dangerous. But we can be strong. We can stay true to Your calling. We can do that through the power of You in the form of the Holy Spirit.
Help us to know the challenge. Help us to meet the challenge. And not only us. Also others who tell about You.
Thank You, Lord. Amen.
Posted on Tue, November 4, 2014
by George Cook