The Heart Of Missions
Men, money and methods are all vital to carrying out Jesus’ Great Commission to ‘Go ye…and teach all nations...” (Matt. 28:19). But something else is basic and indispensable to evangelizing the world. It is sacrifice – a spirit of self-sacrifice motivated by love for God. This is, and always has been the heart of missions. Jesus Christ Himself is the supreme example:
“For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that ye through His poverty might be rich” (2 Cor. 8:9).
Jesus was poor, literally poor. He chose to be so. He was born in a stable. He wore coarse clothes. He ate common food. His home, while He had one, was that of a peasant, and many a time later He had no comfortable resting place. Jesus’ ministry to others cost Him physical weakness, weariness, hunger, and privation, and still greater suffering of mind and heart. As He incessantly went about doing good, ministering physical and spiritual healing to thousands, His own strength, little by little, ebbed away.
On the Cross, Jesus gave Himself completely. Voluntarily He laid down His life. “...The Son of Man came…to give His life a ransom for many,” He had announced (Mark 10:45). And He did just that while the creatures of His hands beat Him, reviled Him, and viciously taunted: “He saved others; Himself He cannot save...” (Matt. 27:42). In truth, Jesus could not save Himself from physical death and also save lost souls from spiritual death. He made the supreme sacrifice in order to save others.
Earlier Jesus had taught: “...Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit” (John 12:24). Such is the law of the kingdom of God. Such is the law of missionary life and labor. We can praise our God for the missionary graves as well as the active mission stations, knowing that each of the precious lives laid down has contributed to the coming kingdom of Christ.
Self-sacrifice is never popular. It becomes more and more unpopular as modern technology banishes toil and surrounds us with comforts. A love of ease and self-indulgence creeps over our conscience until it is dulled to the call of God and the pleas of our desperate fellow men.
As Jesus could not save Himself and yet save others, no more can we. God never intended that we should. It would be leaving out the essence and glory of the missionary enterprise. God laid the foundation of world redemption in sacrifice when it cost Him His only begotten Son, and He will finish it by no less worthy a spirit or costly a means.
If we refuse to pay the price of self-sacrifice, we are actually refusing to rescue the dying. We must lose our self-life on earth, or lose the unreached forever. Where does self-sacrifice begin?
Self-Sacrifice in Prayer
Prayer belongs first in our self-sacrifice. Missions are not primarily a matter of men, or money or method, but of the mighty outworking of God through laborers called forth preeminently by prayer. Prayer is the greatest power in the Christian’s life.
A striking illustration of this is the Bible parable of the importunate friend who, because of his concern for a late traveler, left his comfortable bed and risked his neighbor’s ire by going to his house at midnight where persistent pleading obtained needed bread. God, though never reluctant to hear and answer heartfelt prayers, sometimes waits to see how earnest are our prayers for claiming His power in our needs.
Have we prayed earnestly, continually, sacrificially? How much has prayer for souls in darkness cost us – in time, strength, and self-denial? If our prayers have cost us little they have also availed little. God is seeking intercessors, impassioned hearts through which He can demonstrate His saving love to lost men and women.
Self-Sacrifice in Going
The only way to carry the story of redeeming love around the world is by men and women who will go to tell it. Here again our Lord furnishes us with an inspired model in His parable of the Good Shepherd: “What man of you, having an hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost, until he find it? And when he hath found it, he layeth it on his shoulders, rejoicing” (Luke 15:4-5). Jesus further said, “I am the Good Shepherd…and I lay down My life for the sheep. And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring...” (John 10:14-16). Missionary life and labor demand sacrifice in going.
Sacrifice in Giving
In the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:29-35), the victim of highway robbers lay dying by the roadside. He may typify those who bear the mortal wounds of Satan’s assault and lie death-doomed. The Good Samaritan, while primarily symbolizing Jesus the compassionate Savior, may also represent His followers who, impelled by His love, give unstintingly of their possessions to relieve and rescue earth’s poor victims of sin and Satan. The Good Samaritan saved that dying man by giving of his time, his oil, his wine, his beast to ride on, and his money to the innkeeper for his further care. It cost him something to save the life of another.
The heart of missions is sacrifice; sacrifice inspired by a pure, personal, passionate love for the Lord Jesus Christ. Thus, we have His love for lost souls shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost. Will we sacrifice in order to carry out the Great Commission? Jesus did. The heart of missions is the heart of Christians, sacrificially praying, sacrificially going, sacrificially giving.
– Abridged from a tract by Ted Miller, who adapted it from a pamphlet by Robert Hall Glover, through the courtesy of the Overseas Missionary Fellowship.