The only Reason why Missions will be Successful
The idea of frontier missions to the unreached world is a very scary prospect. What gives Christians the right to go “interfere” with the lives of others? Why should they accept the message of a foreigner? Why sacrifice so much just to risk the possibility of seeing very little fruit and wasting your life? Honestly, these thoughts have raced through my mind in recent months.
I have been reading a number of books about the history of Japanese religion. It really is a complex and multi layered system of beliefs, traditions and cultural values. A ancient eastern leader; Prince Shotoku once called Shinto the roots of a tree; embedded in the very heart of the Japanese people. Confucianism; the trunk and branches; politics, morality and education and lastly Buddhism; the flowers, religious feelings that bloom like flowers.
Why should the Japanese even believe our message after so many years of following their own path? How can we ever convince them that Jesus is the only way, truth and life? And how can we even communicate successfully when the language itself is so difficult to understand? These are the types of questions every missionary wrestles with. But honestly, it is the question every Christian ought to wrestle with. How can I share the gospel effectively with my neighbor?
How does he/she think? What do they value? What is important to them? How do they spend their time?
So often we feel defeated before we even start. We are like the faithless Israelites who only think about the giants in the land instead of looking to the limitless power of the God they said they served. We say to ourselves; “Those people already have a religion, they won’t listen to us”. “That guy is a staunch atheist – he’s never going to give me the time of day”. …missions is not easy.
But we are not left without hope from the Lord. There is one truth that helps me, and honestly if it wasn’t for this I would not even be in ministry. Here it is:
And Jesus came and said to them, “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.”
When a Christian flies halfway across the world, walks across to a neighbor, or drinks coffee with a co-worker with the intention of making disciples, Jesus; the one who has ALL authority is with them. I have to cling to the truth that when we enter Japan, often referred to as the missionary graveyard; even there Jesus will be with us. I need to have confidence in the power of His redeeming grace, available to anyone who would believe. Missions will be successful only because it is God who does the work.
I found this encouraging Scripture in the book of Isaiah, a prophecy concerning the work of the Messiah, written 700 years before the birth of Christ.
Listen to me, O coastlands, and give attention, you peoples from afar. The Lord called me from the womb, from the body of my mother he named my name. He made my mouth like a sharp sword; in the shadow of his hand he hid me; he made me a polished arrow; in his quiver he hid me away. Isaiah 49:1-3
A couple of things stand out for me here with regards to missions:
- The intended audience are those from distant lands.
The Hebrew word for coastlands carries the idea of islands or regions beyond the sea. God’s missional scope is not only Israel, not only the western world, but for all people, from all regions to worship Him. God has a special word for the unreached nations. Later on in verse 6 we read these words: “I will make you as a light for the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth”. WOW!!!
- The incarnation is a pivotal part of God’s mission.
Isaiah prophecies that the Messiah is called from the womb, and while still in the womb he was already named (Luke 1:31). This points to a divine and predetermined purpose. The Messiah was given the name Jesus because He would save His people from their sins. God personally came to rescue sinners, He came in the flesh, born of a virgin, this is the wonder of the incarnation and the real reason we celebrate Christmas.
- The Messiah came as one divinely appointed, carrying authority and power.
In the gospels Jesus repeatedly says that he came to do the Father’s will. In the Isaiah passage we see the illustration of two different weapons, helping the reader to see the mission of God being fulfilled through the ministry of Jesus the Messiah. The first is a sharp sword. This points to the power and authority of Jesus’ word and how it cuts right to the heart.
Mark 1:22 And they were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one who had authority, and not as the scribes.
Luke 4:32 and they were astonished at his teaching, for his word possessed authority.
Matthew 7:29 for he was teaching them as one who had authority, and not as their scribes.
The seconds weapon is a polished arrow, hidden in God’s quiver. I think this refers to the very specific nature and timing of Jesus’ mission. God’s revelation and salvation through Christ has been carefully planned and orchestrated by God the Father. The mission was precise:
For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. Mark 10:45
And the mission had a specific time:
But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, Galatians 4:4
What amazes me is that God’s mission in calling and rescuing a people from every tribe, nation and tongue is GOD’S MISSION. He has carefully planned out every detail. Surely He will accomplish all, just as He has promised. Missionaries ought to enter their respective mission fields with the rock solid confidence of God being with us and for us as we engage in His mission. The gospel is not a pee shooter in the face of religious pluralism and the modern anti God sentiment. The gospel is dynamite, it is the power of God, let’s not be afraid to use it. Missions will be successful because Jesus has all authority and He is with us…always.