The Unknown Missionaries

As I was reading this morning, I came to this account of Jesus’ arrival in Jerusalem the week during which He would make atonement for the sins of His people through His death and resurrection. Matt. 21:1-7

“Now when they drew near to Jerusalem and came to Bethphage, to the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, “Go into the village in front of you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her. Untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, you shall say, ‘The Lord needs them,’ and he will send them at once.”  This took place to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet, saying,

 ‘Say to the daughter of Zion,
‘Behold, your king is coming to you,
humble, and mounted on a donkey,
on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.’

The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them.  They brought the donkey and the colt and put on them their cloaks, and he sat on them.”

When I read of this event, I rarely give thought to anything other than the context, the prophetical significance and the movement of events leading to the cross. However, this time two interesting things drew my attention as I thought about the unnamed owner of the animals mentioned in this passage. First: The indispensable contribution made to the plan and eternal purpose of God by a man whose name the Holy Spirit chose not to reveal to us. As a result, his name is unknown in the world.

His fame, in this world, will never match that of  apostles like Peter, Paul or John but his contribution to the kingdom of God was absolutely necessary. He owned and cared for the very donkey that would be ridden by the Messiah as He presented Himself to Israel (Zechariah 9:9). In doing so, this un-named servant of God was instrumental in magnifying the name of Jesus.

What does this have to do with missionaries? A lot! We all know the names of great missionary heroes like William Carey, Adoniram Judson, Hudson Taylor and many others. The Ecuador Five are known by name because of their martyrdom in the cause of mission. However, there are thousands of unknown, unsung heroes of the faith who gave their lives in years of faithful struggle against seemingly insurmountable odds to make the name of Jesus known to the lost. Their names, like the man in our Biblical account, are unknown and their biographies unwritten but they are just as important to the advancement of the kingdom of God as a Brainerd or a Livingston.

Unknown and their stories untold. This will likely be the earthly legacy of the majority of missionary trainees who pass through the Center for Pioneer Church Planting. Though they will probably not be famous, their contribution is no less vital to the kingdom. Moreover, in the place where it really matters, their stories and sacrifices will be told and celebrated in the presence of the King.

Also, as I considered this passage of Scripture, I thought about the value of every day labor. As the owner of the animals, mentioned in this account, daily carried feed to and cared for the Jenny and her foal, he may have had no idea how important his work was to God. He probably had no inkling that the King of glory would sit on that little donkey as He entered Jerusalem on the week of His crucifixion. This reminds us that, no matter how menial and insignificant our work may seem, it is God’s work.

All of the Christian’s work is for God. If you have been providentially placed in a circumstance that requires you to work a regular job, just remember that you are ultimately not working for your earthly employer. You are working for God. If you are treating your daily work as your service to God, you are contributing everything to the advancement of His kingdom that He demands of you. Your work is as important to gospel advancement as that of any more recognized servant of Christ.  The great orator, Martin Luther King once said:

“If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as a Michaelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, ‘Here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.”

Preach on and serve well, unknown missionary. Your heavenly King is paying attention and being glorified in your ministry. Serve on and work faithfully, unsung laborer. Your service to the King is beyond any earthly value.

“And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.”
Galatians 6:9

I Have People in This City

i-have-peopleThe following was originally addressed to the Missionary Trainees at To Every Tribe’s Center for Pioneer Church Planting 2016 Graduation Ceremony.

One night the Lord spoke to Paul in a vision: “‘Do not be afraid; keep on speaking, do not be silent.  For I am with you, and no one is going to attack and harm you, because I have many people in this city’” (Acts 18:9-10). This is the tenth anniversary of the first graduating class of the Center for Pioneer Church Planting and certainly God has been faithful to this ministry through these years. As you embark on your calling to your field of service, you may have some sense of fear and trepidation as even Paul the Apostle, had going into Corinth. 

If you wanted me to describe the Apostle Paul, I probably wouldn’t use words such as frightened, alarmed or fearful. The words I would use are fearless, and courageous, and determined. Yet when Paul describes in 1 Thessalonians 3:7 how he felt during his early days in Corinth, he uses the word “distressed.” Then, in 1 Corinthians 2:3, he says, “I came to you in weakness with great fear and trembling.”

Why would this spiritual giant be afraid? It’s because he was struggling with the same emotions that we all struggle with. In Athens, Paul had faced persecution and ridicule wherever he preached. Now he was going to Corinth, the “Sin City” of Greece. The city was so notorious for its immorality that in the fifth century B.C., the Greeks coined a verb, “to Corinthianize,” that meant to commit sexual immorality.

Fear has a paralyzing effect on all of us. Even the Apostle Paul. He was made of the same flesh and blood that we are. God has never promised us to be exempt from trials and hardships. There is no promise of a “rose garden.” All of God’s servants go through difficult times and calamities. Missionary David Sitton said, “We have learned that our particular ministry (pioneer work among the unreached) makes us high-priority targets for the Enemy.”

Just at the precise time, the Lord appears to Paul in a vision and gives him words of encouragement and comfort.  The Lord appears to him and says, “Don’t be afraid any longer, but go on speaking and do not be silent.” He then gives Paul three statements to support His exhortation. 

1. “I am with you.”
Having the presence of the Lord is paramount to accomplishing any task in the Name of Jesus. In the Great Commission Jesus promised, “I will be with you always, even to the end of the age”  (Matthew 28:20). The Prophet Isaiah records, “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name: you are Mine!  When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they will not overwhelm you.  When you walk through the fire, you will not be scorched, nor will the flame burn you.   For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior” (Isaiah 43:1-3). To know that the Lord is with you in whatever you endeavor to do is an unspeakable comfort.

2. “No man will attack you in order to harm you.”
What a blessing to know the protective hand of God’s mercy. Does that mean we will never have physical harm or danger? No. This is a general promise that doesn’t apply to every situation. Paul was beaten, stoned, shipwrecked, and put into prison wherever he preached the gospel. The application is not that God’s servants have assurance of safety. After all, the history of the Church is filled with martyrs because of their testimony. The application is that no one can touch us without the Father’s permission and purpose. As long as God has a purpose for your life to fulfill His mission, He will protect you.

3. “For I have many people in this city.”
This is the most encouraging thing that the Lord could say to Paul. When you preach the gospel in Corinth, there will be those that will hear and respond.  He is referring to the “elect”−the ones whom God has chosen. God has not only ordained their salvation but also the means. Paul would be a part of that means in the preaching of the gospel. If unredeemed man were given a free choice, every sinner would choose sin. But if God the Father purposed to save a sinner, and Jesus has given His life to save that sinner, and the Holy Spirit grants him faith, then there is salvation for that sinner. Paul says, “For this reason I endure all things for the sake of those who are chosen, so that they also may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus and with it eternal glory” (2 Timothy 2:10).

God would not have told Paul not to be afraid unless he was afraid. May the Lord give us boldness and determination to preach the gospel in the midst of opposition. Continue speaking and do not be silent. 

*Editor’s note: This article was originally published in the September 2016 edition of To Every Tribe’s Ekballo Magazine.

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Studying God’s Word has always been a struggle for me. I never really knew where to begin or how to do it on my own. For much of my Christian walk, studying has looked something like this: More

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