To be a disciple of Jesus is to let his ultimate purpose in the world dictate everything you think, desire, and do. In this session of Secret Church 21, Pastor David Platt helps us focus our minds and hearts on the global mission God has given us. He reminds us that we are involved in a spiritual war, and our enemy is formidable. The outcome of this spiritual war is inevitable, and our ally is indomitable. David Platt helps us to see the way in which victory belongs to the Lord.
- One Final Charge
- Two Spiritual Realities
- Three Practical Steps
- Four Biblical Guarantees
Unknown speaker: Lord, we come to You in awe of Who You are: as the Creator, in Your love for Your creation, and as a Savior, Who sent His Son to die for us. God, we thank You that You have loved us so deeply, a love that we still can not fully comprehend, yet get to experience. I pray that our hearts continue to break over what we know, knowing that there are people in this world who are suffering without hope and living life without knowing the name of Jesus.
I pray that You would break our hearts for what is clearly breaking Yours. I pray that You let us see the needs of this world. Show us ways that people are broken and need their spiritual and physical needs met. I pray not only that You would open our eyes to see that, but open our hearts to move and act to fill those needs. I pray that You would break down barriers that come up when we want to go and make disciples, barriers that keep us from being obedient.
I pray that You would remind us that You are so much greater than these barriers, that You are so much bigger than whatever this world will throw at us to stop us from proclaiming the gospel, because You are greater. I pray that we will not stop being obedient to go and make disciples because of the barriers we may face or will face. Help we be faithful.
I pray that You would give us a faith that is confident, compassionate, creative and contagious, a faith so big that we’re able to proclaim the name of Jesus, saying, “The difference in my life that you see is because of Christ and what He has done.” I pray that You give us hearts to seek out others, to go and find ways to proclaim Your name and bring You the glory, that our hearts are intentional to seek out those ways.
I pray that You bless the offering we have taken for this new training center in the Middle East to equip missionaries before they go. I pray that You would multiply and honor this offering, so that as we give our firstfruits, You will do amazing things there because that is just Who You are. God, we need Your grace. We need Your strength. We need Your wisdom because we cannot do this alone. Remind us that we are not alone, that You have called us to go and that You have gone before us and You are with us. We are not isolated, but are able to do this in community and ultimately with You.
So I pray that we’ll remember Who You are in light of what You have asked us to do. Guide us and lead us to solve this problem of the Great Imbalance. Show us the next steps to take. Show us how to be faithful in these steps and continue to move toward correcting this mistake. Open up our hearts, God, open up our hands for us to give You everything, to give You of our time, our resources, our plans, and our futures.
May we be obedient and give it all to You, because we know that You are better than anything this world has to offer. I pray that we boldly give you everything and boldly come with open hands in surrender, because Your name is so much greater. Show us what You want us to do. Show us how to move forward. Whatever You say, Lord, we will do. We thank You, Lord, for everything. We love you and thank You for loving us first. Amen.
Responding the the Great Imbalance With Action
David Platt: All right. Session Three. Let’s do this. Stand up if you need to. Walk around. Do some push-ups. Get the blood flowing. This last session is going to be a combination of drinking from the fire hose and hearing from different people about what rectifying the Great Imbalance looks like in action. I want you to hear some specific examples of how people are playing their part in rectifying the Great Imbalance and obeying the Great Commission. I pray these examples may encourage you to think, “I could do exactly that,” or in ways the Spirit of God might lead you to think, “Well, here’s another way this could look in my life,” or “Here’s another way it’s going to look in our church.” I want us to think very practically, then go before God in prayer after hearing some of these practical things, saying, “God, here we are. Use us. Spend us.”
So in this third session, I want to bring everything we’ve looked at in the Word down to the practical level. I want to give one final charge, based on all we’ve seen in God’s Word and in the world. I want to give us two spiritual reminders that will then lead us into three practical steps.
If this is true, if the purpose of your life is to enjoy and exalt God’s glory in all nations, if what we said at the end of Session One is true, that you will have a unique and significant part. Believe that you do have a unique and significant part to play in rectifying the Great Imbalance, obeying the Great Commission, and achieving the ultimate purpose of God in the world. If that’s all true, then what does that mean for your life tomorrow?
What does it mean in the next week, the next year? With every moment you have while you’re still on this earth? What does it mean in your life, your family, your job, your church? What does this mean practically? What is God calling you to?
We want to look at three practical steps at that point, hear from others, pray accordingly, then we’ll close with four biblical guarantees to bank your life on as you give yourself to this purpose.
One Final Charge
Here we go; let’s do this. One final charge. By that I mean, if you were to take away one truth from this night for your life, this would be it.
To be a disciple of Jesus is to let His ultimate purpose in the world dictate everything you think, desire, and do.
To be a disciple of Jesus is not merely to make a decision one day, sign a card, pray a prayer. To be a disciple of Jesus in not merely to believe in Jesus and go to church. No. Get beyond nominal, casual, cultural, unbiblical Christianity.
To be a disciple of Jesus is to let His ultimate purpose in the world dictate everything you think, desire, and do. To be a follower of Jesus means to fish for men (Matthew 4:19). It means to make disciples of all the nations (Matthew 28:18-20). This is the purpose for which Jesus came and lived and died; this is the purpose that drives and dictates everything you and I think, desire, and do. Think about your life (Acts 20:24). The very essence of your life is what we’re talking about tonight. Right where you’re sitting, right now, the purpose of your life is bound up in the ultimate purpose of God.
For whom this is applicable, this purpose dictates everything you think, desire, and do in your singleness. Paul says, “It’s good to be single like me” (1 Corinthians 7:8) Why? For the sake of the Kingdom, Jesus says, for the spread of the gospel in a way that leads to sons and daughters who will live for eternity because of your life (Matthew 19:10-12; Isaiah 56:3-5).
We often talk about how the Bible describes marriage as an illustration of the gospel, but so is singleness in uniquely powerful ways. Singleness exists to illustrate our eternal hope in Jesus (Isaiah 54:5; 1 Corinthians 7:29-31). Singleness exists to spread an eternal heritage among the nations. In the words of Rhena Taylor, who spent much of her life spreading the gospel in Africa:
Being single has meant that I am free to take risks that I might not take were I a mother of a family dependent on me. Being single has given me freedom to move around the world without having to pack up a household first. And this freedom has brought to me moments that I would not trade for anything else this side of eternity.
To be a disciple of Jesus is to let His global purpose dictate everything you think, desire, and do in your singleness and in your dating (2 Corinthians 6:14-7:1). So if you are single and you desire to be married, do not set the bar for what you desire in a spouse simply for that person to be a Christian. Do not unite your life with someone who’s content with nominal, casual, cultural Christianity. Unite your life with a disciple of Jesus, with someone for whom the global purpose of Jesus is dictating everything they think, desire, and do. Otherwise, that person will keep you from doing all God has created, called, and commissioned you to do. Do not yoke your life with them, no matter what you feel about them. The purpose of dating is to find a spouse who will make disciples of the nations with you, because that’s driving everything you think, desire, and do in your life and in their life.
This means the global purpose of Jesus should drive everything you think, desire, and do in your marriage. If you are married, Ephesians 5:22-23 makes it clear that marriage exists to illustrate the gospel to the world. Do you see it? The purpose of God in the world drives how you, husbands, to love your wife as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her. How you, wives, love your husband as the church loves Jesus. Do not disconnect marriage from the Great Commission. Marriage is for the Great Commission. Marriage exists for the spread of the gospel in the world.
Think about Priscilla and Aquila, making disciples together, risking their lives together for the spread of the gospel in the world (Acts 18:24-28; Romans 16:34-). That’s what marriage is for—not just for making babies, but for making disciples. Husbands and wives, make disciples of the nations together, starting in your home.
The purpose of God should also drive everything you think, desire, and do in your parenting (2 Timothy 1:5). What is your goal, desire, prayer, longing for which you’re working day in and day out in your kids’ lives? As parents, we tell our kids, “Get good grades. Practice in sports. Learn this instrument. Spend these hours in front of a screen.” We prioritize taking them all over the place for sports, lessons,, gymnastics, and everything else. We tell them they need an education. They need to be athletic. They need titles. They need to be successful. They need to go off to college, get a good degree, get a good job and make a good living.
We’re teaching them to do all these things, immersing them in all these things, but along the way we’re not teaching them to know God, love God, serve God, and spread the gospel. We say, “Well, I’ll just drop them off at the youth building or the children’s room at church for them to learn that.” No. Sure, the church can help, but this is your God-given responsibility, and it cannot be accomplished if we’re immersing our children in the things of this world. If we are dads who would rather teach our son how to swing a bat or throw a ball than teach them how to study and spread God’s Word, we’re missing the whole point.
If we’re moms who would rather teach daughters how to dress and put on make-up, not how to have the character of Christ and share the gospel of Christ, we’re totally missing the point. The reality is, if we’re not careful, one day our sons and daughters are going to stand before God and all the things we’ve told them are most important are going to burn up in the fire, and they’re going to be left with empty hands—and it will be because of us. The goal of biblical parenting is not to help children get a great education, be a great athlete, go on great dates, have a great career, make great money.
The goal of biblical parenting is to help your children love a great God with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength (Matthew 22:34-38). Our goal should be to accomplish a Great Commission among all the nations (Matthew 28:18-20).
God help us. We need a radically different perspective over our lives, our kids, our families. What matters now will not matter forever.
This is the purpose in your church. It’s not to entertain people on Sundays and cater to our comforts, but to send people into the world to spend our lives making disciples of the nations. The global mission of God should dictate everything we think, desire and do in our local churches.
In your church and in your studies during college. What are you studying for? You might say, “It’s for this degree, so I can get this job.” Keep going. Surely the ultimate purpose of your life is not a degree and a job. You were made for so much more than that. To get a degree, to get a job, to play a part in and through that job, for the enjoyment and exultation of God’s glory among all the nations. See what’s ultimate.
This is why Radical is about to have our inaugural class in a gap-year program this fall, because we want to help high school graduates, who have hidden deep within their hearts, God’s purpose for their lives before they start making major life decisions.
The global purpose of God should drive everything you do in your studies and in your work. Colossians 3:23-24 makes it clear that Jesus is your Boss and He calls you to work for His glory, for the accomplishment of His purposes. Surely the thousands upon thousands of hours you spend in work over the years are not intended to be disconnected from the purpose of God for your life and the purpose of God in the world. See your work in light of God’s global purpose.
In your retirement, in light of God’s global purpose in the world, how do you think you should spend the last years of your life before you see Your Savior’s face? On the golf course or accomplishing the Great Commission?
To be a disciple of Jesus means to let His global purpose dictate everything you think, desire, and do, in your plans, in your dreams for your life, your kids, what you long for, in God’s glory being known among the nations in the way you use your time (Ephesians 5:15-17; Colossians 4:5). We are only a mist here. We’re here one second, gone the next. So let’s make the most of this time while we still have it.
The global purpose of God among all the nations should drive the way you use your money (Matthew 6:19-21) and the way you steward your gifts (Luke 12:48; 1 Peter 4:10-11)—every gift of grace God gives you for His glory. That way you steward all of God’s grace for all of God’s glory among all the nations (1 Corinthians 10:31). What good things do you have in your life? It’s all of God’s grace and all intended to be used for His glory among all the nations.
If Every Christian Actively Responded to the Great Imbalance the World Would Change
What would happen if every follower of Jesus believed this? If every follower of Jesus believed that his or her purpose aligned with God’s purpose? That the purpose of each of our lives was to God’s global purpose, to spread His grace for His glory among all the nations? What if that dictated every one of our lives, everything we think, desire, and do? It would totally change the landscape, not just of the Great Imbalance, but of the world.
It’s why I would say, if we just get this as the people of God, as the church of Jesus Christ, three billion people would not be born and live and die without ever hearing the gospel. We would find ourselves obeying and accomplishing the Great Commission. So let’s do this.
Two Spiritual Realities
May it start with you and me, tonight, in our lives, in our families, and our churches, knowing these two spiritual reminders.
1. We are involved in a spiritual war and our enemy is formidable.
Giving our lives to this global purpose will not be easy. It will always be hard. Why? Because we’re involved in a spiritual war.
God, give us the eyes of Elisha and eventually his servant as we read in 2 Kings 6:8-19, to see the spiritual world around us.
We need to see what Paul talks about in Ephesians 6:11-13, that there is a spiritual war raging around us.
C.S. Lewis wrote this in Screwtape Letters:
““I do not think you will have much difficulty in keeping the patient in the dark. The fact that ‘devils’ are predominantly comic figures in the modern imagination will help you. If any faint suspicion of your existence begins to arise in his mind, suggest to him a picture of something in red tights, and persuade him that since he cannot believe in that…he therefore cannot believe in you.”
Our enemy is formidable (2 Corinthians 210-11). He is a serpent looking to deceive (Genesis 3:1- 7). He’s a lion looking to devour (1 Peter 5:8). He’s Satan, the adversary (Job 6:1-7; 1 Thessalonians 2:18). He is the devil, the slanderer (Matthew 4:1). He is the evil one (1 John 5:19). He is the tempter (1 Thessalonians 3:5). He is the prince of this world (John 12:31). He is the accuser of our hearts and every heart (Revelation 12:10). He does not want the end to come Matthew 24:14; Revelation 20:-10). He does not want the gospel to go to all the nations, so He is actively working to divert and distract God’s people (Revelation 9:10-11). He is actively working to divert and distract you and me in so many different ways. He’s actively working to deceive and destroy all people (2 Corinthians 2:4-6).
He wants to keep three billion people in 7,000 people groups in the dark. He’s blinding them right now and wants to keep them blind, so they’re unable to see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ. He’s actively working to disparage and defame God’s glory in every way he can (Isaiah 14:12- 15). That’s been the reality ever since the beginning. Satan wants to disparage and defame the glory of the one true God among the nations. He has countless false religions and worldly temptations that he is using in his arsenal.
Brothers and sisters, we are involved in a spiritual war and our enemy is formidable. That’s on the first truth.
2. The outcome of this spiritual war is inevitable and our Ally is indomitable.
Brothers and sisters, the outcome of this spiritual war is inevitable. And it’s been inevitable from the beginning of creation, from the promise God made in Genesis 3:15 to the picture of Jesus as the ultimate Conqueror in Revelation 12:10-12. No matter how things may look some days in this world, the outcome of this spiritual war is not in doubt because our Ally in this spiritual war is indomitable and unconquerable (Isaiah 40:9-17). The nations are like a drop in a bucket, counted as dust on the scales, in His hands.
Jesus is the Creator of all, sovereign over all, with authority and power and dominion above all. And if He is for us, who can be against us (Romans 8:3)? Jesus, the almighty, sovereign God of the universe, lives in us. Colossians 1:27-29 says Christ is in you, Christ is in me. What are we doing sitting here? What are we doing coasting through weak, half-hearted, sleepy, Sunday-by-Sunday Christianity? We’re in a war.
I hesitate to use military imagery, because I do not want to be misunderstood, but this wartime imagery is throughout Scripture. There is a spiritual battle taking place in the world right now and to be clear, the weapons in this war are not swords or guns or bombs, but the gospel and prayer and sacrificial love. The stakes in this war are much higher than any war on this earth because men, women, and children are going to either heaven or hell, to eternal joy or eternal torment.
God, give us a wartime mindset, not a peacetime mindset. In wartime, we ask questions like, “What can I do to help the cause? What can I sacrifice to ensure the victory? How can I live with urgency?” We’re on the alert, wanting to use all the resources we have for the accomplishment of the mission.
The challenge is that today we’re living for what’s most comfortable like it’s peacetime. We’re spending our lives and using our resource like there are not three billion people who need the gospel right now, today.
Respond to the Great Imbalance With Three Practical Steps
So what do we do with the power and presence of Jesus Christ Himself in us? There are three practical steps I want to challenge you with.
1. Pray differently.
This is not a call just to pray. We need to pray in different ways than we’ve been praying. I’m not saying everyone listening has not been praying in all these ways, but I’m guessing we’re not all praying in all these ways. I would confess I need to learn to pray more in these ways. We must start here because this is where Jesus told us to start. He said to His disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore, pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest” (Matthew 9:37- 38).
What a verse! That Jesus would say, “Ask God to send out more workers.” Is that not interesting? There are three billion people in the world who have not been reached by the gospel, there are very few workers going to reach them, so what does Jesus say? “Pray for the Father to send more.” Why would we need to do that? Why pray? Because apparently prayer matters. Apparently, God ordains that our prayers would be the means by which more workers would go to the harvest field. Are you getting this?
When I say pray differently, I mean, first, pray confidently. So often we think, “What difference do my prayers make?” The answer is all the difference in the world. This is what the Bible teaches. Our prayers affect the way God acts in the world. Can I say that one more time? Our prayers affect the way God acts in the world.
When you look at Exodus 32:7-14, you’ll see God’s people almost destroyed by God in His wrath until Moses steps in and intercedes for them. In response to Moses’ prayer, God relents and His people are spared. Our prayers affect the way God acts in the world. Look in the New Testament. Our prayers shaped the course of history in the world (Acts 1:14, 2:1-4, 2:42, 2:47, 3:1, 4:4, 4:29-31, 5:12-16, 6:3-4, 6:7, 7:59-60, 8:1-4, 9:13, 9:18, 10:9, 10:47-48, 12:5, 12:24, 13:1-4, 16:25, 16:33). Every major advance of the gospel in the book of Acts comes about in response to God’s people praying.
So pray for the spread of God’s grace and glory among all the nations confidently, believing that you’re praying in your quiet time for North Korea actually affects who’s going to North Korea and what’s going on in North Korea. We’re not just closing our eyes and saying some words. We’re participating with God, just like Moses was, in even a greater way than Moses was in what God is doing in the world. We have no idea all that God has designed for us in prayer.
So pray confidently, and yes, with humility, but God is calling us to pray with humble confidence before Him, believing He will give us what we ask in His name, according to His Word. We know that asking for the nations is according to the Word of God. We need to pray confidently and pray specifically for the unreached (Ephesians 6:16-20).
Let’s do this now. Before God, let’s unite our hearts.
Pray for the Unreached
God, we pray right now for the Pashtun of Afghanistan. We pray for the Somali people. We pray for Yemeni Arabs. There are 35 million of them in those people groups. God, we know there are so many in those people groups who are experiencing physical suffering. They’re without water, they’re in the middle of war, they are without medical care. Lord, they’re suffering and hardly any of them have even heard the name of Jesus. God, we pray that You would change that.
Jesus, we know Your Word. You died for every nation, tribe, tongue, and people. We know Your Word in 2 Peter 3, that you desire them all to know You. God, we pray for Your glory, Your grace to be known among the Pashtun, the Somalis, and the Yemeni Arabs. God, please save them. We trust that as we’re praying this right now, that You’re hearing us and have ordained our prayers to be a means by which Your glory is made known among them. God, we pray, send laborers to them. Send laborers even from among us tonight. Bless the laborers working in those places. Cause disciples to be made and churches to be multiplied there, we pray, for Your glory. Amen.
We need to pray like this, confidently and specifically, and pray sympathetically with compassion for the lost (Matthew 9:35-38).
God, help us not just to see what You see, but to feel what You feel when it comes to the unreached.
When you love people, you pray for people. Also, pray continually (1 Samuel 12:23; 1 Thessalonians 5:17). I’m talking every day. I try to use the Joshua Project app every single day. We worked with the Joshua Project in the creation of STRATUS. All the information about the unreached is from them.
If you do not have the “Unreached of the Day” app, download it right now. Just go on your phone and download “Unreached of the Day.” Then open it up every day and pray for an unreached people group that day. Today’s people group is the Sunda people in Indonesia, around 38 million of them, with .05% who are followers of Jesus. It’s the largest unreached people group in Indonesia, with 99.95% Muslims. Most of these 38 million have never heard the good news of Jesus’ love for them. Praying this way is a good use of 60 seconds in your day.
Do that every day. If you’re not praying like that every single day, let tonight be the start of praying continually and praying expectantly. Know from Revelation 8:3-5 that every single prayer for God’s name to be hallowed and for God’s Kingdom to come on earth as it is in heaven, that at the appointed time, someone’s last prayer is going to be that His Kingdom is going to come in response to his or her prayers. God has ordained our prayers to bring about the coming of His Kingdom. If we believe that, we will pray differently. There are so many ways this might play out in each of our lives. I want you to see one example, then let it lead us to pray. Watch this with me.
Alicia: My name is Alisha Tyner and my husband is Thomas Tyner. We met Peter and Brittany when they were home for a stateside.
Zac: My name is Zac. My wife and I are friends with some of the teams who are serving in the Middle East.
Alisa: We actually met Peter and Brittany at the Melting Pot. Brittany was our waitress.
Stacey (Alisa’s husband): We quickly struck up that friendship
Chip: I’m Chip Bugnar. I’m serving at a church in Birmingham, Alabama. We get to send out people all over the globe to reach the least reached nations of the world.
Alisa: He’s very faithful. We committed to Peter to pray for them, so we’ve been praying for them nightly for over ten years.
Zac: We knew the task ahead of them was a difficult one. So when they were going back to the Middle East, we were excited to be part of their prayer team.
Alicia: It was, “You’re in there with us. You might not be over there with us, but you’re a part of this with us.” So we took it seriously in terms of committing to that.
Zac: When I first got back to the Middle East and we were getting prayer updates, a lot of the prayer updates were pretty general. “We’re trying to get settled back in. Pray for us.” Or, “Peter’s trying to get back into his job and needs some stability,” things like that. So it’s a very general prayer request. But then there would be something specific, like, “Hey, Peter had the opportunity to meet with someone tonight. Please pray for him tonight. This is going to happen in a few hours.”
Alicia: One time we got this message from Peter and Brittany, saying, “We’ve met this girl out on the pier. She’s in a tough place and is willing to talk.” We started to pray that they would meet up again.
Zac: It sort of evolved over time. It was, “Hey, ‘Ruth’ is really interested in studying Scripture, and we’re going to have the opportunity to talk about the Bible with her tonight. Please pray for her.” I believe in the power of prayer when you tell me to pray for missionaries. Obviously, I think that’s a great thing to pray for, but it’s a little bit different when all of a sudden you’re getting a text on your phone that says, “Hey, we’re about to be ministering to this person in this context; here’s a specific prayer need.” And you’re like, “Oh, man. I need to pray for this soon.” Then the evolution of that is like, “Hey, ‘Ruth’ is interested in becoming a Christ follower. Please pray.” When you get a text like that, you’re like, “Wow, this is what we’ve been praying for!”
Alisa: She said, “I think she might be close to knowing Christ.”
Zac: And so it was, “Just please pray.” Then a few hours later, “Hey, they’re meeting with ‘Ruth’ right now. They’re literally in the other room talking about the Bible. Please pray right now for these conversations.”
Chip: We had this collective sense of excitement and anticipation that fueled our prayers, that God was up to something; something that we could not have orchestrated.
Zac: But when we get that text—it’s almost unbelievable to see it come across your phone— when she’s actually trusted in Christ for salvation. I mean, that’s a moment! We did not know if we would ever see that moment.
Alisa: We prayed for ten years and now there’s this new believer. It was shocking, just honestly, that the Lord answers prayer. That He would pluck a sweet young lady out of the Middle East. That God heard our prayers and He rescued her. It was just so shocking that the Lord would do that.
Stacey: We found out through WhatsApp that ‘Ruth’ had wanted to be baptized, so that takes a whole different meaning when you’re in her region, near her family.
Zac: This is incredible. She was about to get in the thick of it when that moment came, when she had to profess Christ as Lord to her family and those around her.
Alicia: So we found out that she was going to tell her mom that she had become a follower of Christ. You know, you pray for her going into that and you do not know where it’s going to go.
Zac: We’re saying, “O God, would You use ‘Ruth’ to begin reaching her family.” Again, we’re praying that, knowing that her family is likely going to reject her. We’re praying in faith, saying, “God, would You use her to be a light in her family?” But it does not go well.
Stacey: Her mother is an Islamic teacher, so it was very blasphemous to her. There were physical beatings.
Alicia: Her mom said she was no longer her daughter. Her sister renounced that they were sisters anymore.
Zac: The team was updating us from ‘Ruth’ and all of a sudden they’re like, “Hey, we have not heard from ‘Ruth.’ Her phone is not ringing. This is not good. Something has happened.
Chip: What I realized, just waking up to text messages in the morning, “Hey, pray. A lot’s happening.” Right. Cryptic kind of text messages, just to let me know something going on.
Zac: And then later come to find out her husband had been beating her, abusing her, and threatening her; everyone was trying to get her to walk back the decision she had made.
Alicia: Probably for me one of the over-and-over prayers for ‘Ruth’ was to stand firm. “Stand firm. Stand firm. Stand firm.”
Zac: “God, would You be with her. Would You be near to her. Would she know Your presence. Would she stay steadfast. Would she continue clinging to You.” You’re hurting for her, you’re wanting her to be okay. You’re knowing that Christ is best for her, but it’s still tough to know what she’s going through because of this decision.
Chip: I still remember the message that came to me, saying, “He claimed that she has passed away, that her family ended up killing her.” That ended up, praise the Lord, being a false claim.
Zac: So then the updates started to change a little bit. It’s, “Hey, pray for our team. We’re starting to get in trouble with the government. We think some people know who we are and why we’re here.” Things got out of hand. They cannot continue that ministry they built toward for so long. Then all of a sudden we hear that the husband has actually come back and is regretting the decisions he had made to beat his wife. He’s not gone yet. We’re still praying, “Lord, there’s still hope here.” But then we get the news that the government knows what they’re up to. The government has decided, “We do not want you here anymore,” asking them to leave immediately.
Chip: My stomach just dropped, that this was the fallout from what God was doing in ‘Ruth’s’ heart.
Zac: But the husband reached out to the team leaders and said, “I’m sorry for all this.” He realized what he had done was causing the team to not be there any longer and he did not want that.
Chip: You know, 1 Peter 3 talks about how the husbands who do not believe might be won over without a word. So the testimony of her witness I think began to soften his heart. He did not know where this came from. So ‘Jonathan’ at one point requested that she begin reading the Bible to him. I remember I got a text message, “We’re meeting with ‘Jonathan.’Would you pray? We’re talking about the gospel again.” Then a few hours later, “Hey, ‘J’ has believed!”
Alicia: It’s the irony of God that the team has been kicked out and part of how that happened is by the husband himself, and now they are there to keep sharing the gospel and seeking the Lord among the lost in the Middle East. And now they’ll be that catalyst.
Alisa: Peter and Brittany—they’re no longer in the country. It’s a very sad thing. But I think there’s such beauty in that because who can reach that people group? ‘Ruth’ and ‘Jonathan.’
Stacey: We know through Revelation that we will sit around the throne, rejoice with them and cry, “Holy” —hopefully with more members of their people group.
Zac: It’s humbling to think that we were passionately praying, God answered this incredible prayer—and we got to be part of that.
Unknown speaker: Heavenly Father, we bow before You today, bringing to Your attention the needs we have as the desire to reach the unreached. We know there are seven billion people across our world, throughout all the nations, and we know that three billion of those people are unreached. They’ve never heard the gospel. So, Father, we gather together tonight for them. We come to You, asking You for Your blessings on this prayer time.
As I pray for the unreached people groups You have given me a burden for, I know that all over our world others are praying for the people groups You have given them burdens for. So, Father, I know You will bring them all together, that all people groups will be brought to Your attention. They will be brought to You through our prayers.
Father, I pray that we will completely understand our responsibility, that all of us who belong to You, if we have breath, have a responsibility to bring Your glory to all the nations. I pray that You will guide us and keep us focused on what we learn tonight, on the desire and burden we feel as we listen to Secret Church teachings and we hear the prayers. We are moved to know that we have a responsibility.
I pray that You will break our hearts for the lost. Break our hearts for the unreached. Break our hearts for those who have no Bible. Lord, break our hearts for all the things that break Your heart. I pray for these people groups for whom You have burdened my heart. I pray for the Arabic-speaking people of Algeria, for the Beja, Bedawi people of Sudan, for the Fulani, Pulaar people of Senegal, for the Bidio people of Chad, for the Sinhalese people of Australia, for the Shaikh people of Bangladesh, for the Muhamasheen people of Yemen, for the Assamese of India, the Brahui people of Pakistan, the Albanian people of North Macedonia, the Azerbaijani people of Georgia, the Wolof people of France, the Chechen people of Germany, the Tamil people of New Zealand, the Turk people of Venezuela, and the Pashtun people of Chile.
Pray for Nations that it is Hardest to Share the Gospel In
I also pray for five nations where it is the hardest to get the gospel into. I pray for their nations as a whole. I pray for the unreached in North Korea, Afghanistan, Somalia, Libya and I pray for the unreached in Pakistan.
Father, I pray that You will send us out to complete Your perfect will. I look forward with great anticipation to the day coming when we will be in heaven and will be gathered with the very ones that we pray for tonight. We trust You with our prayers. We know that You will work Your perfect will through each one. We love You and praise You in Jesus’ name. Amen.
2. Respond to the Great Imbalance By Giving differently.
David Platt: God, help us to pray differently, and second, to give differently.
So even as we’re giving tonight, I encourage you to keep doing so, knowing that if we’re going to rectify the Great Imbalance, we cannot keep giving in the way we’ve given as followers in the church up until now. If we do that, we will perpetuate the Great Imbalance. We’ll keep spending the majority of our money on ourselves, on our comforts, and our churches. When we actually do give to missions, we’ll spend the majority of that money on places that already have the gospel.
So we have to give differently if we’re going to obey the Great Commission, if we’re going to accomplish God’s purpose for our lives. This means God is calling us to give differently (Matthew 6:19- 21). So what does that mean practically in each of our lives? It means we must give wisely, thinking about where we’re giving, who we’re giving to, who we’re giving through (Matthew 25:14-30).
Obviously, I’m not going to presume exactly how the Holy Spirit is leading you to give your resources, but here are some ways I would encourage you to wisely give, based on all we’ve seen tonight.
- Start by prioritizing needs. Look for urgent spiritual needs. Look for places where the gospel has not gone. Look for urgent physical need. Part of the purpose of STRATUS is to highlight the places of most urgent need, the collision of those two. [Just to be clear: we did not come up with this ranking. We just put the data in, then based on the data, these are the countries where urgent physical and spiritual needs collide most. Places like Afghanistan, Somalia, Yemen, Maldives, Sudan, Pakistan. Then if you scroll down and keep going on the Stratus Index, you’ll start to see countries that we often give to. Again, I’m not saying we should not give anything to these countries that are farther down, but if we’re going to rectify the Great Imbalance and obey the Great Commission, at some point we need to shift the priority to places at the top of that list, not the bottom half of it.]
- Give in a way that overcomes barriers. Again, STRATUS is intended to help us see, not just where the needs are, but what those needs are, why those needs exist and what it’s going to take to overcome those barriers. Give to Bible translation work in places where the lack of a Bible is a significant barrier to making disciples. In a similar way, give to water projects in places where the lack of clean water is a significant barrier to making disciples. Give to school development in places where lack of education is a significant barrier to making disciples.
- Support indigenous Christians in places, particularly of urgent spiritual and physical needs. Let’s get behind faithful, accountable brothers and sisters around the world who are doing the work where they already live among the unreached, who know the language and culture because they’ve lived in it. Let’s give wisely to our brothers and sisters among the nations, the mission force in the mission field.
- Support expatriate missionaries in places of urgent spiritual and physical need. By all means, give wisely to support people from your church and other churches, especially with an increasing focus on going to unreached places, places of urgent spiritual and physical need.
- Fuel clear gospel proclamation. Give in a way that magnifies, not minimizes, the proclamation of the gospel as much as possible and as faithfully as possible. Do not give to work that is diluting the proclamation of the gospel or perverting it as a path to prosperity in this world. Fuel clear gospel proclamation.
- Give in ways that foster healthy church formation. We want to make disciples and multiply churches; that’s the Great Commission. So even if we’re proclaiming the gospel and making disciples—or seeing what is sometimes referred to as a disciple-making movement—if we’re not gathering those disciples together in healthy biblical churches with healthy biblical pastors that are sending out healthy biblical missionaries, we’re not doing what Jesus told us to do, which is ultimately the point. So give in wise ways that further the Great Commission in the process of rectifying the Great Imbalance.
As you give wisely and willingly, also give sacrificially. This is the kind of giving God calls every one of us to: willing, sacrificial giving. We will not get the gospel to all the nations in our lives, in our churches, if we keep giving relative pennies on the dollar. Passages like 2 Corinthians 8:1-9 beckon us to ask, “Are you giving less than your ability, according to your ability or beyond your ability for the spread of the gospel among all the nations?” See the woman who gave out of her poverty, all that she had to live on (Luke 21:1-4).
C.S. Lewis put it this way:
I do not believe one can settle how much we ought to give. I am afraid the only safe rule is to give more than we can spare. In other words, if our expenditure on comforts, luxuries, amusements, etc., is up to the standard common among those with the same income as our own, we are probably giving away too little. If our charities do not at all pinch or hamper us, I should say they are too small. There ought to be things we should like to do and cannot do because our charitable expenditure excludes them.
So are we giving in ways that hurt, in ways that require sacrifice, that require us to give up things in our lives, in our churches? That certainly seems to be the kind of giving the gospel requires. A friend of mine who works in Yemen once asked me, “What would happen if the church stopped asking how much we can spare and started asking how much it will take?” What’s it going to take to get the gospel to all the nations? It’s going to take God’s people giving very differently, wisely, willingly, sacrificially, giving generously, and cheerfully.
Think about it. Based on 2 Corinthians 9:6-15, generous giving leads to greater glory for God and generous giving leads to greater joy for us (Philippians 4:10-20). When will we realize that God has designed our hearts not to be happy in getting but in giving? Not in hoarding more for ourselves in this world but in giving of ourselves for God’s glory in this world. Give for God’s glory and our joy, as an individual or a family (Acts 4:34-37).
It starts with each of us, then as a church (Acts 11:27-30). We must start spending money differently, as members of churches, as leaders and pastors of churches, if we’re really going to obey the Great Commission.
Give as a church and give in cooperation with other churches (Romans 15:26-27), knowing no one church is called to do this alone. This is the picture of giving we see throughout the New Testament.
A Story About Andy and Melissa
I want to invite you to hear the story of someone who has seen what God does, not just in the world, but in our own hearts and lives when we give differently, willingly and sacrificially. Watch this with me, then we’ll be led to pray about what God is calling us to do in each of our lives and in our churches to give differently.
Andy: I’m Andy and this is my wife Melissa.
Melissa: We met in college at the University of Florida and have been married for 16 years.
Andy: It’s really funny, because when we first met, I remember telling Mel I was going to buy her a Ferrari.
Melissa: I even have a contract.
Andy: Yeah, I wrote down: “I’m going to buy you a Ferrari when I graduate from graduate school.”
Melissa: The exact age was 28. I’m older that 28 now, but I do not have a Ferrari yet.
Andy: Nope, not yet. Probably never.
Melissa: Probably not. Maybe a toy one. I think our dreams, when we first got married…
Andy: A house on the ocean
Melissa: …were just the typical American dream type things: houses, cars, money, all the standard things you would want when you’re in your early 20s.
Andy: But the problem was, in about 2014, the office crashed and we were super stressed out because we were worried about the dollar. No one was happy.
Melissa: 2014 was just a year when it seemed like nothing was really going right with the business. No one was truly happy. Everyone was stressed out. Andy specifically was really stressed out. We just decided, once we had read the book Radical, there were just some things in the book that really stood out to us. I always say that when you read a book like Radical, the thing that you are struggling most with will stick out. For both of us, it was money. You know, like in Matthew, it says, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” That was us. Our treasure was money, the American Dream, having all the things, all the stuff. We were Christians, we were going to church, we were tithing. But still, we were putting our emphasis on money and the dream.
Andy: I drive 30 minutes to work every day, so during those 30 minutes I listen to a sermon or a book. On this day I was just in prayer, in particular telling God, “I want to be completely vulnerable. Whatever You want me to do, I’ll do.” That’s a really, really hard place to be. It’s a very scary place to be, because sometimes you do not want to hear what God tells you. But if you want to know the truth, that’s what you do. So on my way to work, that’s exactly what I did. The question I got asked was, “Andy, what have you done with what I’ve given you?” It was just so loud and clear. I do not hear His voice that clearly, but that’s exactly what I heard. So automatically I was thinking, “You know what? You’re right. I need to give more than I’m taking.” The tricky part is we’re a pair, so I cannot just be one side here.
Melissa: I’m still waiting on my Ferrari.
Andy: So I called Mel and said, “Hey, ah, honey, I’ve just been praying and I really feel compelled to give more than we take.” Then I was anxiously waiting.
Melissa: I said, “So funny. I agree. I think we should.”
Andy: We’ve always said whenever we’re on the same page, especially spiritually on something, that usually means we’re on the right track. We have a pretty good track record of that.
Melissa: One of the things I think we had tried to be more intentional about in the past couple of years was supporting people and organizations that specifically reach the unreached people groups of the world, rather than sending more resources to where people are already reached.
When you’re trying to reach unreached people groups, you have to understand that it’s not going to look the same as sending a missionary to Central America, where you can get reports back, see people’s faces, and the work that’s being done. In some respects, it feels like you’re doing more when you can see what you’re doing, whereas with unreached people groups, you’re not necessarily going to know exactly what’s going on. You’re not always going to see someone come to know Jesus or be able to know their name or their face or their story. So we’ve really had to understand that maybe there will only be one. Maybe there’ll be a handful. It’s not going to look the same as traditional missions that I think we’re used to in the U.S. church.
Andy: I would hope that if we were in one of the areas of the unreached, like this remote village that has no access to the gospel—whether it’s a mountain or just even a governmental authority—I would hope that someone out there with the means would be able to come reach us, to teach my children, “Hey, this is Who Jesus is. This is what the gospel is.” I would be forever grateful for that and hopefully, we’d meet in heaven someday.
Melissa: After making that commitment to give more than we keep, it’s taught us that we do not need the things that we thought we needed. It’s not that we do not still desire things; I think we definitely still desire things; we just know they’re not worth it. They’re not going to fulfill the ultimate goal, the thing we really desire our lives to be about, which is spreading the gospel. So, sure, who does not want a nice car or a boat or whatever. But the reality is that it’s not going to satisfy us. It’s not going to fulfill us. Looking back, it seems silly to want a Ferrari. I mean, that’s crazy. It’s a two-seater. We’ve got kids. That’s silly.
Prayer: God, I give praise to you because you are the Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and the Prince of Peace. We praise you because we were dead in our sins and you saved us by the blood of Jesus Christ and by your amazing grace. And we praise you because you clothe us with righteousness. Every breath that we have is your blessing and your gift. We are alive in you and our identity is in you. Thank you for giving us our daily bread. Our whole life is a gift from you. Strengthen us to have a generous heart to give that which you have given us to extend your kingdom and give glory to your name. Help us to be sacrificial givers. Prepare our hearts to be able to give our money, time, lives, and everything we have for you as a sweet-smelling sacrifice to you. Strengthen us to set our hearts on you, our true treasure.
As it says in your Holy Book in Matthew 6:21 that everywhere our treasure is, there our heart will be also. Help us to be people that you are pleased with. God, we raise our offering to you, and we are asking that this little gift that we are giving back to you would be used to spread your gospel among those places that have not yet heard your name. To every nation, tribe, and tongue.
Bless this git and multiply it to be used for you kingdom so that not our name, but your name would be glorified. We love you God, and I lift up everybody that is listening to this prayer in the name of Jesus Christ. Bless their life, their job, and their family. And use every single one of us, not only to be sacrificial givers with our time and money, but to be great ambassadors for you to share the gospel everywhere we go. You don’t need us, but use us, God. Let us shine for you and glorify you everywhere we go and with your presence, work to fulfill the Great Commission. We love you, and it is a great privilege and honor to be your co-laborers. Strengthen us to obey you and to be instruments in your hand. In Jesus’ name, amen.
3. Respond to the Great Imbalance By Going differently
David Platt: All right. Pray differently, give differently, now let’s look at the third practical step. As a takeaway from this night, I’m trying to put practical handles on this in our lives and get our minds racing in all different ways God might lead us to obey the Great Commission and rectify the Great Imbalance. The third practical step: go differently (Matthew 28:18-20).
Brothers and sisters in Christ, there are over three billion people in the world who have not heard the gospel, yet we are sending hundreds of thousands of missionaries and going on countless mission trips to places that have heard the gospel. Not that all those things are wrong, but we must go differently. Now, don’t start to think, “Okay, this is the part that is just for missionaries.” No, this is for all of us. So follow with me, starting right where you live.
Romans 16:3-15 is in your Study Guide at this point, because right after Paul talks about his ambition to preach Christ where He’s not been named and his desire for the church in Rome to help him specifically to get the gospel to the unreached in Spain, he lists out 26 different people who are all playing different parts in the spread of the gospel—right there in and from Rome. I’m just going to read the names:. Prisca, Aquila, Epaenetus, Mary, Andronicus, Junia, Ampliatus, Urbanus, Stachys, Apelles, Aristobulus, Herodion, those who belong to the family of Narcissus. That’s an unfortunate name. Tryphaena and Tryphosa, the beloved Persis, Rufus and also his mother, Asyncritus, Phelgon, Hermes, Patrobas, Hermas, Philologus, Julia, Nereus and his sister Olympas and “all the saints who are with them.”
I love this. This was not just Paul, Peter, James and John doing this work. It was Rufus and his mom. We name our kids after Paul and Peter, but who names their kids Tryphaena or Tryphosa? No offense—if that’s your name, it’s an awesome name. But here’s the picture. God has given the same exact command to all of His people, in every sector of society, in every domain of life: make disciples, starting right there among the neighbors right around you (Acts 3:1-10).
This is the beauty. Jesus’ plan for reaching the nations involves you and me making disciples, who make disciples, who make disciples. So do this right where you live, wherever you live, wherever you are, whatever your age, whatever your job. If you’re in school, the call is still the same: make disciples right there. You do not have to move to another nation to do this. Do this right where you live.
And even think about how to make disciples among the nations right around you (Acts 2:5-11, 11:19-21). In God’s sovereignty, He’s brought the nations to us. I mentioned that I live in Metro Washington, DC, where God has brought so many people groups to live. The same is true in Birmingham, Alabama, where I used to live: Somali, Turks, Kurds, Sudanese, Indians, Iranians, Mongolians…the list goes on and on and on. This is no accident. God is bringing the nations to us. It’s what He said in Acts 17. So let’s make disciples of the nations next door to us, reaching out to people who are not like us.
Make disciples for the nations right around you, meaning as you make disciples, walk them through all we’re walking through tonight (Acts 13:1-3). Walk them through this kind of discipleship. Do not just put this over in a missions category. This is what it means to follow Jesus. So when you lead somebody to Jesus, show them that their salvation is not just about them, but that God has saved them for the sake of His name among the nations. Show them that they were created to enjoy and exalt God’s glory among all the nations. Start tomorrow, the next day, and the next day, making disciples of the nations, among the nations, for the nations, right where you live. Going like that will change everything.
Then go wherever God may lead, knowing that each of our lives is God’s to lead. So let’s all, every single one of us, lay our lives down before God and say, “God, is there anywhere else You want me to go, specifically among all these people who have never heard of Your love?” With three billion unreached people in the world and such a relatively small number of missionaries working among them, would it not stand to reason, in light of all we’ve seen in God’s Word, that He’s calling many more people to go to them, like multitudes more to go to them? Not just a few—multitudes, among three billion people?
God, we ask that You would do it according to Your Word in Matthew 9. Send out more laborers, even from among those of us who are walking through this tonight. Send out laborers.
Now, I put Acts 8:26-40 in your notes, where Philip gets zapped by the Holy Spirit over to an Ethiopian chariot. Maybe that will happen to you, but probably not. The Holy Spirit is absolutely still in the business of setting people apart and sending them out, just like He did in Acts 13:4. The way I understand Acts 13, the Holy Spirit is setting apart, not everybody in the church in Antioch, but specifically Paul and Barnabas, to go where the gospel had not yet gone.
It seems that every follower of Jesus has two options, then, when it comes to the unreached and this Great Commission. I would phrase them here as two questions. One, are you a sender? Or two, are you a goer? You’re either a sender or you’re a goer. In Acts 13, God set Paul and Barnabas apart to go to the unreached and the rest of the church in Antioch sent them out. So goers and senders. And every single one of them in that story is playing some part in this work. And now, God has called every single one of us to play a significant part in this work.
Regardless of which part God calls you or me to play, both require sacrificial resolve (Philippians 1:3-11). Many will sacrifice to go, according to the leading of the Holy Spirit. But they’re not the only ones God is calling to live sacrificially. Do the senders sit back and live it up in the comforts of this world? No, we all lay down our lives. We reorient the way we think, desire, act and pray. We give and go, in order to get the gospel to all the nations in different ways.
We go from the reached to the unreached, which means we go from reached places to unreached places (Acts 15:40-41, 16:6-10). Or we go with the reached to the unreached, meaning what we talked about earlier (Acts 16:1-5). We need to look at mission fields now as mission forces. As churches have been planted and disciples have been made in those places, we need to start going with our brothers and sisters from Latin America and sub-Saharan Africa, and parts of East Asia or Europe, to places that have never heard the gospel—going with the reached to the unreached.
The opportunities for us to go are limitless. We can go short-term—think one to two weeks— knowing obviously you cannot make a mature disciple, a healthy church, a qualified pastor in an unreached people group in a matter of a week or two. But you can play a part in the overall process of making disciples and multiplying churches among that people group through wise short-term missions. Praise God for the accessibility of travel today. You and I can be among many unreached people groups in a matter of 48 hours. How awesome is that? That seems like a good way to spend personal time off, spring break, Christmas break or your summer break (Luke 10:1-24).
This leads to opportunities to go that I would call mid-term (Acts 18:9-11). Think a month or two, a year or two. Think about spending a summer, maybe six months, a semester if you’re a student, a year, two years, among the unreached. Think of retirees or others with jobs who might have flexibility along these lines. Think students. What a unique opportunity students have to take a summer, a semester, a year or two to go and work for the spread of the gospel where it has not gone.
I think about Mormon families who expect their graduating senior daughter or son to spend a year somewhere else in the world. If they are that committed to spreading a false gospel that says you have to work to get to God, then what does that say about you and me who have the true gospel that God has made His way to us. We have the truth about Jesus, not lies about Jesus. So why are we not expecting graduating seniors or college students to spend at least a summer, if not a semester or a year or two, in this unique window of life for the spread of the gospel in the world? That’s part of why Radical created the gap-year program that spends part of the time among the nations in DC and part of the time in the heart of the unreached.
I challenge every single student listening tonight, unless God clearly calls you otherwise, plan to spend at least a summer, if not a semester, a year or two, somewhere in the world where the gospel has not gone before you move on to the next stage in your life. Make that your default. God will either use you going mid-term to radically change your perspective of life, if He continues to lead you among the reached, or He will use that time to lead you to go long term, more than two years, basically to move to work among the unreached.
Even here, there are so many ways this can happen. You can go as your vocation, meaning God may call you to leave your career and make your new vocation to be making disciples and multiplying churches among the nations, specifically among the unreached. Which will require, much like what Paul talked about in Philippians 4:10-20, depending on the church—fellow followers of Jesus—to support you in that work. God may lead you to go to the nations through your vocation, much like He did with Paul in Acts 18, where Paul worked as a tentmaker in Corinth. And much like God did with Paul, there are multitudes more ministry opportunities for work among the nations for us today.
What if God is calling some of us, not to leave our jobs for the spread of the gospel to the nations, but to leverage our jobs for the spread of the gospel to the nations? Teachers, engineers, nurses, all kinds of medical professionals, all kinds of workers in all different domains—what if we intentionally look for jobs among the unreached? What if we realize that God has designed the globalization of today’s marketplace in such a way that the nations will pay for us to go spread the gospel to the nations. Even nations that would not welcome missions in the traditional sense will welcome workers with all kinds of different jobs.
God help us. We have more opportunities to take the gospel to all nations than ever before, if we will take them. God help us to think creatively when it comes to traveling among the unreached, studying among the unreached. Students, why not go and study for at least a semester abroad, overseas, working among the unreached
Retiring among the unreached. South Florida is not the only destination option you have. Try Southeast Asia or North Africa. Instead of a summer home in Central America or the Caribbean, why not Turkey, Morocco, or Malaysia? How are we going to spend our lives for the purpose of God? Consider all the avenues God has created for us to go to the unreached.
This is where I get so exhilarated because I certainly do not know each of the tens of thousands of people who are listening right now, but I know God has given each of you different gifts, skills, educations, and experiences—all for one purpose: for His glory among the nations—if we’ll just see this in each of our lives. We should not underestimate what God wants to do in and through our one life.
I want you to see a story of one life. Again, maybe God will lead some of you to parallel this story. I pray that God will use this story in a way that will encourage you, as His Spirit leads you, to begin to think of a million other ways that this could play out in your life, as you go for the spread of the gospel and the glory of God to all nations, starting right where you live, then being willing to go wherever He leads.
Let’s watch this and let it drive us to pray.
Video: Bella’s Story
Bella: So at the recommendation of one of my mentors, me and my friends went to this fellowship where basically a bunch of missionaries would come and tell what they were doing. And that night, this couple talked for a minute about their work in central Asia and I was like, man, I have to meet them. So I walked up to them afterwards and asked what they’re doing. They said they were teaching women a lot of practical life skills. I was like, that’s amazing. “I’m learning how to be a teacher.”
They’re like, “Oh, great. Come for the summer.” For about a month, I prayed about going and it kind of seemed like God was confirming it. But my dad was totally against it— and most of my family. Basically every day, I was talking to different people in my family and hearing, “Bella, this is selfish. Why would you put yourself in this position? It’s so unsafe. You could literally go anywhere else. Why are you doing this?” They were absolutely right. It was and still is a very dangerous country, especially for young single women.
As I prayed and read the Word and sought God’s will, I was like, “I did not really ask for this to be put in my hands. I did not know anything about this country before.” So was praying, “Lord, if this is Your will, then I’m willing to go against what my parents want, but for the sake of our relationship, please help me here. Work in their hearts. Show me if what I’m doing is wrong.”
At the end of that month, my dad called and said, “We’ve been talking about this for a month. I just want you to know I feel confident that you are following the Lord and that you will make the right decision. So if this is what you believe is the right decision, then you have my full support.” That gave me such huge confidence to make decisions about going. It’s not that my family would support me 100%, because it’s still not true, but that God would be faithful to them also, that He would take care of them and take care of their hearts. All I needed to do was be obedient.
Video host: For the next three years, Bella went on many short-term mission trips focused on reaching the unreached people groups of the world. She then decided to move to Central Asia full time, as soon as she finished getting her degree.
Bella: I was pretty confident that I was going to move overseas after I graduated. Then out of nowhere, I became so afraid of moving there. Of all the things I’d heard about, not just the scary things like war, but things I would be really uncomfortable with, like learning a new language, being alone and being so far from the people I love. I prayed, “God, I do not want to do this. Honestly, I know You would be faithful and You would sustain me, but I just do not really want to.” I was afraid. God made me think about what I was about to do and was saying, “Am I worth it? If it is everything you imagine, scary and uncomfortable, am I worth it?” So it was like, “Okay, You’re worth it, but You’re going to have to help me, because this seems too much for me.” Then one day it just did not feel so heavy and I felt like, “Hey, I can do it.”
Video host: Bella moved to Central Asia and is working face to face every day with women who have never heard the name of Jesus. Where she lives, it is illegal to evangelize and/or convert to Christianity, but Bella is trying every day to find opportunities to share while still staying safe.
Bella: Okay, so now I’ve been here for six months. I still struggle with having the confidence or courage and boldness to share. There are many days when I’m like, “God, why did You want me to do this? Why am I here?” What got me to this point is that, little by little, I’m trusting that what God has for me is good. If we really believe that God is our true joy and knowing God is our true purpose in life, then why would not share that with them?
Unknown speaker: Father, I want to thank You for gathering us here tonight to consider Your mission in the world and Your call upon our lives. As You said in Your Word in Isaiah 52:7 and Romans 10:15, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news.” I pray that from tonight You would raise up a whole new generation of those who will bring good news to the unreached peoples of the world. I pray You will raise up a whole new wave of students, working people, and even retirees to serve Your mission in the world, to proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ to the ends of the earth. May we use our time, talent and treasure. May You unleash the creative power of Your church to send Your people to bear witness to the good news of Christ to the ends of the earth. For Your glory we pray, in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Four Biblical Guarantees
David Platt: What might happen if we actually pray differently, give differently and go differently? If we will do this, here are four biblical guarantees to bank our lives on. What do we know to be true if we give our lives to this Great Commission?
1. God has power to save.
God has power to save (Psalm 67:1-5). We go to the nations, we proclaim this gospel among the nations, the nations will be glad in God. They will sing for joy as they praise His name. We know our God is able to save. Isaiah 59:1 says, “The Lord’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save.”
God is willing to save, and God our Savior “desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:3-4). God is “not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).
We know that God will save. God will use our lives—your life, my life, our churches—to bring about “a great multitude that no one can number, from every nation, from all tribes and people and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, crying out with a loud voice, ‘Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!’” (Revelation 7:9-10). God does use our lives to do that and He will. He will. He will. God has power to save. This gospel has power to transform. It’s “the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek” (Romans 1:16-17).
This gospel has the power to transform the hardest, most difficult, most dangerous person or people group in this world. This gospel has power to transform terrorists like Saul and turn them into missionaries for Jesus (Acts 9:1-9). The gospel has power to transform any person (1 Timothy: 12-17) in every people group (Revelation 5:9-10). There’s not a person or people group beyond the power of the gospel to save. Speak this gospel and it will save. Believe this, church. Nothing can stop the Word of God when it’s being proclaimed by the people of God.
I listed in your notes all the times in Acts where we see the Word of God spreading in power. We’re going to read through these and I want you to see the supernatural power of the Word. Circle every time you see “the Word” in these verses:
So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls. (Acts 2:41)
But many of those who had heard the word believed, and the number of the men came to about five thousand. (Acts 4:4)
“And now, Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness, while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus.” And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness. (Acts 4:29–31)
And the twelve summoned the full number of the disciples and said, “It is not right that we should give up preaching the word of God to serve tables. “Therefore, brothers, pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we will appoint to this duty. But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” (Acts 6:2– 4)
And the word of God continued to increase, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests became obedient to the faith. (Acts 6:7)
Now those who were scattered went about preaching the word. (Acts 8:4)
Now when the apostles at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent to them Peter and John. (Acts 8:14)
Now when they had testified and spoken the word of the Lord, they returned to Jerusalem, preaching the gospel to many villages of the Samaritans. (Acts 8:25)
While Peter was still saying these things, the Holy Spirit fell on all who heard the word. (Acts 10:44)
Now the apostles and the brothers who were throughout Judea heard that the Gentiles also had received the word of God. (Acts 11:1)
Now those who were scattered because of the persecution that arose over Stephen traveled as far as Phoenicia and Cyprus and Antioch, speaking the word to no one except Jews. (Acts 11:19)
But the word of God increased and multiplied. (Acts 12:24)
When they arrived at Salamis, they proclaimed the word of God in the synagogues of the Jews. And they had John to assist them. (Acts 13:5)
He was with the proconsul, Sergius Paulus, a man of intelligence, who summoned Barnabas and Saul and sought to hear the word of God. (Acts 13:7)
The next Sabbath almost the whole city gathered to hear the word of the Lord. But when the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy and began to contradict what was spoken by Paul, reviling him. And Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly, saying, “It was necessary that the word of God be spoken first to you. Since you thrust it aside and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, behold, we are turning to the Gentiles. For so the Lord has commanded us, saying, ‘I have made you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.’” And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord, and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed. And the word of the Lord was spreading throughout the whole region. (Acts 13:44–49)
And when they had spoken the word in Perga, they went down to Attalia. (Acts 14:25)
But Paul and Barnabas remained in Antioch, teaching and preaching the word of the Lord, with many others also. And after some days Paul said to Barnabas, “Let us return and visit the brothers in every city where we proclaimed the word of the Lord, and see how they are.” (Acts 15:35–36)
And they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. (Acts 16:32)
Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so. (Acts 17:11)
When Silas and Timothy arrived from Macedonia, Paul was occupied with the word, testifying to the Jews that the Christ was Jesus. (Acts 18:5)
And he stayed a year and six months, teaching the word of God among them. (Acts 18:11)
This continued for two years, so that all the residents of Asia heard the word of the Lord, both Jews and Greeks. (Acts 19:10)
Ha! All the residents of Asia heard the Word of the Lord.
God, may that be the case today, like, “Asia has now heard the Word of the Lord.” Then this last one sums it all up—Acts 19:20: “So the word of the Lord continued to increase and prevail mightily.” Get the point, church. Nothing can stop the Word of God when it’s being proclaimed by the people of God. Guaranteed: God will save; the gospel will transform lives, marriages, families, villages, and communities.
As disciples are made and churches are formed, the church has the power to change the world. Believe that. That’s not flowery, idealistic speak; that’s biblical truth (Acts 17:1-9).
I think about meeting with a church in a hard area of north India where the gospel had just gone and the church had just started. The new members of the church in this village had never heard of Jesus before. Now they’ve heard the gospel and they’ve believed. They said, “Our village was like hell until we heard the gospel.” They started talking about all the changes they were seeing as a result of the gospel, in their community, marriages, families and their relationships with each other.
Yes, this is the church. It’s not ultimately a building, programs, or budgets, but people, with the gospel in their hearts, loving one another and living for the spread of the gospel around them. That’s why the people in Thessalonica who were opposed to the gospel complained about Paul and Silas coming there. They said, “These men who turned the world upside down have come here also, and Jason has received them, and they are all acting against the decrees of Caesar, saying that there is another king, Jesus” (Acts 17:6-7; see also 1 Thessalonians 1:4-10). Yes! If you go proclaiming Jesus as King, you’re turning the world upside down. See this picture: Churches are outposts of God’s Kingdom, designed by God for the good of people and the glory of His name (Matthew 5:13-16, 16:13-20).
So let’s do this, right where we live and wherever God leads. Let’s make disciples and plant and multiply biblical churches. The greatest need in any nation, in any people group, is biblical churches; not American or any other type Acts 2:42-47). They should be marked by these twelve biblical traits:
Practicing biblical evangelism (Acts 2:36-41)
Doing biblical discipleship (2 Timothy 2:1-2)
Submitting to biblical teaching and preaching as the authority in the church—God’s Word is our authority (2 Timothy 3:14-4:5)
Devoting themselves to biblical prayer, depending on God, fasting, praying and pleading before God for what can only be accomplished by His hand and will only be attributed to His glory (Acts 6:1-7)
Honoring biblical leadership—God’s design for pastors and elders and overseers and deacons (1 Timothy 3:1-13)
Valuing biblical membership—every brother or sister a meaningful member of the body (1 Corinthians 12:21-27)
Enjoying biblical fellowship—all the 59 “one another” commands in Scripture (Romans 12:3-13)
Carrying out biblical accountability and discipline according to Jesus’ instructions in Matthew 18:15-20
Gathering for biblical worship, to sing, pray, give, study God’s Word, and to spur one another on toward Jesus (Ephesians 5:18-21)
Celebrating biblical ordinances of baptism and the Lord’s Supper (Matthew 3:13-17, 26:26-29)
Promoting biblical giving for the building up of the church, relief of the poor, and the spread of the gospel to all the nations (1 Corinthians 16:1-4)
Engaging in biblical mission—every local church sending missionaries to unreached people and places (Acts 13:1-3)
God has designed this for every local church. Do not miss this. Your local church, my local church, all of our local churches are to send people out for the spread of the gospel to places where the gospel has not gone. If you put all that together, you realize that the church, being who God has called the church to be and doing what God has called the church to do, is the key to rectifying the Great Imbalance and to accomplishing the Great Commission.
The key is us, together, being and doing what God has created us, as followers of Christ in churches, to be and do. It’s multiplying biblical churches around the world. This is the key—the third guarantee—that the church has the power to get the gospel of Jesus Christ to the world and to change the world.
4. In the face of opposition, this commission will one day be accomplished and this world will one day be new.
This leads to the fourth and final guarantee. To use the words of Habakkuk 2:14, “For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.” So let’s unpack this fourth guarantee, phrase by phrase, as we bring this to a close.
In the face of opposition. There are many adversaries, according to 1 Corinthians 16:8-9. First, they come from outside the church. Jesus told us this:
Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake. And then many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another. And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. And this gospel of the Kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.
What Jesus just said in Matthew 24:9-14 happened in Acts, as Peter and John proclaimed the gospel and were arrested (Acts 4:1-4). It was a story that would repeat itself over and over again in the New Testament, all the way to 1 Peter, where we have this letter to suffering and persecuted Christians. He writes in 1 Peter 4:12, “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.” This is not strange. This is expected. It would ultimately cost these disciples their lives.
An unknown author has written this:
Matthew suffered martyrdom by being slain with a sword at a distant city of Ethiopia. Mark expired at Alexandria, after being cruelly dragged through the streets of that city. Luke was hanged upon an olive tree in the classic land of Greece. John was put in a cauldron of boiling oil, but escaped death in a miraculous manner, then was afterward banished to Patmos. Peter was crucified at Rome with his head downward. James, the Greater, was beheaded at Jerusalem. James, the Less, was thrown from a lofty pinnacle of the temple, then beaten to death with a fuller’s club. Bartholomew was flayed alive. Andrew was bound to a cross, whence he preached to his persecutors until he died. Thomas was run through the body with a lance at Coromandel in the East Indies. Jude was shot to death with arrows. Matthias was first stoned and then beheaded. Barnabas of the Gentiles was stoned to death at Salonica. Paul, after various tortures and persecutions, was at length beheaded at Rome by the Emperor Nero.
All of them killed, you’ll notice, not simply for being Christians, but for proclaiming Christ. So those who stayed silent as Christians, who stayed on the sidelines of the Great Commission, did not obey the Great Commission, were okay. Those who went to the nations proclaiming Jesus as Lord in an effort to lead people to Him were killed. It was not just these first disciples; this was the story of the early church, those who’ve gone before.
In Justin Martyr’s words:
No one makes us afraid or leads us into captivity as we have set our faith on Jesus. For though we are beheaded, and crucified, and exposed to beasts and chains and fire and all other forms of torture, it is plain that we do not forsake the confession of our faith, but the more things of this kind which happen to us the more are there others who become believers…through the name of Jesus.
Tertullian said, “We [Christians] multiply whenever we are mown down by you; the blood of Christians is seed” for the church.
St. Jerome said, “The church of Christ has been founded by shedding its own blood, not that of others; by enduring outrage, not by inflicting it. Persecutions have made it grow; martyrdoms have crowned it.”
In the words of Charles Spurgeon:
Never did the church so much prosper and so truly thrive as when she was baptized in the blood. The ship of the church never sails so gloriously along as when the bloody spray of her martyrs falls on her deck. We must suffer and we must die if we are ever to conquer this world for Christ.
The Bible tells us this will be true until Jesus comes back. Listen to Revelation 6:9-11:
When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the witness they had borne. They cried out with a loud voice, “O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” Then they were each given a white robe and told to rest a little longer, until the number of their fellow servants and their brothers should be complete, who were to be killed as they themselves had been.
In other words, the final count of the martyrs is not yet finished. Just think about what that means. These three billion people will not be reached with the gospel without many Christians losing their lives in love for others. Let me say that one more time. These three billion people will not be reached with the gospel without many more followers of Jesus losing their lives in love for others.
Jesus has promised that there will be opposition from outside the church, and there will be opposition from inside the church. We saw earlier that throughout Scripture and church history the global purpose of God has always been resisted by the comfortable people of God.
Your Study Guide includes quotes from missionaries whom the church tried to talk out of going to the nations. The church tried to stop them from going to the nations.
Jim Elliot attended Wheaton College for four years(1945-49) studying linguistics. He was set on reaching the unreached Auca Indians of Ecuador. But Jim’s friends, family and church questioned him, asking if his ministry would not be more effective if he just stayed in the United States. He had such a gift for Bible teaching and preaching, so they pleaded with him to stay in the homeland. Here’s what he said in response:
Surely those who know the great passionate heart of Jehovah must deny their own loves to share in the statement of His. Consider the call from the throne above, ‘Go ye,’ and from round about, ‘Come over and help us,’ and even the call from the damned souls below, ‘Send Lazarus to my brothers, that they come not to this place.’ Impelled then by these voices, I dare not stay home while Quichuas perish. So what if the well-fed church in the homeland needs stirring? They have the Scriptures, Moses and the Prophets, and a whole lot more. Their condemnation is written on their bank books and in the dust on their Bible covers. American believers have sold their lives to the service of Mammon; God has His rightful way of dealing with those who succumb to the spirit of Laodicea.
On January 8, 1956, Jim Elliot and four other missionary men died on the riverbank by the spears of those they were trying to reach. Since that day, those Indians have been led to Christ by Jim Elliot’s own wife and other family members. Multitudes have surrendered to the mission field as the result of Jim Elliot’s life and death. Thousands of lives and ministries and churches have been blessed and changed by his words. Praise God the church could not stop Jim Elliot.
Think of David Livingston, missionary to Africa. When he was preparing to leave, he wrote this to the London Missionary Society, “So powerfully convinced am I that it is the will of our Lord that I should go, I will go, no matter who opposes me.” Right when he got to Africa, he was mauled by a lion. He came back home to much fanfare after his initial voyage there. He was invited to travel and speak everywhere. He pleaded with churches and missions organizations:
I beg to direct your attention to Africa; I know that in a few years I shall be cut off in that country, which is now open: do not let it be shut again! I go back to Africa to try to make an open path for commerce and Christianity; it is for you to carry out the work which I have begun. I leave it with you!
On his next journey back to England, he was treated much differently. This time there was no press, no pastors, no ministers, no government officials waiting to welcome him home. Then he went back to Africa to give the rest of his life there. For years, many began to believe he had died in the middle of the jungle, until a journalist, Henry Morton Stanley, was sent into Africa for two reasons. One, to find if Livingston was still alive, and two, to persuade him to come back home to be with his family, friends and his church. Stanley eventually found him and pleaded with him to come home. He promised that if Livingstone returned, he would receive many honors and fortune, in addition to being with people who were closest to him who would love and care for him. But Livingston said, “No.”
A year later, at the age of 60, Livingston was camped in the middle of inland Africa with a host of Africans. One came to him in the morning, found him by his bedside in a posture of prayer, with his head in his hands. He had died while praying. Instead of burying his body there, these natives decided to travel 1,000 miles from inland Africa to the coast so they could send his body back to England for proper burial. But before beginning their journey, they took Livingston’s heart and buried it in Africa, the country for which he had given his life in the cause of Christ. Praise God, the church could not stop David Livingston.
I’m not saying all these people are perfect in all the things they did. We have a lot to learn from what they did. But that’s the point. We learn from what they did. They went.
When William Carey decided to go to India, he addressed a conference of ministers about the need to go to India. One man stood up and scolded him, saying, “Sit down, young man. You are an enthusiast! When God pleases to convert the heathen, He will do it without consulting you or me.” Praise God, the church could not stop William Carey, who became the father of modern missions.
C.T. Studd was a wealthy Englishman who sensed God was calling him to go to China. His biographer said, “Studd met with the strongest opposition from his own family. That one from their family should become a missionary was the last straw. Every persuasion was used—even to the extent of bringing in Christian workers to dissuade him. One such respected Christian worker said to him, ‘Charlie, I think you are making a great mistake.’” Studd responded:
Let us ask God. I do not want to be pig-headed and go out there of my own accord. I just want to do God’s will… That night I could not get to sleep, but it seemed as though I heard someone say these words over and over, ‘Ask of Me and I will give thee the nations for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession.’ I knew it was God’s voice speaking to me and that I had received my marching orders to go to China.
Many said he was making a huge mistake, but he went anyway. His biographer later writes, “The result of his work in China sparked revival among students all across the English-speaking world.” How many would fall at this point? When God calls some along a lonely path, His people are against it.
Studd’s story does not end there. He returned from China, then went to India. When he got back from India, he was 50 years old. Instead of retiring, he decided to go to Sudan. The problem was he did not have any money. His doctor told him not to go. The church committee told him not to go. So he wrote a letter to them, saying, “God has called me to go and I will go. I will blaze the trail, though my grave may only become a stepping stone that younger men may follow.”
The result of his going was the development of what has become known as the Worldwide Evangelization Crusade, which ended up planting gospel seeds all across Africa, Asia and South America. Before he died at the age of 70, C.T. Studd wrote my favorite quote:
Too long we have been waiting for one another to begin! The time for waiting is past! Should such men as we fear? Before the whole world, aye, before the sleepy, lukewarm, faithless, namby-pamby Christian world, we will dare to trust our God, and we will do it with His joy unspeakable singing aloud in our hearts. We will a thousand times sooner die trusting only in God than live trusting in man. And when we come to this position the battle is already won, and the end of the glorious campaign in sight. We will have the real Holiness of God, not the sickly stuff of talk and dainty words and pretty thoughts; we will have a Real Holiness, one of daring faith and works for Jesus Christ.
Praise God, the church could not stop C.T. Studd!
All right, one more—John Paton, missionary to the New Hebrides. I quoted from him earlier. Paton had served for ten years as the pastor of a growing urban church in Glasgow, Scotland. But God began to burden his heart for the New Hebrides, a Pacific island with cannibalistic people who had no knowledge of the gospel. Twenty years earlier, two missionaries had gone to the island he wanted to go to, but they had been cannibalized. So as Paton began to share his desire to go to these people, he wrote:
I was besieged with the strongest opposition on all sides. One of my professors told me…that I was leaving certainty for uncertainty—I was leaving work in which God had made me greatly useful, for work in which I might fail to be useful, and only throw my life away among the Cannibals. Amongst many who sought to deter me, was one dear old Christian gentleman, whose crowning argument always was, “The Cannibals! You will be eaten by Cannibals!” John
Paton replied to this man: “Mr. Dickson, you are advanced in years now and your own prospect is soon to be laid in the grave, there to be eaten by worms; I confess to you, that if I can but live and die serving and honoring the Lord Jesus, it will make no difference to me whether I am eaten by Cannibals or by worms; and in the Great Day my resurrection body will arise as fair as yours in the likeness of our risen Redeemer.” The old gentlemen, raising his hands in a deprecating attitude, left the room exclaiming, “After that I have nothing more to say!”
Paton’s church grieved and pleaded with him to stay. They offered him a house. They offered him whatever salary he asked for, as long as he would stay. Keep in mind, they would not give him the salary if he went to the unreached. Paton wrote:
Indeed, the opposition was so strong from nearly all, and many of them warm Christian friends, that I was sorely tempted to question whether I was carrying out the Divine will, or only some headstrong wish of my own. This caused me much anxiety, and drove me close to God in prayer. But again every doubt would vanish when I clearly saw that all at home had free access to the Bible and the means of grace, with Gospel light shining all around them, while poor Heathen were perishing, without even the chance of knowing all God’s love and mercy to me.
So at the age of 33, John Paton traveled to New Hebrides with his wife. Within the first year, his wife and his only child died; he dug their graves with his bare hands. But what was the result of their lives and their work? The entire island of Aniwa came to faith in Christ. The church across Australia, Scotland, all parts of the world was challenged to rise up and make the gospel known among the toughest-to-reach people on the planet. Countless savages across the New Hebrides came to know the peace of Christ. Praise God, the church could not stop John Paton.
Brothers and sisters, do not be surprised when you face opposition to the Great Commission outside the church and inside the church.
This is the fourth guarantee. In the face of opposition, this commission will one day be accomplished. Jesus promised, “This gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come” (Matthew 24:14).
This means that all of Satan’s efforts to stop the church will ultimately serve to spread the church. We see this in New Testament church history. Just think of Acts 7:4-60. Saul oversees the stoning of Stephen, the first martyr in the church. One of God’s choice servants was struck down. But what happens directly as a result of that? Acts 8:1-4 tells us the gospel spread throughout Judea and Samaria. It led to the planting of the church in Antioch in Acts 11:19-26, which in Acts 13:1-4 just so happened to launch a missionary movement to the nations. Guess who their first two missionaries were? A guy named Barnabas and a guy named Saul. Yes, the same Saul who oversaw Stephen being stoned.
So follow this. As a terrorist, Paul inadvertently started a church that one day sent him out as a missionary to the nations. You cannot write a script any better than this. Satan’s efforts to stop the church will ultimately serve to spread the church.
Satan’s efforts to deceive the nations will ultimately end in the praise of Jesus among the nations
Let’s take it a step further. Satan’s efforts to deceive the nations will ultimately end in the praise of Jesus among the nations (Revelation 12:10-12). In other words, here’s the guarantee to bank our lives on: God wins! This commission will one day be accomplished and this world will one day be new (Revelation 21:1-7). A new heaven and a new earth will come down. God will dwell with us and we will dwell with Him. He will wipe every tear from our eyes. Death shall be no more. Neither shall there be mourning or crying or pain.
God will make all things new, and guess what? People from all nations will enjoy and exalt God in all of His glory forever and ever and ever (Revelation 21:22-27). People from all nations will experience God’s healing and feast on God’s blessings for all of eternity (Revelation 22:1-5). All the nations—all of them!
So let’s live today to hasten the coming of that day. That’s direct language from 2 Peter 3:11-13:
Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn! But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.
Let’s live with hearts that cry, “Do it! Come, Lord Jesus.” Some of you might be thinking, “Wait a minute. We’ve read Matthew 24:14 that says, ‘This gospel of the Kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all the nations’—all the ethnic groups, all the people groups—‘and then the end will come.’We’ve seen how 7,000 people groups are still not reached with the gospel. So does that mean Jesus will not, or maybe even cannot, come back today?”
I want to be clear. That’s not at all what I’m saying. The Bible clearly teaches only God knows when that day will be. The Bible teaches that could absolutely be today. I’m praying it will be today, before we even finish. How awesome would that be? We do not know with 100% accuracy if we have people groups defined perfectly as God would define them. We do not know how God would define when people groups are reached.
This is where I cannot improve on the words of George Ladd, a New Testament theologian. He says Matthew 24:14 is the single most important verse in the Word of God for the people of God today. He has written this:
God alone knows the definition of terms. I cannot precisely define who all the nations are, but I do not need to know. I know only one thing: Christ has not yet returned; therefore, the task is not yet done. When it is done, Christ will come. Our responsibility is not to insist on defining the terms; our responsibility is to complete the task. So long as Christ does not return, our work is undone. Let us get busy and complete our mission.
Yes. Let’s live to hasten the coming of that day by spending our lives in obedience to His command today in Matthew 28:18-20. Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples…” He’s speaking to you and me, “…of all nations, baptizing them…teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always” to see this commission through. With this clear command, this charge, this commission before us, we pray together: God, help us to rectify the Great Imbalance.
God, help us change the way we’re praying, giving, and going. God, help us live as disciples of Jesus for whom Your global purpose is dictating everything we think, desire, and do in our lives and in Your church.
God, use us to accomplish the Great Commission. I pray that the fruit of this night will be tens of thousands of men, women, and students living for the day when Revelation 7:9-10 is a reality.
Can we just close by reading this out loud together, all at once, in all the places we’re gathered, with this vision, with this hope in our hearts? Thank you for being part of this night. Thank you for setting aside this time for leaning into this late night, for giving as you’ve given, for praying as you’ve prayed. I pray that the fruit of our time is a tectonic shift in our lives, our families, and our churches, with this vision on our hearts.
Let’s read Revelation 7:9-10, out loud and together, all at the same time, in this late hour, before God. Then I want to pray over you.
After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”
A Prayer for God to Use Our Lives
O God, we long for and look forward to the day when what we just read will be experienced. We will all be together, by Your grace, through Jesus, with every nation, tribe and tongue. So we pray, God, please use our lives.
As I’m praying right now, can we just all put our hands out before God?
God, use our lives. Here we are, all of us. Use us to rectify this Great Imbalance; use us to obey Your Great Commission. We say with open hands, “Our lives are Yours. We want to enjoy and exalt Your glory among all the nations.”
God, I pray Psalm 67 over every single person listening right now. O God, I pray Your Word over them. Be gracious to them. Bless them. Cause Your face to shine upon them, so that Your ways may be known on the earth and Your salvation known among the nations through their lives. Father, I pray this over every single person listening right now, in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Session 3 Discussion Questions
1. How might singleness be used for the sake of making disciples of all nations? What about marriage? How might the Great Commission affect who you date?
2. What are some ways that parents can raise their children to embrace their role in the Great Commission?
3. To spread the gospel is to engage in spiritual war. How does this reality change the way you approach your role in the church’s mission?
4. How might the outcome of this spiritual war—Christ’s certain victory!—remove our fears and anxieties?
5. How will you pray differently in light of the Great Imbalance?
6. How will you give differently in light of the Great Imbalance? What are some specific ways you could sacrifice for the sake of the spread of the gospel?
7. What characteristics should we look for in those whom we support financially for the sake of spreading the gospel among the unreached?
8. What truths and promises from God’s Word can help you to give cheerfully?
9. What are some ways that you can make disciples of the nations right where you live? Where in your city can you meet people from other people groups? If you’re unsure, how could you find out?
10. At this point, do you sense God leading you to be a sender or a goer?
11. What training, gifting, opportunities, etc., do you have that could be leveraged for the sake of making disciples among the nations?
12. As we think about our role in the Great Commission, why is it essential for our trust to be in God and in the power of his gospel?
13. What are some biblical traits of healthy churches? Why are such churches critical to the Great Commission?
14. If we’re going to see the Great Imbalance rectified, suffering will be a necessity. How does God prepare us for and sustain us through suffering?
15. How do you sense the Lord may be leading you to respond to what you’ve heard in Secret Church 21? Write down some “next steps.” Be sure to seek out counsel from your pastors, fellow church members, and wise Christian friends.