Hello, and welcome back to our series on Spiritual Warfare and Missions (SWAM). If you missed the first couple of posts you really should click here to read them first. And be reminded that this series is based on the book by Jerry Rankin and Ed Stetzer called Spiritual Warfare and Missions.
Last time we talked about Satan’s strategy to erode the authority of God’s Word. From the Bible Engagement Study, we saw that the practice of reading God’s Word is in serious decline among Christians in Canada. So it seems that the enemy may be doing an effective job of sidetracking Christians from God’s Word.
Those who reject the authority of God’s Word quickly lose any impetus for evangelism and missions. Once the Bible is accepted as erroneous, it becomes subject to every whim of interpretation, and any portion or teaching becomes optional.
This week we will see that Satan also attempts to distort the call of God.
Jerry Rankin led the International Mission Board of the Southern Baptists for many years. Each year hundreds respond to a personal sense of God’s call to plant their lives in foreign countries while others take leave from their vocational commitment to serve for two or three years in short-term assignments. It is commendable that some are willing to lay down their personal aspirations, leave the comfort and security of their home country, face the challenge of cross-cultural adjustment and a potentially deprived lifestyle to make Jesus Christ known among the nations.
However, the perception of that special call of God has been twisted by Satan to convince most Christians that they have no responsibility toward fulfilling the mission, the Great Commission, of God. Rankin states that it is not unusual after a mission’s conference or convention in a church or on a seminary campus for someone to say to him, “Dr. Rankin, I would be willing to go as a missionary, but God has not called me.”
Rankin says that he has difficulty responding to that kind of statement in a tactful or gracious way. There is a lost world that God wants to save, and here is a dedicated Christian who is convinced that he would be willing to go and share the gospel with a lost world except for the fact that God has chosen not to call him. We forget that the task of missions, the task of making His name known and declaring His marvelous deeds among the nations, belongs to the church - the people of God.
A false dichotomy has been set up between those who are chosen to go and those who are permitted to stay. The real matter is finding one’s place in God’s mission. There certainly may be a specific and personal call and leading of God, but many believe that if they haven’t seen a burning bush or been blinded by a bright light on the Damascus Road, then they are exempt from declaring God’s salvation among the nations. They feel free to pursue their own plans, essentially blaming God for their not going to the mission field.
But we cannot blame God for our personal neglect of His mission to reach the nations.
The Bible speaks of many heroes of faith being called of God to a specific task. Abraham was called by God to leave his home and follow, even though he did not know where God was leading. Moses was called to lead Israel out of bondage in Egypt and to the promised land. Jeremiah said, “The word of the Lord came to me: ‘I chose you before I formed you in the womb; I set you apart before you were born. I appointed you a prophet to the nations,’” (Jeremiah 1:4-5).
Examine the call of Isaiah. He had acknowledged that God had a plan and purpose for his life even before he was born. In Isaiah 6:8 he recounts this encounter with God: “Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying; ‘Whom shall I send? Who will go for Us?’ I said: ‘Here I am. Send me.’” This wasn't a personal call. God did not tap Isaiah on the shoulder and say, “Okay, you're the one. I am calling you to go to a people in darkness.” No, it was a generic call. Isaiah heard the heart of God crying for someone to send, for someone who would be willing to go to a people who were lost and in darkness. Isaiah did not wait to be selected and excuse himself if that mystical experience of the specific call never occurred. He took the initiative and invited God to send him.
Why do people today not respond to the knowledge of a lost world as Isaiah did -- knowing people need to know Jesus Christ, knowing someone needs to go to tell them?
And we know that the world is lost. All we have to do is turn on the news or read a few of the posts in our social media to see the sinfulness, lostness, despair, and spiritual darkness throughout the world.
It grieves the heart of God that most of the world does not know of his love while most in our churches sit idly by. Do we comprehend how the heart of God yearns for the peoples of the world to know and worship him? Why do we not bow and surrender, saying like Isaiah, “Here I am. I am available Lord. Let me be the one to go and tell them the good news of salvation.” Could it be that Satan has twisted our thinking to believe that only a select few are called to go, and the rest of God's people are free to follow their own plans with no responsibility for reaching the lost world? We are deceived to believe that we have a right to our own life and what we want to do.
Jesus told his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Therefore, pray to the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into a harvest,” (Matthew 9:37-38). This is kind of an odd instruction from God. If God is the Lord of the harvest and the one who calls, then He is capable of calling of the labours to bring in the harvest. After all, he is sovereign over the nations and should be Lord over our lives.
In an effort to provide an explanation, Rankin has often said that we are instructed to pray for the labourers because God wants us to be those labourers. If a Believer is truly burdened for a lost world, intercedes for the nations, and pleads with God for missionaries to go into the field, it is not unlikely that God will move upon the heart of the one praying to sense that he should be the one to go.
However, there might be another perspective on why we are encouraged to beseech God to thrust out the labourers into the harvest. Perhaps it is because there truly is an enemy that is blocking the flow of labourers into the harvest, stifling the conviction of God's call, and causing potential missionaries to rationalize away the personal responsibility to go. These ones are not responding to the call because of a closed mind, a calloused heart, or a reluctant will.
Where do these kinds of barriers come from? Certainly not from God! We may rationalize that it is just a natural tendency to hold on to one's own plans out of concern for one's welfare, but isn’t that just the nature of the self-centered flesh rather than one dying to self and yielding to the Lordship of God's Spirit? God is not glorified when we call the shots and determine the context in which we are willing to serve him. Are we reluctant to trust God and follow His leadership because He might make us go to Pakistan or Libya? Are we afraid we will have to give up our beautiful home or be separated from family and loved ones? When these kinds of attitudes dominate our thinking, we can be assured there is an influence other than Holy Spirit speaking into our life. When we get so caught up in our comfortable lifestyle that we become indifferent to those who are lost, we have lost touch with the Lord of the harvest!
It is not uncommon for dedicated Christians to be conscientious about serving God and seeking his will. However, even the dedicated Christian’s prayers often reflect a selfish perspective as they pray, “Lord, what is your will for my life?” We should be praying, “Lord what is your will?” - period! And once we come to understand God's will, then we can begin to get an understanding of what His will for us personally will be. God's will for each of His children is always in the context of His mission, that universal plan and purpose to be known and worshipped among every people, tongue, tribe, and nation.
For some, it will mean to go. For others, it is to be senders, mobilizers, and supporters. For all, it is to witness to those from the nations that God is bringing into our cities and communities. But no one is exempt!
To say, “I will serve God where I live and ignore the need of the nations to know Jesus,” is a deceptive scheme of Satan two divert believers from God's mission. To reason that I have no responsibility for the salvation of remote tribes and peoples because God has not called me to go is to express a demonic lie born in hell for the very purpose of locking the nations of the world into the kingdom of darkness!
So let’s all be clear that God’s purpose is to be known and worshipped among every people, tongue, tribe, and nation. And it is my responsibility, your responsibility, to find ways to maximize our usefulness to that end.
We would love to hear from you. Where do you see yourself in this post? Are you one who doesn’t feel God has called you? Or are you looking for where to be involved in God’s plan? Have you already found your place? Let us know in the comments below.
And if you aren’t sure where you might be able to be used, give me a call at 289-812-0661 and I will walk the path of discovery with you.