Catch The Vision! My World-Sized Part With Christ
By David Bryant
A frequently quoted "law" claims: "God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life." It’s true that my loving Father wants to be very personal with me as He leads me into His perfect will. But if His "plan-for-me" ever becomes divorced from His "plan-for-the-nations" then I will lose the fundamental basis for a personally significant role in the Kingdom’s advance around the world. The familiar adage might better be: "God has a wonderful plan for the nations and He loves you and me enough to give us a strategic place in it!" My part in Christ’s global cause can literally touch the ends of the earth!
Notice how Paul puts together our individual purpose in life and God’s plan for the world: "God has made known to us in all wisdom and insight the secret of His will according to His purpose which He set forth in Christ, His plan for the fullness of times, to unite all things in Christ, things in heaven and things on earth. According to this plan--designed by Him who accomplishes all things according to the counsel of this plan--we who first hoped in Christ have been destined and appointed to live for the praise of His glory" (Ephesians 1:10-12, author’s paraphrase).
The Vision: With Christ "Follow Me" (Mark 8:34)
There are no legitimate alternatives for those in Christ’s global cause. All Christians have been conscripted by Christ to go with Him into the Gap [between God and men]. To all of us who have made peace with the Father by Christ’s cross, our Lord’s very next words are "Come. Follow me." The fact that He is Lord implies others are following right behind.
So the vision of our world-sized part depends not so much on who we are, why we’re here, or where we’re going. Rather it depends on who Christ is, why He’s here, and where He’s going--because we are following Him. World Christians never journey in the Gap alone. Christ and His global cause create the larger dimension to our lives because our part is with Him. World missions is His initiative always. He has chosen us to join Him but never to launch out ahead of Him. He alone leads the way.
Jesus is on the move. And He wants us to follow Him out across the borders of our own world--beyond our familiar friends and family and our own social and cultural securities. He wants to lead us out of the limitations our culture puts on our understanding of God’s worldwide purpose, on our sense of the tremendous possibilities for fulfilling it, and on the specific people we ultimately choose to care about. He wants to take us across all our personal barriers into His global cause, out where there are no limits on who He will touch through us.
And, because He stays with us, we can have the courage to move out. He never takes us anywhere He has not already gone before us. He never asks us to face anything He has not already faced, or to love anyone He does not already love, or to give anything He has not first given.
The Apostle Paul witnessed to how this breakdown of his self-imposed borders began for him: "You have heard of my former life in Judaism, how I persecuted the church of God violently and tried to destroy it; and I advanced in Judaism beyond many of my own age among my people, so extremely zealous was I for the traditions of My fathers.
"But when He who had set me apart before I was born, and had called me through His grace, was pleased to reveal His Son to me, in order that I might preach Him among the Gentiles, I did not confer with flesh and blood" (Galatians 1:13-16).
"And the Lord said, ‘I am Jesus whom you are persecuting. But rise and stand upon your feet; for I have appeared to you for this purpose, to appoint you to serve and bear witness to the things in which you have seen Me and to those things in which I will appear to you [as I continue] delivering you from the people and from Gentiles--to whom I send you to open their eyes...that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.’ Wherefore, O King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to that heavenly vision" (Acts 26:15-19).
The Vision: Our Part -- "Lose Your Life" (Mark 8:34-35)
As faithful stewards of all we’ve received in Christ, He asks us to actively invest our lives for the greatest possible returns in reaching the unreached around the world. Ultimately that investment is in people.
Losing ourselves for Christ’s cause--denying ourselves and taking up the cross--is the greatest love we can ever show the world. Our world-sized part isn’t fulfilled simply by being involved in mission activities and enterprises, but in love that fully invests our all, no matter who we love or what it costs to do so. No sacrifice which a lover would make for his beloved is too great for us to make in order that the earth’s unreached might be wed to our Saviour. We are called into a world-sized part which asks us to be willing to even die if that will help bring them into the reality of God’s greater love for them.
And dying may be the part Christ gives some of us. The missionary in the pot was an old joke, but today’s "sunrise of missions" springs from many who did die, and the pot is heating up again. "The missionary of tomorrow will be met, not by cringing awe, not by smiles and outstretched hands, not even by spears and leather shields, but by automatic weapons," writes columnist Jenkin Lloyd Jones. "Martyrdom is coming back, and it will be a testing time for Christianity."
On the other hand, the cost for most of us may be in areas such as: physical comforts, reputation, personal plans, family and friendship ties, sleep, and recreation, or, for those who venture cross-culturally, familiar surroundings and one’s mother tongue. But whatever its form, there will be a price to pay for everyone who stands in the Gap.
One’s greatest fear, however, is usually not fear of suffering; it is fear of suffering for something which makes no ultimate difference. Even in the face of martyrdom, Christians can be sure that our life investment is always in a cause that will make the ultimate difference, both for unreached peoples and for the outcome of history.
With Christ we are serving a Kingdom that will remain forever because it is built of people. When you’ve found out that people are worth dying for, then you’ve found something and someone worth living for. So, we always live whenever we invest ourselves in Christ’s cause and His Good News for the sake of people.
Paul’s missionary thrust was marked by weakness, vulnerability, suffering and aggressive sacrifice. But this remained in the context of a strategy for people and a sense of victory:
"[Don’t shift away] from the hope of the gospel which you heard, which has been preached to every creature under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister. Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh complete what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of His body, that is, the church...to make the word of God fully known....for this I toil, striving with all the energy which He mightily inspires within me" (Colossians 1:23-25,29).
The Vision: World-Sized -- "Find Life" (Mark 8:35)
In the context of Christ’s global cause, what does it mean to find life? Like our Saviour we should give our flesh for the life of the world--we should stand in the Gap for those for whom He died. But that’s not the end of it! As His blood opened the way of reconciliation, so our investment in His cause, no matter how costly, has its returns also. We help harvest those who are reconciled from among the nations. We share with Him in bringing new sons and daughters into God’s family. We help fill the Kingdom with people who will praise our Lord forever. And all that adds up to finding real life.
Fulfilling a world-sized part points us beyond knowing ourselves, or purifying ourselves, or improving ourselves. Christ calls us to multiply ourselves! Miracles big enough to change the world, big enough to penetrate peoples where the gospel has never come before, can happen through any who follow Christ and lose their lives for His sake and the gospel’s. God wants to use finite, often fallible Christians to unleash His redeeming work on the very ends of the earth.
It is no coincidence that the same century that has seen more people become Christians and more churches planted than in the previous nineteen hundred years put together, may also have seen more believers martyred for Christ worldwide than in the rest of church history combined. The nations have found life because so many were willing to die for Christ’s sake and the gospel’s.
All of this indicates that we are actually creators for Christ’s cause rather than just puppets in it. Though we may represent little or nothing in ourselves we have become strategic "somebodies" who make a life-or-death difference for nations because we serve the King of life. In one sense, the fate of the world rests in the hands of nameless but committed saints through whom eternal life is multiplied to the widest end of the Gap.
Despite his costly ministry among Thessalonian people, Paul found plenty of life there as he multiplied himself through them: "For our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit with full conviction....And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you received the word in much affliction, with joy inspired by the Holy Spirit; so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia. For not only has the word of the Lord sounded forth from you in Macedonia and Achaia, but your faith in God has gone forth everywhere" (1 Thessalonians 1:5-8).
The Vision of Those Who Set the Pace
As we follow Christ, who is better qualified to set the pace than those whose world-sized parts have placed them more directly at the cutting edge of world missions? These pacesetters stand at wider spans of the Gap, having made sacrificial efforts to cross major cultural, geographical and theological barriers to reach the unreached. I’m talking about the missionary.
Who is better qualified to define for all of us what our "wartime priorities" should be than the "soldiers" who have invaded territory Satan never had to defend before. Why should Christians who aren’t professional missionaries not deliberately adopt a missionary lifestyle and discipline, in the same way the whole U.S. Olympic Track Team adopts the same rigors in training and planning that is required of any who run the main event.
The faith, commitment, readiness, mobility, character, and sacrifice expected of missionaries are equally valid expectations for any Christian serious about fulfilling his world-sized part. To put it another way, when God gave the missionary He did not lay aside the need for a missions-minded Church. Missionaries make an excellent example for all of us to follow as they follow Christ into the "sunrise of missions."
In 1910, for example, a group of World Christians out of the Student Volunteer Movement gathered from many parts of the country. They came to share with the whole movement their reasons for going overseas that year as missionaries. Their testimonies reflect the burning vision for every generation of disciples. Listen:
Because I want my life to tell in a place where Christ is unknown.
Because I am able to go.
The gift of life is my only answer as a Christian in light of the tremendous need.
Because I believe profoundly that it is more blessed to give than to receive.
Because I hear God’s voice and the voice of peoples’ needs.
With the desire to be obedient, I want my little light to shine in the greatest darkness.
Because there is nothing too precious for Christ.
Because of the present opportunity.
Because God has opened the way, and that was all I was waiting for.
Because the Master has many sheep in that fold.
One of the Church’s great missionary statesmen offered himself as a pacesetter for everyone: "So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. Give no offense to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God, just as I try to please all men in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage, but that of many, that they may be saved. Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ (1 Corinthians 10:31-11:1). For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for His sake, engaged in the same conflict which you saw and now hear to be mine" (Philippians 1:29-30).
– Taken from In The Gap by David Bryant. Copyright 1979. Gospel Light/Regal Books. Ventura, CA 93003. Used by permission.