Many Christians go their entire lives without noticing the most urgent needs around the world, or even those right around them. They are unaware that multiplied millions—even billions—among the nations still have no access to the gospel. They are also unaware that many of these same people, the unreached, have extreme physical needs. In this message from Mark 2:1–12, David Platt challenges us to consider how God may be using the story of a forgiven and healed paralytic to direct our lives to peoples and places that desperately need gospel access. Is God leading you to go? The faith that changed the life of the paralytic and his four friends in Mark 2 is a faith that ought to characterize followers of Christ today.
If you have a Bible, a copy of the Word of God—and I hope you or somebody around you does that you can look on with—let me invite you to open with me to Mark 2. As you’re turning, I want to welcome you here and online. It’s good to be together around God’s Word, specifically today, as we talk about giving this Word to people who have never heard it. Before we talk about that though, I want to briefly mention a note about our work to spread this Word and the gospel in our city.
As many of you know, in March 2020, as soon as everything around us started shutting down, we opened up ministry to deliver food and the gospel to communities and families in need across our city. People began specifically giving to what we call our Care Fund, which we had already set up to go directly to urgent spiritual and physical needs here and around the world. At that time, we decided that 100% of giving to the Care Fund would go toward these local outreach efforts during the pandemic. You as a church stepped it up, giving millions of dollars, volunteering with tens of thousands of hours and distributing ten million meals to people in need, all with the gospel, in a way that has led to making disciples and multiplying churches around our city. Now that there’s less need for emergency food distribution, we’ve scaled that operation back. I encourage you to continue giving to that Care Fund, but know that this fund going forward will not just be used for food distribution like it was during the pandemic. We’re going back to using the Care Fund for all kinds of gospel work among urgent spiritual and physical need here and around the world.
That leads us to today—a day we’ve looked forward to, fasted and prayed for, as we are asking, “God, who among us are you setting apart to take the gospel where it has not yet gone in the world.” We call these Acts 13 days in our church family. Let’s look at this passage to remind us why. Verse one tells us about the church at Antioch:
1 Now there were in the church at Antioch prophets and teachers, Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen a lifelong friend of Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. 2 While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” 3 Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off.
Let’s make sure we see what just happened. The church was worshipping, fasting and praying, just like we set aside this past Friday for many to fast and pray late into the night, worshipping together. Just like we are worshipping together today, the Holy Spirit spoke in Acts 13 and said, “Barnabas and Saul, I’m setting you apart for this particular work.” The work was to take the gospel where it had not yet gone.
Here’s a map that represents the places where the gospel had gone by the time Acts 13 was written. It’s really hard to tell on this map, but if you look right around Rome, there’s a little bit of yellow. Right around Jerusalem where the gospel started, there’s a little bit of yellow. Then around Antioch, there’s just a tiny bit of yellow you can barely see on the map. These are regions that were known to contain Christians in Acts 13. Just a few Christians in Rome, a few in Antioch, then some in and starting to spread out from Jerusalem. In Antioch, God says, “Saul and Barnabas, I’m calling you to take the gospel into these other places where the gospel has not yet gone.”
Now all that leads to a more contemporary map of the world today. The green represents regions in the world where the gospel has gone; where disciples of Jesus have been made; where churches exist that are proclaiming the gospel of Jesus. Obviously, it does not mean that everybody in the green areas is a Christian, but it does mean that the gospel has gone to these places.
The yellow areas on this map represent either a more formative or nominal church which basically means either the church is in its infancy there and is growing, but it’s not to a strength where it’s able to really spread the gospel throughout that area. Or maybe the gospel used to be there, but the church has weakened. Think about different places in Europe, for example, where a century ago the gospel was being proclaimed, but now there are many church buildings where the gospel is not being proclaimed. So that’s yellow, representing less access to the gospel among these areas.
The red on this map represents areas that are classified as unreached by the gospel. These include about three billion people—about 40% of the world’s population and approximately 7,000 distinct people groups unreached by the gospel. This doesn’t just mean they are lost. People are just as lost or separated from God by their sin in Washington D.C. as they are in Yemen. The difference is there are churches and Christians over here in Metro Washington D.C. who are proclaiming the gospel—thousands of them in this church alone. However in Yemen, there are very few followers of Jesus and very few churches. Some places here in red have zero known Christians or churches among them. This means practically, if you live in one of these red areas, the likelihood is that you’ll be born, live, die and you will never even hear the good news about Who Jesus is, how Jesus died on the cross for our sins and rose from the grave, so that anyone who trusts in Him as Savior and Lord will be forgiven of their sins and restored to eternal life with God. You’d never hear the good news. The Bible is clear that if you never hear this gospel, then you cannot believe it and be saved from your sins. Romans 10:17 says, “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” This means that if unreached people never hear the gospel, when they die they will experience eternity in hell.
Now some of you might immediately think, “Now surely God would not let them go to hell when they’ve never heard the gospel.” We’ve walked through that before; we don’t have time to address that today but if that’s a question in your mind, just search, “What happens to people who never heard the gospel,” then enter my name and you’ll find plenty on that topic.
The Bible is crystal clear that people cannot be saved from their sins by Jesus if they don’t believe in Him. They cannot believe in Jesus if they don’t hear about Jesus. I know that’s difficult to stomach, but as followers of Jesus we can either paralyze ourselves with questions or we can open our eyes, take God at His Word and put into practice what He has clearly told us to do. We’re talking about billions of people in thousands of people groups who need to hear the gospel and Jesus has made it clear what we are to do. At the end of every one of our worship gatherings, we say to each other: “Go and make disciples of all the nations.” Jesus has clearly told us to make this gospel known among all the people groups. He has called us as His church to pray toward that end, to give toward that end and for some of us to go to some of these places.
Think about it. If there are thousands of people in our church family here and three billion unreached people in the world there, surely God is saying to some of us here, maybe many of us here, “I’m setting you apart to go and take the gospel there, where people haven’t heard it yet.” This is why we set aside a Sunday or two a year to fast, pray and worship, asking, “God, which students, young adults, singles, couples, families and senior adults are You calling to move to these places?”
Now students and children who are in this gathering right now, listen closely. Obviously, I’m not assuming that a ten-year-old is going to get on a plane and go to Yemen tomorrow. However, I’ve met many people working around the world who were in a worship gathering like this when they were ten years old and God spoke to them in a way that changed the trajectory of their lives. I’ve asked God to do that in lives in this room, from the oldest to the youngest.
However, I think there’s a misconception among many of you that you could never do this. That’s just for a certain, unusual type of person; not a normal person like you. I want you to know that kind of thinking is not from God. That is from the adversary and it’s not true. Let me illustrate.
I want to introduce you to one of our pastors and his wife. This is Chris and Anna. I mean this in the best way possible, they are some of the most normal people I know. Not unusual. I think that’s a compliment. So just normal people whom God has called to go and serve for many years in a red part of that map. I want you to hear just a little bit of their story, in a way that I hope you can identify with in some way. Let’s start by asking what they were doing before they went to their specific red part of the unreached world.
Chris: In college, I was a business major. After college, we got married and moved back to my hometown where I was teaching business in a middle school, plus coaching football and basketball. We had just bought our first home, so life was really good. I was living near my family, enjoying marriage and pursuing a coaching career.
Anna: I studied political science in school and sanctity of life was truly my passion. When we moved to Texas, the Lord led me to teach children. Shortly after, I was diagnosed with a disease and had surgeries, until the Lord let us on a journey of healing and infertility. He used that time to really deepen our faith and marriage, preparing our hearts for things that were ahead.
David: These are normal people with normal struggles. I should add thought that there’s one thing a little abnormal about Chris. He was a college football quarterback and not everybody can do that. I remember when they first moved here, we invited them over and were throwing a football around in our backyard. Now I’ve played football with my kids there, throwing the ball to them, but they’ve never had a ball thrown to them in the way Chris threw it. I thought I was giving it all I had, but had to say, “Son, I’m sorry. I’ve not prepared you.” So Chris is a little abnormal, but for the most part they are normal people with normal struggles in life. They were on a particular career path, but years before they even met and got married, they heard about the unreached, then something happened. Tell us about that.
Chris: Anna and I were able to do some short-term mission trips and really enjoyed them. We thought that’s what we would do during our summer breaks, but then the tsunami hit in 2004 and over 250,000 people died instantly, most of them without ever hearing the name of Jesus or hearing the gospel message. That broke our hearts and led us to pray, “God, what do You want us to do with our lives?”
A few months later during a worship service, the Lord clearly spoke to my heart that He wanted us to move overseas and serve Him. I was a little bit nervous and didn’t want to think about that. After the service, Anna asked me, “Did God speak to you at all?” I was like, “Yeah, He said we’re supposed to move overseas and serve Him.” She said, “That’s the same thing He said to me. I prayed that He would confirm it in you.” Now, I didn’t have any seminary training so we started working with our church to help discern where the Lord was leading us and prepare us to know how to do work overseas. We knew the Lord had put in our hearts Isaiah 9:2, that those living in darkness have seen a great light. What was He was calling us to do? Where was He calling us to go and shine the light of Jesus and share the gospel message?
David: And that’s what we’re praying, “God, who are You saying that to among us today?” So you guys went and moved to a red area on that map. What did you do when you got there?
Chris: We didn’t speak the language, so we went into language learning full time so we could communicate with the people, build relationships and ultimately share the gospel. After a couple years of that, I used by business degree and opened up a consulting business. That gave us lots of good relationships in the community that we could build on. Then actually, I was asked to coach football again. Amazingly the people liked American football, so I was able to use that to build relationships and share the good news. Then as a family, we wanted to make disciples in our neighborhood, reach out to local restaurants and just do things as a family. We were able to see churches grow in health, then multiply, then also see them have the vision to go to other unreached people.
David: Are you following this? Normal people doing normal things. Doing business somewhere else. Coaching football somewhere else. There are so many things we could dive into there. Obviously, this was easy for you because you didn’t have kids.
Anna: It was easier in the beginning because we didn’t have any children when we went overseas, but now we have six. We walked the journey of infertility for six years, then the Lord added to our family five children in 25 months. We were so grateful for that—praise the Lord from Whom all blessings flow! Truly! Then three years later, He blessed us with our youngest daughter, so we are now a family of eight.
Yes, we just get to serve the Lord! We are broken and desperate people, in need of Christ every day. He’s worked in our family in marvelous ways and we just praise Him. I’m so thankful for the way our children get to minister alongside us. We always tried to bless them, having them do ministry with us in many ways. I think of the paralyzed beggar I met one day who was laying on the ground. I said, “Will you come to our home for dinner?” He came a few days later and our kids were so joyful and just served him. He became our friend. Then I think of other friends who had never celebrated their birthdays before. They got to celebrate for the first time in our home and they are now our brothers and sisters. We saw people come to faith by His wonderful work. We got to see them grow in faith. It’s truly such a privilege; I can’t imagine our lives any other way. It was truly amazing and I praise the Lord for the ability to go to the nations.
David: There’s so much I’d love to dive into with Chris and Anna, but the primary thing I want you to hear from them today is to see how God is calling football coaches, business leaders, teachers, moms and dads, all kinds of normal people. Three billion in the world won’t be reached by the gospel when a couple of unusual people decide not to do anything about it. Three billion people in the world will be reached with the gospel when a whole host of normal people in the church, filled with the supernatural Spirit of God, decide to follow His lead to take the greatest news in the world to those who have never heard of Him. I guarantee you can hear in their voices that Chris and Anna don’t regret for a second following the Holy Spirit’s leadership on that day.
Will you thank Chris and Anna with me? [Applause.]
So this is why we’ve come to this day. Just in case it was not clear before, this is not just a religious perfunctory service we’re going through right now. We’re in a meeting with God. We are asking Him to call out some of us to go. Or maybe even just like Chris and Anna, to bring that to fruition on this day. So I want to lead us in prayer, then for all of us to say together: “God, I will do whatever You call me to do to spread the gospel to the unreached.” This is the prayer my family prayed this morning before we came. We’re going to pray it together and see what God says.
Don’t be afraid to pray that prayer. You don’t ever have to be afraid about following the Lordship of Jesus in your life. It’s the best place for you to be. Be afraid of making your own plans for your life.
So let’s bow our heads before God right now, then I’m going to say this prayer out loud, a phrase at a time. I’m going to invite you to repeat after me, corporately saying this out loud to God together: “God, I will do whatever You call me to do to spread the gospel among the unreached. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.”
So now let’s hear from God and His Word in Mark 2, the next story in our journey through the book of Mark. It’s a great story. Picture this with me:
1 And when [Jesus] returned to Capernaum after some days, it was reported that he was at home. 2 And many were gathered together, so that there was no more room, not even at the door. And he was preaching the word to them. 3 And they came, bringing to him a paralytic carried by four men. 4 And when they could not get near him because of the crowd, they removed the roof above him, and when they had made an opening, they let down the bed on which the paralytic lay. 5 And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” 6 Now some of the scribes were sitting there, questioning in their hearts, 7 “Why does this man speak like that? He is blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?” 8 And immediately Jesus, perceiving in his spirit that they thus questioned within themselves, said to them, “Why do you question these things in your hearts? 9 Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise, take up your bed and walk’? 10 But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he said to the paralytic— 11 “I say to you, rise, pick up your bed, and go home.” 12 And he rose and immediately picked up his bed and went out before them all, so that they were all amazed and glorified God, saying, “We never saw anything like this!”
What a story! Picture this scene: A crowd crammed into this home, many gathered together so there was no more room, not even at the door. People are packed in and flowing out the door. Inside, Jesus was preaching to eager listeners, as well as some scribes who were trying to figure out Who this disease-healing, demon-delivering Teacher was. Suddenly, four men showed up with a paralyzed friend on a mat. They wanted to get in the house, but no one would let them in. Just imagine people at the door, looking back, made eye contact with this man on the man, but they turned back around without budging.
When pushing and prodding didn’t work, his friends got resourceful. Just imagine the conversation. The first guy said, “Why don’t we climb up on the roof?” To which the second said, “All the good that will do genius. Jesus is inside, not outside.” To which the first guy replied, “Yeah, I know that, bro. We’ll just take the roof off.” To which the third guy said, “You can’t just take the roof off.” The first guy said, “Why not?” They looked at each other and finally the fourth guy chimed in, “I don’t think we have a better option. We want to get our friend to Jesus; if that’s the only way, let’s do it.” So they climbed up on the roof—a common place in a home back then to sit, stand, lie down or sleep on a cool night, almost like we might picture a deck today, sturdy enough to walk on.
So imagine you’re inside. You hear footsteps above as you’re listening to Jesus in front of you. All of a sudden you hear an odd noise and dirt starts falling on your head. First a little bit, then a lot. And it’s not just falling on you; it’s falling on people around you. Jesus Himself is dodging it. The roof is coming down. You can only imagine the owner of the house screaming, “What are you guys doing to my roof?” We don’t know for sure whose house this was. I’m pretty sure if it was Peter’s mother-in-law she was about to have another headache that would need to be healed. Then suddenly the sun starts to peek through. By now, Jesus, despite His authoritative teaching, loses the crowd’s attention. More dirt falls; more tiles are removed. Until a massive hole is formed.
Mark’s description in the original language suggests a major demolish job. The text literally says, “they unroofed the roof.”
Once the hole is made, there’s a long pause as everyone waits to see what is going to happen next. That’s when a mat, likely tied with ropes at its corners, is slowly lowered down. On it lies a paralyzed man, now placed in front of Jesus’ feet and no one says a word. Inside or outside. Notice Mark doesn’t record a single word spoken by these friends. I can just imagine Jesus looking down at the man, then up at his friends. What do you imagine on their faces? Are they nervous? Anxious? Smiling? We can assume they are sweating as they catch their breath and wait to see what Jesus is going to do. We don’t know exactly know what the friends look like, but we do know that whatever Jesus sees, it’s faces of faith. Then He says to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”
That’s pretty odd when you think about it. The man didn’t even ask for that. This is where we realize we don’t have all the details. We don’t know for sure if anyone else said anything. We do know it was common belief in that day that physical suffering was attributed to personal sin. We don’t know whether this man’s paralysis was tied to specific sin in his life or if it was something he was born with. All we know is Jesus makes a pronouncement that shocks the crowd, specifically the religious leaders. This man has sinned and Jesus has authority to forgive him, which leads those scribes to wonder in their hearts, “The penalty for blasphemy is death and this Teacher deserves it; He’s claiming to be God.”
Now the text doesn’t say they said that out loud, but Jesus saw straight into their hearts, as He does with each of us. He turned to them and said, “Why do you question these things in your hearts? Which is easier, to say to the paralytic your sins are forgiven? Or to say rise, take up your bed and walk? Which is easier, forgive sins or heal paralysis?” After a pause, He said, “I want you to know I have authority to forgive sins.” Then He turned to the paralytic and said, “I say to you, rise, pick up your bed and go home.”
Picture it! To the amazement of the crowd crammed into that home, to the disgust of the scribes sitting on the floor, to the delight of four friends peering down from an unroofed roof, the man stood. He stood and immediately picked up his bed and ran out of the room. The crowd moved for him this time. You can imagine those friends running down from the roof, jumping up and down with their friend as they shouted and raced home with a demolished house in their wake, full of people who for the first time spoke in this story, saying “We never saw anything like this!” Isn’t that a great story?
So what is God saying to us through this story now, as we’re asking, “God, who are You calling among us to go?” What is God saying to us? Let’s look at God’s Word to us in this text on this day, in a world of three billion unreached people.
Mark 2 1–12 and How We must see the needs of people among the unreached.
Here are crowds, in Mark 2, flocking to see Jesus, yet totally ignoring a paralytic man in need of Jesus, until four guys see him on the road and stop. I am convinced that one of the primary reasons more Christians are not praying, giving and going to the unreached is because we’re not even opening our eyes to the reality of the unreached. We don’t even see them. So many Christians and some of you here, can spend years in church and never even hear about unreached people in the world. Or maybe hear and think about them every once in a while, but then go on with business as usual.
God, open our eyes to see, first and foremost, urgent spiritual needs which are ultimate.
Mark 2 points to the reality that this man’s ultimate need was not to stand on his feet, but to be forgiven of his sin. That is the ultimate need of every single person in this gathering and every single person in the world. More than anything else, we need to be forgiven of our sin and reconciled to God. This is the gospel—the good news that God has made a way for us to be forgiven of all our sin and reconciled to Him for eternal life through faith in Jesus, because of what He did on the cross and His resurrection from the grave. This is why we have been commanded to proclaim this gospel in a world of spiritual need, starting right around us. There are people in spiritual need whom we work with, live among, sit in restaurants next to. So yes, starting right here but not stopping here.
There are three billion people in the world who don’t even have access to this gospel. They don’t have anyone near them who can share this gospel with them. At some point, somebody has to go to them. Know that if someone doesn’t go to them, they cannot be saved from their sin. Somebody has to go and tell them; if not, they will spend eternity separated from Him. Do we feel what’s at stake here? Three billion people. Do we see the need, the ultimate urgent spiritual need? We’re prone to think about needs in the world, first and foremost, as physical needs, impoverishment, starvation. We’ll talk more about that in a moment; that’s obviously part of the story here in Mark 2, but don’t miss the ultimate point. Yes, we have been commanded to share God’s love in a world of earthly suffering and ultimately we have been commanded to proclaim God’s gospel to keep people from eternal suffering and hell.
We see what’s at stake today, God. Open our eyes to billions of people to whom no one is going right now, to see urgent spiritual need, and then yes, to see urgent physical needs which are evident.
Just like the man here in Mark 2, lying on a mat who cannot walk. Yes, we’ve been commanded to display Jesus’ love in a world of urgent physical need. Yes, throughout the Bible we’ve been commanded to care for people amidst earthly suffering; if we don’t, we don’t actually have faith according to James 2:14–17:
14 What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? 17 So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.
If we turn a blind eye and a deaf ear to people in urgent need around us, our faith is worthless. It’s in vain. It’s a good as dead. This is why, in our partnership with Radical, we created a tool that is called STRATUS that I’ve shared with you before. Its aim is to open the eyes of the church to urgent spiritual and physical needs among the nations. STARTUS.earth is where you can see a glimpse of the world based on data from various places, opening our eyes to spiritual and physical needs in the world and where they collide. The darker the red on this map, the deeper collision of urgent spiritual and physical needs, places without the gospel and with a lot of physical suffering. Places like Afghanistan which has obviously been in the news a lot recently.
Let’s focus on Yemen for a minute. This whole tool is intended to open our eyes, as you sit down with family, with church groups, to invest your life and your prayer life, to learn how to pray for Yemen, to learn about the need for the gospel in Yemen. You can pull up videos that help you pray for Yemen. In fact, let’s do that now. Let’s just pause and watch this video that leads us to pray for Yemen. As we do, may God open our eyes and the eyes of our hearts to urgent spiritual and physical needs in the world. [Prayer on video.]
I was on the phone Thursday with a good friend who, for many years, has been working to get the gospel to Yemenis. He was telling me about the brother whose voice we just heard. He has experienced a lot of cost for following Jesus. You might think, “Okay, so there are Christians there. There’s a church there.” Yes, there are 30 million people in Yemen. We don’t know for sure exactly how many Christians, but it’s very likely that there are more Christians in McLean Bible Church than in all of Yemen put together. That’s what I mean by saying surely God is calling somebody to go to the unreached. Maybe many people to go. It starts with a willingness to open our eyes and not turn away, not going back to business as usual.
Mark 2 1–12: We must realize the challenges to reaching the unreached.
When we see the needs among the unreached, at the same time, we must realize there are challenges to reaching them, much like we see in Mark 2, but on a much grander scale. These men were carrying this paralytic man on a mat to get to this house, realizing it’s not going to be easy to get him to Jesus. The same exact thing is true for all the red areas on that map. Unreached people are unreached for a reason—they are difficult to reach. In some cases, dangerous to reach. As we’ve said before, all the easy ones are taken.
Just think about all the challenges to reaching the red areas on that map—natural challenges, geographic challenges. It’s hard to get the gospel to remote villages in the Amazon or deep in the rugged terrain of Afghanistan. Think of political challenges, like we see throughout the Bible. Kings who set themselves up against God. Leaders who opposed and attacked the people of God. Governments like we see in Revelation that work against the spread of the gospel. Think about conflicts, wars, corruption, all these things effect the spread of the gospel among the nations.
Then think developmental challenges, economic instability, illiteracy, lack of access to clean water or medicine. All of these factors effect reaching the nations with the gospel. Social challenges, slavery, trafficking, violence, crime, ethnic tension, refugee relocation. All these present unique challenges to the spread of the gospel. Think linguistic challenges that you heard Chris and Anna talk about. There are over 7,000 languages spoken around the world today; approximately half of them still have little or no Scripture. At some point, that challenge is going to have to be overcome in order to reach the nations with the gospel. On top of all these challenges, you have persecution in unreached places. Many of these are places in the world that will not welcome Christian missionaries or anyone speaking about Christ. In all of this, we should not be surprised.
Some of you might look at this list and think, “Okay, you’ve sufficiently talked me out of it.” If that’s you, I would just ask what kind of Christianity have you bought into? Who told you that following Jesus would lead to greater comfort and ease in this world? That didn’t come from the Bible; that came from a very skewed version of this book that’s being sold all across our culture. Read the book of Acts. Who was that easy for? All these challenges were there. This is our story, church. Leave behind a false, superficial picture of Christianity; embrace a Biblical picture of Christianity that says we’re the church of Jesus Christ. We’re part of His story that does not shrink back from challenges in order to spread the gospel in the world. No, we see challenges as opportunities for our God to show His power and glory in ways far beyond what we could ever do as we have our lives fixed on a totally different world. That’s our story. This is what it means to follow Jesus.
He didn’t say “if they persecute you”—he said “when they persecute you.” He didn’t say “if you experience challenges”—he said “when you experience challenges.” This leads to the third and final way I would summarize God’s Word to us in this text.
We must pray, give, send and go with resolve to meet needs and overcome challenges among the unreached with faith that is…
We must see the needs among the unreached; we must realize the challenges to reach the unreached. We must be resolved to meet the needs of the unreached with faith. Let me pause here because every word in point three counts. There’s a lot here.
These first two things, let’ be clear, are for all of us. We must all pray for the spread of the gospel to the nations. Is this evident in your prayer life? Are you praying every day for the spread of the gospel to people who have never heard it. Do you pray, do you long for that? The Spirit of God in you longs for that. Use STRATUS.earth; use Unreached of Day from Joshua Project. In your life, in your family together, look at these unreached people groups, pray for the spread of the gospel to them. We must all pray.
We must all give. We live in one of the wealthiest places in the world and God has given us wealth for a reason—for the spread of His worship in the world, not for the indulgence of more and more and more stuff that won’t last. So how are we going to use the resources God has given us for the spread of His gospel among people who have never heard it? How are we going to invest ourselves there? We all must pray. We all must give.
Then these second two are likely an either/or, at any given point in our lives, based on Acts 13. Think about it. Everybody in the Antioch church was either a sender or a goer. Either they were going, like Paul and Barnabas; or they were playing a part in sending them out from the church at Antioch, supporting them as they went. Not that one is more important than the other. Not that one is a super Christian; the other is a lesser Christian. No. It’s not about whether you’re the goer or the sender; it’s about whether you’re obeying the Spirit of God.
He’s calling all of us to pray and give. Then at any given point, He’s calling us to either be a sender or a goer. God is calling us to do all of that with resolve. Think about Mark 2. These men were resolved to do whatever it took to meet this man’s need and overcome challenges with faith. I want you to think with me about the faith of these guys, seeing in their faith a picture of the kind of faith we need.
We need faith that is confident. These four guys in Mark 2 knew Jesus could help their friend. They believed if they could just get their friend in front of Jesus, something amazing would happen. The question is, do we believe that? Do we believe if we can just get the gospel to these people groups that something amazing will happen? If we believe that, then we’ll pray, give, send and go to get them the gospel, because we believe He can change lives, families and communities.
God, give us faith that is confident and faith that is compassionate.
These friends loved this man. You don’t go to measures like this for someone you don’t care for. Imagine this man lying on that mat while crowds of people are running to this home where Jesus was teaching. Praise God for four faithful, compassionate friends who saw this man in need and were not content to ring their hands in pious concern and just keep going. They decided to do something about it.
God, raise up a compassionate church that sees unreached people and does something about it, not just going back to life as normal, not pretending like they don’t exist. God, give us faith that’s creative.
These guys in Mark 2 were scrappy, resourceful, even a bit reckless, weren’t they? No challenge was going to stop them; no crowd; no roof. They unroofed a roof to get their friend to Jesus.
God, give us creative, resourceful, scrappy, even reckless faith that says we’re going to overcome challenges with faith that is creative and faith that is contagious.
Mark tells us very little about this man lying on the mat, so I try to imagine myself on that mat. I’m just lying there. Word gets around that Jesus is teaching in the house up the way. Everybody starts running and they are ignoring me. I’m stuck by myself, until four friends come over and say, “We’re going to take you to Jesus, because we believe He can help you.” I think their faith would probably start to encourage my own. “Maybe Jesus can help me. Maybe He will help me.” Then when I’m lying on that mat, outside the house, the crowds are looking at me and won’t let me in. I think I’d start to get discouraged because I’ve seen that look too many times. Then I look over at my friends, talking, pointing up at the roof, hatching a plan. When they come back and tell me their crazy idea, I think my faith would probably be encouraged.
Then I’m lying there on the roof, watching them unroof it, strap ropes to my mat, lower me down. I’m looking up in my friends’ eyes, seeing their determination. Their faith is bolstering my own with hopeful anticipation until the moment my mat settles on that floor and I look up into the face of Jesus Christ. With the expectant faces of my friends in the background, I think my heart would be filled with faith in that moment. That’s what I mean by contagious faith. Their faith effected Jesus. When He saw the faith of these friend, He healed the man. Their faith obviously effected this man in need. Contagious faith that’s costly, meaning it wasn’t easy for these guys to do what they did, but they were willing to do whatever it took for this man to encounter Jesus.
God, give us contagious faith that believes Jesus is what the nations need. God, may it be evident to the peoples of the world that McLean Bible Church believes that Jesus is so good, so great and so glorious that we’ll give our lives so they can know Him.
That is the question for you and me today. Are we willing to do whatever it takes so unreached people can encounter Jesus? Are we going to live, whether we send or go, with confident, compassionate, creative, contagious, costly faith like this? Praying? Giving? Sending? And who is God calling among us to go?
Who is God calling to leave your job here for the spread of the gospel among the unreached? Who is calling to leverage your job for the spread of the gospel among the unreached? So many in our church family have employment where you can take a position overseas. On Friday night in our prayer gathering, we heard from two people who have done that over the last couple of months, intentionally pursuing positions within their companies to go to unreached people; are they now working there instead of here for the spread of the gospel among those who have never heard it. This doesn’t just happen in government or multi-national companies.
I’m thinking about teachers, engineers, nurses, all kinds of medical professionals, football coaches and more. There are so many avenues. Students, why not study overseas among unreached people? Or before you go to college, or during your time in college, or before you graduate, work for a year or two among the unreached?
I saw a video this past week about a high school senior girl in the Mormon Church. She was reading the letter she had received telling where she was going on mission for a year. She was shaking, with tears in her eyes, with a smile on her face and a whole crowd of people had gathered at her house. When she got to the part about she was going, they all applauded. They were cheering, jumping up and down. She was going out on mission for the Mormon Church.
So where are the parents who are leading our children to do that? Where is the church cheering on students who are committing a year or more of their lives to spread the gospel among people who have never heard it? If Mormon families are training sons and daughters to spend a year somewhere else in the world, spreading a false message, then why are we not training our children to do that with the true gospel? Why are we not instilling that dream in them?
Children, teenagers who are listening right now, dream about getting the gospel to people who have never heard it. Don’t dream about being the greatest in sports; dream about making the King of kings known among people who have never heard His name. Retirees, it’s not just for younger people. Why not look for opportunities to use retirement time and money for the spread of the gospel among those who have never heard it?
God, give us as a church a Mark 2 kind of faith.
So here’s what I want to do now. I want to lead us before God in prayer about this picture of the unreached and the challenge it’s going to take to get the gospel to them. I want to ask Him, “God, what are You calling us to do? Are You calling me to pray and give? Are You calling me to send or go?” Bow your heads with me, here or online, before God.
Oh God, we have gathered together today. Many have fasted and prayed this week, asking You to send out more of us for the spread of Your love where Jesus is not known now. We know You’re calling all of us to pray and give for this purpose. By faith, we believe You’re calling many to either send or go. So we ask You in this holy moment, who among us, Spirit of God, are You calling to go? This is more than a short-term mission trip? Who are You calling to go for months or years to the unreached? We trust You’ve been speaking to our hearts and we want to pause now in silence, asking for Your Holy Spirit to speak, to clarify, to confirm in our hearts what You’re saying to us now. Help us listen as we pray right now. And now, oh God, help us obey.
You can lift your eyes. I want to give you an opportunity now to respond to however God is speaking to your heart. If you believe that God may be calling you to go, to move for a period of time—maybe months, maybe years, maybe indefinitely—you don’t have to know all the answers right now. You don’t have to have it all figured out. This is you saying, “I believe God may be leading me to do this.” That’s not a decision you have to make alone. We as a church want to discern that with you.
If you believe God is leading you to go, then I invite you, as soon as we’re finished in our worship gathering, to make a beeline to tables out in the lobby where you will find members of our Global Outreach Team, volunteers who want to pray with you and help you get started in the discernment process of what God is saying in your heart. So go to them.
Then for all who would say, “I want to play my part in praying, giving and sending,” I want you to do something really simple right now. Pull out your phone and text “unreached” to the 571.581.6297, or you can just click on the QR code here. When you do that, it will immediately give you a link to a form that will give you an opportunity to say in a fresh way today, “I commit to pray and give to the unreached.” We want to follow up with resources to help you put that into action.
Let me pray. *
Oh God, You tell us in Matthew 9:37–38, “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.” We’re asking You, God, send out many from among us. We pray for the spread of the gospel to people who have never heard it. God, we pray that in the days, months, years to come, there would be people and people groups reached with the gospel for the first time, because of what You have done by Your Spirit in this gathering today. May the fruit, just like we’ve read in our Bible reading this week in 1 Thessalonians, may the fruit of Your grace in this McLean Bible Church and our church family resound to Your glory around the world. We pray for this in Jesus’s name. And all God’s people said, “Amen.”